SOLIDARITY leader Lech Walesa's attempt on June 4 to fire
longtime activist Adam Michnik is the most dramatic evidence of an
emerging split within the movement which, for nearly a year, has led
Poland's first postwar noncommunist government.
Mr. Michnik, who edits the Solidarity daily Gazeta Wyborcza, is
the third left-wing supporter of Solidarity Prime Minister Tadeusz
Mazowiecki targeted by Mr. Walesa in recent weeks. Former adviser
Henryk Wujec was ousted as secretary of the influential Citizens'
Committee last week; and parliamentary leader Bronislaw Geremek was
eased out as de facto head of the Citizens' Committee in April.
These moves signal the transformation of Solidarity from a vast,
umbrella movement into several distinct, competing political
parties, say Solidarity activists and diplomats interviewed here.
Until now, Solidarity's "holy unity" has been its strength. Only
the public's deep faith in Solidarity allowed the new government to
implement Draconian economic austerity measures in January, they
"Basicially, the only safety net there has been is public
confidence in this government," says Jan Litynski, an adviser to
Labor Minister Jacek Kuron. "The danger, if there is one, is in
disintegration," he adds. "As things stand now, we have the
government enjoying vast social confidence. ... Given conditions
when the government's and prime minister's prestige plunges, a void
will develop. It may be filled by nationalism, but the first thing
to happen would be the disintegration into tens and hundreds of
Others, like Walesa, warn that an explosion of populism could be
provoked by a failure to respond to growing popular dissatisfaction
over issues such as the economy, by the fact that retribution has
not been taken against former communist rulers, and by what some
perceive as a growing alienation between a new political "elite" and
"The legitimacy of this government is not by democratic mandate,
it's by popular mandate," says longtime Solidarity activist and
political columnist Kostek Gebert. "There's a big difference. It
means you also have to give a voice to the concerns of those who
under normal conditions would be in the opposition."
Many of the opposing currents now surfacing are rooted in
Solidarity's identity as both a political movement and a trade
union. "Right-wing" trade unionists seeking more protection of
workers clash with "left-wing" intellectuals who back the Solidarity
government's radical free-market changes, which have thrown hundreds
of thousands out of work.
Until recently, Walesa, who is not in the government, has
cooperated with both camps. Last month, for example, he convinced
workers to suspend a rail strike, after the year-old Solidarity
government refused to negotiate on wage demands. …