Talks to Open ‘New Chapter,’ Walesa Asserts
Solidarity leader Lech Walesa spoke Saturday of opening “a new chapter in Polish internal relations” in the coming talks with the government, and said that “dismantling the monopoly” of power by the Communist Party and the official union organization could ease the country’s crisis.
But he warned that there would be “no immediate relief” for Poland’s deep economic difficulties.
The date for the first of a series of “round-table” discussions between Solidarity and the government was set for Feb. 6 in a meeting Friday between the banned union’s leadership and government representatives.
An ebullient Walesa, at a news conference Saturday, said he is satisfied with the Communist Party’s declaration that it will consider lifting the seven-year ban on the union and that “conditions” imposed by the government are no barrier to going forward with the often-stalled talks.
The government agreed to the talks on condition that, among other things, Solidarity refrain from undertaking strikes, not disturb the “constitutional order” and stop accepting funds from foreign sources.
“The precise and detailed issues of what Solidarity will look like will have to be discussed at the round table,” Walesa said. “Our goal for now was to win this possibility, and we have achieved this. We gained maximum results on this goal we set for ourselves, and the rest is to come.”
Walesa made it clear that, underlying the issue of the union, the primary goal of the talks would be “dismantling the monopoly” of Communist power in Poland. In his frequent use of the phrase, Walesa seemed to underscore a perception, cautiously held by many Solidarity sympathizers, that the beginning of a fundamental change may be under way in Poland.
Flanked by aides and advisers, Walesa came late to the news conference, delayed, he said, because he had been giving an interview to representatives of a Soviet magazine. It was another indication of change stirring in the Soviet Bloc, for, as Walesa noted, such an interview would been unthinkable nine years ago when the union was born.
The setting--a university lecture hall--was also unusual, as Solidarity activities and press conferences have generally been confined to property of the Roman Catholic Church in the years since the union was outlawed. Walesa said the union intends to hold frequent meetings with the press to discuss progress of the talks.
“We have said there is a crisis in the country,” Walesa said, “and this is caused by the existing monopoly of the party and of the (official) union, economic monopoly and many different others. Now that we have determined it is the monopoly that caused all of this, we will have to attempt to dismantle the monopoly. . . .
“We also have to point out that in economic issues there will be no immediate relief,” he said, adding that “there are very difficult days ahead of us. We are all afraid of the days that are coming before us.” The eventual solution, he said, rests in a system based on pluralism, which, he said, had “passed the test in the world.”
Walesa acknowledged that there will probably be strikes in coming months as workers push for higher wages and protest rapidly rising inflation.
“The situation in the country is terribly difficult,” he said. “I have said many times that every Pole is justified to protest and say I have had enough of this. . . . We, as activists, have to search for solutions. . . . We’re going to try to seek the just sharing of what little we have . . . but we cannot say there will be no problems and no demands.”
Asked about rising militancy among young workers, Walesa said he could only sympathize with them.
“I have nothing to propose to the young, (who) have to wait 40 years for an apartment,” he said. “I can only express regret and sorrow. I can appeal to patriotism, but I don’t have anything positive to say. I am not in the government. This is my tragedy and this is our tragedy. But I believe in the wisdom and common sense of the Poles because we have shown this wisdom in all the most difficult situations.”
Walesa said that he does not necessarily trust the authorities, either in 1980 or today, but that he sees “facts that could produce a solution.”
“The fact that we are dismantling the monopoly, this makes me think that our chances are great. How far will this monopoly go in defending itself is another matter,” he said.
He said Solidarity does not want to be a political party, but “a good trade union. In the condition we have now, we cannot be a good trade union . . . but it must fight to create the possibilities that this could happen.”
Solidarity sources say the round-table discussions will be broken up into broad areas--trade union affairs, social and economic issues and politics. Working groups in each category will break down the subjects further.
In addition to coming up with a timetable for making the union legal again and setting down guidelines on the right to strike, groups will be assigned to draw up an “anti-crisis pact” aimed at winning social support from various opposition and pressure groups. Other groups will take up devising a new election law, which could result in a new opposition minority in the national Parliament, and reform of the legal system and the mass media.
Bronislaw Geremek, a key Walesa adviser, said Saturday that both sides in preliminary discussions between Solidarity and the government agreed that “the situation in the country is drastic” and that “lack of reform would threaten the country with ultimate consequences.”
“There is a conviction on both sides,” Geremek said, “that this reform should be implemented by the society--this is, with the participation of society--and that dialogue with Solidarity is a starting point for this process.”