Poland's next president must decree faster reform Global Viewpoint

October 11, 1990|By Lech Walesa

GDANSK — I HAVE great misgivings about those whom I designated to make reforms in Poland. The new government and parliamentary leaders did not take advantage of the system when it changed.

When the Communist Party dissolved itself, these leaders should have authorized new elections.

The present leadership is not up to the task of taking the cake that was handed to them on a silver platter. They're not up to the task of presidential responsibility.

Everything that has gone awry now -- the apathy, confusion, the dangerous economic situation -- all of it was created by them. In failing to act, they made me and the country into a clown.

I've sworn an oath to faithfully lead my country to democracy. That is why I am bound not to be satisfied until there are free elections in Poland. What we have now isn't democracy. Society doesn't accept it. Sixty percent of the people didn't even bother to vote in the recent local elections.

I can feel great unhappiness among the workers, an unhappiness which is getting worse. All the price increases for foodstuffs, gasoline and coal are simply intolerable. A social explosion is possible. And it could happen very quickly.

I am well aware of how difficult a job the Polish presidency is. It's the worst job of all, worse than that of a street sweeper. It would be far easier just to travel to the U.S. on a lecture tour, gabbing about how I ruined communism.

But my patriotic responsibility tells me that world opinion has invested a lot in the position I occupy. The people have invested a lot in me, too. They struggle alongside me, and now I can't just put down my tools and head for the playground. I've got to pay back this investment of trust.

It is not that I want to be president. It is that the people want it, so I will have to be president. The issue is whether I will be president with 60 percent of the vote or whether I will win with an even greater majority.

But if I win the presidency without an overwhelming mandate, it will be difficult for me to implement the necessary reforms. I want to be president with at least 80 percent support because I will carry a very heavy burden on my shoulders.

In facing the rough road ahead, I have the advantage of coming from the masses. I understand them. It's not true that the masses are opposed to wealth; indeed it is the workers who want to press ahead with privatization. But the people have to fully understand what is going on.

Critics have accused me of being autocratic and calling for rule by decree. I have said no such thing. All I've said is that, in the process of changing a system, there are a number of loopholes and a lot of injustices. Some people are getting away with murder.

I proposed that in such circumstances there is a need to resort to decrees. These decrees could be adopted by the president, )) by the prime minister, by a parliamentary committee, or even by a combination of these. I have suggested this not in place of

legislation, but in circumstances where there are loopholes. I simply proposed that I could close such loopholes by decree and then turn the matter over to the parliament for permanent action. I have suggested this not in opposition to democracy, but rather to aid democracy.

If my suggestion had been followed, we wouldn't be facing a situation in which the old party elite is going into private business by signing sweetheart deals with the old state-owned enterprises or engaging in corruption.

As president, I should be a man who will unite everyone because he was elected by everyone. The president's responsibility will be to build a democratic political system, which we do not now have. Today, we have no less of a system of political monopoly than we did under the communists. The big difference is that it is a monopoly in the hands of much more decent people. For the moment, they can be trusted not to abuse their power. But what will come after them?

That is why I have proposed breaking up Solidarity into various political parties and movements. The beautiful child, Solidarity, has completed primary school. Now we've got to choose the secondary school to which it should be sent. The school I propose is the school of democracy. Simply, I propose pluralistic division that will be a guarantee of democracy.

Before Solidarity even came into existence, I always used to say that Poland had to stand on two legs -- the right and the left. Others who oppose me think differently. They think that, by trying to divide our movement into its political tendencies, I am somehow opposed to democracy. Meanwhile, those who seek uniformity and to limit diversity are said to be the democrats!

Solidarity itself as a trade union must be strengthened. If, after the Communist Party fell apart, there had been fully free elections, the union could have gotten on with the business of being a trade union. It wouldn't have had the right to say that it was an all-encompassing social and political movement.

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