Mieczysław Rakowski, 6. 3. 1987, ?

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Location ?
Date 6. 3. 1987
Length 27:11

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What is the role of the new institutions that have been set up in the last few years? There is a Social and Economic Council at the Parliament that you are chairing. There is also the new Consultative Council that has been created last December. What is your view on the role of these institutions?

Well, I think that these all the institutions were created because of the, I should say, objective need. I mean, our population has became more and more educated and because of this level of education the society needs much more room for their own, where they can present their views about many important questions, which are more or less important for the society, for the people. I mean, it seems to me that this is an objective need in this sense that we have to build up new platforms and new institutions which can be used by people. Because on our… we based on our own experience and we came to the conclusion that these institutions which one can tell them, call them. Ah, no! We can start from the beginning. OK?

Good. There are a series of new institutions that have been set up in Poland over the last few years. The Social and Economic Council at the Parliament that you are chairing. There is also the new Consultative Council which has been set up in December of 1986. What is the role of these institutions? Is it an attempt by the state to create channels of communication with society after the Solidarity crisis?

No doubt, I think that all these institutions are a result of these huge changes which has taken place in Poland in the last years. I mean, just during the crisis in ’80-‘81, and then the next years. We came to the conclusion… I mean, we not only the Party, but people who are engaged in politics that we have to create such a new institutions in which people from different groups of society can express their view, their views about very important problems which are in economic field or in politics. But… and this is the main reason, I think, that this these institutions were created and another reason is that the society, Polish society is much more educated than, let us say, ten years ago or twenty years ago. We have one million, over one million people, one and a half million people with high education, over six million people who have this mid…, as we call, middle schools, finished their middle schools. It means that society became more and more educated and based on this in this level of education people just needs… wanted to have the right and to have the possibility to express their own view.

Was it that the Party was not a sufficient framework for this?

No, no doubt, no doubt. And the third reason is that there is a growing tendency in our society to build bodies which can be used as a as an instrument for control over the Government and over the Party. Because coming back to the crisis in 1980-1981, there was no doubt that the main reason why we came to such a crisis was the policy of the Party and the policy of the Government in the 70s. Solidarity has only deepened the crisis, but the beginning was not in this day or in this month when Solidarity was born, but in the 70s. So if you look at the Polish society now, there is a strong wish to have a real control over all governmental bodies and in addition also over my Party. So, it seems to me that all these institutions which you mentioned, you can treat them as an answer of these changes which has taken place and of the needs of the society, you know?

What's the relationship between these institutions and the economic reform? Because we've had the first phase of reform launching after 1981, which hasn't delivered the goods so far. Now there is a talk about the second phase of reforms.


What's the process?

Well, I think that these institutions are also can be used for these goals, which are connected with the economic reform. I mean, for instance, if you take this Social Economic Council we discussed, usually a lot of economic problems connected with the reforms or problems, social problems are also connected with the economic reforms. So I think that these are these additional bodies which can make stronger the front of reformers in Poland. Because there is no doubt that we have to do it. It's different, you know, groups of the society, different interests. Also a lot of tensions between people who want to go very fast and others are connected with the past or traditionally, with tradition, and so on and so on. So it seems to me that it's attempt to create a new kind of democracy in our system, which should be…

What’s your definition of democracy?

Well, there are some old definitions of democracy, but I think that the main source for democracy is when the people in the field of economy can decide about their own future and about their own position in the society and the government. So because, of course, you have to do in every country with different institutions, and also because the world is divided in two parts, as a matter of fact. In the West there is another concept of democracy, and in the socialist countries too, but I think that just we started now. I am thinking now… I'm speaking now about the socialist world started to create a democracy which is based on changes which has taken place in this undeveloped part of Europe in the last forty years. There is no doubt that in the first decades democracy was limited in our country and not only in our country. In the whole socialist block. But this limits belongs to the past, as a matter of fact, because we have to do now just in the end of 80s with new generation, generation which was growing up after the World War II. This generation has totally different experiences than my generation. My generation, I call it a war generation, and there are a lot of reasons why we have to not only to think but also to make the next step in the concept of democracy, you know?

Isn't an attempt to have a one party system and pluralism, isn't it an attempt to square the circle?

Well, you know, no. I think that just one have to look at this changes which has taken place in the socialist block or in Poland in the last years as a beginning, as a matter of fact, of a new chapter in the development of socialism and also of the socialist democracy, and it's very difficult to answer today of such a question, because this is a question, this is a problem of the next years. I don't know if someone asked me: “Tell me Mr. Rakowski, what do you think about the political structures in Poland, in the next five years or ten years?” my answer is: “I don't know just now because we have to practice. We have to study this situation which will be created by such a development.” If you, for instance, take the economy great reform. Well, it's a totally different concept of economy, of managing than it was in the last four decades. So many problems in the socialist world, in my opinion, are open problems and therefore I am very careful to give you a clear answer of such a question.

If one of the principles of the economic reform is greater autonomy to the firms, self-financing, even self-management, that suggests a retreat of the Party from the economic sphere. What does it mean for the Party, for its leading role?

Well it's a good question because I think that just based on these changes in the economy in the economic field we have to put this question before us. What… how this leading role of the Party should be found in this new period or in this new economic situation? I think that this is one of the main task, maybe a theoretical and practical one for the Party which was educated in the last four decades as a political force which controlled the whole development, I mean including the economy. What does ‘practically’ mean, in my opinion, because this question occupied also me. I think that the Party should be pushed much more and more in a direction which I call ideology and it means that Party should have much more and more interests for political work, I should say, for ideology. The Party should discuss a lot of very important social, political, economic problems which are coming every day because not only of the development in our country, but the development in the whole world. So I think that…

So it shouldn't be afraid of giving up power?

No, no well, but because this is a question, what does mean power? Yeah, because you can use a lot of means which are useful for a Party which has a power. And it doesn't mean that… It doesn't mean that power… or that power means the full control over the whole development in the country or in the nation. No, no. I think that for our Party, for instance, I'm speaking only about Poland, there is a huge field far from the economy which is very important if someone is thinking about the deepening of the power, of strength and the power of the Party, and you know, in the last years we are, we became more and more, I guess, pragmatic. But this is a question how far we should go in this direction.

How far?

Yeah, well again, this is an open question because, you know, we have, as a matter of fact, the lack of theoreticians in the communist movement. I mean not only in Poland, but just in the whole world. I'm speaking now about it's the Europe. It means that in the last decades politicians were more or less occupied by problems and concepts which, as a matter fact, were very far from these problems which we about which we talked now.

And there's Gorbachev until now in the Soviet Union. Does it mean that reform is more feasible here because there's Gorbachev in the Soviet Union? What difference does it make to you?

Yeah, well this is. Well, no doubt no doubt. Because of course we started with reforms a bit earlier than Gorbachev, but it seems to me that we became spiritually more stronger in the day… when at the day when Gorbachev started with the reforms in the Soviet Union. Because if you are not alone, but you have someone with you, then you feel that you have more power, have much more possibilities to change the circumstances in which we live.

Is it also helpful to have the image of the Soviet Union improved?

Oh yes, yes. Now look just some days ago there was such a festival of the Soviet songs in one place in Poland and for the first time, I guess in the last forty-two years, a Polish singer has presented a song about Gorbachev, you know, so something unusual as a matter of fact in Poland. And then, of course, during the Stalin time there were songs also, but where they're written in the totally different conditions. This guy has presented his song without any attempt from anyone to push him in this direction. Yeah, so I think that just because of the reforms in the Soviet Union or because of Gorbachev and his policy Poland has now much better situation in this sense that all what is presented now in the Soviet Union as a huge parcel of reforms you can find also in our concepts.

And could it change also the relationship between Moscow and the East European allies?

Well, not doubt, but yeah, but these relations between Moscow and the European alliances are also in a move. This is a totally different situation than it was for instance, in the Stalin time or even later in Khrushchev era or even Brezhnev era. So I think that just we enter this formation in a new period. But of course, there’s…

There will be more autonomy for each country?

Well, no doubt, but I think that the whole concept based on such idea, because every nation in this part of Europe has his own, you know, past, his own tradition and own view about themselves and the future of these countries. Yeah, I should add that for the first time, as a matter of fact, in the Polish after World War II history, people in Poland, I mean not only people or a member of the Party, are really interested what is going on in the Soviet Union and, for instance, the Gorbachev reforms, or he as a person, he as a politician. It's really observed every day I should say in Poland and people discussed what is going on in the Soviet Union, put a lot of questions. So… But not only just during this or another meeting. No, in a families, you know, or if you meet someone, he will ask you, well, what are you thinking about Gorbachev. And he creates a lot of sympathy for himself, which is also unusual fact, as a matter of fact, in the last decades because, well…

The Polish Party had suffered from the traditionally negative image of Soviet Russia in Polish [inaudible].

Well, you know. When I underlined that this is for the first time, then I should add that usually the relationship or the approach to the Soviet Union and Soviet people in Poland in the last forty years was differentiated. I can't accept, for instance, such a view that Poland or Polish people are usually against the Soviet Union because it's not true. The history was much more complicated, yeah. So when I say now that this is something new then because it's widespread, because this is such a general view. Or I should say that the nation is thinking now in such a way or the approach of the nation to the Soviet reforms, to Gorbachev have something new, you know, are something new.

You were known as a prominent journalist during the Gierek era. And then many people were caught by surprise when you became associated with general Jaruzelski after December 13. Could you explain this evolution? And looking back in retrospect, why was martial law necessary?

Well, there was no evolution because I was for the twenty-five years, even more, a journalist and usually I was known, excuse me, as a human being who was very critical towards the policy of every equipe. So for instance, in the beginning of 70s, I accepted Gierek's policy because this policy was very useful for Poland, just as he started. But then in the mid of 70s, he and his people has created, started with such a policy which was false and was very often foolish. And then also I started to criticise him. So, the fact that I came to this, I became a member of this Jaruzelski equipe, I don't think it's something unusual because as you know, I guess you know that I was editor in chief of Polityka and Polityka was well known as a critical paper. Of course we have accepted the general lines of the policy of the Party, but on the other hand, we have been well known as people who have very critically approach to it.

And simply that the Gierek period was associated with this sort of rather tolerant attitude towards dissent, whereas martial law, on the contrary, meant a rather authoritarian crackdown on dissent.

Yeah. But the martial law was a result of internal development in Poland.

Why was it necessary?

It was necessary because in other… if we haven't introduced this interview, then who knows what could happen with Polish state? Because in the end of the 1981, the economic situation in Poland and the political situation became very danger for just a normal development of the government and of the nation, of people. Look, we did… the production was smaller and smaller because of strikes, because of demonstrations and so on. For Instance, we exported over, well, near forty million tonnes of coal every year and in ‘81 this dropped to sixteen millions of tonnes.

Do you think martial law prevented a Soviet invasion?

No, well, somehow yes because, you know, it wasn't quite clear that we have to do in the world with just, you know, two powers and two blocks and I don't know who can, who was…We have to, wait, wait a minute. I haven’t find…

Do you think the imposition of martial law has actually prevented a Soviet invasion?

Well, not doubt because Poland belongs to the Warsaw Pact and we have to do with two blocks in the world and I think that it wasn't just… it was foolish if someone was thinking in this part of the world that Poland can be taken from this Warsaw Pact, from Comecon, and from this socialist community out, and what? What can be, what kind of state, of government should be, exist here in this part of Europe? So maybe I don't think that the Soviet intervention was just the main reason why we have introduced the martial law. We have firstly introduced because the whole government, the country or the state was, became, was going in such a direction that the disaster was not far from us. I mean disaster just as a state, as a nation. But if we are looking from the international scene, from the situation there were, then it was quite clear that such a development, or in such a direction could happened only in one way.

And do you think dialogue or some form of consultation with the opposition is still possible? Or is it pointless?

Well, just now is a totally different situation as it was in the end of 1981 because in this period the opposition or the leading people from the opposition were very far from any concept of dialogue with us, because this was such a situation in which these people had a strong belief that they are so strong that we are for them not a partner. But just now, after seven years, this situation has been different. For instance, a lot of people from the opposition they accept now, as a matter of fact, the martial law. And now they represent such a view that this was just a step which was, let us say, an objective one. So I think that the dialogue with people who accept our economic and social system but they are critically towards our policy, every day policy or policy even for four years in the field of economy or the social section of our lives, with such a people we can find a common language and this is again a question of practice, you know? Well, I know a lot of people from this group and they're different, and they are thinking in a different way than in the end of 1981, so all is in changes.

Mieczysław Rakowski (1926–2008)

Mieczysław Rakowski

Mieczysław Rakowski (born December 1, 1926 - died November 8, 2008) - Polish communist politician, Deputy Prime Minister in Wojciech Jaruzelski's government (1981-1985), the last First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Polish United Workers' Party (1989-1990). In 1981, the Sejm of the 8th term of the Polish People's Republic appointed him Deputy Prime Minister in Wojciech Jaruzelski's government, which he held until 1985. At the same time, he was Chairman of the Committee of the Council of Ministers for Dialogue with Trade Unions (1981-1985) and a member of the National Council for Culture (1983-1990). In December 1987, he became a member of the PZPR Central Committee Politburo. He took part in the Round Table Talks in 1989.