Poland taps a new prime minister, but old problems haven't gone away
Poles woke Tuesday morning with a new prime minister and two major industrial strike threats called off. But there was no immediate prospect of a real end to the crisis and the persisting unrest.Skip to next paragraph
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The shakeup in the government followed strong hints from a Communist Party leadership session that stronger action will be forthcoming, with:
* The more rapid implementation of the reform pledges written into the strike settlements last summer between the government and the workers' independent union, Solidarity.
* And simultaneously, readiness and determination to use all the means at the party's disposal to reassert its authority against the "counterrevolutionary" trends of the new unions.
Warnings on the latter score came from two members of the Politburo and -- in somewhat milder tone -- from party leader Stanislaw Kania in his winding-up speech to the Central Committee plenum. Mr. Kania has tried to keep things moving in a reformist, moderate, and tolerant direction, but his efforts have inevitably faced opposition from the hard-liners during this year's wave of almost nonstop strikes, sit-ins, and warnings of fresh stoppages.
Prime Minister Jozef Pinkowski lost his job, undoubtedly being made the scapegoat for the slow pace with which the government has moved on some of the more important, and politically more sensitive, promised reforms.
For example, the new labor legislation drawn up in accord with the unions might have averted much of the recent industrial conflict if it had been legislated within the promised deadline.
The new premier is the defense minister (though he is expected to relinquish this post), Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski. He has a long service career from World War II and a political background that includes membership in the Politburo, as a deputy from 1970 to 1974 and a full member since then.
He is close to Mr. Kania and, like him, is widely regarded as a "moderate." Last August, at the height of the Baltic strike crisis, General Jaruzelski was credited with forthright opposition (as was Mr. Kania) to the use of the armed forces in any repressive role.
Yet unrest persists. University protest has spread to the western city of Poznan, where students echoed the demands mounted by their colleagues at a two-week sit-in at Lodz for changes in the curriculum and university administration and a reduction in the period of compulsory military service.
Several thousand peasant landowners bused into Warsaw Feb. 10 from various parts of the country to demonstrate outside the Supreme Court as it sat to hear the appeal of the farmers' embryo union "Rural Solidarity" in its quest for legal recognition.
Late in the day the Supreme Court told Rural Solidarity it cannot qualify under a law as a trade union. Some such decision had been anticipated, and it clearly reflects the regime's declared opposition to such a peasant organization in the countryside.
The ruling conceded, however, that private farmers "have the right" to associate, but the right apparently is subject to approval of local authorities.
Yet both Polish farmers and Solidarity union leader Lech Walesa said afterward that there would be no more strikes to press the farmers' demands for full union recognition. Mr. Walesa and his colleagues apparently see the decision as a fair compromise, and while farmers' leaders might continue to demand full union recognition it would not be done through strikes.
There was an extremely tough edge, though, to the report Politburo member Tadeusz Grabski made on the party's attitude toward the industrial Solidarity. Some Solidarity organizers, he charged, were trying to push it into political "adventurism and, finally, counterrevolution."
Mr. Kania also demanded an end to political strikes. He warned the country that its critical allies in the East bloc could "lose patience" with Poland if it did not put its house in order. And -- in what seemed a significant phrase -- he spoke of the armed forces and security branch as the "loyal guardians of Poland's independence.
But his intention, nonetheless, to maintain the "renewal" program was implicit in an appeal -- human in tone but conveying a note of urgency -- to everyone to show "conscious and thoughtful patriotism" and a pledge that everythingm in the August agreements must be immediately and fully carried through.
There appears some room for compromise. The general strike in the southwestern province of Jelenia Gora was called off early Tuesday after yet another government climbdown on local grievances.
In Silesia, the miners (who had set a deadline for later in the day for a strike that would have been a crippling blow to an already disastrous economy) called it off following a strong appeal from Solidarity's national chairman, Lech Walesa.