Taking its cue from reforms in the Soviet Union, the Communist Party leaders in Poland have approved sweeping changes in the political system. Those changes allow for political diversity and an end to the communist monopoly in government.
This is most encouraging and is another example of the world tide that seems to be running strongly toward greater freedom, more democracy and even free market economics in nations formerly locked into Marxism.The announcements in Poland this past week included only the political changes. Other socioeconomic reforms are promised for the Communist Party conference May 4-5.
-Just how profound are the political changes in Poland? Consider:
Laws allowing opposition parties in the lower house of parliament will be liberalized and a democratically elected senate will be created. The two will join to elect the nation's president.
-The Communist Party will lose its majority in parliament for the first time since Stalin installed communists in power in 1944.
-For the first time in postwar Poland, Communist Party candidates will face direct electoral competition from opposition candidates.
-Inner workings of the Communist Party will be opened and covered by the media. Closed party administrative departments will be replaced by commissions in which non-party members may participate as consultants.
-Solidarity and other unions and student associations, banned since martial law was imposed in 1981, will be legalized.
-Opposition parties will be guaranteed access to the mass media, including a daily newspaper, two weeklies, and at least one program on national television.
Of course, all of this does not mean that Poland will suddenly become a democracy. The lower house in parliament will be weighted so that the Communist Party holds about 65 percent of the 460 seats. But that will leave a sizeable opposition and the senate is expected to be controlled by opposition parties.
For years, Poland has been gripped by one economic or political crisis after another. Communist leaders have agreed that the only solution is more democracy and a freer economy. It's a lesson that more and more of the world seems to be learning.