THE POLISH ROUND TABLE TALKS OF 1989,
TEN YEARS LATER
A Conference at the University of Michigan, April 7-10, 1999
Preparation of this conference
transcript was supported in part by a grant from the United States
Institute of Peace awarded to the Regents of the University of
Michigan for a project directed by Michael D. Kennedy and Brian
A. Porter. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations
expressed in this transcript are those of the authors and do
not necessarily reflect the views of the United States Institute
FRIDAY, APRIL 9, 1999
OF THE ROUND TABLE
3:00 pm-5:00 pm GLOBAL CHANGE AND THE ROUND TABLE
· Michael D. Kennedy, Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Michigan
· László Bruszt, Associate Professor of Political Science at Central European University, participant in the Hungarian Round Table for the opposition
· Dai Qing, Journalist, author, organizer of China's first environmental lobby group (1989)
· María de los Ángeles Torres, Associate Professor of Political Science at DePaul University, specialist on Cuban-U.S. relations and U.S. Latino communities
· Konstanty Gebert, Author, Editor-in-Chief of Midrasz
· Konstanty Gebert, Author, Editor-in-Chief of Midrasz
· Michael D. Kennedy, Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Michigan
Michael D. Kennedy, Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Michigan
Witamy Panstwu. Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to our final session on Friday. I think many of us feel like we have been running a marathon, but at full speed, sprinting, so I appreciate the endurance of everyone here. But I'm not surprised by that endurance, since one of the things that has been so remarkable to me throughout this whole conference to date is how much I'm learning, how much many people are learning, and how much there is yet to learn. But before we go to the future and anticipate what we will learn in this panel, I think this may be one of the most appropriate moments to recognize how much has been done in order to make us all learn. On Wednesday evening, I thanked, most appropriately, our donors and sponsors. Today, however, I wish to thank those, publicly, who have given so much of their time, their wisdom, their energy, and I can say, being around them all the time, their heart and soul, I think, to make this conference possible. First of all, the staff at the Center for Russian and East European Studies. Angela Dadak, for the last few months, has been working completely in dedication to this. I don't know if she's been able to touch her violin. But all the staff, Roberta Nerison-Low, Marga Miller, Gwen Tessier, Donna Parmelee, the whole CREES staff has really been dedicated to making this possible, so I wish to thank them very much, singly, so thank you. And I think it's really important for us all to recognize that it's not just the CREES staff about whom I've already spoken. It's also the very broad community of moderators, interlocutors, consultants, that we have really drawn upon. A lot of those people are here. Some people, like Zbyszek Bujak, is here, some people, like Archbishop Tadeusz Goclowski, could not be here. But we have talked to a really wide range of people in order to imagine how best to constitute this conference. Beyond those people, of course, there is an organizing committee. I am really grateful to Piotr Michalowski, who was able to stretch his expertise by a couple millenia -- he's a specialist on the ancient Near East, for those of you who don't know him -- and Brian Porter, who stretched his expertise maybe just by a couple decades in comparison, to enable this conference to be thematized and conceived so beautifully. But, while all of the people and many, many more that I didn't mention contributed enormously to make this conference possible, there really are two women who have been at the heart of making this entire project possible. And I should probably say that e-mail was their midwife, or at least the telephone line. Marysia Ostafin in Ann Arbor, Ewa Junczyk-Ziomecka in Warsaw, made this whole thing come about. So thank you so much to everyone involved, but especially to Ewa and Marysia for making this happen. Thank you. Today's final panel, "The Polish Round Table and Global Change," shifts our gaze. With the Polish conditions as our background and foundation, we are now going to consider other sites of actual and potential radical social change. We have received funding from the United States Institute of Peace to extend the impact of this conference to various disciplines, and to the comparative study of negotiated transformations. I intend these remarks this afternoon to be an initiation of that effort. After constituting the panel, my colleague from France, Bogumil Jewsiewicki, told me about a book that was already undertaken by South African academics with similar intentions as that which we undertake today. It was edited by Ursula J. van Beek and entitled, South Africa and Poland in Transition: A Comparative Perspective. Now this volume is very interesting. It identifies important parallels between the collapse of communism in Poland and the collapse of apartheid in South Africa. Some people, I know, would find that comparison noxious, offensive. But let me explain how she, and the authors, put it. Of course, communism and apartheid were very different ideological systems. Of course, Solidarity and the African National Congress were very different kinds of social movements. Of course, the nomenklatura and Afrikaaners were very different kinds of ruling groups, constituted in very different ways. Of course, Lech Walesa and Nelson Mandela understood geopolitics quite differently, and still do. The contributions of Pope John Paul II and Archbishop Desmond Tutu are also different. Nevertheless, the comparisons can be fruitful. In both cases, the ideology of the system was quite explicit in dictating limits on reform. The leading role of the communist party, on the one hand, white supremacy, on the other. And in both cases, that constrained the initiatives of rulers. In both cases, the mobilization of the opposition and the consequent accumulation of anomalies made ruling ideologies appear increasingly inconsistent with a normal world. In both cases, there was an important religious discourse that helped to shape a moral imagination of a peaceful future. In both cases, the effort to reform within the dictates of ideology eventually drew the reformers into an internationally sanctioned path to democratization. In both cases, negotiations between the government and a once banned opposition shaped the path to a contractually limited but democratically selected government. In some ways, this comparison of South Africa and Poland is more ambitious than what our speakers shall address today. In each case, our speakers will address the conditions of fundamental change in societies and systems ruled by communists. In this sense, there is a greater similarity between China, Cuba, and communist-ruled East and Central Europe, than there was between South Africa and Poland. But unlike the Polish-South African comparison, our global vision on this panel is not one about the demonstration of parallel processes. Instead, our ambition is to understand better the conditions of peaceful, but fundamental change. And to do that, one needs to have instances where negotiated revolution has not occurred. Most obviously, in China and in Cuba. Each of these cases is obviously quite different. In China, the world perceived an opportunity for negotiated transformation in 1989, but instead, witnessed its brutal repression. In Cuba, while change certainly is apparent, at least it was apparent and hoped for in the visit of Pope John Paul II, there are no opportunities for the development of a mass social movement like that which Poland, Hungary, or even China had. Here, one of the principal sources of opposition to Castro's regime rests in the United States, in the Cuban diaspora. When the opposition is, therefore, external, it seems the conditions of negotiation are radically altered. Beyond the absence or presence of negotiated resolutions of fundamental differences, one also needs to take sequence seriously. Eventful social science is absolutely critical to understanding the conditions of change. The temporal relationship between Polish and other Round Tables in East Central Europe is critically important to understanding the chain of change that made negotiated revolutions in East Central Europe the political norm of 1989. László Bruszt was himself a participant in the Hungarian Round Table negotiations. And he is also a political scientist and sociologist specializing in the social transformation of Eastern and Central Europe. His book with David Stark, Pathways from State Socialism: Remaking Politics and Property, I can heartily recommend. And you can read in Contemporary Sociology in a couple weeks, why it's such a great book, at least my opinion of why. But, today he will discuss the significance of the Polish Round Table for Hungarian change and talk about how opposition figures in East Central Europe conceived of the alternatives facing them in the end of the 1980s. But of course, as this conference is constantly evolving, he may do something different, too, which is entirely his privilege. One of the most important transformations in 1989 happened not in Eastern Europe, but in China. As Poles were voting in the first partially free elections since the end of World War II, the protesters in Tiananmen Square were being dispersed by the Chinese communist authorities. Dai Qing, who is known for her work on the environmental movement, and especially her well-known book, The Three Gorges Project, published in 1989, was very important at that time. She tried to facilitate a negotiated resolution between party authorities and protesting students. Among other things, she drafted the letter of intellectuals sent as a compromise statement on May 14, 1989. Dai Qing, for these and other things, was subsequently imprisoned, and while she was very widely read as a journalist before, now she is unable to publish, even under a pseudonym. Fortunately for the United States, we have her as a visiting fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center, but she is from Beijing. Cuba has not had its perestroika, nor its Round Table. And yet, we thought it was very important for us to have María Torres with us today. Her expertise on the politics of the Cuban diaspora, in fact, her book, In the Land of Mirrors: Cuban Exile Politics in the United States, forthcoming from the University of Michigan Press, is really important to the discussion we will have today. In fact, she's not only the analyst, but she herself, as with all of our panelists, is a participant in trying to make change. She has told me about, for instance, her efforts in the late 1970s, if I remember the decade properly, of going to Cuba and trying to initiate the kind of negotiated transformations about which we speak, and about which we shall hear more shortly. Finally, Konstanty Gebert is serving as a moderator with me today, but he will do something else as well. Although the audience might know Mr. Gebert best as a commentator on Polish politics, and he timed this perfectly, and as the editor of Midrasz, and as a commentator not only under his own name, but also under the pseudonym of Dawid Warszawski, he's also spent a good deal of time in the former Yugoslavia. He wrote a book entitled, The Defense of the Sarajevo Post Office. Following our presentations, Mr. Gebert will offer a few thoughts, juxtaposing the wars of Yugoslav succession with the peaceful and democratic transformation of Poland. While we certainly value input from the floor, we are trying to maximize and make as efficient as possible the conversation we have up here, so that all can benefit from our panelists. So, if you have questions, please, we have people on the sides who have cards available, please send them up to the front, and we will incorporate them as best as we can in our questions to the panelists. And even if we can't get them into our questions for the panelists, they will become part of the archive, which will inform subsequent thought and investigations around this subject. Each of our panelists themselves was faced with a question with which to begin their thoughts. The question was, basically, how have the Polish Round Table negotiations of 1989 been influential in, or how might they be compared to, other transformations across the world. You can see the room for poetic license. So I am looking forward to one of the most creative sessions of the conference. So let us begin with László Bruszt.
László Bruszt, Associate Professor of Political Science at Central European University participant in the Hungarian Round Table for the opposition
Thank you. Ladies and gentlemen, in order to better locate Poland in the Eastern European political changes of 1989, let me briefly talk about two things. Once, what was the general situation in the second half of the 1980s in Eastern Europe. And second, what was the geopolitical situation. And my hope is that with placing Poland in this framework, one can better understand also what was the impact of the Polish Round Table negotiations and subsequent political changes on political developments in Eastern Europe. So let me begin with the general situation in the second half of the '80s. In the second half of the '80s, Eastern Europe was seen, briefly, as one of the most hopeless regions of the world. According to the official U.S. analyses done in the mid-'80s, Eastern Europe was seen as the second biggest potential crisis region of the world, just nearly, or a little after, the Middle East. One of the best analysts of the region, Timothy Garton Ash, used the word "Ottomanization" to describe the situation in the second half of the '80s in Eastern Europe, basically referring to the disintegration of the Ottoman empire, that is, Eastern Europe and in general, the Soviet Empire, was seen not just by Timothy Garton Ash, but in general by observers of the region, as an empire which was slowly and unstoppably disintegrating, with the potential of local wars with some hopeless efforts to reform the system, but failed attempts to really change anything substantial, and with not any hope for peaceful transformation of this thing. So this was really seen as a potential crisis region. If you look at the situation within the region, there is a growing feeling of a coming crisis, more and more, also internally, most opposition leaders, and in some of the Central European countries, also political leaders, they started to talk about crisis. There is, of course, a game with these words, but the point is that there is a growing feeling that the economic situation is slowly but unstoppably deteriorating, and there is a growing fear that that will have, slowly, political consequences. In most of the countries of the empire, one can see the following reaction. The regime should strengthen, and this is characteristic for Bulgaria, Romania, East Germany, Czechoslovakia and elsewhere, that there is no possibility for economic and political reform, the regime should basically strengthen the repressive apparatus of the regime and prepare for the worst. There are very cautious political changes, starting with the coming to power of Gorbachev, mainly at the level of liberalization, but no one really knows how far these changes can go. Then, in some of the countries, first in Yugoslavia, then in Hungary, and a very little, also, in Poland, there is an attempt to make economic reforms without any political reform, but it's becoming more and more clear that the social and political costs of any substantial economic reform, any meaningful economic reforms, might be so high that it cannot really happen without strengthening the political basis of these countries, and except for the Yugoslav leadership, neither the Polish nor the Hungarian is ready to introduce a sort of reform dictatorship which would basically introduce economic reforms by preparing for repression in case it is needed. So, this is the situation in general, in a very sketchy way. Then the geopolitical situation is the following. Gorbachev's position, until late '88, is unstable, even in the summer of '88 his position is challenged, and it is not clear how far also he wants to go with tolerating reforms. In the late '88, in December '88, he announced his first, this is when he first speaks about the Sinatra Doctrine, what was later re-named the Sinatra Doctrine, which it basically is, he accepts that there are many different roads to socialism, and the Soviet Union will tolerate the self-determination of the socialist countries. But what that really means is not really clear. And, first of all, how far countries can go, how far they can go with political liberalization. It's not clear. Will the Soviet Union tolerate a free press, freedom of association, freedom of religion and conscience? Will it tolerate the coming about of independent political parties? It's not clear. And how far these countries can go with political democratization? Is it possible that there could be in these countries any power sharing with the independent political forces? It's not clear. Is it possible to question the leading role of the communist party? It's not clear. Is it possible to challenge the Warsaw Pact, that is, to talk about national sovereignty? It's not clear. What this Sinatra Doctrine means, it's not clear. And also, it's not clear what the position, how the position of Gorbachev might be affected by the possible changes in the satellite countries. If you look at the U.S., there also there is a high uncertainty how to evaluate Gorbachev and to evaluate the possibilities of political change. In '88, the end of '88, a new president is elected, and before he even takes his office, Kissinger approaches him and offers him a solution to reduce this uncertainty. What her offers, basically, is to get out of his uncertainties, to get out of Yalta, by way of a second Yalta. That is, to go and sign with the Russians a new agreement over the heads of the Eastern Europeans, which basically would give guarantees to the Soviet Union that the countries and the space which it leaves will not be taken or occupied by the U.S. And even before Bush goes to the White House, Kissinger goes to Moscow to make some exploratory conversations with Gorbachev. But then the whole idea of making over the heads of the Eastern Europeans a new Yalta, a second Yalta, even if it is about the way out of the Yalta agreement, is rejected by many of the experts of Bush, and also by the officials of the State Department, and it's strongly opposed by several of the ambassadors and embassies of the U.S. in the region. So in this period, the most important characteristics, from the viewpoint of geopolitical situation, is uncertainty. Uncertainty about how far the Eastern Europeans can go, and what is clear from the cautious support of these changes by the U.S. is also that it doesn't support any solution which could happen over the heads of the Eastern Europeans. So basically, it is up to the Eastern Europeans themselves to end Yalta. In this situation, a very important role is played by signals, by not just signals, but what, or more precisely, not only signals, but events, what was already stressed here. And in these producing events, facts, the Poles played an extremely important role, basically until the end of August '89. They signaled, or they created events which signaled for the citizens and rulers of the region, what is possible, how far they can go, what is tolerated and what are the strategies of creating such events. As I told you, it was unclear how far countries can go in political liberalization. As a result of the Polish Round Table negotiations, it became clear by April, and then by May, that it is possible to legalize independent political organizations, it is possible to accept the existence of free press. In May, Gazeta Wyborcza, the first independent free daily of the region appeared. It is possible to institutionalize laws which allow for the freedom of association. It is possible to create laws which allow for freedom of religion and conscience. And then, in June, what becomes clear, not only that it is possible to create semi-free elections, but that the opposition can win those elections and the rulers, and this is more important, or at least as important, and the rulers will tolerate that, or will accept the decision. And finally, August is perhaps the final and most important event, which is signaling to Eastern Europe, with the formation of the Mazowiecki government, with the appointment of the first non-communist Prime Minister in the region. That what is in the range of possibilities is not only political liberalization, not only power sharing, but there is also a hope of a peaceful regime change. Until August '89, the range of possibilities, and even the conversation was about the possibilities of so-called model change, even, sorry, change in model. And more and more it became clear already at the time, already the Hungarians started the negotiations of free elections, but the first real signal that there is a possible peaceful way out of the regime comes with the nomination of Mazowiecki to Prime Minister and then the formation of the first non-communist government in Eastern Europe. These were extremely important signals to the opposition groups in Eastern Europe and also to citizens in general that, basically the message was, that if not for the domestic rulers, they could achieve the same things in their own country. And it was also, these were very important messages, both for the reformers and for the hard-liners in these regimes. That they are sitting on a ticking bomb, and they cannot count on the Soviet Union. Coming back to '88, it's very important to stress that these changes were not directly linked in Poland and those in Hungary. They were not directly linked to the changes in the Soviet Union. It's very often dismissed, it can be seen that political changes are deduced from the changes in the Soviet Union, and there is associated talk about the Gorbachev effect. Changes in political system were already started, and so the idea and then the first steps were made much before Gorbachev's position was stabilized and much before the Sinatra Doctrine was publicly first announced. Basically by mid-'88 in both countries, very similarly in Hungary and Poland, very similar ideas are raised about the political change. Both of them stress two elements, the peaceful, non-violent element of the change, the origins of that go back to the '70s, actually, of this peaceful, non-violent change, and, if there are questions, I'll gladly talk about it. The other change, the other is that the opposition in both countries is ready to enter, to share responsibility, in exchange for sharing power. It's very interesting, this is the irony of history that the Hungarians, despite the very strong similarities of the ideas to the Polish democratic opposition, they couldn't make this compromise, and they couldn't enter into such dialogue with the regime until June '89. And other ideas of the histories that what the Polish Round Table negotiations achieved are very similar to the ideas which were laid out by the Hungarian democratic opposition. This was an unintentional thing, but basically the outcome of the Polish Round Table negotiations was something which was described first in the social contract written in early '88 by the Hungarian democratic opposition, which basically says that the communists should retain something which could be called the House of Lords, and the people should get the House of Commons, a freely elected lower house. It's another irony of history that the Polish workers got their representation not in a House of Commons, but something which is called a Senate. But the ideas were the same. Now I still have two minutes, so just briefly. The Hungarians couldn't enter into this compromise, not because they didn't want to, but because they were too weak. To enter into compromise negotiations, and as such a type of democratization, presupposed to speak in the name of society. That slowly emerged in Poland, by the end of '88, and it didn't come about, the Hungarian opposition was never able, never felt that it can speak in the name of society, even when the negotiations started, they very clearly contrasted their position to the Polish Solidarity. They could afford to enter into compromise; we cannot do that, because we cannot speak, we don't have that type of mandate. And the second thing which was different was that the, in Hungary, the reformers were also weaker in beating the regime, and they got stronger only by May-June 1989, partly as an impact of the Polish changes. Finally, in Hungary, in the acceptance of free ... two minutes more ... one ... OK ... in the acceptance of negotiations which started in June 10th on free elections, an important role was played by the perceived weakness, electoral weakness of the opposition. The regime accepted that the opposition slowly and slowly will be able to mobilize society. They were just watching the calendar. June 16, October 23, and so on, all these were dates commemorating the Hungarian 1956 revolution, and they knew that the Hungarian opposition will be capable to mobilize more and more people. So they were afraid that if they leave time to the opposition, then the opposition will beat them on the streets. But they were also watching very carefully electoral polls. They were watching different results of surveys, which showed that still, the opposition is too weak to win free elections. The communists could get thirty, forty percent in free elections, which is enough for them to stay in power. And they had a representative, in Imre Pozsgay who was still popular, and the opposition still did not have a figure like Lech Walesa in Poland who could beat a communist candidate. So that played a very important role in entering in these free elections. Finally, one thing. It's a personal thing. I was surprised by these references, many references in this conference that some of the Polish observers still today think that this compromise solution was a shame for the Polish negotiators. I was somewhat surprised, because of the results. The Polish peaceful negotiations had an impact not only on the Hungarian or the other negotiations, but this compromise had an impact also on regime changes like the Czech or the German, where the mobilization of masses was so high that political leaders of the opposition could have easily led the masses against the party headquarters and started violent regime change. And the reason why they didn't do that, the most important reason why they didn't do that, they were led by the same ethos, which led the Polish negotiators and the Polish democratic opposition, that you cannot get, establish rule of law in an unruly way. That human rights should be respected and the peaceful and non-violent nature of the negotiations is extremely important and a value in itself. This is why the Czech democratic opposition accepted that the first government after the Round Table negotiations was led by a communist and not by someone from the opposition. And if you look at the region, one, one-and-a-half years after the Polish Round Table negotiations, there are only two non-communist governments in the region, the Polish and the Hungarian. So, thank you very much.
Dai Qing, Journalist, author, organizer of China's first environmental lobby group (1989)
Ladies and gentlemen, the title I'm going to discuss with you this afternoon is "Tiananmen in Perspective: Ten Years Later." In the early spring of 1989, Beijing appeared to be very peaceful. Although the party state and society already exist in opposition, still relations were not as strained as they had been in the past. But under Deng Xiaoping, the late emperor, the fight between two factions within the party, that is, reformers and hard-liners, was already in motion, and there was no turning back. At this time, the ex-general secretary Hu Yaobang, who had earlier been dismissed in an internal party dispute, suddenly passed away. His death shattered the surface calm, and the message gave range to universal dissatisfaction, hoping that this would be a turning point for rapid reform. At this time, in Poland, when fifty-five representatives of the Round Table had just concluded an agreement and were in the process of preparing the first non-communist party government brought into being by democracy, in China the two internal party factions watched the development of this situation with interest. The reformers, who were in the dominant position then, hoped that the situation could be managed. Their opponents, the hard-liner conservatives who controlled the army, secretly hoped that the turbulent situation would cause them to fall from power. In the spring of that year, it could be said that quite a large number of Chinese still had a certain trust in the communist party and still held a glimmer of hope for reform. During the past decades, reform and the policy of openness had certainly brought ordinary people some obvious advantages. However, because the communist party lacked faith in its legitimacy, even the reform faction persisted in its rigid control of public opinion, and in its indoctrination with hackneyed cliches. This policy prevented the people from understanding their reforms, and so, of course, the reform faction lost its link with the people. On the 17th of April, two days after Hu Yaobang died, the students in Beijing took to the street. In seven weeks, the great efforts of China's democratization went through a rapid cycle of mobilization, radicalization, polarization, bloody confrontation, and suppression. Ten years of a slow process of limited liberalization had won the Chinese people only a very small breathing space. And in the house of the military vehicle, at the early summer, those gains were nearly all wiped out. What was left was falling on the military, and oppressing the liberal as the distinguishing feature of market-oriented reform, and it directly led to the widespread corruption and unjust society that we have today. And so, in these seven weeks, was there anything which might have facilitated a negotiated conclusion to the protest, thereby making Chinese reform come back to a transformation in the direction of freedom and democracy? The answer is, generally speaking, there is virtually no possibility for such an outcome. That is because, according to the principle of political science, the more equal the strengths of the two sides become, the easier it is to reach a consensual outcome. Part of this process includes each side's objective valuation of its own and its opponent's strengths. In 1989, the situation in China was that rarity of certain cause during the transition period made this assessment very difficult to calculate. The communist party regime could consider its own strengths as being without equal. Still, it was possible that it completely lost confidence at the sound of one million people in opposition. On the other side, the confidence of the students probably swelled with their sudden achievement, but they also possibly understood that in reality, they had no stable organization. Though sometimes their momentum seems great, the internal ... in the Tiananmen Square ten years ago. The first phase, from the 17th of April to the 26th, during the first ten days, Zhao Ziyang, the general secretary at the time and dependent on Deng Xiaoping's decision, was responsible for managing students' affairs. The attitude of the authorities was one of the unprecedented restraint. If this event had ultimately resulted in this outcome, then in speaking of the people seeking some room for total rule, it could be said that they had achieved certain success. The second phase, Zhao goes to North Korea on a chance visit. The hard-liner faction seized the opportunity, according to their own style of management, to issue an editorial on April 26, brimming with intimidation and propaganda. The people were infuriated by the tone of the editorial, which had become less familiar, since the enlightening movement in 1978. And the students, who had just learned the power of the street easily, in only a few days, obtained a secure feeling with the acclaim of the people crowding the sidewalks and the attention given by the media all around the world. The students were greatly encouraged. What happened the next day was a great demonstration, the April 27th, with fifteen thousand students, one million city residents, including several thousand Chinese students abroad. This time, from the student side, it could be said that it was organized, and that its demands were moderate. On the government side, there was no oppression. Two days later, on the 29th of April, a section of the party, called United Front, officials enthusiastically gave a reception entertaining the independent intellectuals in Beijing. In their address, the officials affirmed the patriot spirit of the students and the democratic past which the party has restored. It seems that the reform faction realized that its moderate approach had achieved success. For their parts, the students had also achieved great success, because their demands for their own newspaper had been approved by the authorities. This could have been considered an important step towards liberalization, but unfortunately, they did not understand this point and did not write down their verbal agreement with the government so as to make them literally binding. The third phase, a few days later, Zhao Ziyang returns to Beijing. Once again, the students' demands escalate, escalation, proposed dialogue with the officials, and further, directly airing on TV. This no doubt signifies the authorities' recognition of the students' organizations, and this legalization of the spontaneously established students' organization signified the beginning of a fundamental change in the relationship between state and society. It was a great step forward for the reform. It's not difficult to understand, however, that under the conditions in China at that time, the reform faction in the government, no matter how open they were, had no way to operate. Zhao Ziyang risked a great deal to respond in other fields in which he thought it was a possibility. Twice, he gave speeches to neutralize the hard-liners, and it was on his insistence a new round parried the May 4th students' demonstration was not put down. At the same time, he addressed some concrete problems as best he could. When the students' demands opposed corruption, opposed privilege towards officials, Zhao's answer was, we'll do our best. The sons or daughters of the officials are not permitted to engage in business, you may begin by taking my son's example. Number two, the students demanded freedom of press, and Zhao's colleague, Hu Qili, another reformer, one of the five permanent members of the Standing Committee of the Politburo of the communist party, who was also dismissed after June 4th, made positive response. He met the reporters and scholars in the journalism circle and agreed that the several celebrated liberals could have their views on this affair published in the official press. Due to the authorities' adoption of this kind of attitude, the students in all universities in Beijing accepted to announce the suspension of their class strike. The social order was basically restored. The fourth phase. There still has not been at this point sufficient evidence to be able to explain why in this context some radical students' leaders would have once again caused the situation to escalate. And moreover, used extreme methods, a hunger strike. From the 13th to the 17th, the radicals insisted on conditions which the authorities could never have accepted. They gambled with the lives of the young, and there wouldn't yield, even to a minimum request from the government, that is, temporarily restore and give way from the Tiananmen Square for the national affair saluting President Gorbachev. Finally, on the 17th of May, after the students' five days' fast, Zhao finally got permission from his party and went to the square representing the five prominent members of the Standing Committee of the Politburo, he made one final effort in which he proposed a concession that the government was willing to make. That is, the government would not take severe action. If the students had stopped their hunger strike and withdraw from Tiananmen Square immediately and unconditionally. With tears in his eyes, he could not tell the youngsters who were around him more. What he said only, it's too late for me to meet you. And I'm an aged person, you, you youngsters should take care of you, because you have a bright future. But, the students' leaders did not respond. On the 18th of May, Li Peng, the strongest of the hard-liners, appeared personally to meet students and explain the government's possible concessions. The radical leaders unexpectedly increased their rigidity, even to the point of rudeness in their response. Even more, at the very moment the celebrated and popular intellectuals' group, the leaders of the freedom faction, as the people called them, acted on rumors that the government was about to fall, and published an extremely strongly worded pronouncement, down with the present dictatorship and end the rule of the old man. The hard-liners now had sufficient reason for no more concessions. The authorities decided to adopt a severe measure, the imposition of martial law. The fifth phase, from the imposition of martial law to the final armed suppression, there were two weeks. The demonstrators basically had the opportunity many times to withdraw without any great gain but without terrible loss either. And their dignity could also have been maintained. But the movement had already slipped out of control. Many organizations had been established at this time, and some of them considered to take Solidarity as their title. Calculating the authorities' intention and preparing their own future, the radical leaders employed only the highest emotional intensity in their conversation with the regime, which for those people who continued staying in the square was like pouring oil on fire. On the 2nd on June, the reformers' last effort, the representatives of Deng Xiaoping's eldest son tried to advise the students to initiate withdrawal and the young Deng said he would do his best to reason with his father not to use force. Unexpectedly, it, too, failed to bring success. At midnight on June 3rd, tanks entered the square. Four moderates, a singer, a teacher, a scholar, and editor, with the company of a doctor, went out and reached an agreement with the army, unconditional retreat at an appointed time. The radical leaders didn't stop them this time and again they had gained help in fleeing. This was the most tragic day in China's twentieth century political history. Compared with the Round Table negotiations in Poland, what happened in Beijing ten years ago was not a great democratic movement, as it was widely perceived to have been, but a serious setback for democracy, a tragedy. What happened in Tiananmen 1989, some commentators ... OK, yeah ... I don't know ... yeah ... in China, in the spring of 1989, the movement comes first and organization was frankly pieced together later. That was precisely the normal behavior of a society just emerging from the totalitarian control of the party state. Some of the persons who later occupied its leadership position were reckless, seeing the resolution as a festival. Their understanding of freedom and democracy was very narrow, limited not only by China's history and culture, but also by their own experience growing up. China's democratic movement did not have a short cut to follow. The opponents from the party state to the suppressed society caused by the crackdown of June 4th, is the principal crisis in the future's reform and development. There are lots of experience that Poland can pass on to China, but the first one is that democracy can only come through the reconciliation and agreement between the state and the society. Achieving it can only be gained through an untiring effort, through threats and counter-threats, through competition, dialogue and negotiation. Ten years passed. Like a political taboo about what happened ten years ago in Beijing and other cities in mainland China, no one in mainland China could get permission from the party state, from the propaganda department of the Central Committee of the communist party, to produce a film or TV documentary or publish a book, article, or exhibits, sculpture, an painting, or a photo. Special precaution has been taken in Tiananmen Square since this year. To the contrary, the former radical student leaders, now most of them have settled down in the United States, are trying to collect a million signatures to force the government in rectification of June 4th. Still the way of totally white or totally black. In what years will the Round Table of negotiated collapse of communism in China take place? Thank you.
María de los Ángeles Torres, Associate Professor of Political Science at DePaul University, specialist on Cuban-U.S. relations and U.S. Latino communities
Let's see, I'm going to try to collapse forty years of Cuban revolutionary history into fifteen minutes. But first of all, I'd like to thank the Center here, CREES, and the Latin American Studies Program for the invitation. For me this has been a very rich learning experience. I studied here several years ago, many years ago, and the university has truly changed. On the one hand, it has become a defender of democracy, opening up universities for students here in the United States, and at the same time it has also brought in professors who are interested in and very concerned about nurturing democracy abroad. The last time, in fact, that I was here was for a conference among Cubans organized by Ruth Behar from the Anthropology Department, a very important project that obviously has not had the significance that the Round Table has had, but in the Cuban case, maybe we need to look at things not in such great utopian contexts, but something quite small, which was a conference on bridges, bringing together multiple voices of people from basically one generation, but many, many voices from the island and in exile, to talk about the future of Cuba. When Michael first asked me to talk at the Polish Round Table, I said, I know nothing about Poland, all right, except what I read in the newspapers, and a little bit through the immigrant experience. Because in the Cuban experience, for us "Polakos," and I don't know if you speak Spanish, Poles are the Jews who came to Cuba in the 1940s. And I live in Chicago, so it's also through the immigrant experience that I have come to know a part of your country, scholars who are friends and colleagues, electricians, my carpenters, their sons and daughters who today go to our university, and with whom we sometimes find ourselves on opposite sides of political issues, particularly when it comes to racial and ethnic issues in Chicago politics. But we often also find ourselves as collaborators in trying to liberalize immigration policy. So that is what I know about Poland. I do know a little more, I hope, after this weekend. But Michael also wanted me to talk about the applicability of the experience of the Polish Round Table to Cuba. And in a certain sense, that would be a very quick talk up here, because I really think it's not applicable. What I'd like to talk about, though, is why I think it's not applicable, looking at maybe some of the political and institutional actors that in the Polish case, from what I have come to understand, were so critical to the Round Table, and why they are different in Cuba. A few years ago, I guess, we had a whole sort of proliferation of cottage industry around transitions, not after the fall of the Wall, I will never say that, but after the Polish Round Table, that in a certain sense led to all sorts of plans about what was going to happen. But that was ten years ago, and today, in a certain sense, some of us got a little bored with that, and maybe we could characterize the situation amongst Cubans more as a permanent death watch, because our Pikus -- is that how you say it? -- our Pikus is very big and is still alive, so we have a deathwatch. On a more somber note, I want to open up the discussion about Cuba with a personal anecdote. A few years ago, actually not a few years ago but in the early 1980s, happened to be part of a delegation of young Cuban exiles at that time who were trying to dialogue and bring together people who had left with people who were in Cuba. And as part of the delegation, we were taken to several places. And one of them was to Granma, which, as some of you may know, is the official newspaper of the Cuban communist party. And at the time, Enrique Mendoza was the editor. And it just happened to be that it was the night where the news of martial law was coming in, and he had this little telex right in his office, and as the news was coming off, Enrique's reaction was, you know, he had been a Catholic, so he had a moral imperative, his reaction was very, very strong. And he says, I don't know what they're doing, they're not defending communism there, there's no communism in Poland, they should listen to the workers. I thought that was very interesting, the one year that I had left the university, and I also was a union organizer during that time, and there was a ray of light to me in that meeting. Fortunately, the official news -- he was called away to an important meeting -- the official news ended up being reported basically as capitalist workers in Poland wanting change and this and that and the other, and a defense in a certain sense of martial law. Enrique, many years later, did what some Cubans have done historically and committed suicide, actually on the 26th of July. So, in a certain sense, I mean I wanted to share that with you, as to what had been maybe some of the constraints in the ways that when we talk about the Cuban government, it is not a monolithic whole, but it is held together by a monolithic grip. What I'd like to turn my attention to now is to some of the actors, the institutional actors, and then spend the last part of my very short fifteen minutes here on what is going on today. When we look at various things, I think, in the case of Cuba, one is the historical origins of the government itself. And I want to emphasize historical because I don't think that this is the way people relate to it anymore. But I think as everyone has come to understand, and obviously, you are in the midst of this, historical memories are very, very important. They are personal; personal memories are important for what happens and how things unfold. And historical memories are very important for the unfolding of events and societies. And the Cuban government, regardless of what it has become, was a government that emerged out of a popular, radical, nationalist revolution. And as such, still lays certain claims of legitimacy to that particular project. Secondly, the United States, unlike the help that it has given democracy in Poland, has not necessarily been a friend of democracies in Latin America, specifically not Cuba. And so, as such, we need to keep that other perspective in mind. And indeed, just a sidebar here, as the Reagan administration was helping Solidarity to roll back communism, it was also at the same time strengthening its ties with very brutal military governments throughout Central America. So the signals are very different in this hemisphere than they are in Europe. Thirdly, and this cuts in lots of different ways, the communist party in Cuba was actually a party that had formed a coalition with the Batista government, I mean, that was the, it was not, in fact, at that point, they felt that revolutions could not come to underdeveloped countries and that Fidel Castro was a putschist and et cetera et cetera. But the communist party did have control of some of the most important unions in Cuba. And so when the revolution triumphs, these unions lose credibility in the context of a new national and populist regime. Fourthly, the Church itself is very different; there is a very, very different situation in Cuba. They say that Cubans are Catholic on Sundays and that's it, and I would say probably less than that. Despite all the popular images that we saw, before Monica Lewinsky, with the Pope visiting Cuba and thousands of thousands of Cubans going out to the various masses, there's a long history of the Church really being part of the colonial power, and as such was not there when the Cuban nation was formed. I'm talking about 1898 here. And there's also the great influx of Afro-Cuban religions that are more the popular religion of Cuba. So even Catholics who go on Sunday oftentimes practice, either formally or informally, all sorts of other religions. And I think that's a very critical difference. However, I do want to note that the Catholic Church, during the 1940s, started recruiting Cubans as priests, something they had not done up to that decade, and as such, there were young priests who did join the revolution against Batista, and in fact, I would say that it was radical Catholics, maybe the precursors to the theology of liberation throughout Latin America, that framed what became the social justice platform of the revolution itself. However, the radical Catholics, just like other people who became disaffected ... thank you ... end up drawing a pact with the devil, they sell their self, their soul, in a certain sense to the United States. And as such, they lose legitimacy, again, on the national arena. Coupled with the fact that the revolution exported through immigration or imprisoned, through very long sentences, most of its opposition, we were left with very very weak, if you will, contestations to that government. The other factor here that I think is important in terms of understanding the differences has been the U.S. embargo of Cuba, which in a certain sense isolated Cuba and drew it closer, or pushed it, into the Soviet sphere. And the effect of that was that the Soviet Union ended up giving the regime a lot of resources with which it both created an incredibly sophisticated repressive apparatus, at the same time that it had the resources to essentially seduce "the masses," in quotes here, and intellectuals. Because intellectuals in Cuba have both been seduced and contained by radical nationalist rhetoric. Where does that leave us today? I think at the end of the '80s, the writing was on the wall for the Cuban government. And in fact, there was a purge at the time, 1989, maybe some people don't remember, General Ochoa and others from the Ministry of the Interior. I do not think this was perestroika in Cuba. I don't even think it was a political coup, but it was a deep division internally, of how they situated themselves at that particular point in time in what was going on in Central America. But deep purges were there. But the security apparatus nonetheless decided that it needed to create a liberal image for exportation and did allow the emergence of human rights groups throughout the island. Again, this is very much debated within the bureaucracy and still debated today. But the human rights movement, and I don't want to, I mean it's much more complex than this, but obviously, in terms of time, just to give you sort of the popular version, or joke, on the island about the human rights movement, that they say for every ten, four worked for the state security, four worked for the CIA, and the other two were absolutely crazy, because you've got to be absolutely crazy to go head to head against the Cuban state. There may, I mean, even the news a few weeks ago that four, four, four dissidents were jailed, is telling. Not the long sentences, not the fact that there's imprisonment, but the fact that there were only four. The collapse of the Soviet Union, I think, led to more repression in Cuba. It also forced the government to start restructuring the economy. So in a certain sense, the economic transition has already occurred, but it has what has been called, maybe, market Leninism. That is, there has been a restructuring of the economy where you have state capitalism at the same time that you have had a closing in of the political space, although the rhetoric has changed from one that used to rely exclusively on socialist rhetoric to one that is more nationalist. And this one in fact has included allowing Catholics, for instance, to become members of the communist party. The other factor here, and -- the Pope's visit is very complicated -- I mean, hopefully it will come up in some questions, but, of what the impact has been. The other in our triangle, that is the tripartite here, U.S., Cuba, the other important element here is the exile community. And in this one, I think that there have been some dramatic and important changes. There is a second generation which today holds a very different view of who they are, both in the United States and in terms of their relationship to Cuba, who do not call for taking over the government. Most are very much, not very political in that sense, but rather, want to reach out to the island. And indeed, it was someone from Miami, from this generation, who accompanied the bishops of Miami and (name blurred) to try and convince the Pope that a visit to Cuba could be sold, in a certain sense, to the exile community. There's also the generation of the '80s from the island who have recently left. And this immigrant generation, I think, has not, is very different. They hold a critique of the government from the left very clearly and have been looking for what are called third options. I think beyond common ground what we do have now is an understanding of differences, that is, that we are very different, and as such, we need another political paradigm, one, again, which maybe, is less dramatic than a great revolution, but rather one that's a little more, you know, nuts and bolts about good technocrats, democratic elected officials. And in ending, what I'd like to say is that the responses to these changes in the Cuban community, actually on the part of the Cuban government have been very, very sophisticated, and as such have included all sorts of cooptations and, because, the community today is, remittances are the first gross national product for Cuba. And the responses of the United States have also been very timid to these changes. Thank you.
Konstanty Gebert, Author, Editor-in-Chief of Midrasz
In the early '90s I spent over a year in Bosnia covering the war for Gazeta Wyborcza. And during one of my trips, I ran into a Polish policeman serving with the U.N. police force in the central Bosnian town of Donji Vakuf. His job was to meet Bosnian Croat and Bosnian Muslim policemen, to convince them to work together. The Bosnian Croats and the Bosnian Muslims had just finished fighting an extremely brutal, internal civil war, a kind of sideshow to the major war raging in the country. And the policemen were usually previously commanders of motor units that fought each other. I ran into him, we started talking, and it soon transpired that, during the '80s, this gentleman had been a commander of the ZOMOS, Poland's feared riot police, in the town of Lublin, and was very proud of the job he had done. In the same time, when he was commander of the ZOMOS, I was at the receiving end of their tender mercies, and was not exactly enthusiastic about their performance. He wasn't enthusiastic about me either. He essentially believed that I belonged behind bars and bitterly complained about the anarchic government that lets people like me run around and even travel abroad. So it was not the beginning of a great friendship. However, we decided that we could strike a deal. He will help me in my journalistic investigations if I will travel with him, essentially as an exhibit to prove that former enemies can work together. And we did travel from police station to police station, my cop friend proudly displaying myself as living proof that it can be done, and we almost universally got the same response. The policemen said, well, you guys had a Round Table, what we had was war all round. I'm afraid that our pedagogical experiment did not go very far. But why is it, why was it that Poland managed to brilliantly negotiate its transition, while Yugoslavia, a country that we looked up to, which we believed was a generation ahead of us, was unable to do this and degenerated in the most bloody conflict our continent has seen since World War II. Now, volumes have been written about this, and volumes will continue to be written. But I believe that for the purposes of our discussion, there are two factors that it is crucial to identify which work differently in Poland and Yugoslavia, and in my opinion, essentially contributed to the very different outcomes in both countries. One is a sense of community. Regardless of what we thought about "them" in Poland, and what "them" thought about us, there was no denying that we were all Poles. Now, we certainly thought that "they" are bad Poles, and they certainly thought that we are bad Poles, but Poles all the same. Phrases were bandied about, "jak Polak z Polakiem," "Pole to Pole," the way of negotiating, of doing business. This was not only rhetoric, what it meant was, that there was a conceivable community to which we all belonged, and a conceivable common project to which we all wanted to contribute. In the Yugoslav case, the situation was vastly different. The very process of decomposing the communist state involved a re-emergence of national identities which did not see, necessarily, a common state at the end of the road. Indeed, while the non-Serb nations of Yugoslavia pressed for a recognition of their ethnic identity, their collective rights, indeed the right to self-determination, the Serbs, Yugoslavia's most numerous nation, pressed for something that would remember more a Serboslavia than a Yugoslavia. A country that essentially would be Serb, although obviously, minorities would be accepted, tolerated, as long as they knew their place. The more the Serbs pressed for Serboslavia, the more the non-Serbs pressed for anything but. And eventually, both sides decided that dissolution of the country was not the worst possible outcome. Indeed, staying with the others in the same country might be. Now there was no scenario in Poland which would involve the dissolution of Poland. There was no imagined community that would be defined by being in utter opposition to the others. We had a common project. What we argued was how to run this common project, Poland. But the fact that the common project is Poland was beyond any discussion. In Yugoslavia, the situation was different. There was no common project, it eventually emerged. And therefore, it seemed logical after a certain point, that each should go their merry, or not-so-merry way. However, did this need to be so terribly conflictual? After all, the country could peacefully dissolve into a loose confederation without necessarily engaging in the kind of conflict it did engage. Unfortunately, the option was not on the table. With the different constituent nations of Yugoslavia being so closely intermingled, with the ethnic maps of the country, and everybody had a set of those, looking like a leopard skin, and a leopard that had undergone a mutation on its fur now, there was no neat way of dividing the country. In any conceivable division, a lot of people would remain on the wrong side of the border, to be a minority in somebody else's state. And then the obvious reflection would come, why should I be a minority in your state, when you can be a minority in mine? There was no easy way out of it. Yes, but did it have to be so bloody? And here, the second element is involved. Different perceptions of violence. Yugoslavia had a positive vision of its World War II history. It fought for its independence, it essentially liberated itself on its own. Now the Germans were forced to leave Yugoslavia through Allied pressure, both on the western front and by the invading Russian armies. However, the very liberation of the country was undertaken by the Yugoslav partisans themselves. There was a positive military victory to refer to. And underneath the white legend, or rather, in this case, the red legend, of Tito and his partisans, there were the underlying legends of the Ustashe and the Chetniks fighting the "good war" inside the war for a good, noble, national cause. Those sentiments could not be expressed in Tito's Yugoslavia, but the feeling remained, violence can solve problems. There are good wars. Poland's memory of World War II centers on the fact that Poland lost World War II, a war that started over Poland's independence ended with the country losing twenty percent of its population, half of its territories, being invaded by an Allied power, deprived of its independence and of its democracy. There was the white legend of the Warsaw Uprising, a sacred icon to any Pole, but when debated, the Warsaw Uprising is often seen as a senseless massacre of the best and the brightest, the destruction of Poland's national elites and its capital city, as it turned out, to no result. You have heard repeatedly during our discussions references to the dread that later violence inspired in our minds. The extremely brutal civil war that was fought after '45 on Polish soil. The bloody repression of workers' movements in '56 and in '70. We had no positive memory of violence to refer to. Indeed, if we on the Solidarity side were to be confronted with a stark choice, we can win independence through violence, we almost certainly would not try. The historical experience of the last two generations run contrary to the myth of a good war. In Yugoslavia, exactly the opposite was true. When those two factors are present, when there is no community that the different sides can all refer to, and when there is a positive memory of the use of violence, a negotiated solution, a contractual agreement, a peaceful transition are all but impossible. But whereas the legacy of our abhorrence of violence is, in my opinion, unequivocally good, the same is not necessarily true of the legacy of having a common community to which to refer to. It is true that when you look at the transitions in post-communist Europe, it is very easy to discover that, if you try to translate from the language of communism into the language of nationalism, this is easy. All you have to change is the vocabulary, as it were, the grammar remains the same. But if you want to translate from the language of communism into the language of democracy, both the vocabulary and the syntax, as it were, need to be changed. And this is a daunting process. But furthermore, if we were successful in establishing this common imagined community of all us Poles in it together, this was extremely beneficial for the negotiating process, but it has left us with a legacy which is detrimental and potentially dangerous for the development of a democratic civil society. If we are in it all together because we are all Poles, then those of us who are not Poles are in it together less. It is difficult to discover this, Poland being an almost entirely mono-ethnic country, and the national minorities essentially identifying not only with the Polish state, but with Polish society, but in fact, we have been to an extent deluding ourselves by believing that we have set up a civil society. What we have set up is a national society masquerading as a civil society. Successfully, because almost all members of the potential civil society are in fact members of the existing national society. I would not easily give up this national society for the sake of ideological purity, but I do remember what a friend's uncle used to repeat, do not scare me with nations, I want to live in society. And if you look at the problems Poland is having in facing its past (tape switch) we see the paradoxical effect of the otherwise positive fact of having a common national society to which we all can refer. Be this as it may, we were, of course, immensely lucky. Several months ago, I was approached by a journalist of Radio Free Burma, who interviewed me on my experiences in Burma, or Myanmar as it is now called, last year when I went there to meet with Aung San Suu Kyi and with the opposition. And this, and the long conversation about the Polish Round Table. He was extremely interested. He went on to interview all the players for a series of programs on Radio Free Burma, to be broadcast into Burma, to give the ruling military junta some new ideas about how possibly to get out of the bloody dead end they had placed themselves into. At the end of the interview, the gentleman asked me, so what do you think about possible implications of the Polish Round Table strategy for my country? Do you think it's feasible for us to have a Round Table? And in all frankness, I had to admit, that given the lack of a common national community, and given the bloody legacy of violence, I think it rather implausible. He nodded his head sadly and said, "I'm afraid you're right." For starters, where do I find a Jaruzelski in Burma? Thank you.
Thank you very much to all of our panelists. Remember that we do have people, if you don't have paper, you can send some index cards. And we can start, actually, we have a question for László Bruszt. One person asks whether the defeat of the Polish United Workers' Party in June 1989 had any concrete effects on the course of the Hungarian National Round Table. Specifically, did it affect the way in which the sides evaluated their own chances in elections, or did they affect the relative strengths of the camps relative to each other in the bargaining itself?
Yeah, the most important effect of the Polish elections of June was that the Hungarian communists realized that it is not only that they can win a free election, and therefore it's better for them to go for free elections, but if they go for institutionalized compromise, they can lose their legitimacy. So, the victory of Solidarity was so convincing and actually, nearly all wings of the Hungarian communist party went to Poland a few days after the elections and tried to find out what is the reading of the Polish communists of these elections, Pozsgay (other names blurred), and others. And their reading was that they should use the situational advantage, that is they are still ahead of the opposition in the polls, and allowing for institutional compromise would make this division between we and them much more visible, and so it's better not to do that. Otherwise, both the opposition and the communists were reading very carefully the polls and what the opposition thought that they should get as much as possible guarantees in the Round Table negotiations, that would prevent the communists to rule without the control of the opposition. The country at the beginning of the Round Table negotiations, the opposition still had some fear that the communists might even get the absolute majority. By the ending of the Round Table negotiations, by September, it was clear that the opposition can win the elections, and that was a time when it became important for the Hungarian communists to get the presidency, the institution of presidency. The idea was very similar to what Adam Michnik put in his famous article, they reversed the idea somewhat, and they said that the prime minister yours, the premier is ours. And so they didn't sign the agreement without instituting the presidency. That also was based on the electoral surveys, which clearly showed that the communist representative can win the presidency. Finally, Hungary was prevented from becoming a presidential regime by a referendum that was done in November, and in this referendum only two thousand votes were more against the presidential regime. So Hungary escaped the Polish solution by these two thousand votes.
Thank you. One of our audience members was inspired by Kostek Gebert's comments to ask a question of Dai Qing. The question is based on Kostek's comparison between Poland and Yugoslavia. And the question is, in China, does democratization, does the opening lead to any dangers of nationalist tension, or pulling apart, thinking about the Uighurs, thinking about Tibet, thinking about other minority, non-Han Chinese, perhaps, in China itself?
Nationalization in China right now is another way the communist party used as legitimacy . But it is dangerous, because when it uses nationalism for the Han nation, the main nation, then what about another minority. But once, if the dictatorship, the very strict control is loosened and then some upset will happen in the mainland, the minority lived this trick. So is the tool of the sweet, sweet, these kind of things. So it's very, very difficult. But basically, we always say in China that nationalism is very dangerous. It's very original, but it's dangerous. We'd better not use it to up something. It's dangerous. So we never used it.
And is it possible to say anything specific about the relationship between protests about Tibet, for instance, and protests about democratization?
Yes, it's very difficult because, you know, the concept of the central government, and as the emperor, as the good leader, if you can have a central China expand and then have this kind of ruling, then you're proud of him. So, even change the concept. That if the people live this strict and they have their basic right to choose their political system, to choose what kind of flag, they want, and it's very difficult. Even the ordinary people, even some intellectuals, even some people is very open minded, is difficult for him, to him or her, to accept that we can have. You know, Tibet, they can choose their self. It is very difficult. Even some students abroad, they started in Europe, and then when they say something, you know, the Dalai Lama and gave the, and then all the Chinese students abroad against it. Tibet belongs to our China, this kind of feeling. So yeah, this is situation today in China.
There is a question for María Torres from the audience. Given the recent events, which indicate the gradual opening of Cuba to western influences, that emboldened the hope of U.S. corporations, and given the appearance of a weakening of U.S. will to maintain sanctions on Cuba by allowing increased interaction, what are the prospects for this process resulting in full democratization and economic liberalization in the next five years?
Five years! That must be socialist planning, right? You know, I think first of all, there is an embargo and there has been an embargo, but to assume that Cuba has been closed to western ideas would be to miss the situation in Cuba. I often go to Cuba and find about the way these movies that have been shown in Hollywood, or the reading that people have, I mean literature which is read. It is an island that a lot of things flow through. I think that the Cuban government, like I said, already in the late 1980s, had decided that it needed to have a pact with foreign investment. So to that extent, I think that it's almost maybe more appropriate to see Cuba as part of Latin America and look at regime transformations which occurred in Latin America, at least to understand what may happen in their relationships with foreign investment. The foreign investments, the most productive and efficient, what they call joint ventures, are the ones that are done with the Ministry of the Armed Forces, the ones that are done with the Ministry of the Interior are completely inefficient and people even joke about that. So in a certain sense, the military, for instance I think in Argentina, actually played a role in bringing forth or in modernizing the economy before there was a transition to democracy there. That may be more appropriate. The Clinton administration, I think the debate has been so polarized, and by the way, I do not think it's only because of the exile community, it has always been very polarized. From even 1959, or even 1957, during the insurrection, there was the polarization of the debate as to what to do in Cuba. Even in the State Department. So that polarization has almost led to an impasse to where there isn't a lot of creative thinking on the part of Washington on how you can have a more layered kind of negotiations with Cuba. It's either lift the embargo or put it all on. The cultural exchanges we had during Jimmy Carter, and frankly, that led to, on the part of Cuba, certain openness on the island. Cultural exchanges, I think, are fundamental. But if they're only cultural exchanges that occur, and indeed, in fact, maybe the most difficult cultural exchanges are between Cubans and Cuban exiles, and those have been going on already in Miami. You can go to South Beach and you find the latest Cuban groups playing there, and Cuban films which have been shown and continuously are shown, families to families, that is already happening. I think the baseball game was a very timid step in the right direction, but very very timid. And we have to go back and maybe ask did ping-pong diplomacy bring democracy to China? And again, I think it is a question that Cubans ask, that is, will the United States, even if Fidel Castro dies tomorrow, and even if the military is transformed, will the United States support democracy, or will it be more interested in capitalist gains?
There's another question for László. When you enumerated signals, you did not mention such important ones as the change of military doctrine of the Warsaw Pact in 1987-88, and the dismantling of the Iron Curtain by Miklos Németh in May-June 1989. Does this mean that these signals played no role in Hungarian domestic politics?
I am not aware of any major change in military doctrine of the Warsaw Pact which would influence the democratization. The most important meeting of the Warsaw Pact was in, I think in August 1989 in Bucharest, when before the eyes of Ceausescu, Gorbachev declared that the socialist countries can choose their own path of development. And Ceausescu had an idea to send a letter to Jaruzelski that still they are ready for brotherly help, but otherwise I don't think that the Warsaw Pact impacted dramatically the democratization. And the opening of the Hungarian border, that was very important. But I was talking about the impact of Poland. Here, actually that happened also in August. And in not recognizing in time this political significance of that and that that is a really important thing. A very important role was played by the mess created in Warsaw. Because there was this governmental crisis, and everyone was focusing on Moscow on this governmental crisis in Warsaw, Kravchuk went to Warsaw and even the Politburo discussed what to do in this situation, and they just didn't have time to deal with this opening of the Hungarian border which finally led to the collapse of the German regime. So in that sense, the Polish events played even in that August a role in the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Thank you. We have a question for Kostek Gebert. There are two aspects to it. On the one hand, it says that from your presentation it appears that the Yugoslav war is a Serbian war, and not a war launched by Milosevic. But there was, or there is, or there was an anti-Milosevic opposition in Serbia. So the first part of the question is, how do you assess the role of Milosevic within the context of this broader discussion of Serbian culture? And if I could just tack something onto that about Polish culture, and that is, was it such a universal consensus, or how was the consensus maintained that violent opposition to martial law, for instance, would not be undertaken.
Well, very briefly, on two extremely important and complicated issues. Unfortunately, yes, the wars of Yugoslav succession are not Milosevic's or Tudjman's, for that matter, but they are indeed Serb wars, or Croat wars, in the sense that the Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939 was a German war. There is popular consensus, both behind Milosevic and during Operation Storm and Thunder which ended with the depopulation of the Serbs from Croatia. There was popular consensus behind Tudjman. It is extremely hard to forget the crowds in the streets of Belgrade cheering our tanks going on to liberate Vukovar, Vukovar being a Croat city in another country. Unfortunately, the Serb opposition proved unable to rise to the challenge. The question is, was it possible for that opposition to rise to the challenge. Was it all but abandoned by allies of democratic opposition abroad? We did not support this democratic opposition, we hardly mentioned it. The embargo in Serbia hurt it very badly. I very vividly remember my friends in Belgrade's Radio B92 desperately trying to obtain a permit to import a Satfilm they could send to Sarajevo, so that they could broadcast the reality of the siege of Sarajevo into homes in Belgrade. They couldn't. They couldn't break the embargo. Milosevic was not as strongly hurt by the embargo as the opposition was. However, the charismatic leader of the Serb opposition, Vuk Drakovic, is today Milosevic's deputy prime minister, and appears regularly to say that we will never give up an inch of hallowed Serb soil in Kosovo, and if the Albanians don't like it they can go elsewhere. And the few who have remained true to the democratic cause have their lives at risk. If one may use a historical analogy, I think that the reluctance of the Serb opposition to honestly address the issue of Kosovo is the root cause of its weakness. If you think about Russian democrats under the tsar, they condemned the despotic regime of the tsar, but when it came to say that Poland should be free, there was a marked reluctance to accept this proposal. Poland, rather, should remain. But since Poland could remain within the tsarist empire only through force and violence, then by accepting force and violence in Warsaw, you accept force and violence in St. Petersburg. If you believe that Kosovo is a part of Serbia, and you accept keeping it in Serbia by violence, you accept the same violence on the streets of Belgrade, ultimately against you. And this is the tragic trap into which the Serb opposition has fallen. Now, it goes beyond saying that there is no collective guilt. And regardless of all the propaganda coming up from Belgrade, they do have a point when they say that there is a demonization of the Serb people. But it is also true that nations have collective responsibilities, and it's a regrettable fact that the democratic elites of the Serb nation did not rise to the challenge of assuming their responsibilities in those bloody wars. As to Polish non-violence, this is a huge topic. And we couldn't even start addressing it here. Basically, one of the main factors, apart from the consistent teaching of the Church, which consistently taught that violence is evil and wrong and non-violence is good, the family history of every Polish family includes direct, immediate examples of the counter-productivity of violence. Stories of people who start out as heroes and ended up in jails. Stories of noble attempts to use violence that ended in death and destruction. We did not have the kind of glorification of violence that existed in the Balkan societies, for example. But this is a huge subject that I'm not even going to start addressing right now.
It's especially good that you won't, because our time is very near the end. But before we end, I would just like to offer a minute, or a minute-and-a-half to each of our panelists to see if they would like to offer any concluding comments. László, do you want to start?
Just very briefly. There are several sources of this idea of non-violence, and I think also it should be mentioned that in the Central European democratic opposition, a very important role was played by the development of the ideas of the Polish democratic opposition in the early '70s, which first shifted towards these human rights, and the question of pluralism, and the questions which are of course very strongly related to the issue of non-violence. They are very strongly interrelated. I cannot go into the details of that, but that also has to do with giving up the image and self-image of the Eastern European and Central European intellectuals, that they have some missionary role guiding society, and this turning to these more clear issues of human rights and pluralism.
I just want to show my respect to the Poland heroes. No matter the person, you insisted your ideas and continued the fight and another person and you're in power but want to give up, and for the ordinary people's benefits, and fathers, if we have Dalai Lama here in China, then maybe we have some person prayers for us So, I know, China has a long way to go, but we'll try to. Maybe we can publish your book, and to learn from you, and then to make our future.
I ditto. I think just, I mean, talking a little bit, I think one of the things that the Cuban experience has shown us is that there can be acceptance of many, many cultures, because at least socially and culturally, I think that Cuba does have a very open cultural system. What we don't have is political pluralism.
I just regret that this room isn't packed full with Polish opponents of the Round Table. Those who say it was a crime, or treason, or at least a mistake, so that they could hear Maria, Dai Qing, telling us how they would love such a crime, treason, mistake to happen in their countries, and many more such mistakes.
In the short time that I have known Kostek, and in the short time that I have known everyone, I know it's a great danger to follow any of them in terms of thanks, but I would like to say that I really understand this table as a very serious, significant, and I hope, consequential effort to make the translation, the collaboration, and the anticipation of the possibilities of recognizing significant difference and negotiating that difference into something that is reasonable for all concerned to be a regular part of our democratic culture, not just within countries, but across them. So, please remember that tomorrow, we have our last session of this conference, which begins at two o'clock, not here but downstairs. Two o'clock. And lastly, I would simply like to say thank you, and if you will accept the poor accent: köszönöm, xiexie, gracias, dzi´kuj´ bardzo. Thank you very much. Goodbye.
Communism's Negotiated Collapse:
The Polish Round Table of 1989, Ten Years Later
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Last updated: December 20, 1999