There are two ways to unmake a revolution in Eastern Europe. Poland's Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski may try to follow in the footsteps of Janos Kadar, Hungary's pragmatic tactician, or he may turn out to be another Gustav Husak, Czechoslovakia's doctrinaire neo-Stalinist.
The precedents Solidarity's Lech Walesa is facing are more complex than Jaruzelski's.
Twenty months after Hungary's 1956 revolution, its leader, Imre Nagy, was hanged. Up to the last moment, the authorities offered to spare his life if he so much as admitted having made "mistakes"--such as his last act as prime minister of calling on the nation to resist the Soviet invaders. To this day, Party Secretary Kadar refuses requests from Nagy's family to visit the grave; the location is a state secret. Nevertheless, under Kadar's rule, Hungary has become the most liberal of the Soviet bloc states.
In 1968 in Czechoslovakia, Party
Secretary Alexander Dubcek saved his life by calling off resistance to the invaders--an act of moderation he is now said to regret. Since then, he has been living under police surveillance in a small provincial town; he is not permitted to talk to people outside his family. Under his successor, Husak, the regime has not relaxed its grip.
Both Nagy and Dubcek were lifelong communists thrust into revolutions not of their making. They were both cautious reformers-from-within, bewildered when called upon by the party and the people to mediate passions far more powerful than their instincts for moderation. Nagy, a Marxist theoretician, was swept along by the masses; Dubcek, an apparatchik, thought he could control the storm. Both men saw no solution for the party but to identify with popular demands for democratization. Both believed that their historic missions were to save the party's preeminence in a post-revolutionary democratic society.
Nagy chose martyrdom. He refused to disown his revolutionary role as a patriot and to revert to his intellectual commitments as a Moscow-trained communist. Dubcek chose survival--perhaps in the hope that the party or the nation would one day soon call him back to power.
Walesa, however, is an authentic revolutionary. As a patriot, a Catholic and a worker, he grew up detesting a system that was imposed from above and from abroad. He was never a communist. He believed he would be able to soar above the chasm between the popular demand for democracy and the party's insistence on a monopoly of power. It didn't seem to trouble him that his act defied the law of gravity; he had his own way to compute his odds for success.
Thus far, the only successful defiance of Soviet rule over the people's democracies has occurred in Yugoslavia. That was one strange and unpredictable schism, with Josip Broz- Tito, once Stalin's hit man, forced into rebellion by Stalin's brutal insistence on complete Soviet control and by Tito's own comrades-in-arms pressing him to assert a measure of independence. But Tito's successors are unknown technicians and, as Soviet officials confide after a few glasses of vodka, the struggle for Yugoslavia is by no means over.
Walesa's silence thus far has been eloquent. Should he come out in favor of Jaruzelski or admit "mistakes," Poles and other East Europeans will write him off as another victim of mind-bending techniques developed for Stalin's show trials.
Jaruzelski's next moment of truth may come when his soldiers will be unable--or unwilling--to fight passive resistance, and the Soviets might insist on helping him out. He may be forced to follow Husak's example and keep Walesa and his friends indefinitely under arrest or incommunicado--or expel them from Poland. But with an economic catastrophe hanging over his head, he may not be as free as Husak was in reimposing party discipline.
On the other hand, Jaruzelski may not have Kadar's skill in relaxing terror ever so gradually and in putting forth an eventually plausible argument that he is a patriot who saved the country from an even worse fate, rather than a traitor, pure and simple.
Is it possible to follow Tito's example and be a communist and a patriot at the same time? Or must one be a traitor to one cause and a hero to another? Is martyrdom--with its echoes of the Middle Ages and antiquity--the only honorable resolution of the two conflicting loyalties?
One of the comforts of modern Western civilization is not having to live in such a melodrama, avoiding the burden of being a hero or a traitor. But the Soviets are intolerant of ambiguity. For them, deviation or doubt is treason, and they insist on nothing less than total submission, sooner or later. The response they engender is resistance, passive and active, with explosions now in one country, now in another. The finest people are always their enemies; their friends are champions of Realpolitik at best. What the Soviets rule out is a chance that one day their links to East Europeans may be based on freely negotiated agreement, popular sentiment or a recognition of mutual interest.