Solidarity thinkers now set out its aims more clearly. Kuron had emerged from jail with changed views. He evolved into a kind of social democrat along Western lines, but forged by East European experience. He emphasised a peaceful transformation, which set the tone for all the changes in the socialist bloc over the next decade. It was predicated on the conviction that the Cold War reality was clear: nobody in the West would risk a confrontation with the Soviets by rushing to the assistance of any revolutionary movement behind the Iron Curtain. He did not urge all-out confrontation with the state. Workers and intellectuals had no prospect of winning a violent struggle with an opponent willing to use its power againstthem
. A strategy far more likely to succeed was to bypass the Party as far as possible and set up unofficial structures alongside the totalitarian ones. ‘Don’t burn down Party Committees; found your own,’ he wrote. He stressed the importance of Solidarity struggling for a ‘self-limiting’ revolution that did not make extreme demands which could provoke a Soviet backlash. Solidarity should say nothing about Poland’s security alliances or foreign policy. Communist authority could be preserved as a figleaf, though in time Poland would become a pluralist society in all but name. Michnik echoed the crucial importance of peaceful change: ‘A revolution that begins by burning down Bastilles, will in time build new Bastilles of its own,’ he said in a celebrated essay.17
Solidarity was under the microscope as never before and Wałea became, in effect, the first Leader of the Opposition in the Communist world. He showed great skill as a negotiator but was soon being criticised for an overbearing manner. He did not operate openly or democratically. He infuriated the more radical wing of Solidarity by constantly urging compromise with the regime. During 1981 he stopped far more strikes than he started, repeatedly persuading workers to moderate their demands lest Solidarity risk a crackdown by the Russians.
Partly this was natural and sensible caution. Partly it is how the Pope advised him to proceed when Wałesa had a private audience with John Paul II on 14 January 1981 - his first of many. The Pope initially had misgivings about Wałesa. He knew that some members of the Polish episcopate were wary of Solidarity because of the socialist roots of some of its leading figures. The politicians in the Curia - mostly Italians - wanted to avoid any confrontation with the Soviet Union. But the Pope liked the idea of a genuine workers’ leader, especially one who spoke about the Church at every available opportunity. After their audience he came out strongly in public support of Lech Wałesa and never wavered.
But the Pope had heard the ever-increasing rumours about the hero-electrician who was defying communism. In particular, said Polish friends and priests, there were stories - never corroborated - about his infidelities. Anna Walentynowycz claimed categorically that he was having affairs. ‘We all knew they were bringing girls for him - he had a sofa in his room. Outside, his bodyguard Henryk Mazul would block the door and say “you can’t go in there now, he’s sleeping”. But once I managed to get in - and he had company - his hair was completely ruffled.’ She and some assistants moved the sofa from his office. ‘I scolded him, “You sinner how can you wear the Black Madonna on your lapel?” and he replied “I confess every week”.’ But she fell out with Wałesa soon after the August strikes and she had been dropped as a Gdansk representative of Solidarity.18
The stories were told and repeated by Solidarity activists. It was said at this time that beautiful, raven-haired student Bozena Rybicka was more than his assistant. The speculation was fuelled by an extraordinary paragraph in an article by Ewa Berberyusz in the Catholic weeklyTygodnik Powszechny
in December 1980, who teased him about being a flirt. ‘He likes women. With a kind of devotion that is disappearing amongst men and which is based on total lack of complexes, complete self-confidence, a shade old-fashioned courtliness and the rock-solid conviction that women will never harm him.’ But all the gossip was entirely untrue. He was always very close to Danuta - and during this period he was being watched far too closely to risk any extra-marital indiscretions.19
The Soviets continued to wait for their Polish satraps to obey orders, fall into line and crack down on Solidarity as they were required to do as loyal Communists. Brezhnev met Kania in Moscow in March and again warned him that Moscow was prepared to act if necessary. ‘OK, we won’t go in. But if there are complications, if we see you being overthrown, we will go in.’20
A particularly disturbing report reached Andropov following a visit by his deputy, Vladimir Kryuchkov, and the KGB head of foreign counter-intelligence, Oleg Kalugin, who said the Polish ‘SB were always difficult, not like the Czechs or the East Germans. They had to be handled with care.’ On a visit to Poland for talks with the SB, the two intelligence officers, out of general interest, went to the Lenin Shipyard. Kalugin said:
When we arrived we were greeted by the manager (Gniech) who asked us to leave our big limousines outside the gates. He explained there was a lot of unrest among the workers and that the sight of our . . . convoy might be too provocative. Naturally we complied. Far from being welcomed by the workforce, or clapped as was the convention during such tours, we met sullen stares and resentment. During a banquet thrown in our honour at the end of the visit to Poland I made a casual reference to the dissent in my speech. To my amazement their security minister reacted as if I had touched on a very raw nerve and insisted there was only a handful of troublemakers and all of them were under control. I knew then there was a real problem . . .21
In October the Soviets removed Kania, whom they had installed as Polish leader barely a year earlier. He had made it plain he was reluctant to take the required brutal steps against the independent trade union. Naïvely, he had let himself be bugged by the KG B making criticisms of the USSR that were extraordinary coming from one their supposedly obedient quislings. He said: ‘The Soviet model has failed the test. The fact that the USSR was systematically buying grain in the West is an indictment of serious errors in their management . . . The power of their regime is marked only through their army and powers of coercion. If the USSR still has some strategic advantage over the US, within two or three years they may lose it because [of the weakness] of the Soviet economy.’ A transcript of the recording was sent immediately to Andropov and within days Kania was ousted. He was replaced as Communist Party leader and the ruler of Poland by Comrade General Wojciech Jaruzelski.22
Warsaw, Saturday 12 December 1981
COMMUNIST THEORY tells loyalists to be wary of military men. Armies are potentially an alternative source of power and must be firmly kept under the control of the Party. Yet the Soviets and the diehards among the Polish leadership saw Jaruzelski as the answer to their most urgent hopes. No professional soldier had become a Communist Party boss before - though several had worn elegant uniforms which they had never earned in the battlefield or barracks square. Jaruzelski was trusted, loyal, reliable and thought to be the man who would offer the smack of firm government. He would solve the chaos in Poland, which, as Moscow saw it, was threatening the security of all its possessions in Europe.
Wojciech Jaruzelski hardly seemed like a natural Communist. He was born on 6 July 1923, into a wealthy landed family of noble descent in eastern Poland near Białystok. He grew up on his parents’ country estate of Trzeciny into a life of ease. He learned to fence, to ride horses and to waltz. The ‘family tradition’, as the General described it, was Polish nationalist and, especially, anti-Russian. His grandfather and two great-uncles took part in the 1863 rebellion against the Tsars, and when it failed were sent to Siberia for twelve years. His father fought for the Poles in the 1920 war against Russia - on this occasion the Poles won. He was sent to a strict Catholic school in Warsaw run by the Marian monks where, as he said, ‘every subject - history, geography, languages - was linked to the tragic history of relations between Poland and Russia’.I
He was sixteen when the Germans invaded Poland and the family sought refuge with some friends in Lithuania. After the Hitler/Stalin pact - when the Baltic republics became part of the Soviet Union - they were all deported to Siberia. Their crime was his father’s record of nineteen years earlier and their aristocratic pedigree. Jaruzelski senior was sent to a labour camp where, already in poor health, he was worked to death. Wojciech, still a teenager, his mother and twelve-year-old sister were sent to the Taiga, the icy Siberian tundra plain, and left to fend for themselves. The journey took nearly a month in an overcrowded goods train. He spent two years in forced labour, felling trees. It was back-breaking work, and in the winter the glare of the sun on the ice damaged his eyes. The trademark dark glasses he always wore dated from that time. ‘In Siberia, the cold was indescribable. I worked very hard. All this should have made me hate the Russians. Paradoxically, the opposite began to happen. I fell in love with the Russians, with their indomitable spirit, with the country itself, with the ordinary people I got to know.’2
No doubt a psychiatrist could explain the phenomenon more fully, but Jaruzelski became a passionately committed Communist. After the German invasion of the USSR in 1941, he was one of the first to join the Polish ranks of the Red Army. This was another defining moment in his life. He fought alongside the Soviets, through to the siege of Berlin, in some of the most brutal battles in the war. ‘I identified with them . . . My superiors, my colleagues, all those who depended on me were Russian,’ he said. They were the victorious power, he was convinced they had right on their side, they were building a great empire in Eastern Europe that would be there to stay. With a mixture of conviction and opportunism, Jaruzelski chose to serve them.
In Poland after the war, he became a military commissar. ‘I was a fanatical believer. It went without saying that we had to defend our church and its dogmas,’ he would say. His job was to establish a loyal Communist army that would look after Soviet interests. He was a highly political general, an efficient administrator, a deft tactician and he climbed steadily through the government ranks. He had little public exposure until December 1970, when as Defence Minister he was responsible for the troops who fired on the Gdansk workers, though he did not give the order for them to shoot. He was loathed by most Poles from then onwards, who regarded this one-time aristocrat-turned-Communist ideologue as an enigma. He spoke with perfect old-fashioned, almost nineteenth-century diction, yet the words he uttered were orthodox Marxist-Leninist gobbledegook. He remained Defence Minister when he was made Prime Minister in February 1981 and, later, when he was appointed to replace Kania.
By now Poland’s foreign debt had risen to US $25 billion, on top of the generous handouts it had received from the Soviets that went directly towards subsidising food prices. The country could barely afford to pay interest on the loans. Despite Wałesa’s appeals for calm and restraint, the more radical wing of Solidarity was making increased demands - for more pay, less government control in factories and for wholesale economic reforms. In concert with his Soviet advisers, Jaruzelski from the start played a double game to ‘squash’ Solidarity. In public he appeared to be emollient. On 4 November 1981, a fortnight after he took over as Party boss, he met Wałesa and the new Primate of Poland, Archbishop Józef Glemp, who had become head of the Polish Church in the summer following the death of the respected and deeply mourned Cardinal Wyszynski. The General declared he wanted to establish a ‘Front for National Unity’ - a kind of coalition that would bring in the Church and Solidarity as junior partners in government. Wałesa was in a conciliatory mood. ‘We do not want to overthrow the power of the State,’ he said. ‘Let the Government govern the country and we will govern ourselves in the factories.’ There was a second meeting a fortnight later, which broke down amidst rancour. Jaruzelski threatened to introduce emergency laws to ban strikes, prohibit public meetings and to use military courts to try some civilian offences. Wałesa said he would call a one-day national strike followed by an unlimited general strike if those measures came into force. The two sides were set on a collision course.3
Secretly, though, Jaruzelski knew what he intended to do. Plans to introduce martial law if the regime felt it necessary had originally been laid months earlier. They were refined throughout 1981 under the direction of Jaruzelski’s General Staff and a highly confidential National Defence Committee. They had the codename Spring and only a few members of Poland’s political leadership knew anything about them. Kania had seen the plans but never agreed to implement them. They would not risk using Polish soldiers to shoot at workers. The troops might refuse. In the strictest secrecy Jaruzelski had organised a force of 15,000 specially trained riot police, known by the Polish acronym ZOMO, which he trusted would be absolutely loyal to the regime. They were paid several times more than regular police or troops and they were well equipped with the latest line in plastic shields, water cannons and state-of-the art truncheons.
Jaruzelski, as he had always intended, deliberately engineered a pretext to crack down on the union. On 15 September, when Prime Minister and Defence Minister, he chaired a meeting of his aides in which he said they needed an excuse to impose martial law ‘which can in no way be assessed as a provocation by the government side but, rather . . . will make it clear to everyone in society exactly why it is necessary’. He resorted to forgery. In early December the government claimed it had unearthed details of a violent plot to overthrow the state. As proof, it cited what it called the Radom Tapes - a recording of a meeting of leading Solidarity activists in that city. It turned out later that the tapes were fakes, crudely doctored by the Polish secret service to make the discussion look like a plan to mount an insurrection when it was not. But the damage was done. Jaruzelski had provided himself with what he thought was, and could explain to others as, a plausible reason to act.4