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More Documents on the Polish Crisis, 1980-1981
Editor's Note: The translations of the following documents were prepared for the briefing book for the Jachranka conference “Poland 1980-1982: Internal Crisis, International Dimensions,” organized and sponsored by the National Security Archive (Washington), the Institute of Political Studies/Polish Academy of Sciences (Warsaw), and CWIHP. Copies of these and other documents (as well as translations) are accessible in the Archive/CWIHP “Russian and Eastern European Archival Documents Database." (For further information, contact: The National Security Archive; 2130 H St., NW; Gelman 701; Washington, DC 20037; tel: 202/994-7000.)
Stenographic Minutes of the Meeting of Leading
Dearest Comrade Leonid Ilyich! Dearest Comrades! It Representatives of the Warsaw Pact Countries is difficult for me to speak to you here today as a in Moscow, 5 December 1980
representative of the leadership of the Polish Party. This is
not only difficult because it is the first time that I speak to (Start: 11:00a.m.)
you, the party leaders, in this circle, but it is also difficult Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev:
for us as representatives of the Polish leadership to speak Dear Comrades! I warmly welcome you, our allies in here and before our compatriots at home; it is difficult to the Warsaw Pact, our friends, in the name of the Politburo speak to you here in particular because the main sources of of the CC of the CPSU and thank you for your speedy and the political crisis which has gripped our country are positive response to the invitation for the meeting.
concentrated at the level of our Party. The crisis is also the [...]
topic of our meeting today which we interpret as an There are also events in Poland, difficult and alarming expression of the internationalist concerns about the ones. This is the main question. We understand the great situation in our country. concerns of Comrade Kania and of all our political friends Our situation is indeed very complicated. There are who are in a difficult situation.
great dangers to socialism. The dangers pose themselves in The crisis in Poland concerns, of course, all of us. the economic field and bring anarchy and Various forces are mobilizing against socialism in Poland, counterrevolution into our country. from the so-called liberals to the fascists. They are dealing We are quite conscious what responsibility we carry blows against socialist Poland. The objective, however, is for our Party, for our workers' class, and for the Polish the entire socialist community.
people in order to resolve this crisis effectively. We are As we all know, the Polish comrades only recently also aware of the internationalist responsibility for the held the 7th CC Plenum. Perhaps we will ask them to socialist camp and the international Communist movement. provide us with information about this work. They will
We are an important and inseparable part of the probably not mind discussing, here in the circle of friends, socialist community of states, and we know that the measures, the implementation of which could result in situation in Poland is also causing various complications overcoming the crisis situation, strengthening socialist for our neighbors. We know very well that we ourselves Poland.
must lead the country out of this difficult situation. This is I think the comrades will agree with me that Comrade our responsibility, and we are convinced that we have a Kania will speak first. Then the other comrades will have real chance for the resolution of these tasks. the opportunity to speak.
We keep in constant contact with the leadership of the We should agree on the procedure of our consultation. CPSU and very much appreciate your views and advice, What proposals do we have regarding the chairman? which you have given us, Comrade Leonid Ilyich. We
realize the fundamental importance of your views of our Todor Živkov:
difficulties, and it conforms to our opinion on the causes of
the problems that are occurring in Poland. I think we should not chair our meeting today in
For the second time, your name stands for sensitivity alphabetical order. Since our meeting will only have two not only for a class-conscious assessment but also for the sessions, I would propose that the Soviet delegation as national peculiarities and for the situation in Poland. [...] hosts chair this meeting.
What are the causes of the crisis? This is not the first,
but one of several profound crises in Poland. We had the Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev:
year 1956 and the bloody events in Poznań, with the
ensuing changes in the leadership of the Party and the Are there objections?—Thank you, comrades, for great wave of revisionism in Poland. There was the year your confidence. [...] Comrade Kania now has the floor.
1968, the well-known incidents by students, but there were
dramatic, bloody events in 1970 as well, in December of Stanisław Kania:
that year, along the coast. In 1976, major incidents were
staged in Radom and Ursus in connection with the
strike committees, not at the initiative of the workers but at preparation for price increases.
the initiative of anti-socialist elements. But by and large, Today's crisis affects the working class, but also other this organization was supported by the workers throughout segments of the population, and the crisis is of a mass the entire country, and it is popular nationwide since the character. Young people prove to be particularly active, workers achieved social benefits through the strikes. [...] especially young workers, technicians, and engineers, and Foreign imperialist diversion centers have shown this crisis has lasted for a long time. The strike phase is great activity and even aggressiveness towards Poland, in behind us, but the crisis persists, and we are affected by particular the radio station "[Radio] Free Europe," the the results on a daily basis. The situation has become centers of reactionary emigration, which have supported demoralizing because one cannot hand out more than one anti-socialist actions by means of propaganda and also by produces.
giving financial support to “Solidarity”. We have protested The crisis also created new structures which are not of sharply against this, and there are certain positive results, our making, in particular the new labor unions which certain retreat of the enemy forces. create a lot of difficulties for us and pose an attempt by the [...] enemy of socialism in Poland to test us.
We have, of course, lost some of our prestige in the There are various causes for [these] concerns, and eyes of party activists, due to these compromises. Even if questions can indeed be asked whether the estimate of the a certain state of criticism has been reached, we conflict in Poland is correct, whether we are on the right nevertheless managed to isolate some of the anti-socialist track to get out of this crisis.
elements. The public did not react too agreeably to this. A We completely agree with Comrade Leonid Ilyich that situation occurred in which it was necessary to put a it is necessary to analyze more thoroughly the anatomy of number of repressive measures, including administrative these occurrences which have led to the crisis, of all
measures, into effect. mechanisms which caused the undermining of the Party,
Created by the Politburo, a group
operates the government, and even the economy of the country and under the direction of the premier, is preparing a series of which have allowed enemy forces, the forces of
different measures. This includes among other things the counterrevolution, to penetrate the working class.
question of introducing martial law in Poland.—Actually, Despite the various difficulties, we are of the opinion under our constitution we only have the option of that our estimates accord with the reality of the situation. declaring martial law. The main reason for the problems was dissatisfaction
It is also preparing an operation with the aim of among the workers. There were, of course, real reasons for arresting the most active functionaries of the this dissatisfaction. That was the reason for the mass
counterrevolution. character of the strike movement. There were strikes in
It also developed guidelines for communications in many major Polish plants, even in those which can look the case of an emergency, and the same for the mass media, back to a long revolutionary tradition.
the newspapers, railroads and the (automobile) transport The Party proved to be extremely weak in the
facilities in general. ideological field. We were faced with the results of policy We will also create special groups of particularly which ignored the class character of society. The slogan of trustworthy party members which, if necessary, can be the achievement of modern socialist society was
armed. We have already selected 19,000 such party proclaimed much too early. This took place at a time when members and are of the opinion that we will have about individual farmers in Poland still constituted the majority 30,000 by the end of December. in the countryside, and in the 1970s, private enterprise
Information on these preparations has in part fallen spread over large parts of the trade business as well as into the hands of leading of the counterrevolution. other areas of the economy. [...]
The assessment of the 7th Plenum has further Looking back today at these difficulties in the
toughened our policy. We think that it created a more situation, we believe that the use of political measures for favorable atmosphere for a counteroffensive than had the resolution of the strike conflicts was a correct decision. previously existed. Other solutions and other decisions could have provoked [...] an avalanche of incidents and led to a bloody
We have to become active, on all fronts. Most confrontation, the results of which would have affected the important is the internal unity of the Party, its stamina, its entire socialist world. Despite the difficult problems, it influence on the working class. These are the main preseems to us that there was no other resort than to
conditions of taming the counterrevolutionary forces. compromise in the question of permitting the establishment The course of events might naturally confront us with of the new labor union.[...]
the necessity of implementing other measures, measures What is there to say about the period after the great not limited to the political confrontation which we have wave of strikes? How should it be evaluated? It is a period expected, but measures of confrontation associated with of a very hard political battle, a difficult period for the repressive measures. Believe me, comrades, that in that Party. The new union "Solidarity” developed out of the case we will have sufficient determination with respect to
the counterrevolution, in order to defend socialism, the socialist position, in Poland.
Dear Comrades! In consideration of the nature of our meeting, I would like to address some key questions and explain the views of our Party with regard to the situation in Poland. [...]
What is our estimate of the situation in Poland, our general estimate? For five months now, events have been shaking Poland, which causes us great concern. We all understand that what is happening there is above all a Polish question and concerns the development of socialism in Poland. But we also understand quite well that it is not solely a Polish question. The developments in Poland concern all socialist countries, the entire socialist community. [...]
The general estimate of the situation has two aspects, I think. The first one concerns the question of what is actually happening in Poland, of the character of the processes are which are taking place there, what the causes are, and what forces are behind these events.
A second aspect is the answer to the question of what the situation in this country actually is, what the reality of the situation is, what the main danger is.
It is important, for example, if we take the first, and we have no chance and time to analyze this very thoroughly, we will be able to do that later, to give the first estimate now. This is even more important given that other political forces are actively trying to force their estimate on the public. The Eurocommunists, for example, talk about the historical events in Poland and about the necessity for all socialist countries to go through this development. Yugoslavia is massively spreading its own interpretation of the Polish events, as if they were new evidence of the correctness of the Yugoslav way and the Yugoslav brand of socialism. Not to mention the Western countries which attentively and actively watch and react to the Polish events. They are spreading the opinion that the Polish events have proved again that the political and economic system of socialism is not viable.
Our general opinion is that we are dealing with a very serious political and economic crisis in Poland which on the one hand was caused by flaws in the policy under the current leadership of the Polish Party and Government, on the other hand by the plans and activities of anti-socialist forces which without doubt have for quite some time been active inside and outside of Poland.
What concerns us is that there is no clear and reasonable estimate, and there is no program for a way out of the situation that has developed. Our opinion is that the lack of such a program is one of the reasons why change is only occurring very slowly here. Up to this point, there has now not been a mobilization of forces to the fullest extent possible. It is lacking! The defensive actions are continued. There are even certain steps back from the
We understand the necessity for compromises but one should clearly look ahead and consider for what purpose one makes these compromises and where they might lead. As long as no major changes occur, until the party does not seize the initiative, we can not speak at all of a turn of events.
What is our opinion on the ways out of this situation? We think that the solution has to be found in the People's Republic of Poland itself. One should work out various options which are appropriate for the situation, and our Polish comrades should be ready to apply these options in the country by means of the Polish United Workers' Party and the People's Republic of Poland. Our estimate is that such possibilities exist at this very moment.
Secondly, in our opinion, the Polish Party should try and consistently pursue going on the offensive. Of course, the Polish comrades know best which possibilities and ways exist for such an offensive. But some aspects should also be viewed from our point of view. There is, for example, a certain degree of fatigue in view of the events of the last five months, which, of course, affects the social situation of the people. There is the prospect that the economic situation and the situation of the workers will further deteriorate. One should state very clearly who is to blame for this and who creates obstacles (to improvement). One cannot strike endlessly, one cannot live endlessly on credit, and one cannot demand a better life without improving production. This should be stated quite clearly.
There are healthy forces—the army, security forces, and the larger part of Party and population. These are forces that the Party and the state organs can rely on. While it is indeed necessary in today's situation to be flexible, too, it is also right to defend the socialist position in the current situation with greater certainty and greater vigor. (...) I would like to address briefly the question of strategic goals the class enemy is pursuing and the eminently important strategic dangers which result from the events in Poland.
It seems that the West now hardly harbors any illusions of changing the social order in Poland in such a way that Poland would leave the Warsaw Pact and pull back to the extent that it would change the political landscape. Of course, the enemy has done and is doing everything to effect a change of the social system, the economic system in our countries, among them Poland. But now the strategic plan of the West is clearly to put a different system into practice in Poland which diverges from real socialism and heads into the direction of liberal socialism, a model which then could pose as an example and provoke changes in the social order in other countries of the socialist community.
Imperialism pursues its policy of interference in internal Polish affairs, and is accompanied by the massive propaganda drums about an alleged intervention by the Soviet Union and the other countries. Nationalist feelings
are stirred, attempts [are made) to hide the class character of the events, to cover up the counterrevolution, and to extol friends as foes and vice versa.
I want to state quite frankly: To our mind, there is at this moment a real chance of a change of the social order in Poland. We should not underestimate this! If we had to give a strict class-based estimate now, we would have to say that the possibilities of a political approach, which the Polish comrades have taken thus far, have been exhausted. In our opinion, the situation in Poland is clear and no further clarification is required. [...]
[...] For us, the views of the Polish comrades on the situation in their country are very important. Of course, we base our own evaluation of the political situation above all on the opinion of the Polish comrades and also on the publications in the Polish press, on the international press and on our own experience. [...]
How could one describe the Hungarian position in this question?
Before I address this question, I would like to make one more remark. I fully agree with Comrade Žhivkov and would like to express the view that the imperialist propaganda concerning Poland, which is also broadcast to Hungary, implies that the other European socialist countries are equally nervous and concerned about the Polish events, claiming that we feared, as they say, the Polish pest. They declare that this could also undermine our order, etc.
I would like to say the following about that in order to avoid any misunderstandings: for the Hungarian Socialist Workers' Party and for the Hungarian people, a number of concerns exist in the current period of socialist construction. We have our own problems and worries, we are struggling with them, and we will resolve them in the appropriate manner.
In consideration of this I would like to state nevertheless: As far as we are concerned, the Polish events are of little concern to us in terms of sour] domestic politics. We do not fear any great disruption in connection with them. But our Party, our Government, our entire people are particularly concerned about the Polish question in international terms, and this is of concern to us all. (...)
What do we have to be aware of? It will, to a certain degree, surely be helpful for the Polish comrades to know what the mood is in our countries. They should know.
When we got the first news about the strikes on the coast, there were certain reactions (in Hungary). I am speaking now not about the party members and the party leadership but about the man in the street, thus de facto about the ideologically and politically less qualified masses. The first reaction was as follows: What do the Polish comrades think they are doing? To work less and
earn more? Then it was said: What do the Polish comrades think they are doing: they want to strike and we are supposed to do the work?-I must frankly state here that this is what the feeling was. These feelings were there though everybody knows that there exists a historical friendship between our two nations. [...]
Now further on our attitude. We are in complete solidarity with the Polish Communists, with the PUWP, with the Polish working class, and—in the traditional sense of the word—with the Polish nation. We would like for the Polish comrades to solve their problems by themselves, to find a socialist solution of the problem under the leadership of their party. This is our attitude, which we publicly announced in parliament.
We can not, of course, determine the tasks of the Polish comrades and have no intention of doing so. Nevertheless, I would like to state a few things. We think that, in their current struggle, the Polish comrades should focus on maintaining the leading role of the Party and the socialist, constitutionally-determined social order as well as the political system in Poland. This includes the mass media, radio and TV. These media are integrally linked to the question of power, and I welcome Comrade Kania's words on this subject.
The third, central task is, it seems to me, the defense, and the protection of the Warsaw Defense Pact.
I would like to address one other point here. As other fraternal parties represented here, we maintain very broad international contacts with organizations, parties etc. Practically every week we entertain visitors. In the course of the last week, representatives of a number of fraternal parties were with us; we had a meeting with the Yugoslavs; and in the context of peaceful coexistence we met last week with capitalists as well. What I state here as the Hungarian position is the same thing which we presented in our conversations with the respective partners, be it Latin American Communists or any imperialist representatives; everywhere we state the same thing as I am doing here.
About ten days ago, a meeting with the British foreign minister (Lord Carrington) took place, and last week, [Hans-Jürgen] Wischnewski, the deputy chairman of the Social Democratic Party in West Germany, was here at the request of (West German Chancellor Helmut) Schmidt. I categorically told the Yugoslav comrades as well as Wischnewski and the British foreign minister the following: Our position is that this is an internal Polish question which has to be resolved by the Poles; that we were in solidarity with the Poles; but I also stated that there were certain limits to this, I could not put it any other way for the gentlemen. Poland is not for sale, and Poland can not be bought. Poland can't be detached from the Warsaw Pact. This is what I stated and I declared that I was deeply convinced that there were strong forces in Hungary which held the same opinion and would not permit this to happen. That's how I represented my point of view and that's how I told them, in order to let them know what they have to
One should probably not conduct purges now, but The British asked: What does this mean? Is this the unfortunately the events themselves have resulted in such end of détente?-I said: No, but if these limits are reached, a purge. It is not important what the membership numbers then détente would really be over. He said yes and then are; it is instead important how many people participate in shut up. The West German representative reacted
the struggle, how many adhere to your program. similarly.
Put the other way: there is no point in trying to Recently, we have used certain exchanges of opinion achieve the unity of the Party based on compromises at and consultations (sic), and we are asked: Well, if you
had any price. We need a clear platform, which will serve as a to give us advice, would you recommend that we act as rallying point and a purge device. I think such a program you did. I would like to address this (issue] very frankly. could easily be used to set oneself apart from certain
As far as the Hungarian Party is concerned, we have things, to distance oneself from the mistakes of the no authority and no ambitions as well, to give advice to previous leadership very clearly and decisively, not just in anybody or to consider ourselves a model. But at the same words but also in deed and action. time, we ascribe importance to the great revolutionary
This is one aspect. I will neither praise Gierek nor experiences of all fraternal parties. We think consultations insult him. While one has to distance oneself, I would like such as today's are very important, and let me add:
to state, comrades, that the entire Party, the entire country, You cannot copy or mechanically transfer
is now looking for scapegoats, and it will again lead you revolutionary experience. This does not work. And
nowhere to spend most of your time calling people to whenever I am talking about our position, about our account. attitude, it is in friendship that I would like to state what I am reminded again of 1956. Initially, we completely the Polish fraternal party should do or what we would do if ignored Rákosi, we distanced ourselves from him and we were in its place.
other comrades, quickly distanced ourselves politically To my mind it is now of decisive importance to from their policies, and we postponed the calling-intomaintain the position since retreat, the slippery slope account until 1962. I am not arguing that the Party Control downward, has not yet ended. One has to get one's act Commission should not do its work now, but it should not together and go on the offensive.
be the primary focus of your work. It can't be that the The second thing I would say is the following: The entire Party now preoccupies itself with this. People will decisive thing is that there is an unequivocal, decisive have to know: once we regain our strength, we will call socialist platform for future developments. And this has to those responsible into account. It is now important that the happen right away. While you now have a program, it has people's government builds a socialist Poland and protects to become more consistent.
the constitution. Comrade Kania spoke of the plenum, of re-elections The second thing we need is the following: We have in the base organizations. I am glad to hear you say that to watch very carefully as to what are the limits up to the plenum would have to be postponed a bit further; which one can go in great (public) speeches. One should because I think: without a precise platform one cannot now be able to defend the fundamental order of the conduct a good plenum; then one cannot elect good a
republic, even in party matters, and the party members will leading organs in the local organizations, since one does vote. What function they will serve within the Party is a not know exactly which of the cadres are good and which matter for the Party, not for the entire nation. The are bad.
Communists first need to establish order within their own When we stewed in our own bitter juice in 1956, we ranks. We do not need some democratic forces for that. dealt with this question in this way. When I asked people: Therefore this has to be the limit. Is this person still alive? Does he work?, I was often told: I For example, when people are arrested and then set have known him for 30 years. I responded: 30 years are free again, then there will again be discussions about not enough. Tell me how he acted last week. People militia work. Even in the Western press it has been stated change their behavior in such situations (as in 1956). that no country on earth could permit such things to For this, you need a program, so that everybody can a
happen at all. This is not a matter of ideological argument determine his attitude towards the Party and its program. but a matter of the legal order, which has to be upheld You have to start at the top.
throughout the country. We do not want to interfere in the internal affairs of
In order to make clear the limits of democraticism the Polish Party, but our own experiences tell us: in the (sic), you have to have a program and be determined to do critical times, the most important organ for the unity and certain things. action of the Party is the Central Committee, the highest
Certain events, for example, took place without organ. If there is a clear program and unity (of opinion) in bloodshed. This is, of course, not a small matter. It has to this organ, everything is all set. But if there are 20
be evident that the Polish Party and the Polish Government different opinions in the CC, nothing will come of it.[...] are not exactly looking for confrontation. They above all
As far as we know, the Polish Party now has 3.5 million are not out to have people shot. But the defense of certain members. I know that the situation there is somewhat odd.
things has to be guaranteed—a defense by all means. And