The Sad Price Of Freedom
THE SOLIDARITY CRACKDOWN
THE DECISION Saturday of Poland premier Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski to impose martial law and clamp down on the free trade union Solidarity did not come as a shock. For the last 15 months, the West has heard that Poland teeters on a narrow precipice, despite having managed to resolve crisis after crisis through touch-and-go negotiations. This weekend, the Polish Communist Party finally saw its opportunity--in Jaruzelski's words--to prevent Poland from falling into "the abyss."
Party rhetoric does not differ markedly from earlier pronouncements and warnings. "The abyss" has existed every since the August 1980 strike in Gdansk's Lenin Shipyards; it is the abyss of freedom which has proved far too deep for the Soviet players and their pawns. We can only lament that a genuine labor movement with broad national support and an innovative program has been so blatantly repressed by a state supposedly dedicated to its workers.
The communications cut-off cannot obscure the most important fact underlying the government's declaration of "a state of war" and "a state of emergency": that liberty--whether of speech, of assembly, or of labor--is anathema to Soviet-controlled regimes in Eastern Europe. A gradual meliorist approach to meaningful social reform is untenable for the Soviets and their puppets. The Polish workers are simply the latest victims to be sacrificed in the name of Soviet statism. Whether or not the Soviet Union intervenes militarily is unimportant at this point; the USSR will probably only refrain from doing so if the martial-law regime succeeds in its crackdown.
Solidarity represents a freedom movement above all else, and the U.S. must take the opportunity to show its resolve to defend the values it represents. To do that, the U.S. must fundamentally rethink its policy in Eastern Europe.
The choices are difficult, and it is unclear whether the U.S. can have substantial effect upon the Polish situation. But one route that seems necessary is putting economic pressure on the Soviets. Some measures the U.S. might consider include putting a grain embargo on the Soviets, exerting pressure through International Monetary Fund credits and drastically cutting down trade. The U.S. must carry out any such steps in concert with the NATO allies if that organization is to retain any efficacy in international politics.
Furthermore, we encourage President Reagan to call for a summit conference with the Soviet Union, NATO, representatives of Solidarity and the government of Poland--to clear up misunderstandings and to avoid future misapprehensions among the interested parties. We hope the Reagan administration avoids sending ground troops to Poland, instituting a draft or taking any other military actions at this delicate stage.
History has repeated itself several times in Poland, and this manifestation is no less tragic than previous encounters with crackdowns, invasions and oppression. No one has fought for freedom more feverishly than the ten million members of Solidarity, and they have paid a heavy price. It is one of the saddest ironies that for many Eastern bloc nations today, the price of freedom often exceeds the cost of repression.