Primary Sources

Further Discussions on the Roundtable Talks


Prior to the historic roundtable talks between Polish Communist officials and leaders of the opposition that eventually took place from February to April 1989, Solidarity activist Andrzej Stelmachowski secretly met with Secretary Jozef Czyrek, a member of the Polish Politburo. While their occasional meetings to discuss the content, structure, and composition of the upcoming talks were informal, they reveal the willingness of both sides to negotiate during the talks and in preparation for those talks. In this letter to Lech Walesa, the leader of Poland's Solidarity Movement, Stelmachowski relayed information about his recent negotiations with Czyrek on September 20, 1988. During their meeting, Stelmachowski and Czyrek made tentative arrangements for the roundtable talks and shared their grievances about actions or inaction by the opposing side. The roundtable talks that resulted from such initial discussions eventually led to the dismantling of communism in Poland and and other countries within the Soviet bloc.


Andrzej Stelmachowski to Lech Walesa, 1 October 1988, trans. Jan Chowaniec, Cold War International History Project, Documents and Papers, CWIHP (accessed May 14, 2008).

Primary Source—Excerpt

... On 20 September I held another talk with Secretary J. Czyrek....

... [A]ccording to the instructions, I protested the arrest of the 17 students who make up the National Council of the Independent Student Union (NZS).... I also intervened on behalf of two members of the Striking Committee at Stalowa Wola, who still have not been readmitted to their jobs, drawing his attention to the fact that the recommendation to readmit about 200 miners to their jobs in Silesia also have not been implemented.

Secretary Czyrek promised to take care of these matters.... At the same time he has raised far-reaching grievances toward Onyszkiewicz because of his appearance before a U.S. Congressional Committee, which is before the body of a foreign state (it was indeed a great blunder).... As far as the "Roundtable" talks are concerned, we have agreed on the following:

  1. The main "Roundtable" will number 50-70 people.
  2. Individual teams will have about 20 people each....
  3. There will be 5 teams (union, systemic-political, economic, social pluralism and agriculture), and an additional sixth "table" will be operating in Katowice (on mining and matters related to that region)....
  4. On the governmental side, representatives of the Party and allied parties will be invited but also large social organizations....
  5. It has been decided that "Solidarity's" representation will be as large as the party-government representation, including the "allies;" however, there will be a third category of "miscellaneous," comprised of well-known personalities who are not directly connected to either side. Here Church representatives will be included.
  6. ... [T]here is a proposal to start them on 17 October and finish before 11 November....
  7. The "Roundtable" will make only the most important decisions and will form a Council for National Understanding, which would receive proper powers from the Sejm and would prepare legislative drafts necessary for the introduction of political reform, as well as essential elements of economic reform.

...I would also like to propose for the future the openness of deliberations, so that the public can be properly informed.

I am requesting your approval of the above arrangements, and particularly the date of starting the talks and the list of participants.

How to Cite this Source

Andrzej Stelmachowski, "Further Discussions on the Roundtable Talks." Making the History of 1989, #163.