Leslie H.








INT: Right. Now, and how far did you see this as part of a wider struggle to undermine the Soviet system?

LK: I.. didn't see it quite in those grandiose terms. I did believe, and I still believe, that the course of history moves when a critical mass is formed in the streets and the shops and the workplaces. It is not moved generally by the ministries and counting houses of established power. The Establishment prefers stability: they'd rather do business with the system that's in place, rather than see it change or undermined. We, on the other hand, wanted to make it clear that we were firmly on the side of those very courageous people who were willing to stick their necks out and bare their chests to danger and to the prospectof the loss of their freedom and death. That's the side that we wanted to be on.

INT: Uhum. Because one of the divisions within Solidarity, as you know, pain 1981, was how far to stick to trade union demands, workers' demands and workers' rights, and how far to make a wider politicization of those demands, which appeared to be talking about pluralism, about democracy, and that was...

LK: That's an interesting question. I don't think that the two issues or aims were incompatible at all - I think one supported the other. I think the question of the right of the workers to be represented by trade unions of their own choosing and of their own designation, to speak for them authentically, is not incompatible with the larger aim for the reconstruction of a genuine civil society. It's rather an essential part of it. The thing that I think helped to make the Solidarity movement a great success in fact, was the evolution of the concept of the recreation within Poland of a civil society that had been annihilated by the Soviet system. It's that concept that led to the development of this broad spectrum of support that persisted for Solidarity through all these difficult years, and it was all one basic issue.

INT: When martial law was imposed in 1981, can you say what you thought and how you felt?

LK: I felt at that time that it was absolutely vital that not only the United States but the democratic world at large react very vigorously. We called for the imposition of sweeping sanctions against the Polish regime; we urged that the Polish loans that were not being serviced be declared formally in default, which would have kept Poland from having access to capital which had been so lavishly bestowed on them under the communist regime by Western financial centers, and misused and wasted. And we felt that this would create maximum pressure on that regime, and we enunciated the proposition that there could be no normalization or no relations with Poland without the legalization of Solidarity.

INT: Right. Now can I take you on to 1988, the period of the Round Table talks, when things were obviously moving very rapidly in terms of Eastern Europe. Now, when it emerged, how far were you able to give advice about how to proceed politically during and after the Round Table talks?

LK: You must understand we are not basically in the business of giving advice to those who earn the empathy or who are in the arena facing the circumstances that existed in that part of the country. We were there to help, and we did our best to help according to their view of their requirements and needs. As matters developed, and as... after Solidarity was legalized, and with the emergence in other parts of Central and Eastern Europe of incipient trade union movements, we did establish offices - we established one in Warsaw and Budapest and Bulgaria and Romania - and set up training programs, provided manuals of procedure for the running of the operation and administration of a real trade union, and things of that sort. But it was assistance, not advice and counsel: we weren't telling them what to do, we were asking them what they wanted from us, and we were doing our best to provide it.

INT: Right. And how did you assess the new climate under Gorbachev - a more general question - after perestroika and glasnost?

LK: Well, I'll leave to wiser heads than mine any evaluation of the role of Gorbachev. The one thing I could say about him is that he did show an understanding of the basic flaws and shortcomings of the kind of society that he was running, and wanted to.. save that society by reform. It got out of hand. But in no sense do I believe that he wants the credit for the emergence of freedom in Central and Eastern Europe. The people who deserve the credit are those courageous people who stood up and bared their chest to steel and that took all the personal risks and who faced death and imprisonment for their beliefs and courage.

INT: Right. Can I just go back to one question, a wider question in relation to détente, away from Poland for the time being. Was it also the case with the Committee on the Present Danger, and in terms of your own view, that the fear was that America was falling behind in terms of the competition between America and the Soviet Union?

LK: That was not essentially the essence of my view. My view was the one that I described: I felt that the search for accommodation with the Soviet Union - whether you call it détente, as.. was represented in the SALT negotiations - was evading the real issues, and the real burning issue with respect to nuclear arms, not conventional arms - I was mainly concerned with the nuclear issues - was this incompatibility of evolving technology with the issues that were being addressed in SALT. The real issues were not being addressed, and I strongly felt that they should be.

INT: Did you also feel that the Soviet Union was taking a more expansionist stance in relation to other parts of the world - for instance Afghanistan...?

LK: We have an experience that other elements of society don't share: the struggle between genuine, democratic and free trade union movements and the systems that deny freedom of association that had been going on before, during and after the so-called Cold War. So we were in the trenches on that issue and with us were the leading advocates and spokesmen and for a democratic free trade union movement and for the importance of freedom of association. And that was the concept around which we were one of the key players in organizing a new democratic trade union: the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions. We pressed this issue in the International Labor Organization, where it was most directly symbolized by one of the key human rights conventions of the ILO: Convention number 87 on freedom of association. We hammered that point home. And we knew that the first thing that dictators and slave masters did in any country was to destroy genuine trade unions and to try to supplant them with instruments of state power. That was our life struggle, so to speak, has been going on; it's not confined to communism: it was the same issue that we faced in Spain and Portugal under Franco and Salazar, under Hitler and Mussolini, in Chile under Pinochet, in South Africa under the apartheid regime. It was the right of ordinary people to stand on their two feet and live decent lives and have an effective voice through their own free associations, as a vital element of civil society. That is the issue, and that was the question throughout this period.

INT: Thank you very much.

LK: Not at all - I'm delighted.

(Consultation re: any more questions)

INT: ... We wanted to sort of be clear about the details of what sort of materials were sent, because Solidarity... you said you sent everything that they asked for...


(A bit of preliminary talk)

INT: OK, Lane, can you just specify what it was that you sent as assistance to Solidarity?

LK: They would convey to us, their representatives, through various channels, their requirements from time to time, and we would do our best to meet their needs. For the most part, it consisted of communications equipment offset printing presses so that they could produce their literature and keep in touch with each other, radio equipment, paper; also some funding, of course.

INT: And was it typewriters as well and things like that, or was that...?

LK: Yes, uhum. And we created several channels, independent of each other and redundant, for getting this material in. And I prefer not to go into further details, but essentially we used.. truckers as well as long-shore workers and others that we were in contact with.

INT: Fine, OK - thanks very much.

LK: We had had some experience with this in previous years - under the Nazis, for example. Uhum.

INT: Right. OK, thank you very much.