Lech Walesa, leader of the banned Solidarity labor union, appealed today for conciliatory talks with Poland's authorities, saying such talks are necessary to heal the nation and stating that he would accept the new trade union law as a starting point in any discussions.
It was an olive branch to the government from the labor activist who has lately been the subject of repeated police interrogations. Walesa's move appeared to be intended to keep a recent hardening of positions by official and opposition forces from exploding into a confrontation that could jeopardize the June visit of Polish-born Pope John Paul II.
Accusing the authorities of arrogance and a lack of good will in not responding to his past appeals for reconciliation, Walesa noted he has been forced already to "change methods"--a reference to calls last month for "harder tactics" against the government and to a dramatic secret meeting that Walesa reportedly held earlier this month with underground Solidarity leaders.
After that meeting the underground leadership called for a boycott of official May Day events and for independent rallies throughout Poland instead.
But today Walesa insisted that his interest is still in a dialogue with the government.
"I'm ready to meet, even after this press conference," he told reporters crammed into his living room here. "The longer it takes, the worse becomes the situation for both sides."
Walesa said he would be agreeable to entering talks with the government on the basis of the new trade union law. That law, adopted last fall when Solidarity was formally abolished, replaced the powerful regional and national structures of the independent union movement Walesa headed with individual factory unions organized along occupational instead of geographic lines and limited to one per factory.
"I think that it would be workable in the initial period," Walesa said of the new law.
While not precise about the issues his proposed talks would touch upon or how they might be structured, Walesa made clear a basic aim of any discussions would be union pluralism. As general principles he also listed a return to "citizen and artistic freedoms," electoral reform and "amends for wrongs resulting from the application of violence."
Also in a conciliatory tone, he acknowledged that Solidarity bore some of the responsibility for the confrontations that led to its demise.
"Obviously we are not 100 percent without guilt," he said. "That is why we would not like to build things on the past. We shall concentrate more on the future."
But Walesa warned that unless there is some response soon to his appeal, he would resort to other ways to realize his aims. Asked what these might be, he replied that "all possible channels and tendencies" would be explored short of armed combat or shooting.
Walesa indirectly endorsed the underground's May Day protest call, but he remained elusive about his own plans. He said workers have the right to celebrate the traditional workers' holiday in whatever way gives them satisfaction.