INTERVIEW WITH LANE KIRKLAND
INTERVIEWER: Lane, can you tell me first of all, why were you opposed to Carter's policies of détente?
LK: The policy of détente preceded Carter: it was the national policy under Nixon and Ford as well. You will recall that when the FLCIO forwarded Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, his first audience on his... when he came to the United States, it was this policy that prevented the White House from receiving him, and that was under Gerald Ford. That policy continued under Carter, until Afghanistan, I believe, which was a rude awakening for the Carter Administration. We opposed détente, the concept of détente. Détente assumed that there was some compatibility between a society which, from our point of view, destroyed trade unions, did not permit them to exist, abused workers, and a free society in which free trade unions were a basic part of a healthy civil society. It was our view that one or the other system had to go, and we knew which side we were on.
INT: So you felt that détente was going to perpetuate the Cold War rather than bring it to some conclusion?
INT: Uhum. So why, then, was it important, and indeed necessary, to set up the Committee on the Present Danger?
LK: A number of reasons. I became involved with it because essentially I was associated closely with the world view of Senator Jackson, as were a number of other people involved with that committee; but most particularly, I was interested in the issues surrounding the nuclear arms race. I had been chief mate on a ship that was in Tinian at the time that the Enola Gay took off and dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima. I was in that group, one of the early groups of the Atomic Energy Commission, assembled to witness the bomb tests in Nevada. I was also a member of the President's General Advisory Committee on Arms Control and Disarmament, and I was reasonably well-versed in nuclear arms issues. In my view, from what I understood, the SALT negotiations that were underway were being overtaken by technology, largely by developments in the accuracy of missiles, of the warheads and the multiplication of warheads as the MIRVing of missiles developed. And under the SALT regime, as I perceived it, the danger was increasing rather than decreasing, and the effective nuclear arms, meaning the warheads, was multiplying rather than being restrained or decreased under it, and I believed that a new approach was needed. These technological developments threatened to contradict the assumption that led to stability in terms of the balance of terror, I should call it, the doctrine of mutual destruction. It invited the possibility that a first strike could be a disarming one and upset that balance. Ultimately, of course, I supported the ratification of the SALT II, but based upon the condition that future negotiations would address these very important issues that had been neglected or avoided in previous negotiations.
INT: And was it also a question of feeling that parity was not very beneficial for the Soviet Union... I mean, for the United States?
LK: No, it was not. The reason... my concerns were the ones that I've described: the fact that the SALT negotiations created a false sense of security and progress that was actually not taking place.
INT: Right. OK, then. Can I take you Poland now..?
INT: ... and ask you: after the strikes and massacres in fact in Poland in 1970, what contacts were you able to establish with the opposition and the Movement for Free Trade Unions?
LK: There was a movement in Poland prior to the formation of Solidarity, that went under the emblem of KOR, the Committee for Workers' Defense, and we were in contact with people in Poland who were associated with KOR, both directly through our office in Paris and through emissaries that came to that office from time to time, and through a man by the name of Leo Lovetts, who lived in London and published a journal of Polish affairs called Survey - I would meet with him from time to time, and he was a useful intermediary.
INT: So what were you able to do, then, in that period before 1980?
LK: Well, during that period there was little in the way of demands upon us or requests for assistance. We were just kept informed and... it was only with the strikes in Gdansk and Ursus and Nowahuta, in the mines, out of which Solidarity developed, that substantial requirements for assistance emerged.
INT: ... Well, July was the Ursus and then August the Gdansk strike. ... It was obviously quite touch-and-go to begin with, and people in Poland were very concerned about how much support they would get, whether the strike would spread, whether they could sustain the strike. Now in those early days, August-September, did you send signals over? What sort of...
LK: Yes, we formed the FLCIO, I'm speaking of... we formed a Polish aid fund and raised money from our affiliated unions internally, to provide aid to the strikers, both as a practical and as a symbolic gesture of strong support and interest on our part in the development of... and the birth and growth of Solidarity and the outcome of the workers' struggle. We felt a very close kinship with that. For one thing, the emblem and the logo of Solidarity had a great resonance with American workers, because the watchword "solidarity" was that of the American labor movement from its beginning. The unofficial anthem of the AFL, CIO, of organized labor generally in America is called "Solidarity Forever". And so it became... it was a very popular cause with American labor.
INT: And what exactly did you provide in the way of assistance?
LK: We tried to meet their specific requests, what they asked us for, and those requirements were conveyed to us through a variety of channels. We were instrumental in establishing... we underwrote the creation of an external office for Solidarity in Brussels and the location there, full-time representatives of Solidarity, who happened to be out of the country when the crackdown came. And those requirements were conveyed to us... for the most part, they wanted communications equipment of various kinds: offset printing presses, radio equipment, things of that sort, as well as of course some operating funds. And we did our best to provide it.
INT: That was in 1980 as well as later?
INT: Yes, right, OK.
LK: The requirements grew as time went on.
INT: And how did you manage to get the materials in - was this a problem, or...?
LK: We set up certain channels redundant channels operating independently of each other. One was the Brussels office of Solidarity; there was a Scandinavian channel, and then one that operated out of Paris, and they were means by which we developed a system for getting these materials through to the right people.
INT: Right. And how important were your contacts with Radio Free Europe and Voice of America in the early '80 period when Solidarity ... before the (Overlap) crackdown?
LK: (Overlap) Radio Free Europe was very important. We would broadcast through Radio Free Europe our statements of support, our calls for the rest of the free world to rally behind the Solidarity cause. It was a very essential means of communication with the... and encouragement of those who were struggling in Poland for freedom.