The University Record, March 8, 1999

Principal players expected to gather here for ‘repeat’ of Polish Round Table

By Bernie DeGroat
News and Information Services

Ten years after the fall of communism in Poland, the University will re-create the atmosphere of the Polish Round Table talks, the historic negotiations between communists and the opposition that brought an end to communism in Poland.

Leading politicians, church leaders and prominent intellectuals who took part in the Polish Round Table will come together here to put this era of “negotiated revolutions” into historical and global perspective.

“Communism’s Negotiated Collapse: The Polish Round Table of 1989, Ten Years Later,” organized by the Center for Russian and East European Studies, will feature a series of panel discussions and lectures by the Round Table’s key participants April 7–10 at the Rackham Building.

“On April 5, 1989, the world as we knew it began to unravel,” says Michael D. Kennedy, associate professor of sociology and one of the conference organizers. “On that day, the Round Table talks came to a stunning conclusion. The Solidarity movement, outlawed for almost a decade, was re-legalized, and the first multi-party elections in post-war Poland were scheduled.

“When elections were held two months later, the Communists lost virtually every contested parliamentary seat. In the coming months, Communist regimes would fall in East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and later, in the Soviet Union, itself. Although the collapse of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 provided the world with a visual metaphor for these momentous political transformations,” Kennedy adds, “the peaceful negotiations in Poland seven months earlier opened a new era for Eastern Europe and the entire world.”

The conference sessions, most of which will be conducted in Polish with simultaneous interpretation into English, will focus on the significance, conditions and consequences of the Polish Round Table, including a look at the political, social and moral climate in Poland in the late 1980s.

The opening session, “The Significance of the Polish Round Table,” will begin at 8 p.m. April 7 in Rackham Auditorium. Scheduled participants include Solidarity activist Wieslaw Chrzanowski, member of parliament and founder and past president of the Christian National Alliance; Adam Michnik, editor-in-chief of Gazeta Wyborzca and Solidarity activist; and former Prime Minister Mieczyslaw Rakowski, editor in chief of Polityka, past member of the Central Committee of the Polish communist party and first secretary of the party.

The closing session, “The Polish Round Table Revisited: The Art of Negotiation,” will take place 2–5 p.m. April 10 in Rackham Auditorium. Those tentatively scheduled to take part include labor activist Lech Walesa, former president of non-communist Poland and head of Solidarity; Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, former president of non-communist Poland and past prime minister, minister of defense and first secretary of the Polish communist party; Solidarity activist Tadeusz Mazowiecki, former prime minister of non-communist Poland; Alexsander Kwasniewski, current president of Poland; and Bishop Alojzy Orszulik of the Diocese of Lowicz.

Panel discussions in Rackham Amphitheater will focus on these topics:

• April 8: Part I: Conditions of the Round Table—The Political Contest, 1986–89 (9:30 a.m.–noon), Everyday Life and Political Contest (2–3 p.m.), Political and Ethical Responsibility (4–6 p.m.).

• April 9: Part II: Contingencies of the Round Table—Capacities to Negotiate (9:30–11 a.m.), Constituencies of Negotiation (11:30 a.m.–1:30 p.m.).

Part III: Consequences of the Round Table—Global Change and the Polish Round Table (3–5 p.m.).

• April 10: Part IV: The Polish Round Table Revisited: The Art of Negotiation (2–5 p.m.).

The conference also will feature an exhibit of figural sculpture by Polish artist Magdalena Abakanowicz and a lecture, “Polish Art in Search of Freedom,” by Anda Rottenberg of Warsaw’s Gallery Zacheta at 10:30 a.m. April 10 at the Museum of Art.

For more information or to register for the conference, consult the conference Web page at www.umich.edu/~iinet/PolishRoundTable/. There is no registration fee for U-M students, faculty or staff. For all others, the fee is $35 by March 15, $50 after that date and on-site.