Was Lech Wałęsa a secret agent?

The Nobel Peace Prize winner and Polish popular hero Lech Wałęsa is once again facing allegations that he worked for the communist secret service. Files have surfaced which reportedly confirm this. Will Polish history have to be rewritten?

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Rzeczpospolita (PL) /

Poles have seen through the political game

According to a survey put out by the conservative daily Rzeczpospolita, 64 percent of Poles continue to view Lech Wałęsa as a national hero despite the latest controversy over his past. The paper is happy with the survey's findings:

“This shows how reasonable the people of democratic Poland are. ... The Poles have drawn the right conclusions about the political game surrounding the Polish winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, and they refuse to be dragged into the fray. ... The results of our survey come as bad news for the current government. The opposition, by contrast, has shown a true sense of shrewdness by running to Wałęsa's defence. Because the bottom line is that the former president is an important symbol for all Poles. If the PiS continues to let the founding leader of Solidarność serve as a target for political invective it stands to lose a lot more in the process.”

Népszabadság (HU) /

Kaczyński's smear campaign against Wałęsa

The leader of the PiS, Jarosław Kaczyński, and Poland's national conservative right are behind the recent allegations that Wałęsa was a spy, the centre-left daily Népszabadság suspects:

“For around 20 years now the national conservative right wingers who support Jarosław Kaczyński have regarded Nobel Peace Prize winner Wałęsa as an enemy. … The Kaczyński twins initially tried to use Wałęsa in their bid for power, but when they realised he wouldn't be their puppet they fell out with him. Ever since then Poland's right has painted him as a bogeyman. … Wałęsa is headstrong, but he is a democrat. The Polish right, on the other hand, has no sense of democracy whatever these days. It is busy trying to tarnish the good reputation it took Poland decades to earn. And for that it needs a symbol: Wałęsa.”

Denník N (SK) /

Wałęsa wouldn't be forgiven for lying

If Lech Wałęsa really did work for the communist secret service now is the time for him to admit it, the liberal daily Dennik N advises:

“The Polish Institute of National Remembrance doesn't have the best reputation. In the hands of the nationalist ultra-conservatives who are back in power it has too often blackened the names of critics for political purposes. … And Wałęsa is among the critics of the current government. On the other hand it is entirely possible that he was an agent a few years before Solidarność came into being. The accusation is nothing new and Wałęsa's denials in the past were not convincing. … If he did work with the Stasi this certainly wouldn't diminish his contribution to the fall of the communist dictatorship. Even if it turns out that his own bad conscience was what drove him to fight for democracy, he has done enough to make up for old mistakes. … He could be forgiven for having been an agent, but not for lying.”

Gazeta Wyborcza (PL) /

Former Solidarność leader remains a hero

Wałęsa remains a popular hero whether he worked for the Polish secret police or not, journalist and author Jacek Żakowski writes in a commentary for the liberal daily Gazeta Wyborcza:

“The hysterical cry from a section of the Polish media comes as no surprise to me. ... But the ironic grins and silly statements by many high officials really poses a threat. That includes the current president, the deputy prime minister and the foreign minister. All they have done is show that they're incapable of making appropriate and rational statements. And that is precisely the most dangerous thing in politics. Wałęsa no longer plays a significant role in the events of our country. But for the children of the coming generations he will remain a hero and a symbol of the country's regaining its freedom. They can learn much from him - whether everyone is happy about that or not.”

Gość Niedzielny (PL) /

Wałęsa must come clean about past

Lech Wałęsa must finally come clean about his dubious past, the Catholic news magazine Gość Niedzielny insists:

“He has a last chance now to be courageous and admit what he has resolutely denied up to now. He has threatened his adversaries with legal action, laughed at them and insulted them. In doing so he not only spread a lie about himself but also about Poland's recent history. If the former leader of Solidarność and president of democratic Poland had even a scrap of decency he would talk openly about his involvement with the security service. In particular he must discuss the implications this liaison had for the strike in August 1980, the declaration of martial law as well as the Round Table talks. And he must make clear whether his past had anything to do with the fact that he later occupied the highest office in the land.”

Tages-Anzeiger (CH) /

Reinterpreting the past a dangerous undertaking

The dangerous thing about the spying allegations is that Jarosław Kaczyński's PiS knows exactly how to exploit them, the centre-left daily Tages-Anzeiger observes:

“If the right-wing populist agitators manage to discredit Wałęsa and the Round Table of 1989, the Poland we have come to know and cherish since then won't exist for much longer. Jarosław Kaczynski will be able to establish - officially or inofficially - the Fourth Republic he has always dreamed of. But this would have nothing to do with the historical reality, because despite the key role played by the devilish superhero Wałęsa his influence on the developments after 1989 was very limited. The networks Kaczyński claims exist all over Poland are an invention of the PiS leadership.”