Book Reawakens Doubts About Polish Hero Walesa

Did the country's democratic pioneer collaborate with Poland's secret police?
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 13, 2008 1:14 PM CDT
Former Polish President and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Lech Walesa appears in this undated file photo.   (AP Photo/Hans Punz)
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(Newser) – A new book is stirring up an old debate in Poland: Did democratic hero Lech Walesa, leader of the Solidarity union and former president, collaborate with the secret police? Walesa has successfully defended himself against the claim for 15 years, in and out of court. But historians working with police files say they have new evidence of his involvement for a period in the 1970s, the Economist reports.

The debate is relevant to post-communist Poland because critics have speculated that Walesa’s odd choices for advisers during his presidency in 1990 were the result of blackmail. Some say Walesa’s deft handling of the democratic transition during his years with Solidarity earns him reprieve for mistakes in his youth—but, the Economist opines, “if the arguments for discretion are strong, the argument for truth is stronger.”