On Lech Walesa's Trip to Italy
In January 1981, Lech Walesa, leader of the Solidarity Movement in Poland, along with other participants in the opposition, traveled to Italy. In response to this visit, the Central Committee of the Communist Party in the Soviet Union sent a telegram to the Soviet ambassador in Italy instructing him on how to handle the visitors. The instructions advised the ambassador to meet with the leader of the Italian Communist Party (ICP), Enrico Berlinguer, to discuss the threat of Solidarity. This document exhibits the fear that Soviet leaders felt regarding the ongoing and increasingly strong resistance in Poland. They feared that leaders of Solidarity were spreading their ideas and attempting to gain support from the international community, even from the ICP. It also shows that the crisis in Poland and the concern of Soviet leaders went beyond the borders of the Soviet bloc.
CC CPSU Politburo, "On Instructions to the Soviet Ambassador in Italy Regarding Lech Walesa's Visit to Italy," 14 January 1981, Cold War International History Project, Virtual Archive, CWIHP (accessed May 14, 2008).
...A delegation from Solidarity (18 people), headed by L. Walesa, will be in Italy from 14 to 18 January 1981 at the invitation of local trade unions. The delegation also includes representatives of the antisocialist political opposition....
According to available information, the bourgeois parties and mass media intend to make wide use of the trip by this delegation to discredit the socialist order in the Polish People's Republic (PPR) and to support the line of eroding and eventually eliminating socialist gains in Poland. To this end, plans are under way to organize a reception for the members of the delegation by high-level trade union and political figures. In addition to a meeting with the Pope in the Vatican, there are plans for L. Walesa and his delegation to be welcomed by the leadership of the United Trade Union Federation VIKT-IKPT-IST, and for meetings to be organized with workers' groups. Despite a preliminary decision to avoid meeting with L. Walesa, the ICP [Italian Communist Party] leadership so far has been wavering in its position and has not ruled out the possibility of some sort of contacts with him.
In this connection it would be best to give instructions to the Soviet ambassador in Italy to meet with[Enrico] Berlinguer or one of his deputies and to draw the attention of the ICP leadership to the necessity of taking all possible steps to ensure that L. Walesa's trip to Italy does not result in support for the line of the antisocialist political opposition.
It would be worth transmitting to the PZPR CC [Central Committee of the Polish United Workers' Party, i.e., Communist Party] a copy of the appeal to the ICP leadership.