Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Walesa Moves Signal Rift in Solidarity Leadership POLAND: ANALYSIS

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Walesa Moves Signal Rift in Solidarity Leadership POLAND: ANALYSIS

Article excerpt

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 say.

"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 groups."

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 people.

"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. …

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