A SENIOR ADVISER TO Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski raised his voice for emphasis: "Look at the background of some of the key people in our government. The general's father disappeared in a Soviet labor camp during World War II. One of his deputy prime ministers w0058 ----- r v BC-06/05/83F-PLAND 4takes 06-05 0001 Poland's Jaruzelski Is No the Kremlin's 'Stooge' By Charles Gati
A SENIOR ADVISER TO Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski raised his voice for emphasis: "Look at the background of some of the key people in our government. The general's father disappeared in a Soviet labor camp during World War II. One of his deputy prime ministers spent several years in Soviet jails. So did his minister of culture. How could your (Secretary of Defense Caspar) Weinberger then refer to the general as "a Soviet stooge in Polish uniform'?"
I recently had conversations with two dozen high-ranking Polish officials in Warsaw, and every one of them insisted that they were looking for a "Polish solution" to their country's economic and political crisis. They claimed to have no particular interest in the Soviet or any other "model" of socialism; they wanted to find their own way. If there was any foreign leadership style they liked, any one they might emulate, it was Janos Kadar's in Hungary. Although that country's economic reforms could not be implemented in Poland for the time being, they said, Kadar's oft-quoted motto was quite applicable: "He who is not against us is with us."
The Polish leaders noted pointedly that Kadar, jailed during the Stalinist purges of the early 1950s, was unappreciated by the West at the beginning -- that he, too, was viewed as a traitor when he assumed the reins of power after Moscow crushed the 1956 Hungarian revolution.
I mentioned that Gustav Husak of Czechoslovakia had been a victim of the same purges yet now runs one of the most pro-Soviet and repressive communist regimes in Eastern Europe. His previous suffering at Soviet hands had not prevented this. Hence, I suggested, the question was still open: would the "Polish solution" resemble the Hungarian or the Czechoslovak path? And which one reflects Moscow's preference?
Today Poland is still a political cemetery -- if measured by the standards of hope and renewal that prevailed in 1980 and 1981. But, except perhaps for Hungary, Poland is already the freest barrack in the Soviet camp. It is much freer than either the Soviet Union or its other communist neighbors, Czechoslovakia and the German Democratic Republic.
Indeed, there is sufficent evidence to believe that at least some of the Soviet leaders regard Gen. Jaruzelski's "martial law, Polish style" as unduly benevolent. In their view, it is too pragmatic, even too conciliatory. Those who hold this view in the Kremlin may well consider the Jaruzelski regime as a transitional one that they would like to see replaced by a nonmiliatry, hard-line government under the Polish communist party.
Moscow's displeasure has been conveyed to Warsaw for over a year now, both directly and indirectly:
For example, Soviet economic aid to Poland has been remarkably meager, especially when compared to Soviet aid to Hungary after 1956 and to Czechoslovakia after 1968.
Although this may be explained by the present condition of the Soviet economy or by the extraordinary needs of Poland, or both, an additional and more likely reason is Soviet dissatisfaction with the Polish regime's perceived tolerance of the Catholic Church, the activists of the outlawed Solidarity trade union and the anti-Sovietism of ordinary Poles.
In the political arena, the Jaruzelski regime has long been the target of pressure from the leaders of East Germany and Czechoslovakia, two of Moscow's most loyal East European allies.
Instead of helping the Polish government overcome the economic difficulties caused in part by Western sanctions, East Germany and Czechoslovakia have offered "fraternal advice." That advice boils down to a simple proposition: build more and larger jails for the Polish "counterrevolutionaries." Indeed, the pressure has been so intense that Maj. Wieslaw Gornicki, one of Gen. Jaruzelski's principal aides, had to be dispatched to East Berlin on a recent mission intended to explain his government's policies and ask for more patience and understanding.
In the ideological realm, Moscow has shown considerable reluctance to endorse the continuing primacy of the military in Polish political life, urging the reestablishment of the "leading role" of the Polish United Workers Party.
Either the Soviet Union is afraid of the spread of "Bonapartism" in the communist world, or it is using the argument in order to promote hard- liners in the Polish party. Whatever the reason, when a six-member Polish delegation arrived in Moscow earlier this year, all wearing their military uniforms, the customary protocol sheets prepared by Soviet officials conspicuously neglected to list their military ranks, including Gen. Jaruelski's -- a small ommission, perhaps, but hardly accidental.
Although the Polish delegation did understand this not-so-subtle message, as well as others, Moscow decided to make its case public in order to exert still greater pressure on the Polish government.
The public attack took the form of an unusual, though not unprecedented, attack on the Polish weekly Polityka last month. The authoritative Soviet journal New Times accused the Polish weekly of "having lost its bearings," of being an "apologist" for Solidarity, of proclaiming Lech Walesa "the Spartacus of our time," of trying to make Poland "a land of pluralism" instead of socialism, and of explaining the Polish predicament to its readers by alluding to "geopolitical factors." Immediately after quoting Deputy Prime Minister Mieczyslaw F. Rakowski, Polityka's former editor, New Times also charged the Polish weekly with "deliberately trying to disarm the party."
These are serious, even ominous charges, all the more so because they are clearly aimed at Rakowski, who is one of Gen. Jaruzelski's closest aides, and thus at the Jaruzelski regime itself. Indeed, they bring to mind the tested Soviet technique of censuring an East European leader's colleagues rather than the leader himself in order to divide the leadership.
The Kremlin is a past master at gaining political leverage by exploiting divisions in the communist leaderships of the small countries on its western border. It attempted, unsuccessfully, to use this technique in Yugoslavia in 1948 and it is doing so now in Romania. But the Polish leaders may in the end have to heed Moscow's criticism. They are more vulnerable than either Yugoslavia or Romania to these kinds of tactics.
The Soviet troops stationed in Poland automatically makes the Soviet Union the arbiter of Poland's political future.
The Polish leaders know that well, and the ones I spoke with expressed understanding of and appreciation for Soviet interests. They agree with Kremlin officials that some of the leaders of Solidarity were "counterrevolutionaries," and their attitude towards the imprisoned intellectuals of KOR (Workers' Defense Committee) is equally angry and disturbingly vengeful. Hence the likelihood of an open break between Moscow and Warsaw is quite unlikely.
Yet the differences between the political mentality of the Soviet and Polish leaders are as genuine as they are important.
Unlike their hard-line comrades in Moscow, East Berlin and Prague, not to mention in Warsaw, Gen. Jaruzelski and his supporters operate on the assumption that the vast majority of the Polish population is anti-Soviet as well as anti-communist. (One high-level official casually alluded to the possibility that 90 to 95 percent of the Polish people were at least passively anti-Soviet!) It follows that the leadership around Jaruzelski believes it must try to rule by persuasion if at all possible, resorting to coercive measures (euphemistically called "administrative methods") only when absolutely necessary.
The Polish leaders are annoyed by pressure from their alleged allies in Eastern Europe. When I asked one of them whether Moscow was behind the criticism from Prague and East Berlin, he replied: "You have to answer that question for yourself."
They did tell me they were prepared to make major concessions to the population so long as they controlled the process of change. Politburo member Jozef Czyrek, for example, said his party wanted to utilize the best ideas of the opposition. "We cannot govern alone," he said. I had the impression that while Czyrek did not wish to share real power with anyone, he did accept the need to cope with Polish realities -- realities as seen in Warsaw not Moscow.
Evidence of the Polish leaders' political mentality is that the Catholic Church continues to enjoy considerable freedom; the invitation for Pope John Paul II to visit Poland stands. Most Solidarity activists have been released (although they are closely watched and persistently harassed). Nearly all of the intellectual supporters of Solidarity, professors and journalists, have been allowed to return to their jobs, although some have pointedly refused to do so. (Two periodicals presently staffed by journalists unwilling to cover political events are a monthly for stamp collectors and a journal for the blind.)
A revealing example of what is and is not possible concerns Janusz Oneszkiewicz, a mathematician and former Solidarity spokesman who was invited by one of his colleagues to give a talk on contemporary problems of Polish society at the University of Warsaw. Neither he nor his brave colleague were subsequently questioned or arrested. The professed autonomy of the universities prevented the police from entering the campus.
However, when Oneszkiewicz made the same presentation at a public rally a couple of weeks later he was promptly detained.
For reasons of self-preservation, then, Gen. Jaruzelski's regime tolerates a good deal of talk -- as much as or more than anywhere else in Eastern Europe -- but the unwritten rule is that such talk must not lead to action. The general and his colleagues encourage the press, including Polityka, to deal with controversial topics, but not because they believe in freedom of the press. Rather, they want to use the press as a political safety valve. Applying the well-tested methods of the more intelligent police states, such as Kadar's Hungary, they seek to offer a measure of freedom in order to obtain a measure of popular approval.
The paradox is that while most Poles contemptuously dismiss the limited freedoms offered by the Jaruzelski regime as "too little, too late," the Kremlin, or at least those in the Kremlin who inspired the New Times article, seem to regard them as "too much, too soon." As a result, such pragmatic Polish leaders as Rakowski or Gornicki, and surely Gen. Jaruzelski, feel caught between the ostensibly unrealistic expectations of their people and the unyielding demands of hard-liners in Moscow, Berlin and Prague.
Jaruzelski himself does not take kindly to outside pressure. Less than 48 hours after the New Times attack appeared in Moscow, he made a speech outlining the official Polish assessment of 1980 and 1981: "I wish once again to repeat and to stress . . . the view which we have expressed several times, (namely,) that the workers' protest in 1980 was justified."
By so identifying his regime with the protest-movement that gave rise to Solidarity, and by criticizing only the "distortions" that he claimed had occurred, Jaruzelski reiterated a view substantially different from Moscow's. In the process, he sought to assert his government's independence and to affirm that those who are not actively working against his regime nowhad nothing to fear.
If, as some believe, there is an unresolved struggle for power in the Kremlin, this could complicate Jaruzelski's problems. Until recently, the Jaruzelski leadership felt confident that it had Soviet leader Yuri Andropov and Foreign Minister Andrei A. Gromyko on its side. Now, given the harsh attack on Polityka by New Times (a weekly closely identified with the Foreign Ministry and the KGB) it cannot be so sure. Under the circumstances, Jaruzelski's firm rejection of the New Times charges suggests not only that he is prepared to defend his course but that he hopes to be better understood, if not vindicated, by his multiple constituencies, domestic or foreign.
Among the foreign constituencies, the United States is a source of major concern to the Polish leaders. They resent the sanctions and the rhetoric. "Reagan lifted the sanctions imposed on the Soviet Union because of Poland, but he had failed to lift the sanctions imposed on us -- what's the logic behind that?" is a question heard frequently.
I am inclined to agree with Erasmus, the 16th century Dutch philosopher, who once said that, "When faced with the choice of evils, the wise man does not choose." Yet, in the realm of politics, choices cannot be avoided, and in this case as in so many others the choice for the United States is not between good and bad, but between bad and worse.
The Jaruzelski regime is "bad," it lacks popular support, it runs a police state. It is "pragmatic" and "tolerant" only in order to get its way. But, given Poland's geopolitical position, the alternative to this bad regime is one that is worse. Most Communist regimes are.
Hence, after the pope's forthcoming visit to Poland, and once all political prisoners are released, it might be time for U.S. policymakers to consider normalizing relations with Poland.
When the Jaruzelski regime betrayed the Polish people by declaring martial law in December 1981, it deserved to be condemned. But now that it has invited Soviet displeasure by showing a measure of common sense, U.S. incentives, however minor, could serve to hasten the day of reconciliation between the Polish people and their rulers.