Solidarity founder Lech Walesa said Sunday that talks with the government can be a bridgehead for democracy in Communist Poland, while Poland’s leader, Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, rejected suggestions that the talks marked a retreat from communism.
Walesa, addressing the 135-member Citizens’ Committee he organized in December, said that despite many “doubts and question marks,” agreements reached at the talks can be guaranteed by participation of opposition groups in political life for the first time since martial law in 1981.
“We should consider what we should do now, so that the round-table talks are a bridgehead for further victories,” he told the pro-Solidarity Citizens’ Committee that is seen as a shadow cabinet.
Walesa also urged moderation by union officials at the talks, saying authorities should not be called to account for past failures and that a compromise should be reached. “There is a favorable international climate for Polish reforms,” he said.
The Citizens’ Committee later issued a statement approving the results of the talks so far but noted that there have been stalemates in several crucial areas such as local self-government, access to the mass media, the activities of associations and some law and order issues.
In a speech to Warsaw party officials Saturday night, Jaruzelski defended the leadership’s decision to negotiate with the union, which he suppressed by the imposition of martial law in 1981. The government outlawed the union in 1982.
“We should reject ideas ascribed to our party that the solutions discussed (at the table) were pulled from our throat,” Jaruzelski said in the speech that was carried Sunday by the official news agency PAP. “It is not an act of mercy. It is not a gift for the opposition . . . it is simply a chance for Poland.”
He said the options included “an iron fist,” total surrender or an agreement with the opposition “to ensure the strengthening of Poland and its harmonious modern development. We have chosen the third road.”
Calling the agreement “a first step,” he acknowledged the severity of the economic crisis in Poland, saying, “Further steps will give evidence if we are really capable of achieving normalcy.”
The Citizens’ Committee met for the second time since it was formed to assess the progress after four weeks of talks. Most members are taking part in the talks, which are scheduled to produce an agreement on ways of the overhauling of the political and economic system by April 3.