Adam Michnik kept silent. Poland's communist regime refused to let him participate as part of the Solidarity delegation in planned ``round-table'' talks. The official press singled him out as an extremist opposed to compromise.
The founder of the Committee for the Defense of Workers back in the 1970s and author of some of the most brilliant, scathing, anticommunist essays ever to emerge from Eastern Europe refused to strike back, explaining that he didn't wanted to sabotage prospects for talks. But after the recent decision to close the Solidarity birthplace, the Lenin Shipyard, he broke his silence in what he said was his first interview since worker unrest in August.
``Closing the shipyard means eliminating the round-table,'' he said, at the beginning of a conversation with the Monitor which lasted for more than two hours in the fading grand hotel of this Baltic seaside resort. ``The path is open for new social conflict.''
While other leaders of the outlawed trade-union Solidarity are also pessimistic, none has described the union's plight in such brutal, stark terms as Mr. Michnik - and the facts seem to bear out his concerns.
Just after he spoke with the Monitor, students and workers celebrating the 70th anniversary of Poland's independence clashed in major cities across the country with riot police.
There are ``two routes for reforming our bankrupt system, revolutionary or evolutionary.'' Solidarity always stressed evolution or nonviolence. It always respected the Communist Party's leading role. A frustrated Polish opposition probably will turn instead to revolution or ``political confrontation,'' he said.
``Our situation is like just before the French revolution,'' Michnik warned. ``I am against the guillotine and the death penalty, but this government will also be driven out of power by an explosion.''
Michnik recognizes the dangers of such an explosion for Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. As a fervent promoter of perestroika (restructuring) and glasnost (openness), he pushed to end the strike wave in August before it threatened to derail the Soviet reforms.
Mr. Gorbachev would accept the legalization of an independent union like Solidarity, he says, pointing to the formation of mass independent movements in the Baltic republics. Polish party leader General Wojciech Jaruzelski and Prime Minister Mieczyslaw Rakowski refused.
After the strikes ended in August, Michnik and other Solidarity leaders said that some party leaders were contemplating a return of the independent union. General Jaruzelski and Mr. Rakowski then joined with the mass of apparatchiks to block this chance, first because ``they personally hate Walesa and Solidarity,'' and second, ``because the basis of the party is too conservative.''
The regime's goal now is to make economic reform without Solidarity. ``Jaruzelski wants to be like Pinochet, bringing in the ``Chicago boys'' and Milton Friedman while retaining an authoritarian state.''
This strategy didn't work in Chile - General Pinochet lost his referendum - and Michnik says it won't work in Poland. Public discontent is too strong and too organized. By closing the Lenin Shipyard and cutting off talks with Solidarity, the government has opened the way for violent, uncontrolled upheaval, Michnik concludes. Both sides could end up destroying each other, he says.
``The terrible thing is that Solidarity would agree to close unprofitable enterprises if there was a political agreement,'' he says. ``This government is turning us against economic reform.''