Solidarity Comes to Power
Minutes No. 64 from an Expanded Meeting of the PZPR CC [Central Committee of the Communist Party] Secretariat, June 5, 1989
The following are excerpts from a meeting of the leadership of Poland’s communist party held the day after the June 4, 1989 elections, when the magnitude of the party’s electoral defeat was just becoming clear. Particularly embarrassing was the fate of the 35 candidates on the so-called “national list,” well-known dignitaries who were running unopposed. Almost all were simply crossed out by a majority of voters, raising the prospect that those seats would have to be left empty, thus reducing the overall size of the Sejm (lower house). As remarks made at the meeting illustrate, some party leaders were disoriented and eager to place blame: on Solidarity, the Catholic church, even rank-and-file party members who had either failed to show up at the polls or had voted for the opposition. But for others, especially younger reformers like Aleksander Kwaśniewski (who later served as President of Poland from 1995-2005), this sense of bitterness was balanced by a sober assessment of the new situation and an eagerness to avoid violent confrontation. The Solidarity opposition, though sometimes described as “the adversary,” is also seen as a partner in containing social unrest.
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"Minutes No. 64 from an expanded meeting of the PZPR CC Secretariat of held on June 5, 1989," trans. Jan Chowaniec, Cold War International History Project, Documents and Papers, CWIHP (accessed May 14, 2008).
Primary Source— Excerpt
An exchange of views on the first round of elections to the Sejm and Senate. . . .
Comrade Czarzasty said the analysis of the election shows that they had had the character of a plebiscite, a referendum, which we had not been assuming. So far full results for the national list are not available.
The Voivodship [provincial] committees are signaling that the clergy, particularly on election day, were calling to vote for “S.” Youth participation was very small.
Comrade J. Czyrek assessed that the electoral assumptions could not be met. . . . The coalition side, the party itself had proven ineffective in its campaigning and propaganda effort. The majority of voters had decided earlier who to vote for.
Now the most important thing is to master moods in the party and in the whole coalition. The allies [Peasant Party (ZSL) and Democratic Party (SD)] are uneasy. “Solidarity” has already shown support for some of their candidates and it can still do it in the second round.
Establish urgently contacts with the Church, but also with the leadership of the opposition (decide on the forms and levels). . . .
Comrade Cz. Kiszczak—The adversary has been fighting acutely from beginning to end, using different means. We have been acting with “white gloves,” without taking advantage of even obvious opportunities. Election results have exceeded the opposition’s expectations. They are shocked, don’t know how to behave. Elections to the Senate are a total disaster for us. The general [Kiszczak] had warned, we were saying that 65% of mandates in the Sejm would not provide sufficient protection for the coalition, as it is known that “S” stands behind some of our candidates (e.g., Fiszbach in Gdansk). This is true not only of party members, but also SD and ZSL members. . . .
Comrade J. Czyrek—A statement on TV should be agreed on with the allies and made on behalf of the coalition. . . . Our electorate amounts to about 30%, which proves that we are not altogether in isolation. Warn the opposition against the possibility of destabilization under the influence of success.
Comrade W. Baka proposed to emphasize in the statement that we had taken into account the unfavorable result. We are consistent, we have no other alternative. Warn against attempts at destabilization, pointing at the situation in China. . . .
Comrade A. Kwaśniewski emphasized that a matter extremely important after announcing the election results is to prevent spontaneous demonstrations, which neither side might be able to control. The opposition is also afraid of this. Get in touch with “S,” so that any appearances should have peaceful character, without triumphalism. . . .
The most important matter is talks with “S” on joint efforts to prevent loosen public feelings to the extent that neither side will be able to control. . . .
Comrade S. Ciosek: I don’t understand the reasons for the defeat. The party has to pay for it, it didn’t follow us. It’s a bitter lesson. Those responsible will have to bear the consequences. Now the most important question is the election of the president, for which we need 35 mandates—which were lost. On this we need to talk with the opposition, as the president is a protection for the whole system, it’s not only our internal matter, it’s a matter of the whole socialist commonwealth, even of Europe. On this matter seek urgent talks with the opposition (Commission for Understanding) and with the Church. Guilt is on our side. We trusted the Church, and they have turned out to be Jesuits. We overestimated our possibilities and have turned out to be deprived of the base. We have to keep in mind that very soon various claims and pressures will be rising like an avalanche—e.g., against the mass media. Radical changes must take place in the party.
Comrade Z. Michalek—What does it mean—radical changes in the party?
Comrade M.F. Rakowski—We had a false assessment of the situation. . . . We cannot use the thesis that the party has not backed us up. It’s false. The fact is that the party has not proved to be a mobile force. There was a lack of awareness that crossing out their own people would cause self-destruction.
There is a fear that there may be strikes, wage pressures, demonstrations, which will complicate the economic situation even more.
One may agree with the notion that the plenum [meeting of the full party] should not be held right now. But one needs to be aware that the party in its present structure is not in a position to stand up to current challenges. At the X plenum of the CC we proposed another model of the party, but this has not been noticed. And we need to go even further.
Talks with the opposition are necessary. It has proven to be trustworthy. It has called all along for crossing out the national list. What has happened in Poland is going to have tremendous impact outside (USSR, Hungary, other sources). This may lead to upheavals in the whole camp, this must be driven to social awareness. We need to draw all conclusions from the fact that a considerable part of society said “no”.
How to Cite this Source
Central Committee of the Polish United Workers' Party, "Minutes No. 64 from an Expanded Meeting of the PZPR CC [Central Committee of the Communist Party] Secretariat, June 5, 1989," Making the History of 1989, Item #475, http://chnm.gmu.edu/1989/items/show/475 (accessed March 30 2017, 8:36 pm).