Wałęsa: Washington or Piłsudski?
Lech Wałęsa, like Václav Havel, is a generally recognized national leader, symbol of national traditions of resistance and of civil society's victory over the communist party-state. His actions, like Havel's in Czechoslovakia, were crucial in deciding the fate of Polish democracy. A key to his power, as with Havel, is facility with language; but in this regard his strengths are very different from Havel's. He is less the poet, more the democrat. Wałęsa is a master of the vernacular. He speaks the idiom of the countryside, combined with urban street-smarts. He uses a self-mocking bravado, powerfully laced with subtle understatement. He is a populist empowered by his speech.
Wałęsa apparently knows when to give and when to take. At the outset of the famous negotiations at the Lenin shipyards, he was a union leader. But by their conclusion, in August 1980, he was something more. At one point during the negotiations, all of the union's