Solidarity OKs Negotiations on Legalization
The leadership of the Solidarity trade union gave its stamp of approval Sunday to a proposed series of talks with the government that could result in removal of the official ban against the union.
Solidarity’s national executive committee, after a meeting in Gdansk, said that the talks should begin as soon as possible to help overcome the nation’s social and economic crisis. The committee added that it is willing “to act according to the law and the statutes of our nation in the spirit of the superior interests of Poland.”
Solidarity leader Lech Walesa told a group of supporters after the meeting: “We are responding, stretching out our hand because the other side stretched out its hand too. As we said before, we are committed to agreement.”
The Solidarity action came in the wake of a landmark meeting last week of Poland’s Communist Party Central Committee, which proposed negotiations to legalize the union if it agreed to “abide by the constitutional and legislative order and trade union statutes” of the state.
‘The Only Solution’
Solidarity national spokesman Janusz Onyszkiewicz said after the Gdansk meeting that negotiations between the union and the government are “the only solution.”
“As long as Solidarity is committed to a nonviolent strategy, to compromise, obviously there is no question of overthrowing the government and replacing it with another,” Onyszkiewicz said. “So we must get together and try to solve our problems.”
Walesa broke off initial talks with the government in September when the state hesitated to make an open statement that it would legalize the union. Although the authorities have continued their overtures to Solidarity, Walesa and the union leadership held out until the party declaration was issued last week, thus giving Walesa the appearance of having won at least an interim victory over the government.
“I wish that there be no euphoria,” Walesa told about 5,000 supporters gathered at St. Brygida’s Church in Gdansk on Sunday night. “Is it true that we will be solving Polish problems in a pluralistic free way? We will see very soon.”
After the rally at the church, about 2,000 people began a march chanting, “There is no freedom without Solidarity.” Police channeled the marchers onto a road leading to the Gdansk railroad station but did not interfere.
Some Solidarity activists have expressed skepticism over the government’s sincerity, suggesting the proposal is merely a ploy by the authorities to gain time and ease public complaint about rising inflation and market shortages.
Walesa told his listeners that the union will enter the talks with its eyes open. He said Solidarity must “remain free and independent.” If the talks are not fruitful, he added, “then we shall have to fight again for what we need.”
Three Hard-Liners Named
The executive committee of the union, as though to ease that skepticism somewhat, assigned three youthful and generally hard-line Solidarity activists to “prepare for negotiations with the authorities.” The committee members are Zbigniew Bujak, the former leader of underground Solidarity; Wladyslaw Frasyniuk, a union leader from Wroclaw, and Mieczyslaw Gil of the Nowa Huta steel works near Krakow.
“It is necessary to start negotiations as soon as possible,” the executive committee statement said. “They should have a realistic and concrete character, and public opinion should be informed about it fully.”
The statement, pledging to follow the laws of the state and the union’s own constitution, called on the government, in turn, to respect the conventions of the International Labor Organization, guaranteeing trade union freedoms.
“All sides,” it said, should put “the good of the country above all individual interests.”