Lech Walesa won an overwhelming vote of confidence from Solidarity's second national congress Friday after delivering an impassioned defense of his 10 years as union leader, angrily rejecting accusations that he ran the organization like a dictator.
"I am not the wisest guy, but we are wise because we now have a democracy," Walesa said, reminding his critics that under his leadership, the union spearheaded Poland's successful drive toward democracy.
In an emotional speech, Walesa acknowledged mistakes had been made.
"The victory I am giving you. The mistakes are ours and you should correct all the mistakes we've made here and today," he said. "I did this only for Poland. . . . It's not my victory, it's our mutual victory. I was only the driver of it all."
His voice shaking, Walesa recalled the moment when he jumped the shipyard wall in 1980 to lead the strike triggering the rise of Solidarity, the East Bloc's first free trade union.
"You liked my jump over the wall, and you elected me to drive the vehicle called Solidarity," he said. "If I obeyed some of you, then I would have crashed the vehicle. I had no time for democracy."
Walesa pointed out that the union had to operate under martial law imposed on Dec. 13, 1981, by Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, now Poland's president, with thousands of activists jailed. He said quick Solidarity decisions by one leader were needed.
Delegates responded by voting 357-1 to endorse Walesa's leadership by approving a report summarizing the union's activities during that time. There were 22 abstentions.
The delegates also unanimously passed a resolution backing Lithuania's declaration of independence.
"The congress supports the decision of independence of March 11," the resolution said. "We call on all nations and governments to recognize this declaration of independence. We hope that soon Europe will be the home of free nations."
The Solidarity delegates then gave a standing ovation to Lithuanian deputy Czeslaw Okinczyc, who was attending as an observer.
At a news conference, Okinczyc said Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki had promised unspecified economic aid to Lithuania, which is confronting a Soviet-imposed cutoff of oil supplies and cuts in natural gas.
The vote to support Walesa came on the eve of his expected bid to be reelected Solidarity's chairman. The trade union movement also was expected to try to clarify its union and political roles in Poland's Solidarity-controlled government.
Walesa's reelection appeared virtually certain.