Gorbachev in Poland: a study in contrasts. Polish leader doesn't share his enthusiasm for rapid change
Despite Mikhail Gorbachev's belated personal endorsement of Polish leader Wojciech Jaruzelski on Wednesday night, there is a stark difference in the two men's approach to reform. Reform for Soviet leader Gorbachev is a dynamic and often unpredictable process. He is willing to take risks, and feels that these often bring unexpected results. Gorbachev appears to be trying to convince his Polish hosts to adopt his approach. So far there is little sign that he been successful.
During his visit to the industrial city of Szczecin on Wednesday, for example, Gorbachev seemed to be dropping a heavy hint about the benefits of risk taking.
The highlight of the day was a visit to the steel yards that have long been a stronghold of the banned independent trade union Solidarity. Polish officials described Gorbachev's meeting with steel workers as an ``unprecedented'' display of ``spontaneous joy.''
Unofficial observers were more restrained in their descriptions, but Gorbachev was apparently pleased with the meeting. Three years ago, he said, before the Soviet Union launched its reform program, such a meeting would have been impossible.
The unpredictability of reform, on the other hand, obviously worries General Jaruzelski, just as it worries many more orthodox Soviet leaders.
Jaruzelski summed up his approach to reform in an interview published in the Soviet magazine New Times shortly before Gorbachev's arrival in Poland.
Using the time-worn analogy of the ship of state, Jaruzelski told New Times that the most important requirement for the Polish ship during reforms were ``firm moorings.'' These, he told the magazine, were provided by the Soviet Union.
Gorbachev prefers movement to moorings. One of the constant motifs in his speeches and comments in Poland has been the need to keep pushing forward with reform.
On two separate occasions - in a speech to Polish youth in Krakow and a meeting with intellectuals in Warsaw - he has urged Poles not to ``miss the train'' of reform.
In his address to intellectuals he also emphasized the need for the leadership of a country not to lag behind the desire of its people for change.
Gorbachev's comments on the progress of Polish reforms have by contrast been largely restrained.
In one speech he remarked that the Soviet leadership was watching ``with interest'' the efforts of the Polish government to mobilize popular support for its policies. If Gorbachev referred to any Soviet policy in such cool terms, the official in charge would probably start to feel uncertain about his future.
The Polish opposition appears to share Soviet concern about the slowness of Polish reform. But they also seem to rule out any hope of the present leadership achieving any fundamental change.
Speaking in Krakow shortly after Gorbachev's visit there, the Catholic journalist Maciej Kozlowski remarked that Jaruzelski's supposedly reformist team is in fact composed completely of anti-reform conservatives.
At best some oppositionists seem to be hoping for a new type of Soviet intervention: in support of change, not in defense of the status quo.
Mr. Kozlowski outlined one ``realistic-optimistic'' scenario:
The Soviets should depose the present leadership, he said. Then Gorbachev could perhaps offer the new leaders some gifts. One would be a frank and complete look at Soviet-Polish history, including such issues as the massacre of Polish officers in the Katyn Forest in 1940. Another might be the withdrawal of some Soviet troops from Eastern Europe.
Finally, Kozlowski said, Moscow could perhaps allow the Polish leadership to reduce their own armed forces, currently the second largest in Europe, after the Soviet Union.