Solidarity faced with choice: continued resistance or dialogue? Government's new stance creates dilemma
Poland's Solidarity opposition faces difficult decisions. Should it fight single-mindedly for the reinstatement of the independent union, outlawed five years ago with the imposition of martial law?Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Or should it embrace the government's offer of a dialogue and abandon its clandestine structure?
These choices have emerged since the Sept. 12 amnesty of 225 political prisoners, including Solidarity leaders.
``They have to rethink everything,'' explains Jacques Rupnik, an East European specialist at the Paris Center for International Studies. ``Until now, they've been calling for national resistance. But it's hard to call for resistance when the government liberates all prisoners and pledges a dialogue.''
After a recent meeting in Warsaw, Lech Walesa, Solidarity's founder, did not appear in public with Zbigniew Bujak, the leader of clandestine Solidarity, leading to speculation of a rift between the two. Mr. Walesa announced a follow-up meeting in Gdansk for next Monday.
``Walesa wants to be prudent, to test the truth of the government's offer,'' says Pierre Hassner, an East European specialist at the French National Center for Scientific Research. ``Bujak and others don't want to make any concessions. They see themselves as being incompatible with a communist regime.''
Mr. Bujak, who was arrested in June, was Poland's most wanted man, consistently calling for strong protests and strikes. Upon walking out of prison after the amnesty, Bujak said he had few qualms about going underground again, should the union's members ask it of him.
Poland's other two main political actors, the Communist Party and Roman Catholic Church also face a choice. Since Solidarity's banning, much opposition activity has operated under the church banner.
``The question about the church,'' says Professor Rupnik, ``is whether it will fight for the opposition's interests or concentrate on its own interests.''
The Communist Party's attitude also remains uncertain. Will the party leader, Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, use the amnesty as an opportunity to negotiate seriously with the opposition? So far, the general has permitted opposition leaders to meet freely and hold press conferences. He also has proposed a ``consultative council.''
At the same time, he portrays his act as a humanitarian gesture. He warned last week that those activists who sought to rebuild opposition groups would find that ``the law is not as flexible as rubber.''
``He'll let the activists talk,'' predicts Jan de Weydenthal of Radio Free Europe. ``As soon as they start organizing anything, however, he will clamp down.''
A final wild card further clouds the picture: the West.
Analysts say the amnesty reflects a desire to improve relations. Polish officials admit that they need Western economic aid to get the country's economy moving.
So far, the United States has welcomed the prisoner release without saying anything about economic sanctions, which the Poles claim have cost them $13 billion since 1981.
``When the sanctions were imposed, the West put three conditions forward: the end of martial law, the liberation of political prisoners, and the start of a dialogue with society,'' says Professor Hassner. ``Jaruzelski has done the first two. Now he must do the third. The West should offer help if he is serious.''