Share this story
Close X
Switch to Desktop Site

Poland's Jaruzelski stronger after leadership shake-up. General Jaruzelski's policy line seems to have won

It has been an eventful -- perhaps a crucial -- week in Poland. The immediate outcome of shake-ups in government and top party leadership very much appears to have strengthened both Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski's own authority and that of the nation's political moderates.

Last Wednesday, the general stepped down as prime minister and thus shed the heavy day-to-day burdens of office.

About these ads

But he retained his second, more important, office -- that of first secretary of the Communist Party.

It was a strong signal to all concerned that General Jaruzelski's political authority is greater now than at any time since the martial law period (December 1981 through July 1983).

He made this even more clear by assuming the chairmanship of the Council of State -- equivalent to the presidency of the country.

On Monday, the Communist Party Central Committee ended a meeting by removing from the Politburo one of the longtime hard-line challengers to many of the general's policies, Stefan Olszowski.

And yesterday, the changes in the government under the new prime minister, Zbigniew Messner, included Mr. Olszowski's departure from his post as foreign minister, and the removal of one of General Jaruzelski's closest associates of the past four years, Deputy Premier Mieczyslaw Rakowski.

Those close to Jaruzelski say that last month's election turnout, the size of which pleased the government, confirmed his conviction that Poland's period of political confusion is now over. Furthermore, it showed that a stage in stabilization has been achieved in which Poland can now concentrate on its main task -- that of economic recovery.

The choice of Mr. Messner, an ecomonist by training, and the elevation of Marian Wozniak, another economist but one also versed in production management, as deputy to Jaruzelski on the Central Committee Secretariat, are both seen as a reflection of the general's confidence. Both men are his committed supporters.

About these ads

Thus, this week's changes also seem to have relieved Jaruzelski of sources of possible embarrassment from the liberal and hardline wing of the party and to have left him free to pursue what many see as his own sober and disciplined middle course.

Olszowski and Mr. Rakowski were leading figures in their respective spheres in party politics for many years.

Olszowski has been near the center of power for 15 years -- as Politburo member from 1970 until the labor unrest of 1980, and from 1981 to the present, with two lengthy terms as foreign minister.

Rakowski was, for 27 years, editor in chief of the increasingly prestigious weekly Polityka.

He was an early deputy member and then, from 1975, a full member of the party Central Committee.

But it was as editor that Rakowski was best and most widely respected. Until he joined the Jaruzelski government in February 1981, he was identified among the principal and most articulate voices in the strong, albeit greatly outnumbered, reform faction within the upper party leadership.

Last week, Rakowski's pending removal from government was signaled by his nomination as one of four functionaries to officiate as deputy marshals (in effect, chairmen or speakers) in the new parliament. He had been among the 50 notable public figures returned to office in last month's parliamentary elections on an official list of unopposed candidates, headed by Jaruzelski.

As vice-premier, however, Rakowski was increasingly identified with unpopular policies. His first task had been, in 1981, to find a compromise with the now-banned Solidarity trade union. The effort ended in failure amid mutual acrimony -- and was followed by the imposition of martial law in December of that year.

A year later, when the state of emergency was lifted, Rakowski had the job of trying to establish some agreement with the intellectuals. That bridge has still to be built.

Outside his own so-called ``liberal'' following, Rakowski was never popular within a party that is predominantly distrustful of intellectuals.

And he was regarded with suspicion by Moscow, ever on the watch against ``revisionism.''

By contrast, Olszowski's firm attachment to orthodox Communist Party posi-tions and his open distrust of reform that in any way might impinge on party authority commended him to the Soviets.

The essential meaning of the latest changes is perhaps summed up by the party daily, Trybuna Ludu, in a recent commentary apparently prompted by the general himself. It emphasized the return to ``normality'' and proclaimed that the time had come for Poland and Poles to make a fresh start.

Follow Stories Like This
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.