Cheers - and doubts - at Polish rally
Solidarity leader Lech Walesa and tens of thousands of union supporters gathered here yesterday for a worker's pilgrimage under gray skies, broken only by a few glimmers of light. The political mood was equally uncertain.
After two days of talks, Mr. Walesa and Interior Minister Czeslaw Kiszczak agreed Friday to open round-table negotiations in the middle of October. But no guarantees were offered on the central issue: the legalization of the banned Solidarity trade union which was crushed by martial law in 1981.
``When we talked about trade-union pluralism, the authorities still gave no clear response,'' chief Solidarity adviser Bronislaw Geremek told the Monitor. ``The authorities seem blocked on this issue, not sure what they are willing to do.''
This confusion stems from a wave of strikes in August which paralyzed most of Poland's mines and ports for more than two weeks. To end the unrest, the authorities agreed to meet with Walesa. For the Solidarity supporters assembled here, this concession was encouraging.
``For seven years, they've been saying that Walesa and Solidarity were an illegal organization, and locking us up in prison,'' Mr. Geremek says. ``It's incredible progress that the same authorities now feel obliged to sit down at the same table with us and enter into a debate.''
This progress was visible at Sunday's Mass. When the pilgrimage to Czestochowa was first organized six years ago, it attracted a few hundred believers. It grew steadily. This year's pilgrimage was bigger and more open than any before. Stands sold underground literature. A sea of banners flew above the crowd. ``Thank you for the illegal strikes which will lead to a legal government,'' one read. ``Poland has no enemy worse than the party,'' announced another.