Polish leaders search for middle way
The Central Committee of Poland's Communist Party embarked June 9 on what is certain to be its most critical meeting since last summer's strikes touched off 10 months of crisis.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
As the meeting opened, ordinary Poles as well as party reformers were concerned that the latest Soviet criticisms might lead to curtailment of the reform movement -- or even prove to be a step toward more direct intervention in Poland's affairs.
At this writing, the first possibility seems more likely. But the seriousness of this latest crisis is evident in the almost continuous consultation between the Polish Politburo and government since the letter from the soviet Communist Party Central Committee was received last Friday.
Tuesday morning, party leader Stanislaw Kania and his 15 Politburo colleagues each briefed small groups of the 143- member Central Committee, all of whom already had a copy of the letter.
That was the start of a new effort to secure unity throughout the leading apparatus. The appeal will be carried to the party rank and file and the country at large, to bring home the necessity to accomodate the krimlin's most sereve objections.
The trick will be to do this without rousing public suspicion of a retreat from the pledge of social-political "renewal."
"We shall see," a party member commented. "We know
"We shall see," a party member commented. "We know we must do certain things now. Well we can live with that so long as the major areas of 'renewal' are left alone."
In this opening speech to Tuesday's Central Committee meeting Mr. Kanila said that Poland could only come through "the most dramatic period in its 1,000-year history" in firm alliance with the Soviet Union and its other East-bloc allies.
Poland's allies, he said, had cause for their anxieties. He did not go into detail, but his speech implied a firmer stand not only against "counterrevolution" but also against any group that transgresses the party's Marxist-Leninist line.
He indicated a vigorous firming-up of the leading roe of the party to meet Soviet criticism. Poland, he said, "is and will remain a socialist country, guided by a Marxist-Leninist party as its leading force. The sovereignty and safety of our country is guaranteed only by being a member of the socialist camp."
Most of Mr. Kania's hour-long speech was devoted to a recital of the country's economic plight -- with a nod to the Soviets' latest assurance of aid -- and a pledge of continued "renewal" in its sociopolitical life.
Only the debate and final speeches and resolutions of the meeting will tell precisely how that "renewal" is to be carried through, and how much the process is to be moderated to meet Soviet demands.
At this writing, the most notable feature of the speech was that it conveyed no hint of any Kania removal from leadership. He certainly did not speak as though he was to be replaced at the end of the session.
He enumerated the various criticisms raised by the Soviets in their letter and proceeded to elaborte on the preparations for the special party congress scheduled for July "almost," one observer commented, "as though nothing serious had happened."
One clue to the probable thrust of the committee's final decisions came when Stefan Olszowski, a moderate conservative whose ideas of careful party control of reform must commend im to the Kremlin, briefed Polish journalists. He made it seems likely that some of the more openly critical editors and news media, in fact, may be singled out in moves to "cool" the freewheeling comment.
"You might not like it," Mr. Olszowski, the party's watchdog over the press, is reported to have told the journalists Monday , "but, in general, the Soviet assessment of the situation is correct." Plenty had been published to create an impression of "anarchy."
As further details of the Soviet letter became available Monday, it was noted that its language was firm but considerably "quieter" than the initial version had suggested.
There is enough ambiguity to leave options open. But the tone was not yet that of a blunt, final "ultimatum."
It detailed Soviet anxieties about the developments of the past year. Many times, it said, Soviet leaders had talked to "comrades Kania and [Premier Wojciech] Jaruzelski" about them. They had promised to take action against the "enemies of socialism," who increasingly were calling the tune in Poland. But nothing had changed; things got worse.
Nonetheless, the letter concluded, if the leadership (and there were apparently no suggestions for change) acted in a "resolute way," there was still a chance that Poles could overcome the crisis. And there was another assurance that they can count on "Soviet aid."