Comment: Was Poland’s Lech Walesa an Intelligence Operative?
December 11, 2008 2 Comments
The Warsaw-based Polish Institute of National Remembrance (INP) is a government-affiliated organization, whose main mission is to investigate, expose and indict participants in criminal actions during the Nazi occupation of Poland, as well as during the country’s communist period. It also aims to expose clandestine agents and collaborators of Służba Bezpieczeństwa (SB), Poland’s Security Service during the communist era. Earlier this year the INP published a book by historians Sławomir Cenckiewicz and Piotr Gontarczyk, titled Secret services and Lech Walesa: A Contribution to the Biography (SB a Lech Wałęsa: Przyczynek do Biografii).
In the book, the two historians discuss what they call “compelling evidence” and “positive proof” that the country’s anticommunist former President, Lech Walesa, was a paid collaborator of the SB in the 1970s. They claim that the former Democratic Opposition leader and 1983 Peace Prize Nobel laureate was recruited by SB officer Edward Graczyk and worked as a paid informant under the cover name “Bolek”, between 1970 and 1976.
Now Graczyk has come forward with a letter stating that he “never received from Lech Walesa any declaration of co-operation with the secret services of the People’s Republic of Poland” and that “according to his operational knowledge, no […] employee of the secret services ever managed to achieve Walesa’s consent or declaration of collaboration”. Walesa himself claims that “the secret services might have forged documents against him to discredit him after his nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize”.
Allegations linking Lech Walesa with undercover intelligence work are not new. Der Spiegel reports that the former President has been involved in court cases against people claiming he was a spy since at least 2000.
What is far less disputed is the covert assistance that Solidarność (Solidarity), the Polish anti-government trade union founded in 1980 and headed by Lech Walesa, received from the CIA. US former Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) and current Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, wrote in his 1996 book From the Shadows that in the 1980s the CIA was “most active in Poland”, with clandestine support to Solidarity including “printing equipment and other means of communication to the underground” (p450). Gates further reveals that the CIA sponsored Solidarity’s official radio station, Radio Solidarność, and even “provided a good deal of money and equipment to the Polish underground” to set up a “clandestine television” station. In one instance, Walesa’s people used the station to “take over the airwaves […], overriding Warsaw’s evening television news on the eve of the Pope’s visit with a message urging Solidarity activists to participate in public demonstrations” (p451). Gates, who was Deputy DCI at the time, writes that Solidarity officials “were not told that the CIA was the source of the assistance”, although “there must have been suspicions” (p450).
Considering Solidarity’s critical contribution in bringing down the Polish communist government, the CIA’s activities in Poland during the late stages of the Cold War, such as the ones described by Gates, must be considered operationally successful. As for Lech Walesa, the question for historians should not be whether he collaborated with intelligence agencies, but rather which ones. [JF]