Politburo meeting. The situation in Poland; future meeting between Andropov, Kania and Jaruzelski; economic reforms and martial law (7 pp). [R 2 April 1981, Politburo] Excerpts.
[page one of seven]
MEETING OF CPSU POLITBURO
2 April 1981
Comrade L.I. BREZHNEV
Comrades in attendance:
Yu.V. Andropov, M.S. Gorbachev, V.V. Grishin,
A.A.Gromyko, A.P. Kirilenko, N.A. Tikhonov,
D.F. Ustinov, P.N. Demichev, V.V. Kuznetsov,
M.S. Solomentsev, I.V. Kapitonov, V.I. Dolgikh,
5. Concerning the situation in Poland
BREZHNEV. All of us are deeply alarmed by what may happen next in Poland. Worst of all is that the friends listen and agree with our recommendations, but are doing hardly anything. Meanwhile the counterrevolution is attacking along the entire front.
Members of the Politburo are familiar with the content of all previous discussions with the Polish leaders. I will speak briefly about my most recent telephone conversation with Kania, on 30 March.
Kania described the recent plenum of the PZPR Central Committee and complained that they had been roundly criticized at the plenum. I replied immediately: “They were right to do so. They shouldn’t have just criticized you; they should have grabbed a club. Then, perhaps, you would understand.” These were literally my words.
Comrade Kania acknowledged that they are acting too leniently and need to be more forceful.
At that point I said to him: “How many times have we insisted that you must take decisive measures, that you can’t make endless concessions to Solidarity. You always speak about a peaceful path, but you don’t understand (or don’t wish to understand) that the ‘peaceful path’ you support is likely to cost you blood. That’s why it’s important to draw the right conclusions from the criticism at the plenum.”
The friends succeeded in preventing a general strike. But at what price? By giving in yet again to the opposition. Kania himself acknowledged in a conversation with the [Soviet] ambassador that this new compromise was a huge mistake.
[In particular, Brezhnev proposed that the Soviet leadership respond to the requests of the Polish “friends” for a discreet meeting on border at Brest between Andropov and Ustinov and Kania and Jaruzelski. A high-level meeting of the seven member-States of the Warsaw Pact to discuss the Polish question was another measure being held in reserve.]
BREZHNEV. We have a Commission on Poland. Perhaps the comrades from the Commission, who are following events in that country, wish to say something?
ANDROPOV. I believe the suggestions put forward by Leonid Ilych concerning our next steps
vis-à-vis Poland and his assessment of the situation there are entirely correct. Indeed, we must now try to exert greater influence and put greater pressure on the friends’ leadership. The proposal that I travel with Comrade Ustinov for a meeting with Kania and Jaruzelski is, I believe, appropriate. …
[USTINOV supported the proposals in similar terms.]
GROMYKO. Let me briefly inform you what we are hearing through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. There is a huge amount of information about Poland. It should be said, however, that in the USA, the Federal Republic of Germany and other countries they are closely following the situation in Poland and greatly distorting the true state of affairs. Of course, the presentation of both American and West Europe an information about events in Poland is tendentious. They talk of the “justice” of the demands made by Solidarity and the antisocialist forces in Poland and the inability of the Polish leadership to resolve internal problems. At the same time, a great many words are directed towards the Soviet Union, as if warning us that our armed forces must not interfere in Poland’s affairs. That’s to be expected, however: bourgeois propaganda has always adopted hostile attitudes towards the Soviet Union and, as I said, is now presenting this information in a tendentious manner.
Kania and Jaruzelski, I’d like to say, are not in a particularly good way.There are hints even that Jaruzelski is completely worn out and does not know what to do next. This is extremely bad, of course.
It’s very bad that during their negotiations with Solidarity, the leaders of the Polish People’s Republic took a step backwards. Even the Polish leaders themselves say that the latest agreement with Solidarity was a mistake of the Polish leadership.
As concerns Rural Solidarity, it has effectively already been legalised. … How are we to assess the situation in Poland following the plenum of their Central Committee? I think we wouldn’t be wrong to say that there has been no improvement. On the contrary, things have got worse still because the leadership is moving backwards. But as Leonid Ilych already said, Kania is asking that our Comrades Andropov and Ustinov go to Brest for an exchange of views with Comrades Kania and Jaruzelski. I believe we should agree, particularly because it will be an opportunity to say everything to the Polish friends face to face. This meeting, in my view, is a kind of intermediary step, and we should use it to the full. If they are prepared for a partial introduction of emergency measures, we must ask whether they are sure that the army, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and state security will be on their side. … The Polish High Command has declared that the army will do its duty. Is that really so? In any case we must tell the Polish comrades that it is essential to adopt firmer, I would say extraordinary, measures to restore order, and that further concessions on their part are simply unacceptable. There is already no room for further retreat.
USTINOV. As concerns the military things stand as follows. Today at 8.00 pm the military leadership is meeting with Comrades Kulikov and Kryuchkov and others of our comrades. As far as the Polish army is concerned, it is, as Comrade Jaruzelski declares, ready to do its duty. If we’re to speak frankly, however, we must bear in mind that Kania and Jaruzelski are hardly likely
to force a confrontation, after the clash in Bydgoszcz .
The outcome of that conflict shows that if only two people from Solidarity are somehow injured, the whole country is up in arms, i.e. that Solidarity was able to mobilize its forces quickly. Of course, there still remains some hope that the army, state security, and the police will put up a united front, but the further things go, the worse they will become. I think that bloodshed can’t be avoided; it will occur. If they’re afraid of that then, of course, they’ll have to surrender one position after another. That way all the gains of socialism could be lost.
I have also been thinking about another question: whether we won’t have to take certain economic measures. How do the Polish friends now view this matter? We are helping them, we’re depriving ourselves and our other friends of goods and giving them to Poland, yet the Polish people know nothing about this. None of the Poles have any clear idea that Poland is receiving full shipments of oil, cotton, and so forth, from us. If the help the Soviet Union was providing the Poles was all added up and properly examined, and if they described this help on television, on radio, and in the press, the Polish people, I believe, would understand who is providing the major portion of their economic assistance. But not a single Polish leader has spoken before the workers and discussed this assistance.
With regard to the Polish leaders, I believe it’s difficult to say which of them is best. Earlier we regarded Comrade Jaruzelski as a stalwart figure, but now he has proven to be weak. […]
BREZHNEV. We must tell them what it means to introduce martial law and explain it all very plainly.
ANDROPOV. That’s right, we must tell them that the introduction of martial law means imposing a curfew, limiting movement and traffic on city streets, and heightened protection for State and Party institutions, enterprises, etc. Under pressure from the leaders of Solidarity, Jaruzelski has gone soft, and recently Kania has taken to drinking more and more. It’s a very regrettable situation. I think we have plenty of reasons to meet Kania and Jaruzelski. Obviously we need to listen to what they have to say.
I would like to add that the Polish events are influencing the situation in the western regions of our country, particularly in Belorussia. Reception of Polish-language radio and television is good in many villages there. At the same time, it should be said that in certain other areas, especially in Georgia, we have had spontaneous demonstrations. Groups of loudmouths have been gathering on the streets, as happened in Tbilisi not long ago, proclaiming anti-Soviet slogans, and so on. Here we must also adopt severe measures within the country.