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Jaruzelski Warns of Crackdown on Polish ‘Festival of Strikes’

The Washington Post

Polish leader Wojciech Jaruzelski declared Tuesday that the country’s situation has been “dangerously worsened by a festival of strikes and protests” and he warned that the army is prepared to ensure that the country “will not be pushed from socialism’s road.”

The tough speech to a meeting of military officers, delivered in Bydgoszcz on Monday and prominently reported in the state press Tuesday, came after violent demonstrations by students in Krakow last week and appeared designed to reassure the party’s security apparatus as well as to remind Poles of the 1981 imposition of martial law.

Referring to “doubts and questions over the future of Poland, her secure, safe socialist development,” Gen. Jaruzelski declared that deviation from this course “is out of the question.” He added that “the fact that I state this just at this place and just at this time” in a military gathering “will also be a warning.”

Jaruzelski praised a “round table” of negotiations between the opposition and government that, entering its fourth week, appears to have made significant progress toward a broad political pact that would legalize the outlawed Solidarity union.

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Solidarity leader Lech Walesa joined Jaruzelski in pressing for calm during the talks.

Walesa and an estimated 10,000 people marched in the city of Szczecin in northwestern Poland on Tuesday in support of the talks, the Reuters news agency reported.

It was the biggest turnout for Walesa during his tour of industrial centers to try to dampen labor unrest and anti-government protests while the talks on Poland’s future are in progress.

Referring to the student demonstrators, Reuters quoted Walesa as saying: “I beg you on my knees . . . let’s give the round table (talks) a chance. . . . If they fail, then in April or May I will call for a resolute struggle for Poland and for reforms.”

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In commenting on the student demonstrations, Jaruzelski said that he is “an advocate of reacting with patience and understanding to the emotions of young people. However, there are certain limits and they must not be exceeded.” In a hint of a coming crackdown against militant students, he added that “the ministers of national education and of internal affairs should draw appropriate conclusions.”

Jaruzelski’s statement, the most important he has delivered since the onset of the round-table talks, coincided with a major government propaganda campaign against demonstrations and efforts by opposition groups to prevent new street protests.

Students and militant opposition activists have marched in cities around Poland in the last two weeks to demand political concessions from the government, including legalization of the independent Students’ Union, which was banned along with Solidarity in 1981. In Krakow last week, students staged a demonstration that mocked the Soviet army and violently clashed with police who sought to break up a march.


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