Lech Walesa's Plans for the Roundtable Talks
In September 1988, Lech Walesa, leader of Poland's Solidarity Movement and later president of Poland following the collapse of communism (1990-1995), wrote this document a few months prior to the historic Roundtable Talks between party and state officials and the opposition that eventually took place in February to April 1989. Walesa presented what the opposition viewed as the most important issues to be discussed at the meetings, namely, the treatment of strikers and the status of unions, in particular Solidarity. According to the opposition, economic and political reforms (the party's top priorities) would evolve from these primary reform measures dealing with unions and workers. Both sides (party and state leaders and the opposition) participated in defining the content of these upcoming talks. The Roundtable Talks that resulted from such initial negotiations eventually led to the dismantling of the communist party and state not only in Poland but more generally in all of Eastern Europe.
Memorandum by Lech Walesa, “On Starting the Roundtable Talks”
4 September 1988
On starting the [Roundtable] talks
Right now we can begin to discuss the topics for negotiations, which I presented
in my statement of 26 August. I think that in the beginning of next week talks should be
concerned with two questions:
1) implementation of the promise made by the authorities that there would be no
repression toward striking workers, and that those [repressive measures] have been
applied, will be annulled,
2) union pluralism and within its framework the legalization of NSZZ
“Solidarity”, consistent with the postulate of the striking crews.
I think that the first stage of implementing the principle of the “Roundtable” as a
process should be a factual discussion of the above topics and preliminary decisions. The
composition of the meeting should initially be trilateral, as was our meeting on 31
August. I am going to present personal proposals separately.
A positive consideration of the above mentioned questions will allow for a
broader debate on economic and political reforms in our country.
Gdansk, 4 September 1988
[Source: Andrzej Stelmachowski Papers. Translated by Jan Chowaniec for CWIHP.]
Lech Walesa, "On Starting the Roundtable Talks," 4 September 1988, Cold War International History Project, Documents and Papers, CWIHP (accessed May 14, 2008).