A dialogue without precedent in history has been taking place in Poland, within earshot of the entire world.
Whatever the future holds for Poland, the clock can never be entirely turned back on the course of communism in Europe. That was bluntly acknowledged Wednesday by an influential spokesman in Poland's Marxist-Leninist establishment, Mieczyslaw Bakowski, chief editor of the weekly journal Polityka, which represents the moderate wing of the Polish communist intelligentsia.
The apparent victory of the Polish strikers yesterday on their key demand of free trade unions by no means resolves all their demands. They extend from freedom of speech and of the press to ending special benefits for the Communist Party's privileged upper class.
Just four days ago, Polityka's Rakowski solemnly said over Polish television, "The choice is restricted; there are only two ways: chaos and self-destruction, or a deep and solemn, sincere improvement in all those spheres of life where many ailments have come to the fore."
No matter what the outcome, Rakowski said -- expressing a view that is shared, incidentally, by senior strategists inside the Carter administration -- "after the experience we are going through, nothing will be same anymore -- neither the work of workers, not the [Communist] Party, nor society as a whole." At least to some extent, the same implications also will apply, in time, U.S. experts are convinced, to Eastern Europe.
Out of the public dialogue in Poland between senior officials of the government and workers determined to make profound changes in the system has come the kind of record from which history is made. The Polish strikers have forced onto the wavelengths of the world a debate never before heard, by outsiders, from a communist-ruled nation. In it, the workers were pressing a list of 21 demands that would literally revolutionize the communist system. Many of the demands sought are rights and benefits that exist only in capitalist nations. Some even surpass rights held by most workers in the Unted States -- such as: "Reduction in the age for retirement for women to 50 and for men to 55 . . . Paid maternity leave for three years."
Transcripts of these debates convey nuances which even the most skilled reporters cannot fully reproduce in summary. They include touches of sarcasm, mockery and defiance previously unheard in Eastern Europe. What follows are excerpts from one public negotiating session with the Interfactory Strike Committee at the Gdansk Radio Domestic Service in Polish on Aug. 26.
In the colloquies, the principal speaker is Mieczyslaw Jagielski, deputy chairman of the Council of Ministers and a member of the Polish Politburo, who apparently went to unusual lengths for a party official to try to placate the strikers.This transcript is from the U.S. Foreign Broadcast Information Service, a worldwide broadcast monitoring system. At points where the dialogue is inaudible or unclear, the American monitors have inserted, in brackets, possible missing words:
Jagielski: "The first demand concerns the acceptance of [trade unions] . . . which are independent of the party . . . I understand that the intention of this demand is to have trade unions which would be real and effective representatives of the interests of each . . . worker . . . .
"There is no doubt that the structure of the present law does not correspond with present requirements, the present situation, the present needs and the present aspirations of the working population. . . .
"I would like us to find a constructive solution. If I said that you can elect your own people [presumably to the present workers' councils] . . . that they will be solid and effective . . . why do you not elect these people who have your trust to the workers councils or other [bodies] . . ."
(Jagielski went on to say that the alternative he was proposing for the free trade unions, which the strikers sought, would give existing Polish unions authority to do their own analysis of costs of living, and, "on the basis of such analysis there should be pay increases . . ." He added in support of this governmental offer, "I think that this should be calmly discussed and thought over.")
Unidentified Voice: "This is not what we expected, but this can be discussed. At the moment I propose to move to another point."
Jagielski: " . . . The point which deals with guaranteeing the safety of the striking public and people assisting in strikes [15-minute passage indistinct] . . . I am, therefore, giving a positive answer. I will now answer the third subpoint:
"At present, according to the report I received before my departure, there are no political prisoners in Poland. That is, persons sentenced for their political convictions. This is a statement which I received from the minister of justice."
Unidentified Voice: "The thing is like this: These three matters are known to us, to the community. In the same way we know how these trials looked and that is why, if we are to talk honestly, I suggest a review of these trials -- but after these people have been released. This is the truth. tWe examined these trials. I was there. There were others there, and I can say it straight because as a worker I do not have to mince words, that the trials were faked. Thank you." [thunderous applause] . . .
Unidentified Voice: "My name is Wisniewski. I understand the premier presented things the way they were presented by the Ministry of Justice. But we are dealing with something completely different. A man who is undertaking actions because of his convictions should not be repressed or harassed -- this is our point. I can give you an example: I am staying in the shipyard. My home, I mean my apartment, was surrounded by the police because they knew I would enter the car park and they simply wanted to get me there. I have a difficult situation at home as I have four children and it is known that a man with such a big family would not risk [too much].
"These are difficult matters and I understand that they are difficult, and they have to be seen against the social background . . . I am of the opinion that when the country was liberated we were fighting for the slogan "Man Is Born and Lives Free." I think, Mr. Premier, that you will understand this."
Unidentified Voice: "Mr. Premier, up to now the press has said that everything was sweet in our industry and our economy. Until recently there was an official opinion that although there are difficulties everything is going well. Now it transpires that there were numerous shortcomings which were hidden or glossed over. Does the premier think that a similar situation could exist in the Justice Ministry? Why should things be better there? I think that the trials which cause doubts in many people -- even if they are just -- should be precisely and objectively reviewed, if only in the interest of the Justice Ministry." [applause].
Unidentified Voice: "This formulation is merely one of many. I believe, Mr. Premier, that one simply ought to ask the people; to ask it, to conduct an opinion poll. This would solve certain matters. It would certainly improve confidence in the authorities. I believe that some local authorities are abusing their power and that they are lying to the central state organs." [applause].
Unidentified Voice: "Tourists are arriving, people are returning from vacation. All are stating unanimously that they do not know what is happening in Gdansk. They are shocked when they find out. Can one in such a case speak of honest information?"
Unidentified Voice: "Mr. Premier, a while ago it was announced that [we can tell the truth]. But the truth must be the whole truth. We shall tell the whole truth: what we demand, why we are striking, what our claims are, what the premier and the government commission proposes and then let us examine what has been established." [passage indistinct] . . .
Unidentified Voice: "I have sent child to a holiday camp, to a sanitarium at Konstancin. He was to return on the 18th. He did not return, I tried to telephone to find out what is happening to the child, and I could not telephone. I believe this to be a purely social matter. I am not the only one in such a situation. There are many families with children in holiday camps, or who possibly have other private family problems [words indistinct] which is really important, and this is worrying us working people. iIt cannot be like this. This should be considered, Mr. Premier."
Jagielski: "Mr. Chairman I can check on this matter, but not right now, because in accordance with your wish I would like to leave all the points till the end, and I shall clarify this matter with the central authorities and let them have this information."
Unidentified Voice: "I am [Zbyszek] from Siarkopol in Gdansk. One of the first conditions, perhaps I shall read the conditions, one of the first conditions for the initiation of talks is the restoration of all telephone lines. I do not believe this has been fulfilled. I would simply propose that the talks should be interrupted. This is my opinion . . ." [shouts of approval and applause].
Jagielski: "This has been on our list, on your list of tabled demands, on the lists of subjects for the talks. It did not happen today . . .
"I would like to make the following proposal. Give me, gentlemen, a chance to clarify the matter, I came to the meeting and want to talk, to talk and to explain our viewpoint. This is how I understood your talk yesterday . . . In view of this we shall explain, perhaps what cannot be clarified or settled today, can be done tomorrow. I am not in the position [to clarify all matters].
Unidentified Voice: "What time fram does Mr. Premier propose?"
Jagielski: "I think that I shall manage to do it during tomorrow and to explain."
Unidentified Voice: "Fully? Nevertheless, I suggest that we shall look at your attitude to the other points . . .
Jagielski: "Last night a powerful gale pased over Warsaw, which in certain areas destroyed large parts of the city. I was in Warsaw at the time, just after that hurricane, when whole streets -- you can see for instance the street leading from Aleja Lotnikow and the airport, where huge beautiful lime trees were completely destroyed along half its length. The telephone exchange at Zoliborz, the building was completely destroyed. Hence a restoration of communications for the whole of Warsaw might be possible during today, although I have not been in Warsaw today, so I do not know how far work has advanced and whether the matter will be settled today . . .
"Third -- forgive me, but among the points presented by you are many very important matters, which are worth discussing, and it is important for the several hundered people sitting in this hall to hear it, reflect on on it calmly rather than to waste time on perhaps not the most essential matters in the time available. I do not wish us to leave with the impression that on your side there is no interest in these talks. We have come here with the honest desire to continue the talks."
Unidentified Voice: "I would like to point out that the telephone links with Warsaw were cut on Friday, a week ago. There was no talk of any storm at that time."
Unidentified Voice: "I would like to ask -- I am from Gdansk shipyard -- Mr. Deputy Premier, why nothing has been reported in the press or on television about this hurricane? There was nothing. We hae not heard anything about it here. This is one thing; and why have we have to wait for nine days, such a long time, and now suddenly and urgently we are to examine all claims. We have been waiting for nine days.
Unidentified Voice: "I would like to tell the minister that in modern [telephone] exchanges there is no need to push something into the socket of every individual subscriber to cut him off but it can be done by passing corresponding information to the register or to the information [center] which is done centrally. It is a very simple matter, it just means the issuing of an order." [applause].
Jagielski: "I am taking the attitude to all the problems raised here in these 21 points that they are serious problems of great importance. This is why I propose that we should discuss these problems thoroughly, these problems which are of great importance, as well for the workers of the tricity, but not to pay so much attention and devote so much time to this matter . . . Are we to interrupt the talks on this basis? We have come here with good will to hold the talks."
Unidentified Voice: "I would like to ask why we were not told of the nonfulfillment or impossibility of fulfilling our first point, of this demand which comprised the restoration of all telephone links before we started?"
Jagielski: "I can say only one thing namely that if somebody is putting such conditions to me, I want to know the causes. Nobody has told me what the causes are. Why now are such conditions raised? I did not raise any conditions, none at all. I only expressed my request to three gentlemen who were here yesterday, and I told them on whose behalf I am talking, not as c hairman, but I said, just as a citizen, as a Pole . . ."
Unidentified Voice: " . . . Right now, if I were premier, I would just recommend to my minister of communications to restore automatic connections with all Volvodships [provinces] [applause] and see how it could be speeded up. I would think that, if we get such assurance from the premier, we could proceed with the discussions. This is how I feel."
Unidentified Voice: . . . I propose that without discussion we hear the view of the premier on the individual subjects."
Jagielski: "I can't propose the following . . . constructive proposal . . . At the next meeting, all right, let's have a radio transmission, let the inhabitants of the tricity know about our talks and their progress. I am in favor of it. Let us consider how to do this technically, I am not a technician. Consider how to do it. This is what I propose and it is one matter.
And let me also explain a second one . . . I had to get prepared in earnest for these demands and I am adopting a position on them. Should we really interrupt today's talk for such [words indistinct] facts?
Unidentified Voice: "As colleague Walesa [Lech Walesa, leader of the Gdansk strikers] said, we shall just listen to what the government commission has to say, but we shall not discuss it today and if we are going to broadcast the talks on the radio, let it not be just in the tricity, that is the local radio, but let us broadcast it nationwide because when we are talking about communication links with Warsaw we mean not just the tricity Warsaw link but the whole of Poland." [applause]
Jagielski: "I have presented the proposals. As concerns point six ["Making public complete information about the social-economic situation; enabling all sectors and social classes to take part in discussion of the reform program"] . . . We are in agreement with both subpoints of this demand as well. I want to say that we, as the government commission, are of the opinion that the community which is aware of what is going on can initiate a program of tidying up our economy. I see from the talk and from the demands that the community was insufficiently informed . . . Because of this continuous, profound and authentic consultation and real social interaction is a significant factor in solving of basic issues.
"As to the seventh point: Pay all the employes who are taking part in the strike wages for the strike period, the same amount as holiday pay and payment to be made from the funds of the Central Council of Trade Unions [Crzz].
"I have no right to decide on how CRZZ funds are to be used. I have no such right. The matter is settled as follows: The period of the strike is paid for if we assume that the losses arising because of the strike are made up.The way of achieving that and the deadlines are to be established by the work force. I don't know, I have just explained that CRZZ might not have the funds for this purpose. We think that these payments should be made from the [wages fund].
"I would like to move on now to point eight. To increase substantially the wages of each worker by Z2,000 a month [2000 Zloty; the Zloty is the standard unit of Polish currency. At the official exchange rate the Zloty is now about 30 to $1] as compensation for price increases. Let us think for a moment if this is a realistic demand or a justified one. What does it imply? Each one of the 12 million employed in the state economy to get Z2,000. Or is this 2,000 needed to the same extent by someone who earns say Z8,000 or Z10,000 as well as people earning 3,000? I do not think so. People who do not have much money feel the increase in costs of living more acutely. Why, therefore, should everyone get the same amount? I think that this superficially justified demand is in fact -- and I want to tell you this honestly, you told me yesterday gentlemen that I can speak frankly and say what I think -- personally I think that this demand is deeply unjust.
"This is the first aspect. And, second, what does Z2,000 for each mean? It means Z240 billion annually. This is more than a quarter of the present wages fund.What state, including the wealthiest in the world, can afford this? . . .
"There is the next, the tenth point. It is a serious and great problem, namely the guarantee of pay increases in step with price increases and in relation to the reduction in value of currency. This is an important problem for the level of living conditions of the people . . . In the world 105 countries have what is known as a cost of living basket. I said 105, maybe I am wrong, there may be 104 or 106, but [close] to 105. This is a group of goods which are registered four times during a year with their price increases. [Words indistinct] is also in force in Poland. It is performed by the main statistical office. It means 1,360 groups of goods and services [words indistinct]. What matters now and what is the problem . . . In view of this one has to select from this basket such representative items, which means such goods and services which correspond, let us say, to the basic needs and the basic average, if I may say, level of workers' earnings . . .
"To implement the full supply to the home market of foodstuffs and to export only and exclusively surplus -- in general one must agree with this demand . . . As regards the matter of meat: Are we . . . to export only surpluses? I ask all of you who have gathered here: What sort of surpluses can we speak of here. We [have] such a large meat deficit that we have no surpluses. I shall explain. You [addressing individual delegate] are getting impatient. I shall explain everything, I shall speak right to the end [words indistinct], so much I can say.
"In view of this, in order to improve the situation, a decision is taken to increase and to buy meat . . . The total exports of meat this year -- meat and processed meat -- come to 150,000 tons. The question might arise: Then to whom do we export? This has been our traditional export which has been carried on for 50 to 60 years. These exports are above all to the [Polish emigre] American market. These are [words indistinct] exports which 10 years ago came to 60, 50, and 40,000 either to England, Belgium, Holland . . . Once anyone leaves an export market then with the present competition he does not return to this market. Competition in these goods is such that we shall not return to these markets any more and we can lose them irreversibly . . .
"As far as the claim for the abolition of privileges for civil militia and security officials and for workers of the party apparatus is concerned, the issues are family allowances. If I am correctly informed, in fact militia and security service officials do receive such allowances. My information is that for a nonworking wife it is I believe Z1,000 and for a child Z105. Must this remain in the social sphere? There is no obstacle to incorporating these allowances into salaries. However, I have here one specific request, just a request: Let us look more closely at this matter, without emotion and without [bias]. In that profession there is no set working time. There are no regular hours of duty, there must be service available on call, one has to change homes and go to places where the wife cannot always get a job and where it is not so easy for the child to reach a school . . . [laughter]
"As far as point 14 goes, I shall answer points 14 and 13 together. The first concerns the lowering of the retirement age for women to 50 years and for men to 55 years [words indistinct] and point 15 to adjust pensions and retirement accordingly. I don't know. I shall tell you how I view this. Is this demand properly thought out? I notice a certain internal contradiction in this demand . . . I don't know how widely this had been discussed with people who are either of the above-mentioned age or who are approaching this age. I am not sure, but I think that it is impossible to imagine that many of these who are approaching the age of 50 for women and 55 for men would accept such a demand. The average lifespan is continuing to get longer and longer . . .
"Now to point 16: Improve working conditions of the health service so that it will ensure full medical care for the working people. This point is justified, we agree with it.
"Allow me to digress. I had to go through some testing times in my life. I was beaten and tortured in prison for a year. A year in prison. They murdered my father and two brothers. My mother went mad for 3 years because she was inhumanly tortured. [passage indistinct] I can show you all my scars. I was imprisoned by the Gestapo [word indistinct] for a year. I was dead once already. The second time I was one leg in the other world when [I came face to face] [word indistinct] when there were gangs around which murdered people. And a few years ago, not because of debauchery and not because, as I would put it, other reasons, I also was half dead [because I was very gravely ill]. I dabble a little in medical science, as much time as I can spare . . ."
Unidentified Voice interrupts: "Point 20."
Jagielski: "I will answer points 17, 18 and 19 jointly -- to introduce paid maternity leave for three years in order to enable the upbringing of children, to safeguard an adequate number of places in creches, medical treatment.
"I believe that these claims are connected, are justified and need to be settled. There is only one difficulty -- how to [words indistinct] when can we do this? I have taken interest in such projects -- for instance. Gdansk at present is 7,000 places short in creches and 11,000 places short in kindergartens. We shall certainly do all we can . . . As far as paid maternity leave is concerned, and the duration of this leave, I have said that I am answering on behalf of the commission that the claim is justified, that the questions of funds for its realization is a possibility. Some time is needed for this. Yes, some time is needed for this, to shorten the waiting time for a flat -- this is a justified claim . . .
"Point 21 will be examined in the same way . . . This demand of a 5-day work week -- in other words all work-free Saturdays. Reducing working time in Poland was begun within the framework of improving the organization of labor, of introducing a four-team system of work, in which a 43-hour work week is obligatory. It is true that we began this not as from 1972. There is a proposal that a program be worked out. The proposal has been submitted to the Sejm [parliament] as an acceptable bill and outlines what the next decisions are to be in the matter of work-free Saturdays.
"Mr. Chairman, esteemed meeting: . . . I want to be an honest man and be able to look straight in the eyes of everyone here in Gdansk and outside Gdansk. [words indistinct] And that is why I cultivated a feeling of full responsibility so that what is agreed here can be consistently implemented. If we made unrealistic pledges this would simply mean that we were dishonest. I want to thank you for your attention.
Walesa: "Mr. Premier, we have listened to everything very carefully, but it still seems that we haven't said why periodically -- and this time it lasted 10 years, and I suspect that it will take another 10 years before we return to the same point, the point where we are now -- that is why I think that we must avoid it. [as heard] But to avoid or to draw conclusions one must know the reasons, and here we still have not discovered the reasons why, why we keep running in circles [passage indistinct]. We have acquainted ourselves with Mr. Premier's stance, I think that [there is still a lot to be explained] about what the government's attitude is, so that we do not enter again the road which we have just left. Thank you." [applause]
Jagielski: "I can answer this. You made a statement. I have noted this, that the fact that these events are happening here and we are discussing them is linked with the fact that there is something wrong with management and control. I agree, there is something wrong. [words indistinct]. Let us make an agreement -- trust me, the coming Central Committee plenum will give its opinion on this.
Walesa: "This we know [words indistinct] free trade unions. [passage indistinct] arrests, [harrassment], increase in the size of the power apparatus -- that is, the police. That is why the issue should be examined. If everyone comes out clean, if the government comes out clean, we shall not resist so much the police and the security service. Thank you." [applause]
Unidentified Voice: "There is another matter. I wish that [the communique] can be presented and discussed jointly, so that . . . nothing can be found that surprises us."
Jagielski: ". . . I am in favor of a communique. I suggest a joint communique. . . ."
Unidentified Voice: "Today we have talked for two hours. The talks served as an initial explanation of the claims."
Jagielski: "It would be good if our next talks took a more efficient course . . ."
Jagielski: "Have you any other matters to discuss as we do not wish to prolong the talks unnecessarily? . . ." [At this point, voices are heard singing the Polish national anthem.]
Jagielski: "We are waiting in a nice and orderly fashion, without any, so to speak -- now gentlemen, I would like us to say nicely goodbye to the delegation. There is no doubt that we will come to some agreement, and everything will be sorted out in the best way possible."
Unidentified Voice: "Communique after the first meeting held on 23 August, presenting the position of the government commission:
"On the evening of 23 August 1980 there took place in the Gdanski shipbuilding yard a meeting between the government commission led by Deputy Premier Mieczyslaw Jagielski and the presidium of the Interfactor Strike Committee of Gdansk led by Lech Walesa. At the meeting Deputy Premier Mieczyslaw Jagielski presented the position of the government commission on the issue of the list of 21 demands put forward by the personnel of the workers. The representatives of the strike committee put forward arguments in support of the demands raised by the personnel on strike. Talks are to be continued.
"Both sides have signed. This is the end."