Jaruzelski's Choice: Pragmatic and Tough

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

`A FASCINATING combination of secret police chief and gentleman.'' That description of Poland's probable new leader, Gen. Czeslaw Kiszczak, comes from none other than a former arch enemy - Adam Michnik, a leading Solidarity strategist.

Poles wonder which personality will dominate a potential Kiszczak presidency: the police chief in a spotless uniform, his chest plastered with medals, or the pragmatic patriot leading Poland toward democracy?

Evidence supports both contentions. Back in 1981, it was the uniformed General Kiszczak who signed the arrest warrants for Mr. Michnik and other Solidarity leaders. But it was the same Kiszczak, now in a well-tailored civilian suit, who shook Michnik's hand at the recent negotiations that relegalized Solidarity.

Recommended: Default

Born in 1925 to a peasant family, Kiszczak trained as an officer after World War II, and worked in military counterintelligence. From 1972 to 1979, he was chief of military intelligence and deputy head of the general staff. In April 1981, he was placed in charge of the Coordinating Commission for Public Law and Order - the organization that prepared the military takeover later that year.

``He's a military man, no communist ideologue,'' says Witold Trzeciakowski, a Solidarity leader. ``He's interested in law and order, and sees socialism's failures clearly.''

Throughout his career, Kiszczak has been a confidant of Polish leader Wojciech Jaruzelski. So when General Jaruzelski reversed course and decided to deal with Solidarity, he picked Kiszczak to carry out his orders. This choice now lets Jaruzelski present his successor to the Polish public as man of the roundtable, ``a good negotiator,'' and ``one of the principle architects of the line of national reconciliation.''

For Solidarity, the difference between Jaruzelski and Kiszczak is one of nuance. Jaruzelski was chief of state in 1981 while Kiszczak was only his underling. And while Jaruzelski remained in the background during the roundtable negotiations, Kiszczak was out in front. When problems arose, he would meet personally with union leader Lech Walesa to work them out.

``Jaruzelski was invisible during the roundtable, while Kiszczak was visible,'' says Solidarity's Krzysztof Sliwinski. ``His presidency isn't acceptable, but it is more acceptable than that of Jaruzelski.''

Share this story:

We want to hear, did we miss an angle we should have covered? Should we come back to this topic? Or just give us a rating for this story. We want to hear from you.

Loading...

Loading...

Loading...