Primary Sources

Debating the Participation in the Roundtable Talks


Prior to the historic Roundtable Talks between the opposition and the communist party and state officials in Poland, negotiations occurred on many levels, as shown in this document. Not only were participants in the opposition negotiating with communist leaders, but they were also negotiating among themselves. Leaders of the opposition held numerous meetings in the fall of 1988 to discuss the structure and content of the Roundtable Talks. This report of a September 1988 meeting summarizes the discussions and negotiations that took place among members of the opposition. Participants were not always in agreement about the centrality of the legalization of Solidarity as opposed to such broader topics as economic and political reforms. Some feared that the focus on Solidarity was too narrow, while others feared that taking on numerous other reform measures would be too broad. In addition to determining the issues for the Roundtable Talks, these activists also discussed who from the opposition would participate and what topics they would present.


Andrzej Stelmachowski, "Report on a Working Conference," 1 September 1988, Cold War International History Project, Documents and Papers, CWIHP (accessed May 14, 2008).

Primary Source—Excerpt

At a meeting held on 1 September 1988, chaired by Prof. Andrzej Stelmachowski, there was a discussion on preparations to a possible "Roundtable."…

Differences of opinion among the participants concerned mostly the degree to which emphasis should be placed on the [legal] registration of "Solidarity" as opposed to the preparation of broader topics of possible future talks. Attention was drawn to the danger of too wide a range of topics, which might water down the cause of "Solidarity." In this connection it has been agreed that it is necessary to prepare a detailed schedule of negotiations, in which the question of "Solidarity" would be awarded the first place.

Another matter discussed was the status of social participants in the "Roundtable" discussions. It has been acknowledged that it has to be precisely defined.

... As a result of the discussion it has been agreed:

  1. The point of departure for the preparations for the talks is a document submitted by L. Walesa on 25 August 1988, in which three major
  2. The date for the meeting of the so-called Group of 60 [a group of Walesa's advisors] was set for 9 October 1988 in Gdansk (still to be agreed with L. Walesa);
  3. The formation of topical groups, which were to prepare papers for the Gdansk meeting, as well as for future talks conducted by L. Walesa. The following groups have been set up:
    • a group for trade union matters ...;
    • a group for economic questions ...;
    • a group for pluralism of associations....

It has been agreed that further topical groups should be established, which would cooperate with a group of "Solidarity" advisors. Among other things, the question of youth and generational differences should be brought up….

How to Cite this Source

Andrzej Stelmachowski, "Debating the Participation in the Roundtable Talks," Making the History of 1989, Item #159, (accessed October 28 2021, 10:55 am).

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