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1 The last session of the National Commission.1 Things are heating up. Attack by night. "Lech is also surrounded." Apparent strength and real weakness. Why Solidarity allowed itself to be taken by surprise.
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Zbigniew Bujak I.1

At about 6P.M. on December 12, 1981, the second day of the National Commission's meeting, someone proposed a rather peculiar motion: that anyone who wanted to leave early had to get official permission from the National Commission and that the entire meeting should vote on each such request. The motion was passed by a decisive majority. This might have indicated that people subconsciously felt the seriousness of the situation (it was vital that they remain there and discuss the issues because something important was going on), but it might also have indicated something else.[2]

The bastard who proposed that motion . . . I'd like to. . . . I don't remember who it was, but in retrospect, I think the Security Service must have been watching directly what was going on in the shipyard, because what happened there was crucial for their entire strategy during the early phase of martial law.

Many observers of the last session of the National Commission noticed that at the end of the second day's discussion, Lech Walesa suddenly


stopped saying anything, that he sat there as though resigned, seemingly far away .

Lech was ready to make enormous compromises in order to preserve or save Solidarity. For this reason, every time the discussion became more radical, he looked at everyone with disapproval, even pity. He simply knew, or sensed, more than the others. In any case, it has to be admitted that outside observers, mostly those with experience in the Polish Peasant Party or Home Army,[3] had warned us long before: you have to get yourselves prepared because they're going to attack you. As early as the end of 1980 we'd had wives of Security officers coming to regional headquarters and crying on my shoulder, saying, "They're preparing camps for forty or fifty thousand people, the authorities are prepared to shoot, you have to do something." But even after the Bydgoszcz provocation I was still convinced that somehow the dynamics of the situation would enable us to keep ahead of each stage of their preparations.[4] I thought that if they really wanted to clamp down, they'd be unable to go further than charging us with overstepping the bounds of our statute.

That they could impose martial law never even occurred to me, particularly as none of our advisers had been able to say firmly whether or not this was possible. The only person I know who foresaw a military dictatorship was Wiktor Kulerski. But he kept fairly quiet about it because he didn't want—as he put it—to go around sowing defeatism. Nevertheless, as early as December 1980, he was stating firmly, "There's no question of any accord with the authorities." He was the only one who got it right. He was probably helped by his family background; his grandfather did time in a tsarist prison, his father in a Stalinist one. As an art historian, Wiktor himself had a broader historical view of many issues. He used to say that ever since he began to work in Solidarity he felt like a Jew who'd got on the wrong train—as was obvious from every station he went through—but despite that couldn't decide to get off because, after all, he was finally going.

At ten o'clock in the evening, Wiktor called me at the meeting to say that things seemed to be heating up—the telex lines had been cut and he'd heard strange things about troop movements. Then he passed the phone to the guy who was responsible in our region for collecting and analyzing all information concerning suspicious troop movements. And this guy . . . with whom I was afterward hopping mad . . . assured me, "Everything's OK, they're just normal fall maneuvers,


there's nothing to worry about, you can carry on as usual." And this was just a few hours before . . .

The atmosphere of the Commission meeting was, in my opinion, a bit strange from the start; it was oppressive. The arguments in the corridors were different too. Usually we argued about every sentence, about every resolution, but this time the discussion focused on fundamental issues. On the one hand, there was Jacek Kuron's radical proposal for an interim government;[5] on the other—the enormous caution of attorney Jan Olszewski. On the one hand, the blustering statements made by many people, and on the other—Lech looking pityingly at the whole situation.

The meeting finished at midnight, and ten minutes later there wasn't a soul left in the cloakroom. This probably came as a surprise to the other side. They must have been sure the meeting would continue the next day and that they'd therefore be able to round up everyone at their hotels. If they'd known right away that the meeting had ended, they would certainly have rounded us up in the shipyard as we were leaving. But they got the information too late.

As far as my plans went, I was going back to the hotel. But I was with Zbigniew Janas, who insisted on going home. Our wives were in close touch, so I told him, "Listen, if my Wacia finds out that you've gone home and I've stayed here, there'll be the most almighty row." But he wouldn't budge.[6]

previous chapter
1 The last session of the National Commission.1 Things are heating up. Attack by night. "Lech is also surrounded." Apparent strength and real weakness. Why Solidarity allowed itself to be taken by surprise.
next sub-section