Walesa denies police-spy claim

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 July, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 04 July, 2008, 12:00am

Former Solidarity trade union leader Lech Walesa has hit back angrily at claims in a new book that he helped Poland's loathed secret police during the country's communist era.

Mr Walesa blasted the allegations by two historians as 'worthy of the dustbin'. He said the authors of The SB and Lech Walesa - Slawomir Cenckiewicz and Piotr Gontarczyk - were simply out to get him, and called their 751-page book a badly produced 'pamphlet'.

'I could make photocopies too, and mine would be even better,' snapped Mr Walesa, 64.

In 1980, Mr Walesa was an electrician at the Lenin Shipyard in Gdansk and won global fame for leading a strike by 17,000 workers that forced the government to recognise Solidarity, the communist bloc's first free-trade union. The strike sparked a groundswell of peaceful protest that helped speed the demise of the regime, which fell in 1989.

The book looks back at Mr Walesa's pre-Solidarity days, alleging he 'informed police several dozen times' about the activities of anti-communist shipyard workers in the 1970s. It uses Sluzba Bezpieczenstwa secret police files, which show he had a code number, 14743, for encounters with its agents - which were inevitable for many Poles at the time.

The authors claim to have convincingly connected that code number to the files of an agent known as 'Bolek' - the nickname for Boleslaw, which is Mr Walesa's second name.

'Bolek passed on information about the organisers of a strike in 1970, about those who listened to Radio Free Europe, and he told the authorities who was saying what. All that was subsequently used against these people,' claimed Gontarczyk.

During the period of his collaboration, Bolek received a sum equivalent to a year's salary in 1970s Poland, Gontarczyk said.

Mr Walesa has admitted signing a secret police document on one of the many occasions he was detained and questioned in the 1970s, but has always flatly denied he was Bolek and termed 'absurd' any collaboration with communist authorities. He was cleared of any wrongdoing by a special vetting court in 2000.

'Our struggle was complex and difficult. It was like a game of chess. There were no simple answers. Those who weren't involved then have a tendency these days to see things in a simplistic way,' Mr Walesa said.

The former Solidarity leader was elected president in 1990 and served one five-year term in office.

The Bolek case first surfaced in 1992, when a broad list of alleged SB agents was made public. That sparked a political crisis that brought down the conservative-nationalist government of Jan Olszewski, which was accused of exploiting ill-founded allegations for political ends.

Its staunchest supporters have never forgiven Mr Walesa.