Coming to Terms in Poland. SOLIDARITY: PEACEFUL REVOLUTION. Round-table talks near historic agreement
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``Our authorities thought Mrs. Thatcher was against trade unions, so they could get her backing to avoid legalizing Solidarity,'' says Andrzej Stelmachowski, president of Warsaw's Catholic Intellectual Club and a key round-table mediator. ``But Thatcher clearly saw the difference between Poland and Britain. The Americans and Germans followed up and insisted that free trade unions must return.''Skip to next paragraph
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A positive Soviet attitude was even more important in forcing government concessions. Unlike in 1980 and '81 when the threat of a Soviet invasion hung over Poland, Mikhail Gorbachev's aides began last summer to make approving statements about Solidarity. Hard-liners within the Polish party no longer could use the argument, ``We must remember our geopolitical realities.'' Many were expelled at a crucial January plenum.
``With perestroika, Gorbachev, the new dialogue between East and West, we no longer are in an era of confrontation but conciliation,'' Politburo member Czyrek said. ``In 1980-1981, Solidarity was looked at as something unusual, while union pluralism today is considered normal.''
With Solidarity accepted as a responsible partner, the negotiators moved beyond their original limited agenda. Instead of just trading legalization of the free trade union for support of economic reforms, bargaining led to political breakthroughs.
``The government proposed creating the post of president, so as to ensure power for [General Wojciech] Jaruzelski,'' recalls Solidarity spokesman Janusz Onyszkiewicz. ``We proposed a freely elected Senate as a counterweight. All of a sudden everything went crazy - we wrote an entire new constitution in five days.''
The final plan, though not a formal Constitution, calls for parliamentary elections this June. Communist deputies are ensured 65 percent of the lower house seats. Noncommunist candidates will be free to compete for the remaining 35 percent - and for all seats in the new Senate.
Parliament's communist majority will elect a president for a six-year term - presumably General Jaruzelski - who will enjoy powers similar to France's strong presidency. But the new Senate may veto legislation, and Solidarity let it be known that in four years time it would insist on free elections for the lower house.
A power-sharing agreement similar to the recent ``cohabitation'' between French President Fran,cois Mitterrand and a conservative-controlled French National Assembly might emerge between an opposition-controlled parliament and a communist president.
This jump into the unknown leaves many unanswered questions, above all: Are the communist authorities prepared to give up power and go into opposition? Janusz Reykowski, the main government negotiator at the round-table, recently said that the Communist Party was ``not a party that competes in elections and hands over power or not, depending on their results.''
Solidarity also faces tough questions. As a trade union, how will it organize for the new elections? Will Walesa and other union leaders become politicians and run for office? Will political parties be established? New Social Democratic and Christian Labor parties have not attracted more than several dozen members. More likely, a citizens' committee under Walesa's sponsorship will endorse candidates.
``We've unlocked the door to democracy,'' concludes Solidarity spokesman Onyszkiewicz. ``We now have to open it all the way.''