Polish Leaders Openly Tackle Issue of Legalizing Solidarity
In what could be a landmark session of the Central Committee of Poland’s Communist Party, authorities began to grapple openly Monday with the question of legalizing the banned trade union Solidarity.
“Today we will draw directions of democracy which will include some pluralistic solutions,” the party leader, Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, said as he opened the two-day committee meeting.
More than once Jaruzelski referred to “pluralism,” a concept often proposed by Solidarity leader Lech Walesa as the key to solving Poland’s intractable political and economic problems.
The 230-member Central Committee was also told by the party’s leading ideologist, Politburo member Marian Orzechowski, that “the problem of trade union pluralism is becoming ripe to be solved.”
Neither Orzechowski nor Jaruzelski mentioned Solidarity by name, but the issue was clear to party conservatives and reformers alike. Both are expecting a heated discussion before the meeting ends.
Push for Legalization
The question of legalizing Solidarity has been gathering force since last August, when strikes by union activists were ended at Walesa’s urging after the government promised to enter into discussions with Solidarity.
But party hard-liners have balked at legalizing the union, and Solidarity’s leaders have refused to take part in discussions with the government until it grants legal status to the union, which was suspended and later outlawed after a 1981 martial-law decree.
In recent weeks, the authorities and the official news media have taken pains to describe Walesa as a moderate voice in the opposition, and this suggests that the Communist leadership is trying to win over party hard-liners, particularly among officials of the state-sanctioned trade union alliance, the military and the police--the party “apparatus,” as it is called.
Jaruzelski told the meeting Monday that the party wants pluralism but not pluralism that is “confrontational, destructive, anarchizing.”
He said that after a decade of economic decline, Polish citizens have become “irritated and unsure about the future.”
“The priority goal,” he said, “is radical and irrevocable reconstruction of social life so that . . . there is a place in it for all citizens who recognize the supreme interests of our country and the unchangeable shape of its essential framework.”
Although the reference to “supreme interests” is usually taken to mean the primacy of the Communist Party and the state’s relationship with the Soviet Union, the party’s conservative elements are increasingly concerned that reform efforts can only dilute the party’s authority.
“Many party members have doubts about a successful dialogue,” said Manfred Gorywoda, the party leader from Katowice, one of the first hard-liners to take the floor.
Orzechowski said that any move to allow more than one legal trade union should be accompanied by guarantees that there would be no repeat of the “events of 1981,” when factories became “arenas of political struggle.”
Walesa has argued repeatedly in recent months that the legalization of Solidarity would not mean a return to the chaotic days of 1981, which were characterized by widespread strikes and economic paralysis.
Orzechowski said that those who want to contribute to the welfare of the state and nation, while respecting the constitution, should be allowed to “function legally within the state structures, and not against them.”