Post-communist Polandâ€™s spies, agents and plotters
Compiled by Our Warsaw Correspondent Robert Strybel
WARSAWÂ—News reports coming out of Poland these days seem to cloud the rosy picture of Poland as a country that successfully made a peaceful transition from a communist dictatorship to a parliamentary democracy, from Marxist-style central planning to a market economy. Recently declassified documents are showing a dark and shady underside of alleged plots, backroom intrigues and even possible attempts on the life of leading political figures.
The ruling conservative Law and Justice (Prawo i Sprawiedliwość) party of the twin brothers, President Lech and Prime Minister Jarosław Kaczyński not only keeps accusing former President Lech Wałęsa and other Solidarity-rooted politicians of overthrowing the government of Jan Olszewski in 1992, but are also blaming them for the destruction of democratic political parties that arose following the 1989 collapse of communist rule. As a result of the plottingÂ—PiS maintainsÂ—most of those parties, including the KaczyńskisÂ’ Center Accord, collapsed after failing to get re-elected in the 1993 elections, which saw the ex-communists sweeping to power.
Those charges gained credibility by the files found in the cabinet of ex-communist former secret-service agent Colonel Jan Lesiak. They indicate that then President Wałęsa, Prime Minister Hanna Suchocka and several other high-ranking officials had ordered undercover agents to infiltrate and disintegrate opposition parties, leading to their defeat in 1993 parliamentary elections. Suchocka, now PolandÂ’s ambassador to the Vatican, has declined to comment.
Wałęsa claims the surveillance of what he called Â“radical political groupsÂ” was justified, because they allegedly posed a threat to PolandÂ’s fledgling democracy. He said KaczyńskiÂ’s Center Accord was planning a coup dÂ’Ă©tat that could have led to a new dictatorship. WałęsaÂ’s right-hand man Mieczysław Wachowski recently divulged that 800 commandos had been ordered by officials of the Olszewski government to arrest Wałęsa on June 4, 1992. Wachowski quoted a former commander as saying they would have abducted Wałęsa under the cover of night when he left parliament. Instead, the president engineered the parliamentary overthrow of the Olszewski cabinet and spent the rest of the night in parliament. The following day he had full control of the security services and commandos.
Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczyński has countered the allegations by suggesting that Wałęsa could have inspired rogue secret-service agents to sabotage his car in a bid to silence him in the 1990s. Kaczyński had been a top aide to Wałęsa, when he became president in 1990, but the two fell out when the former Solidarity leader refused to abandon painful free-market reforms. Kaczyński went on to form the Center Accord, a party that staged anti-Wałęsa marches and burned the president in effigy.
Wałęsa has laughed off the allegations, saying he might sue Kaczyński for libel. The former president has also dismissed lingering accusations that he had been a communist secret-police informers code-named Bolek. He says courts have cleared him of those accusations on three separate occasions. But back in 1992, when the Bolek connection first surfaced, Wałęsa admitted in a statement to PAP news agency that as a young shipyard worker he had signed three or four different papers for the authorities. A few hours later, that statement was withdrawn from the PAP wire and replaced by another that made no mention of any signatures.
The declassification of documents of PolandÂ’s recently dissolved Military Intelligence Service has revealed a Soviet-inspired organization riddled with communist-era agents, involved in criminal activites and attempts to infiltrate the media and political structures. Politicians are using the files to discredit their political opponents and stirring up more hostility on the countryÂ’s already troubled political scene. A priest conducting his own private investigation into clergy who had collaborated with the communist secret police has been silenced by Church officials who fear an indiscriminate exposĂ© could harm innocent and guilty alike.
All these charges and counter-charges, suspicions and allegations are pretty much par for the course of Polish politics. In the 1920s fist fights would break out in PolandÂ’s parliament and armed soldiers were ordered to forcibly remove the unruly parliamentarians. And few people realize that the Third of May Constitution, which Poland and Polonia are so proud of, was adopted only thanks to a ruse. Its backers convened the Sejm when many of its members, especially those in the pay of foreign powers, were away during the extended Easter break of 1791. At least all the skirmishing on PolandÂ’s present political stage have so far not harmed the Polish economy which is flourishing and developing apace.