Solidarity Takes Power

WARSAW: Ten years ago in September I was charged with forming the first non-communist government in what was still the communist world. The Soviet Union still existed, as did the Warsaw Pact, the Red Army retained bases across Poland, Solidarity had only recently come up from underground and many of its leaders were only just out of prison. Restoring Solidarity's public role was essential in all that was to follow.

After martial law was imposed in 1981, Poland's authorities, led by General Jaruzelski, argued that they were willing to reach agreement with "society". It was "only" Solidarity to which they objected. For me, however, legalization of Solidarity was fundamental; I firmly believed that the sphere of freedom that we could wrest from the government would be real only if it was protected not by small groups, but by a powerful social movement.

When the authorities indicated that they were serious about legalizing Solidarity, I concluded that political negotiations – known as the Roundtable talks – were desirable. Still, until nearly the very end, I feared that the authorities would "trick" us in some way, and I was not personally eager to participate in the new political structures.

For I believed that the sphere of liberty offered at the Roundtable negotiations would have to coexist for a long time with "their" sphere – i.e. the sphere of Communism. Entry into the political structures of the regime posed the risk that, in time, the process would "suck us in." Only when it became clear that Solidarity was going to enter the government and take the reigns of power, did I come to accept our historic new role.