“If Lech Wałęsa—the head of NSZZ Solidarność, the legendary leader of the march to freedom in the 1980s and then president of Poland in 1990–1995—could not free himself of the burden of the past, what can one expect of the tens of thousand of others who maintained compromising contacts with SB, and now hold high governmental posts?” ask Sławomir Cenckiewicz and Piotr Gontarczyk in their widely debated book. The authors concede that TW (short for tajny wpółpracownik; i.e., secret informant) Bolek, who is widely assumed to have been Wałęsa, broke contacts with the Security Service (SB) in 1976. They acknowledge that alleged contacts after Wałęsa gained visibility as the leader of Solidarity were dubious, at least some clearly doctored in an attempt to discredit him in the eyes of his friends, the Roman Catholic Church, and the international community, even sabotaging his chances for the Nobel Prize in 1982–1983. In the 1980s, Wałęsa’s file consisted of 43 volumes, including tapes and film, and many of the critical documents supplement the book.
One would expect that the SB attempted to pressure Wałęsa by resurrecting the Bolek file, first when he joined the Coastal WZZ (Free Trade Union) in 1978 and subsequently at critical moments of his activities as the leader of Solidarity—before and after the signing of the Gdańsk Accords, during the heyday of Solidarity, and before and after the martial law. One would expect an elaborate disinformation campaign directed at Wałęsa, his family, and friends, as well as around-the-clock surveillance to neutralize his activities without physically harming him, for fear that a physical attack would have implicated the regime of Wojciech Jaruzelski. One can even speculate, as Wałęsa’s confidant during the 1980 Gdańsk shipyard strike, Zenon Kwoka, did in an interview, that the Communist regime would have been more reluctant to come to agreement with Solidarity if it had thought it could not control Wałęsa. Nonetheless, even though the Gdańsk opposition was meticulously monitored, there is no evidence that the Communist regime ever controlled Wałęsa, steered the 1980 strikes, or guided other historically critical events in which he participated.
Cenckiewicz and Gontarczyk do not entertain the question of whether SB pressure affected Wałęsa’s decisions or significantly changed the course of modern history. [End Page 119] They make a strong case for a cover-up, especially after the so-called first lustration associated with the “Macierewicz List” that made Wałęsa’s early collaboration public (although other leading Gdańsk workers were already aware in August 1980 of Wałęsa’s earlier contacts and even debated whether to keep him as leader shortly after the signing of the accords). The authors are probably right in arguing that Wałęsa as president sought to retaliate. He replaced pro-Solidarity Major Adam Hodysz as head of the Gdańsk branch of the Office of State Security with former SB officers after Hodysz made the Bolek file available to Antoni Macierewicz. Wałęsa surrounded himself with seasoned spies like Wiktor Fonfara and Gromysław Czempiński, who were among the last to handle the Bolek file, apparently including materials recovered from the destruction of files, such as the 54 microfilms found in the possession of an alleged dealer in nuclear materials, former SB Major Jerzy Frączkowski. The microfilms also included documents about other leading opposition figures during the Communist era, such as Bogdan Borusewicz, Jacek Merkel, Lech Kaczyński, and Bogdan Lis. The authors convincingly document two incidents of careful purging of the Bolek file, possibly by Wałęsa, and they claim that the release of the file, ordered by President Wałęsa’s security minister, Andrzej Milczanowski, circumvented procedures and violated the law.
Wałęsa also blocked lustration efforts after the existence of the Bolek file became public, which led to the fall of Prime Minister Jan Olszewski’s...