Jan Litynski, thirty-four years old, studied mathematics at the University of Warsaw and has been active in the student and opposition movements in Poland since the late 1960s. He is one of the co-founders of the Committee for Social Self-Defense (KOR) and a member of the editorial board of the uncensored newspaper Robotnik (The Worker) published in Warsaw. This interview took place by telephone on September 2, a few hours after Litynski and other leaders of KOR were released from jail.
ABRAHAM BRUMBERG: How do you assess the events in Gdansk?
JAN LITYNSKI: As an immense success, not only for Gdansk but for our whole society. This sense of success is something that no one will ever be able to take away from us. We have succeeded in accomplishing our most important demand, that is the right to free and independent trade unions, and if unions can succeed in establishing themselves, we shall eventually be faced with a genuinely free trade union movement outside the official one. This is of extraordinary significance, for it means that one of the most important teeth of the system has been effectively knocked out. The free trade union organization is to be organized along federal lines and will thus be wholly at odds with the existing social and political system in Poland.
Q: Then how do you expect the Soviet Union to react? Doesn’t this development pose a danger—as Soviet newspapers put it bluntly in the last few days—to the very basis of “socialism” in Poland?
A: Of course this danger is always there. But it seems to me that we have now reached some kind of understanding between the government and society, and that the Soviet government must now come to terms with certain changes in Poland. It is forced to be realistic. Polish society—and particularly the strikers—did not come out against Communist power as such, but simply refused to obey it. They said, in effect, we’ve had enough of the way the government has run this country. At the same time, the Poles accept, because they must accept, the existing state of affairs in Poland. I believe Moscow, too, will have to accept this new situation—that Poland will remain in the Warsaw Pact, a member of Comecon, a member of the Socialist camp, and that the Communist Party will remain in power—but that it will be in some respects a different Party. Poles are perfectly aware of the limits that cannot be overstepped. For the time being. I emphasize, for the time being.
Q: In an article that appeared in the German weekly Die Welt on August 18, Mr. Kuron of KOR spoke clearly about the possibility of Soviet military intervention. On the other hand, he says that he does not believe that the Party is willing to introduce far-reaching, necessary economic and political reforms or capable of doing so. If this is the point of view of Mr. Kuron and, I suspect, of …