The sparring match between the Polish government and Solidarity continued Tuesday with the government proposing that round-table discussions begin this week and the outlawed trade union declining because two of its leading advisers would be excluded from the meeting.
The result is likely to be a further postponement of the talks, which were proposed by the government in August when it was under pressure to end a wave of Solidarity-led strikes. Solidarity leader Lech Walesa warned that fresh strikes may occur if the talks are not held.
Government spokesman Jerzy Urban told reporters Warsaw believes that another “preparatory” meeting between Walesa and Gen. Czeslaw Kiszczak, the minister of internal affairs, is “indispensable” in advance of the round-table meeting, which would include Solidarity as well as other groups.
Urban called for a meeting today of Walesa and Kiszczak, with the round-table meeting to begin Friday. The only condition, he said, would be that the participants “respect the constitutional order.”
This phrase, taken to mean the primacy of the Communist Party in the affairs of state, is a code wording used in this instance to refer to Solidarity advisers Adam Michnik and Jacek Kuron, who have been strenuous government opponents for nearly 20 years.
“If Jacek Kuron and Adam Michnik really wish to participate in the conciliation process, it would be no problem for them to declare that they respect, and will respect, the constitutional order,” Urban said.
Walesa said that no further preparatory meetings with Kiszczak are needed because there have been two already. He said that Roman Catholic Church mediator Andrzej Stelmachowski was authorized to negotiate procedural issues with the government.
“I will not allow any personnel changes,” Walesa said, holding to the union’s insistence that it be allowed to choose its own participants.
Later in the day, Urban said that Solidarity’s “stubbornness” was preventing the talks from beginning. He said he was astonished by Walesa’s rejection of another meeting with Kiszczak.
“If one of the main partners of the future compromise refuses even to discuss the indispensable issues for the round table to begin its work, then it offers poor prospects for coming to agreement on the more significant issues of essential importance for our country,” Urban said.
The government and the opposition have been swapping barbs for the last week. Walesa said Thursday that the government’s delay in opening discussions, originally due to open earlier this month, suggested it was seeking a way out of the talks. PAP, the Polish news agency, replied that Walesa’s statement did nothing to improve the climate.
“One may get the impression that for opposition circles, the round table is becoming just an element in their political game, in which leading Poland out of crisis is a secondary issue,” PAP said.
Members of Warsaw’s Catholic Intellectuals Club, who are closely linked to Solidarity but have been acting as intermediaries between it and the government, appeared dispirited after discussing the government’s latest statements.
Tadeusz Mazowiecki, one of the members involved in the discussions, was asked what he thought would come of the talks and replied, “Nothing.”
A delegation of club members was to meet Tuesday night with the Polish primate, Cardinal Josef Glemp, and Glemp was expected to meet today with the Polish leader, Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski.
Although there was speculation that the government might be seeking a way to back out of the talks, it seemed unlikely that it could do so without possibly severe repercussions.
The government has used the promise of talks to appeal to Western governments, including the United States, for loans and other financial aid. Any such assistance would almost certainly be stalled if the talks were abandoned.