Report on the progress of the Roundtable Talks
Andrzej Stelmachowski, a Solidarity activist, engaged in secret negotiations between the opposition and communist party and state leaders in Poland regarding the preparations for the historic Roundtable Talks that eventually took place in February through April 1989. In this document, he reported to Lech Walesa, the leader of the Solidarity Movement, about his discussion with Secretary Jozef Czyrek, a member of the Polish Politburo. As this report shows, officials presented a different agenda than opposition leaders, in particular with the importance of the status of the trade union Solidarity. For the opposition, the legalization of Solidarity was the first priority, while for party and state leaders, political reforms were most important and the legalization of Solidarity was last. The meeting between these two men points to the differences of opinion as well as a willingness to negotiate on both sides.
Andrzej Stelmachowski to Lech Walesa, 6 September 1988, Cold War International History Project, Documents and Papers, CWIHP (accessed April 30, 2008).
Yesterday, i.e. on 5 September, I met with Secretary J. Czyrek… To begin with, the Secretary was delighted that we are proposing to start the "Roundtable" in [a] reasonable, not too accelerated time limit…
In that case the secretary has revealed his vision of the "Roundtable." He sees it as follows:
- An exchange of views on the proposed changes in: a) the socio-political system, b) the economic system;
- Work procedure and methods of coming to conclusions. He sees the sequence of work [as follows]:
- Discussion of the democratization process, leading to the creation of a joint election platform and reaching an understanding on restructuring the most important state structures: the Sejm, the government, the chief of state (i.e., a "presidential system");
- Discussion of pluralism of associations (so that its implementation could be achieved by the year's end);
- Discussion of a trade union model. He emphasized, however: "we stand on the position of the trade union law."
He added: We won't quarrel about the sequence of the points.
As can be seen from the above, the sequence of his points is exactly the reverse of ours. Therefore, I put up a [a bit of an objection], explaining that "political and legal empowering is the necessary premise of further phases, as it is difficult to undertake obligations towards anyone without having a legal existence."
To this the secretary "put his cards on the table" stating that in deciding on the legalization of "Solidarity" the authorities would like to know how the "S" sees its place in the political system. They would like to see "S" as a constructive factor, and not one undermining the system. They do not demand that "S" should get actively involved in the system as it exists today, but they would like to see its co-participation and co-responsibility in the reformed system.
I expressed fear that unleashing a wide-ranging debate on reforming the political system will water down the whole question....