Back in Warsaw after my trip to Gdansk, I talk about the economy with the outgoing government’s spokesman on reform. He is more specific on what is to be done than on how it should be achieved. Stalinist coercion must be replaced by the direction of the economy through financial incentives. He raises the question of ownership–interesting, since private property accounts for about 7 percent of the gross national product outside agriculture, and public ownership is likely to predominate for some time to come. Yet what form will that ownership take: communal, cooperative or collective? And if collective, will it be run by the workers, by a share-owning management, by whom?
He either does not perceive the social and political consequences of the various choices or does not want to talk about them. While mocking the almost religious awe with which the market is now treated in Poland, he offers me a scoop with the utmost pride: In the government that Prime Minister Mieczyslaw Rakowski is to announce this afternoon, the Minister of Industry, Mieczyslaw Wilczek, head of a joint-venture firm with foreign capital, is a “real millionaire.”
To watch the government’s inauguration I proceed to the sejm, or diet, a big white building that stands where it did before the war but has been modernized with a glass rotunda. It is a sort of pilgrimage for me: My father, a parliamentary commentator, exercised his wit there against Marshal Jozef Pilsudski and the colonels, whose regime is now being prettified by the nostalgic portion of the opposition. I cannot quite recall Byron’s lines about giving the pugnacious Poles a diet, then telling them to keep quiet. In the elegant hall during the recess I get quite close to Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski. He walks as if he has swallowed a stick; I am sure he must be wearing a corset. Next to him, recognizable by his big ears, is Jerzy Urban, the skilled journalist turned government spokesman, who appears to relish his position as the most hated man in the country. Rakowski has just finished his speech, which is considered modern and original because it lasted only thirty minutes. Its true originality lay, in fact, in the way this well-known anticleric wooed the Catholic hierarchy, quoting Jozef Cardinal Glemp and promising to provide rapidly what the church had been awaiting a long time–legal status for its property.
The new Prime Minister did mention a “historic compromise,” only between party and church, not Solidarity. The line was clearly shifting. In his press conference next day, Rakowski stressed that Poles were less concerned with a roundtable than with a table laden with goods. But what Warsaw wits ironically call the “Korean solution”–military dictatorship plus a free market–is just not on. Gorbachevism is not a favorable environment for a further tightening of political screws, and foreign capital will not pour in to boost production. Does appointment of a millionaire mean Rakowski is pinning his hopes on the moneymakers?