December 5, 1980
Stenographic Minutes of the Meeting of Leading Representatives of the Warsaw Pact Countries in Moscow
Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev:
Dear Comrades! I warmly welcome you, our allies in the Warsaw Pact, our friends, in the name of the Politburo of the CC of the CPSU and thank you for your speedy and positive response to the invitation for the meeting.
There are also events in Poland, difficult and alarming ones. This is the main question. We understand the great concerns of Comrade Kania and of all our political friends who are in a difficult situation.
The crisis in Poland concerns, of course, all of us. Various forces are mobilizing against socialism in Poland, from the so-called liberals to the fascists. They are dealing blows against socialist Poland. The objective, however, is the entire socialist community.
As we all know, the Polish comrades only recently held the 7th CC Plenum. Perhaps we will ask them to provide us with information about this work. They will probably not mind discussing, here in the circle of friends, measures, the implementation of which could result in overcoming the crisis situation, strengthening socialist Poland.
I think the comrades will agree with me that Comrade Kania will speak first. Then the other comrades will have the opportunity to speak.
We should agree on the procedure of our consultation. What proposals do we have regarding the chairman?
I think we should not chair our meeting today in alphabetical order. Since our meeting will only have two sessions, I would propose that the Soviet delegation as hosts chair this meeting.
Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev:
Are there objections?—Thank you, comrades, for your confidence. […] Comrade Kania now has the floor.
Dearest Comrade Leonid Ilyich! Dearest Comrades! It is difficult for me to speak to you here today as a representative of the leadership of the Polish Party. This is not only difficult because it is the first time that I speak to you, the party leaders, in this circle, but it is also difficult for us as representatives of the Polish leadership to speak here and before our compatriots at home; it is difficult to speak to you here in particular because the main sources of the political crisis which has gripped our country are concentrated at the level of our Party. The crisis is also the topic of our meeting today which we interpret as an expression of the internationalist concerns about the situation in our country.
Our situation is indeed very complicated. There are great dangers to socialism. The dangers pose themselves in the economic field and bring anarchy and counterrevolution into our country.
We are quite conscious what responsibility we carry for our Party, for our workers' class, and for the Polish people in order to resolve this crisis effectively. We are also aware of the internationalist responsibility for the socialist camp and the international Communist movement.
We are an important and inseparable part of the socialist community of states, and we know that the situation in Poland is also causing various complications for our neighbors. We know very well that we ourselves must lead the country out of this difficult situation. This is our responsibility, and we are convinced that we have a real chance for the resolution of these tasks.
We keep in constant contact with the leadership of the CPSU and very much appreciate your views and advice, which you have given us, Comrade Leonid Ilyich. We realize the fundamental importance of your views of our difficulties, and it conforms to our opinion on the causes of the problems that are occurring in Poland.
For the second time, your name stands for sensitivity not only for a class-conscious assessment but also for the national peculiarities and for the situation in Poland. […]
What are the causes of the crisis? This is not the first, but one of several profound crises in Poland. We had the year 1956 and the bloody events in Poznan, with the ensuing changes in the leadership of the Party and the great wave of revisionism in Poland. There was the year 1968, the well-known incidents by students, but there were dramatic, bloody events in 1970 as well, in December of that year, along the coast. In 1976, major incidents were staged in Radom and Ursus in connection with the preparation for price increases.
Today's crisis affects the working class, but also other segments of the population, and the crisis is of a mass character. Young people prove to be particularly active, especially young workers, technicians, and engineers, and this crisis has lasted for a long time. The strike phase is behind us, but the crisis persists, and we are affected by the results on a daily basis. The situation has become demoralizing because one cannot hand out more than one produces.
The crisis also created new structures which are not of our making, in particular the new labor unions which create a lot of difficulties for us and pose an attempt by the enemy of socialism in Poland to test us.
There are various causes for [these] concerns, and questions can indeed be asked whether the estimate of the conflict in Poland is correct, whether we are on the right track to get out of this crisis.
We completely agree with Comrade Leonid Ilyich that it is necessary to analyze more thoroughly the anatomy of these occurrences which have led to the crisis, of all mechanisms which caused the undermining of the Party, the government, and even the economy of the country and which have allowed enemy forces, the forces of counterrevolution, to penetrate the working class.
Despite the various difficulties, we are of the opinion that our estimates accord with the reality of the situation. The main reason for the problems was dissatisfaction among the workers. There were, of course, real reasons for this dissatisfaction. That was the reason for the mass character of the strike movement. There were strikes in many major Polish plants, even in those which can look back to a long revolutionary tradition.
The Party proved to be extremely weak in the ideological field. We were faced with the results of policy which ignored the class character of society. The slogan of the achievement of modern socialist society was proclaimed much too early. This took place at a time when individual farmers in Poland still constituted the majority in the countryside, and in the 1970s, private enterprise spread over large parts of the trade business as well as other areas of the economy. […]
Looking back today at these difficulties in the situation, we believe that the use of political measures for the resolution of the strike conflicts was a correct decision. Other solutions and other decisions could have provoked an avalanche of incidents and led to a bloody confrontation, the results of which would have affected the entire socialist world. Despite the difficult problems, it seems to us that there was no other resort than to compromise in the question of permitting the establishment of the new labor union.[…]
What is there to say about the period after the great wave of strikes? How should it be evaluated? It is a period of a very hard political battle, a difficult period for the Party. The new union "Solidarity" developed out of the strike committees, not at the initiative of the workers but at the initiative of anti-socialist elements. But by and large, this organization was supported by the workers throughout the entire country, and it is popular nationwide since the workers achieved social benefits through the strikes. [...]
Foreign imperialist diversion centers have shown great activity and even aggressiveness towards Poland, in particular the radio station "[Radio] Free Europe," the centers of reactionary emigration, which have supported anti-socialist actions by means of propaganda and also by giving financial support to "Solidarity". We have protested sharply against this, and there are certain positive results, a certain retreat of the enemy forces.
We have, of course, lost some of our prestige in the eyes of party activists, due to these compromises. Even if a certain state of criticism has been reached, we nevertheless managed to isolate some of the anti-socialist elements. The public did not react too agreeably to this. A situation occurred in which it was necessary to put a number of repressive measures, including administrative measures, into effect.
Created by the Politburo, a group which operates under the direction of the premier, is preparing a series of different measures. This includes among other things the question of introducing martial law in Poland.—Actually, under our constitution we only have the option of declaring martial law.
It is also preparing an operation with the aim of arresting the most active functionaries of the counterrevolution.
It also developed guidelines for communications in the case of an emergency, and the same for the mass media, the newspapers, railroads and the (automobile) transport facilities in general.
We will also create special groups of particularly trustworthy party members which, if necessary, can be armed. We have already selected 19,000 such party members and are of the opinion that we will have about 30,000 by the end of December.
Information on these preparations has in part fallen into the hands of leading of the counterrevolution.
The assessment of the 7th Plenum has further toughened our policy. We think that it created a more favorable atmosphere for a counteroffensive than had previously existed.
We have to become active, on all fronts. Most important is the internal unity of the Party, its stamina, its influence on the working class. These are the main pre-conditions of taming the counterrevolutionary forces.
The course of events might naturally confront us with the necessity of implementing other measures, measures not limited to the political confrontation which we have expected, but measures of confrontation associated with repressive measures. Believe me, comrades, that in that case we will have sufficient determination with respect to the counterrevolution, in order to defend socialism, the the counterrevolution, in order to defend socialism, the socialist position, in Poland.
Dear Comrades! In consideration of the nature of our meeting, I would like to address some key questions and explain the views of our Party with regard to the situation in Poland. […]
What is our estimate of the situation in Poland, our general estimate? For five months now, events have been shaking Poland, which causes us great concern. We all understand that what is happening there is above all a Polish question and concerns the development of socialism in Poland. But we also understand quite well that it is not solely a Polish question. The developments in Poland concern all socialist countries, the entire socialist community. […]
The general estimate of the situation has two aspects, I think. The first one concerns the question of what is actually happening in Poland, of the character of the processes are which are taking place there, what the causes are, and what forces are behind these events.
A second aspect is the answer to the question of what the situation in this country actually is, what the reality of the situation is, what the main danger is.
It is important, for example, if we take the first, and we have no chance and time to analyze this very thoroughly, we will be able to do that later, to give the first estimate now. This is even more important given that other political forces are actively trying to force their estimate on the public. The Eurocommunists, for example, talk about the historical events in Poland and about the necessity for all socialist countries to go through this development. Yugoslavia is massively spreading its own interpretation of the Polish events, as if they were new evidence of the correctness of the Yugoslav way and the Yugoslav brand of socialism. Not to mention the Western countries which attentively and actively watch and react to the Polish events. They are spreading the opinion that the Polish events have proved again that the political and economic system of socialism is not viable.
Our general opinion is that we are dealing with a very serious political and economic crisis in Poland which on the one hand was caused by flaws in the policy under the current leadership of the Polish Party and Government, on the other hand by the plans and activities of anti-socialist forces which without doubt have for quite some time been active inside and outside of Poland.
What concerns us is that there is no clear and reasonable estimate, and there is no program for a way out of the situation that has developed. Our opinion is that the lack of such a program is one of the reasons why change is only occurring very slowly here. Up to this point, there has now not been a mobilization of forces to the fullest extent possible. It is lacking! The defensive actions are continued. There are even certain steps back from the political plan.
We understand the necessity for compromises but one should clearly look ahead and consider for what purpose one makes these compromises and where they might lead. As long as no major changes occur, until the party does not seize the initiative, we can not speak at all of a turn of events.
What is our opinion on the ways out of this situation? We think that the solution has to be found in the People's Republic of Poland itself. One should work out various options which are appropriate for the situation, and our Polish comrades should be ready to apply these options in the country by means of the Polish United Workers' Party and the People's Republic of Poland. Our estimate is that such possibilities exist at this very moment.
Secondly, in our opinion, the Polish Party should try and consistently pursue going on the offensive. Of course, the Polish comrades know best which possibilities and ways exist for such an offensive. But some aspects should also be viewed from our point of view. There is, for example, a certain degree of fatigue in view of the events of the last five months, which, of course, affects the social situation of the people. There is the prospect that the economic situation and the situation of the workers will further deteriorate. One should state very clearly who is to blame for this and who creates obstacles [to improvement]. One cannot strike endlessly, one cannot live endlessly on credit, and one cannot demand a better life without improving production. This should be stated quite clearly.
There are healthy forces—the army, security forces, and the larger part of Party and population. These are forces that the Party and the state organs can rely on. While it is indeed necessary in today's situation to be flexible, too, it is also right to defend the socialist position in the current situation with greater certainty and greater vigor. […] I would like to address briefly the question of strategic goals the class enemy is pursuing and the eminently important strategic dangers which result from the events in Poland.
It seems that the West now hardly harbors any illusions of changing the social order in Poland in such a way that Poland would leave the Warsaw Pact and pull back to the extent that it would change the political landscape. Of course, the enemy has done and is doing everything to effect a change of the social system, the economic system in our countries, among them Poland. But now the strategic plan of the West is clearly to put a different system into practice in Poland which diverges from real socialism and heads into the direction of liberal socialism, a model which then could pose as an example and provoke changes in the social order in other countries of the socialist community.
Imperialism pursues its policy of interference in internal Polish affairs, and is accompanied by the massive propaganda drums about an alleged intervention by the Soviet Union and the other countries. Nationalist feelings are stirred, attempts [are made] to hide the class character of the events, to cover up the counterrevolution, and to extol friends as foes and vice versa.
I want to state quite frankly: To our mind, there is at this moment a real chance of a change of the social order in Poland. We should not underestimate this! If we had to give a strict class-based estimate now, we would have to say that the possibilities of a political approach, which the Polish comrades have taken thus far, have been exhausted. In our opinion, the situation in Poland is clear and no further clarification is required.[…]
[…] For us, the views of the Polish comrades on the situation in their country are very important. Of course, we base our own evaluation of the political situation above all on the opinion of the Polish comrades and also on the publications in the Polish press, on the international press and on our own experience. […]
How could one describe the Hungarian position in this question?
Before I address this question, I would like to make one more remark. I fully agree with Comrade Zhivkov and would like to express the view that the imperialist propaganda concerning Poland, which is also broadcast to Hungary, implies that the other European socialist countries are equally nervous and concerned about the Polish events, claiming that we feared, as they say, the Polish pest. They declare that this could also undermine our order, etc.
I would like to say the following about that in order to avoid any misunderstandings: for the Hungarian Socialist Workers' Party and for the Hungarian people, a number of concerns exist in the current period of socialist construction. We have our own problems and worries, we are struggling with them, and we will resolve them in the appropriate manner.
In consideration of this I would like to state nevertheless: As far as we are concerned, the Polish events are of little concern to us in terms of [our] domestic politics. We do not fear any great disruption in connection with them. But our Party, our Government, our entire people are particularly concerned about the Polish question in international terms, and this is of concern to us all. […]
What do we have to be aware of? It will, to a certain degree, surely be helpful for the Polish comrades to know what the mood is in our countries. They should know.
When we got the first news about the strikes on the coast, there were certain reactions [in Hungary]. I am speaking now not about the party members and the party leadership but about the man in the street, thus de facto about the ideologically and politically less qualified masses. The first reaction was as follows: What do the Polish comrades think they are doing? To work less and earn more? Then it was said: What do the Polish comrades think they are doing: they want to strike and we are supposed to do the work?—I must frankly state here that this is what the feeling was. These feelings were there though everybody knows that there exists a historical friendship between our two nations. […]
Now further on our attitude. We are in complete solidarity with the Polish Communists, with the PUWP, with the Polish working class, and—in the traditional sense of the word—with the Polish nation. We would like for the Polish comrades to solve their problems by themselves, to find a socialist solution of the problem under the leadership of their party. This is our attitude, which we publicly announced in parliament.
We can not, of course, determine the tasks of the Polish comrades and have no intention of doing so. Nevertheless, I would like to state a few things. We think that, in their current struggle, the Polish comrades should focus on maintaining the leading role of the Party and the socialist, constitutionally-determined social order as well as the political system in Poland. This includes the mass media, radio and TV. These media are integrally linked to the question of power, and I welcome Comrade Kania's words on this subject.
The third, central task is, it seems to me, the defense, and the protection of the Warsaw Defense Pact.
I would like to address one other point here. As other fraternal parties represented here, we maintain very broad international contacts with organizations, parties etc. Practically every week we entertain visitors. In the course of the last week, representatives of a number of fraternal parties were with us; we had a meeting with the Yugoslavs; and in the context of peaceful coexistence we met last week with capitalists as well. What I state here as the Hungarian position is the same thing which we presented in our conversations with the respective partners, be it Latin American Communists or any imperialist representatives; everywhere we state the same thing as I am doing here.
About ten days ago, a meeting with the British foreign minister [Lord Carrington] took place, and last week, [Hans-Jhrgen] Wischnewski, the deputy chairman of the Social Democratic Party in West Germany, was here at the request of [West German Chancellor Helmut] Schmidt. I categorically told the Yugoslav comrades as well as Wischnewski and the British foreign minister the following: Our position is that this is an internal Polish question which has to be resolved by the Poles; that we were in solidarity with the Poles; but I also stated that there were certain limits to this, I could not put it any other way for the gentlemen. Poland is not for sale, and Poland can not be bought. Poland can't be detached from the Warsaw Pact. This is what I stated and I declared that I was deeply convinced that there were strong forces in Hungary which held the same opinion and would not permit this to happen. That's how I represented my point of view and that's how I told them, in order to let them know what they have to expect.expect.
The British asked: What does this mean? Is this the end of détente?—I said: No, but if these limits are reached, then détente would really be over. He said yes and then shut up. The West German representative reacted similarly.
Recently, we have used certain exchanges of opinion and consultations [sic], and we are asked: Well, if you had to give us advice, would you recommend that we act as you did. I would like to address this [issue] very frankly.
As far as the Hungarian Party is concerned, we have no authority and no ambitions as well, to give advice to anybody or to consider ourselves a model. But at the same time, we ascribe importance to the great revolutionary experiences of all fraternal parties. We think consultations such as today's are very important, and let me add:
You cannot copy or mechanically transfer revolutionary experience. This does not work. And whenever I am talking about our position, about our attitude, it is in friendship that I would like to state what the Polish fraternal party should do or what we would do if we were in its place.
To my mind it is now of decisive importance to maintain the position since retreat, the slippery slope downward, has not yet ended. One has to get one's act together and go on the offensive.
The second thing I would say is the following: The decisive thing is that there is an unequivocal, decisive socialist platform for future developments. And this has to happen right away. While you now have a program, it has to become more consistent.
Comrade Kania spoke of the plenum, of re-elections in the base organizations. I am glad to hear you say that the plenum would have to be postponed a bit further; because I think: without a precise platform one cannot conduct a good plenum; then one cannot elect good leading organs in the local organizations, since one does not know exactly which of the cadres are good and which are bad.
When we stewed in our own bitter juice in 1956, we dealt with this question in this way. When I asked people: Is this person still alive? Does he work?, I was often told: I have known him for 30 years. I responded: 30 years are not enough. Tell me how he acted last week. People change their behavior in such situations [as in 1956].
For this, you need a program, so that everybody can determine his attitude towards the Party and its program. You have to start at the top.
We do not want to interfere in the internal affairs of the Polish Party, but our own experiences tell us: in the critical times, the most important organ for the unity and action of the Party is the Central Committee, the highest organ. If there is a clear program and unity [of opinion] in this organ, everything is all set. But if there are 20 different opinions in the CC, nothing will come of it.[…]
As far as we know, the Polish Party now has 3.5 million members. I know that the situation there is somewhat odd. One should probably not conduct purges now, but unfortunately the events themselves have resulted in such a purge. It is not important what the membership numbers are; it is instead important how many people participate in the struggle, how many adhere to your program.
Put the other way: there is no point in trying to achieve the unity of the Party based on compromises at any price. We need a clear platform, which will serve as a rallying point and a purge device. I think such a program could easily be used to set oneself apart from certain things, to distance oneself from the mistakes of the previous leadership very clearly and decisively, not just in words but also in deed and action.
This is one aspect. I will neither praise Gierek nor insult him. While one has to distance oneself, I would like to state, comrades, that the entire Party, the entire country, is now looking for scapegoats, and it will again lead you nowhere to spend most of your time calling people to account.
I am reminded again of 1956. Initially, we completely ignored Rákosi, we distanced ourselves from him and other comrades, quickly distanced ourselves politically from their policies, and we postponed the calling-into-account until 1962. I am not arguing that the Party Control Commission should not do its work now, but it should not be the primary focus of your work. It can't be that the entire Party now preoccupies itself with this. People will have to know: once we regain our strength, we will call those responsible into account. It is now important that the people's government builds a socialist Poland and protects the constitution.
The second thing we need is the following: We have to watch very carefully as to what are the limits up to which one can go in great [public] speeches. One should now be able to defend the fundamental order of the republic, even in party matters, and the party members will vote. What function they will serve within the Party is a matter for the Party, not for the entire nation. The Communists first need to establish order within their own ranks. We do not need some democratic forces for that. Therefore this has to be the limit.
For example, when people are arrested and then set free again, then there will again be discussions about militia work. Even in the Western press it has been stated that no country on earth could permit such things to happen at all. This is not a matter of ideological argument but a matter of the legal order, which has to be upheld throughout the country.
In order to make clear the limits of democraticism [sic], you have to have a program and be determined to do certain things.
Certain events, for example, took place without bloodshed. This is, of course, not a small matter. It has to be evident that the Polish Party and the Polish Government are not exactly looking for confrontation. They above all are not out to have people shot. But the defense of certain things has to be guaranteed—a defense by all means. And this has to become evident. This is the best way to avoid bloodshed. Because if it is clear that every means possible will be employed, bloodshed will be avoided. This is the best solution. […]
Finally, I would like to say the following: There are other effects in Hungary. I don't want to tell you what a depressed state of affairs we were in during the months from October to December 1956, thus during the decisive hours. We were very pessimistic but our foreign comrades supported us. Above all the Soviet comrades came to our help and told us—I well remember this, this is not just propaganda—you now need a reasonable policy. You are stronger than you think! And the Polish comrades should know this too: in reality, the forces of socialism in Poland are stronger than they appear at a first, superficial glance. Within a short time, positive decisions should be reached. Once again: you are stronger than you think. […]
Dear Comrades! […]
These consultations were urgently necessary in view of the developments in the People's Republic of Poland. The events in our neighboring country Poland greatly worry the leadership of our Party, the Communists, the citizens of the German Democratic Republic. Nobody who cares for the cause of peace and socialism can be indifferent to what is happening in the PR Poland. […]
We fully share the opinion that the survival of socialism in Poland is in acute danger. We recently spoke to comrades Kania, =F2abinski, Olszowski and others about this and have pointed out that it was necessary to put an end to these developments. At the same time, we provided Poland in this difficult situation with major material support. […] The citizens of our republic are also aware of the huge amount of aid for Poland from the Soviet Union, the CSSR and other socialist countries. Our people are well aware of this. But there are many questions as to what exactly has improved since the 6th Plenum of the CC of the PUWP. Workers, members of the intelligentsia and others have expressed their disappointment that the visit by comrades Kania and Pinkowski with Comrade Brezhnev has not lived up to their expectations.
We fully agreed with the results of this Moscow trip. Comrade Kania assured us on November 8 that the PUWP leadership would not withdraw one more step. But then there was the decision of the Supreme Court of the PR Poland which revised the decision of the Warsaw court. The Party and Government once more retreated from the counterrevolutionary forces. This resulted in a rapid escalation of counterrevolutionary activities and a massive deterioration of the situation. This was a major setback for all those who had hoped that the PUWP would master the problems. This is the main reason for the widespread discussions of the current situation in Poland within our Party and among our people and for the growing serious concerns about socialism in Poland which marks these discussions.
There is obviously no disagreement among us about the fact that already the capitulation towards the strike committees in Gdansk, Szczecin and Jastrz"bie was a mistake. But we don't want to judge this here. The fact is that following this capitulation, the enemy of the government sensed a chance to spread the strike and riots throughout the country. While weeks ago the strikes were confined above all to social demands, more recently political slogans have come increasingly to the fore.
The decision of the Supreme Court prevented a general strike, but "Solidarity" proved that it could initiate strikes at any time and thus blackmail the Party and Government. It even managed to force the liberation of people who had clearly been proved to have committed crimes. Yes, it even gained the assurance that it would be allowed to enter into negotiations on security matters. Such concessions inevitably will undermine the authority of the Party, other state and its organs. This has to worry everybody who is faithfully committed to the cause of socialism.
I was in Austria at the time of the Supreme Court deliberations. Kirchschläger and Kreisky asked my opinion about the events in Poland. We agreed, despite differing class positions, that Poland would be able to manage its affairs. Then, in the midst of a conversation with Kirchschläger, the news of the Supreme Court decision arrived. Honestly, I would never have been able to come up with such an idea: The Party becomes an appendix to the statute. I had gone to Vienna, basing my assumptions on what Comrade Kania had said. As many others, I never expected such as result.
As the current events show, the leadership of "Solidarity" and the forces behind it, especially KOR, consistently follow well-known counterrevolutionary strategy. Taking advantage of a wave of strikes, they established their organization in the shape of a union. Today they already have a legal political party. Their blackmail tactics have now resulted in a direct struggle for political power. The counterrevolutionary leaders—as Comrade Kania has stated—do not hide the fact that their objective is the elimination of the PUWP as the leading power [and] the elimination of socialist achievements. Initially, the strike organizations prevented anti-socialist and anti- Soviet slogans. Today they feel strong enough to pay homage to Pilsudski and to attack the Soviet Union, the GDR, the CSSR and the other fraternal socialist countries. As the facts prove, they are about to inflame a nationalist, anti-socialist hysteria.
Dear Comrades! One can hardly ignore that the events in Poland are for the main part the result of a coordinated plan of the internal and foreign counterrevolution. It is a part of the imperialist policy of confrontation and increased diversion against the socialist countries. It is important to recognize that the PUWP is confronted with an irreconcilable enemy. In order to defeat the counterrevolution, we think one needs an unambiguous concept, an unambiguous policy of the Party, from top to concept, an unambiguous policy of the Party, from top to the bottom.
You won't get anywhere with a boundless discussion of mistakes, to our mind. I would like to state that the damage of "propaganda of failures" is much higher than any "propaganda of success." In any case, you can't permit a situation in which the truth is suppressed in the public. This truth is that socialism, its shortcomings and mistakes notwithstanding, has brought the Polish nation great achievements, that not the Polish United Workers' Party but the leaders of "Solidarity" and the people who direct them are responsible for the current situation. Of course, one has to differentiate between a manipulated worker and the anti-socialist forces, but one also has to say clearly who the enemy is. […]
Dear Comrades! We have to assume that, unfortunately, the situation in the PR Poland has developed to a point where administrative measures are necessary in addition to political measures, in order to destroy the counterrevolutionary conspiracy and stabilize the government. As you well know, we also had a difficult situation in the German Democratic Republic in 1953. Back then we still had an open border with the Federal Republic of Germany. The imperialists were instigating the fall of the workers-and-peasant power from without and counted on the counterrevolution from within. We therefore had to act quickly. We combined political with administrative measures. We made a public appeal to the party members and functionaries of our Party, to all who were committed to the defense and strengthening of the workers-and-peasants state. Within a short time we managed to isolate the counterrevolutionary forces from the workers and to defeat them.
It was stated here rightfully that the revolution could develop peacefully or in a non-peaceful manner, as we all know. As a Communist you have to be ready to consider both options as the situation demands and to act accordingly in the decisive moments. If the workers-and-peasants power, the government, is at risk, if it has to be protected from counterrevolutionary forces which are determined to go all the way, then there remains no other choice than to deploy the security organs of the workers-and-peasants state. This was our experience in 1953. This became evident in the events of 1956 in Hungary, about which Comrade Kádár spoke, and [in the events] of 1968 in the CSSR.
The representatives of the various groups, which now are mushrooming in Poland, state as a cover-up of their true intentions that their objective was the "democratic renewal of socialism" in Poland. But the opposite is the case. NATO and the EC declare quite frankly that this was a matter that falls under their protection.
I can remember quite well the conversation with Dubcek on the occasion of the Dresden meeting in 1968 when I got him from the airport and took him to his residence. In the course of one hour Dubcek tried to convince me what was happening in the CSSR was not a counterrevolution but a "process of democratic renewal of socialism." What happened later, everybody knows. The Czechoslovak comrades under the leadership of Comrade Husák have composed a document about this that taught us a lot.
We are of the opinion that PUWP has enough healthy forces to solve the urgent tasks, based on the announcement of the Central Committee of the Polish United Workers Party, its directives and a clear plan. As we know, the PUWP has available reliable forces in its security organs, and we are convinced that the army as well will fulfill its patriotic and internationalist duty. This is how we understood the declaration of the Military Council of the Ministry for National Defense of the PR Poland, which was published after the 7th Plenum of the CC of the PUWP. In addition, there is the possibility of arming the healthy forces, about which Comrade Kania spoke here, within the Party and among the workers. We agree with Comrade Kania that there can be no further steps in retreat in the current situation. Only through the struggle against the counterrevolution can the Party unite its members and functionaries, [and] all class-conscious workers and lead them to success.
We in the German Democratic Republic are situated along the line that separates us from the Federal Republic and NATO. On a daily basis, we feel how the imperialist enemy tries to transfer counterrevolutionary activities from Poland to our country as well. The TV stations of the FRG, which can be received in our republic, have never previously reported so much about Poland and have never shown so much interest in the events in Polish factories. They have associated this for five months now with the call to do the same thing [in the GDR] as is now happening in Poland. They describe the developments in the PR Poland as an example of "democratic reform" and "necessary changes" in all socialist countries. That is why we were forced to tell our Party clearly what we thought of the developments in our socialist neighbor country. I stated in a speech before the party activists in Gera that insurmountable limits have been set on the counterrevolution west of the Elbe and Wera. This was not only understood well on our side [of the border]. Our Party takes a class-conscious view of the events in Poland. This also concerns the measures on the temporary limitation of the cross-border traffic.
Dear Comrades! We have gathered here in order to consult collectively on the possible support by the fraternal countries, which might be useful to Comrade Kania and all the comrades in the PUWP in strengthening the people's power in Poland. Our Party and our people have great expectations with regard to this meeting.
Never before has our Party felt so closely connected with the PUWP as in these difficult days and weeks. In this vein we have given orientation to the members of our Party. We remain in solidarity with the fraternal Polish people and its Party, the Polish United Workers' Party. And we are convinced: the cause of socialism will win.
Thank you for your attention.
Esteemed comrades! […]
There are difficulties in some socialist countries. This is true for the events in Poland. This ought to give us cause to analyze the situation very seriously, to solve all problems, the problems of socialist and Communist construction, through collaboration among the socialist countries, based on our own strength. This is all the more important now that we approach the conclusion of the five-year plans and are passing to a new phase of economic and social development for the years 1981 to 1985.
I think I am not wrong in assuming: if we had analyzed the problems of the construction of socialism in our countries more frequently and thoroughly, we would have been able to avoid even the events in Poland. One has to assume that the cooperation of the socialist countries, the successful construction of socialism and Communism, is of special importance to our countries, but at the same time to the maintenance of socialist principles throughout the world, the entire international situation, the policy of détente, peace, and national independence. The socialist countries should demonstrate that they can indeed solve complex problems in the appropriate manner, that socialism provides a firm basis for economic development. One can say that socialism is quite capable of overcoming the appearances of an economic crisis situation and of giving the people greater independence and economic stability.
In the context of our discussions, it was emphasized that the events in Poland stand at the center of attention of the Communist parties and of the people of our community of states as well as all communist parties and progressive forces in the world. The entire international public also watches these events. There is no doubt that differing interpretations exist [as well as] different possibilities of analyzing the events.
But one can only say one thing: There is the concern and indeed the desire to have these problems resolved by the Poles themselves and to avoid their damaging the policy of détente, peace and cooperation. […]
I would like to state initially that the Romanian Communist Party, our Central Committee and the Romanian people, are of the opinion that the problems in Poland should be solved by the PUWP, the Polish working class, the Polish people in complete unity and based on the assumption that it is necessary to assure the socialist development of Poland, to strengthen the economic base of Poland's independence and sovereignty and the material wealth of the Polish people, and to strengthen the cooperation between the socialist countries.
It is not the time now (and there is no reason) to have a thorough discussion about the reasons for this development. One thing is clear: economic difficulties have exerted a strong influence on developments. As is evident from the decisions of the Plenum, today's state of crisis was also caused by some mistakes which happened in implementing socialist principles and the leading role of the Party, in securing the unity of the working class and the broad masses of the people. […]
Comrade Kania has correctly stated that—and this is also evident from the Plenum of the Polish United Workers' Party—attention has been called to the intensification the activities of the anti-socialist, counterrevolutionary elements in the country. To our mind, today's state of affairs could have been avoided if greater determination had been demonstrated previously. Even if there is dissatisfaction, you could have prevented the current dangerous course of events by greater determination. […]
We do not want to interfere here in the internal events of Poland. The PUWP, the Polish working class and the Polish people as well as all the progressive forces in Poland know that they have to find the appropriate ways to overcome this situation, develop the economy, increase the standard of living, based on socialist construction and according to conditions in Poland.
Everything should be done to have an unambiguous orientation, to develop a program which makes it clear how the problems are to be solved—a program which the broad masses of the people will understand well and which then becomes the action program of above all the working class. One cannot imagine overcoming the current crisis situation without such a political program, which involves the working class and the people. […]
We also do not understand how it was possible for so-called independent free unions to be established. But they are a reality today, and you indeed have to take them into consideration. One ought to act in [such] a way [so] that the unity of the workers and the unity of the unions—based on socialism—are regained. But for this purpose, you will need a clear policy and an unambiguous program even in this area, and that will take some time. […]
I would like to underline again that the Polish comrades will have to do everything-—it is their great international and national obligation—to assure socialist construction on their own. One also cannot neglect the fact that the possibility of an external intervention would pose a great danger for socialism in general, for the policy of détente, and for the policy of peace. That's why we should give the Polish comrades all-out support to allow them to fulfill the tasks of securing the socialist construction of Poland on their own and in their own ways, which they indeed have. […]
Dear Comrades! […]
You can sense great concern about the current events in Poland in our Party and our people. This is not just because we are immediate neighbors—we have a common border line of some 1,300 km, and this is, by the way, our longest border—but also because the threat to socialism in Poland constitutes a threat to our joint interests.
We in Czechoslovakia underwent a complicated process of development as well, when the counterrevolution went on the counteroffensive in our country, when the danger of civil war in the CSSR arose, and when there was a deadly danger to socialism. Comrade Kádár has reminded us of the events in Hungary in 1956, and Comrade Honecker has spoken about the events in the GDR.
The events which took place 12 years ago in Czechoslovakia still live in our memories, and in watching the events unfold in Poland today, we compare them to our own experience, even though we, of course, recognize the differences in time and circumstances.
But all these events in Hungary, in the GDR, in Czechoslovakia and now in Poland are characterized by a common goal on the part of the anti-socialist, counterrevolutionary forces of the forces which want to roll back socialism in Poland and detach these countries from the socialist camp. […]
In our country, dissatisfaction also grew among the people, and we had to eliminate deformations, mistakes and shortcomings within the Party as well as within society.[…]
The imperialists quickly realized that an excellent opportunity had been given in Czechoslovakia to reach their long-term goal of destabilizing socialism. What took place there in those summer months in 1968 had long been prepared by imperialist circles and various reactionary, anti-socialist forces. This is also what has happened this summer in Poland.
The enemy has drawn conclusions from the events in Poland and in the CSSR. He proceeded differently in the CSSR than in Hungary, and he drew his conclusions from the events in the CSSR. He now acts differently in Poland than he did in the CSSR. He takes advantage of social dissatisfaction, of economic shortcomings, and tries to win over the masses by social demagoguery and to direct them towards anti-socialist actions, towards actions against the Party.
As it was, in the bourgeois propaganda, the CSSR became the best model of the democratic reform of socialism, that is, socialism with a human face. The CSSR was held up to all other socialist countries as a model. Even the Pope prayed for this process, for the rebirth of Czechoslovakia, and for Dubcek as well, and if anything bad was done in the socialist countries, our country was pointed out as an example. As Comrade Honecker said, the same thing happened in Czechoslovakia. Now they would like to export Poland's crisis to the CSSR, the GDR and the other countries. We, of course, have introduced all necessary measures against this, and as far as we are concerned, there is no reason to be concerned.
The situation [in Czechoslovakia in 1968] culminated to the point at which we could not fight off the attack of the counterrevolution by ourselves. In order to prevent a civil war and to defend socialism, the socialist fraternal countries were asked for internationalist support. This is our view of the situation back then. This support prevented the detachment of the CSSR from the socialist camp. It gave the Party the chance to solve the problems. The CSSR economy had been disrupted. The internal market, the economy and the entire structure of society had been shaken and shattered, and the Party had been torn apart.
It took great efforts to repair the damage that had been done. The CPCz managed to do this after 1969 thanks to the help by the other fraternal countries. I am not reminding you of our experience in order to argue for extreme and radical solutions, but I do this in order to demonstrate that due to the inconsistency of our previous leadership it was necessary to resort to an extreme solution in the interest of defending socialism.
Following the installation of the new leadership, it became clear that the enemy, which had maintained that it would completely support the people and the Party, actually had a petit-bourgeois attitude. We uncovered the counterrevolution and its representatives, precisely with the goal of showing the people what they had been after. We juxtaposed this with the progressive program of our Party. As a result, our people have completely supported the Marxist-Leninist program of our Party and have defeated the counterrevolution.
We know, dear comrades, that these problems of which I have spoken, were of a different sort. It seems to me that the PUWP has a better leadership today than we in the CSSR had back then. But the question of decisiveness and determination to solve the problems energetically remains acute.
With my contribution, dear comrades, I wanted to show the creeping manner that the counterrevolution acted in the CSSR and what experience our Party had. The development of recent years shows that you need a Marxist-Leninist party to defend socialism adequately and to defeat the opportunist, counterrevolutionary and revanchist forces. You need firm unity, courage, and determination for the solution of the most complicated problems and to avoid departing from the right point of view. One needs to have a clear, consistent program and on this basis mobilize the Communists.
Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev:
Permit me as well to make a few remarks. —Dear Comrades! […]
The Polish events worry us in particular. We for the most part have talked about Poland. It pains us to see fraternal Poland going through a profound, difficult crisis. The crisis could have been avoided. It could have been suppressed and turned around in its initial phase, prior to the negative turn of events. But this did not happen.
In the course of the past four years, we have asked questions about the alarming tendencies in the People's Republic of Poland in our talks with Comrade Gierek. This summer in the Crimea, I emphasized again that a decisive political fight against the anti-socialist elements was necessary. In response, we were told that nothing of special concern was happening, that there was no opposition, and that the PPR and the Party were in control of the situation. —What had happened? Was it carelessness, hubris? Were certain ambitions the cause? —I don't know.
And now the crisis, as we can see, has developed into a difficult question not for Poland and its Communists alone. The crisis hurts the entire socialist community, the international Communist movement. It can have a negative impact on the general balance of power. […]
The situation, which the comrades have described here, demands a different way of thinking and acting. One has to realize that the counterrevolution is oriented towards the real conditions as they exist today. It would not risk, and would not have risked, raising itself against the government, if the Polish United Workers' Party had been completely mobilized in the face of the events, if its actions had been characterized by determination and toughness.
This might sound too sharp or too harsh. But it would be completely justified to say that the crisis throughout the country accords with the crisis within the Party. […]
One month ago we spoke at length with comrades Kania and Pinkowski. The topic of conversation was the situation as it had developed. We completely agreed in the evaluation of the situation and our determination of ways to overcome the crisis. We assumed that there was no room for retreat. We have to turn the course of events around and should not wait until the enemy has the Party with its back against the wall. In one word: the Polish comrades themselves must go on the offensive against the counterrevolution and its intellectual heads. The Polish comrades and we were of the opinion that the core of the matter and the most important thing was to restore the fighting spirit of the Party, to restore unity in its ranks and to mobilize all units of the Party. We were all of the opinion that the PUWP could rely on the healthy forces within the nation, the army, the militia, and the state security organs as well as on that part of the union that has remained faithful to the Party.
As far as I know, the comrades of the other fraternal parties share our point of view.
As you know, Comrade Kania has explained that the situation has gotten worse and could not be stabilized.[…]
The comrades here have emphasized that a bitter class struggle is occurring in Poland. What is lacking? The objective is clear: Socialism must be defended! It is also clear from where the danger is emanating. The enemy's scheme has become fairly evident, and it is clear which positions he intends to take next. There is most likely a center which directs the actions of the counterrevolution and which coordinates the various departments' tactics and strategy within and outside of Poland. […]
Particularly acute is the problem of the mass media. Unfortunately one has to admit that the situation most recently has not worked out in favor of the PUWP.
As far as the army is concerned, it would be wrong to assume that the events have not left any traces there. Through various channels, among others the Polish Church, obstinate attempts are being made to neutralize and subvert the armed forces.
We are not exaggerating at all concerning the question of responsibility, but instead are basing our views on the information from the Polish friends. During the entire crisis we have shown complete understanding for the Polish comrades' [desire] to solve the crisis by political means. We do not favor taking extreme measures without extreme circumstances, and we understand the caution. But this is certain: should the enemy assume power, he would not hold back like that. From experience we know that the enemy, once in power, immediately takes extreme measures in order to eliminate the Party and destroy socialism. He is, after all, no longer discreet in his choice of weapons: Unauthorized occupation of plants, of universities, administrative buildings, the nerve centers of transport and media, which affect the vital interests of the Warsaw Pact organization. Are these legitimate weapons? And the dishonoring of honest workers, of Communists by forcing them to join "Solidarity", the increasing incidents of ridiculing people in military uniforms, the incidents of sabotage in the distribution of food stuffs and consumer goods, in the transport of Polish newspapers, the cases of hiding of food which further worsen the situation, and the uncontrolled import of foreign currencies, typewriters and TVs into Poland, not to speak of the threat to life to which Communists and their families have been subjected. One can certainly not say that the opposition has held back, and hence the ongoing confrontation.
The reserve of the Polish Party is interpreted by the opposition as a sign of weakness and indetermination, as a loss of faith in the [Party's] own capabilities and power. The Supreme Court has annulled the decision of the Warsaw court and registered "Solidarity". Walesa has drawn the conclusion that one can press further. I brought Gierek to power and I deposed him, and I can also bring the new leadership down, if I want to, he declared in an interview. This is the tone in which such things are already discussed!
It would be unforgivable not to draw any basic conclusions from such a difficult text. It is our duty not to mince words. A terrible danger hovers over socialism in Poland. The enemy has managed to open up a rift between the Party and a major part of the workers.
The Polish comrades have thus far not found a method to open the eyes of the masses, showing them that the counterrevolution intends to throw out not only the Communists but also the best elements of the entire nation.
The strategic point is that the Polish comrades have to state harshly and confidently: No step back, only ahead! Hence the lost positions have to be regained one after another. One has to secure the restoration of the leading role of the PUWP, one has to go on the offensive.
I have already mentioned our talks with Comrade Kania and Pi=C1kowski. Unfortunately, by far not all the measures for a normalization of the situation in Poland, which we talked about, have been implemented. Today these measures are even more necessary and less avoidable. That is the conclusion one can draw from an analysis of the work of the Plenum of the CC of the PUWP. Based on the decisions of this Plenum, the Polish friends could do a lot to improve of the situation within the Party as well as within society.
The task of all tasks is to strengthen the Party organizationally, to enhance its fighting capabilities. It seems to us that one has to pose sharply the question of maintaining the norm of democratic socialism within the Party, the Leninist norms and methods of the Party. […]
Our experience proves—and the CPSU has gone through many trials in its history: In extraordinary circumstances it can be helpful to establish a special commission of CC delegates who have full plenipotentiary power. They should be deployed wherever they can be helpful to the country, wherever vital areas are concerned.
Comrade Kania and others have talked about the Polish Church. Hence I will be brief. It is clear to us that a confrontation with the Church would only worsen the situation. But with this in mind we should influence as far as possible the moderate circles within the Catholic Church in our direction and keep them from closely allying themselves with the extreme anti-socialist forces and those who desire the fall of socialism in Poland and to take over power.
I repeat once again and once more: It is extremely important to restore control over the mass media. To let the mass media slip out of the control of the Party would mean to hand the enemy a very sharp weapon. We know that this is one of the greatest problems for the PUWP. […]
A lot of correct things have already been said here about the intentions and actions of the imperialist reaction. The West does not limit itself to watching the events in Poland unfold, it is directly involved. There are probably certain connections between the attempts of the international reactionary forces to launch an offensive on the position of the socialist system and an activation of the counterrevolution in Poland. I sense this in our contacts with the US and other capitalist countries. We have unequivocally warned them against interference in internal Polish affairs. We have made it clear to them that neither Poland's Communists nor the friends and allies of Poland would allow them to tear Poland out of the socialist community. It has been and will be an inseparable member of the political, economic and military system of socialism.
Comrades! Officially the situation in Poland is not termed an emergency situation [martial law]. But in reality it is! Of course, the formal act does not matter. Hence the Polish comrades are acting correctly when they prepare for extraordinary measures. Intermediate steps have to be taken immediately since there is no time left until the start of the counteroffensive. Tomorrow it will be more difficult than today to cope with the counterrevolution.
The situation at communication lines, especially in the railroads and harbors, merits extreme attention. An economic catastrophe threatens Poland in the event of the stoppage of transport facilities. It would constitute a blow against the economic interests of a number of socialist states. I repeat: In no case can we allow the security interests of the Warsaw Pact countries to be endangered due to transportation difficulties. A precise plan has to be developed as to how army and security forces can secure control over the transportation facilities and main communication lines, and this plan has to be effectively implemented. Without declaring martial law it is useful to establish military command posts and introduce patrolling services along the railroads.
[Concluding remarks regarding public communiqué.]
End of the Meeting: 15:30
[Source: SAPMO-BArch, J IV 2/2 A-2368. Published in Michael Kubina/Manfred Wilke, eds., "Hart und kompromi=DFlos durchgreifen." The SED contra Polen. Geheimakten der SED-Führung über die Unterdrückung der polnischen Demokratiebewegung (Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1995), pp. 140-195. Translated by Christian F. Ostermann]
Leonid Brezhnev and East European communist leaders discuss the strikes of the 1980-1981 Polish crisis and their aftermath and causes, including the formation of the Solidarity Union. The repercussions of the crisis for socialism in Poland and other Warsaw Pact countries is discussed, as well as possible measures to counter the anti-socialist uprising.
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