Gdansk, Poland — The aircraft carrier Kiev and a formidable array of other Soviet warships are reportedly out in the Baltic little more than 60 miles from the shoreline of Poland's "tri-port" -- Gdynia, Sopot, and Gdansk.
But their presence does not seem to bother local residents. Nor did it deter visitors who came to Sopot, the region's famous old resort, for the last weekend of the summer season. They promenaded its 1,500 foot pier from early morning till dusk.
Only small boys -- and this reporter -- made use of the binoculars and telescopes an elderly Pole keeps at the end of the pier to supplement a modest pension.
Far out in the Bay of Gdansk a few cargo vessels rode at anchor. To the northeast -- toward Soviet waters -- one ship of fairly substantial tonnage could be seen. Its superstructure was not that of a battleship.
No one seemed to care. The attraction along the pier was the fruit machines. And the sand.
The sea itself if off-limits to swimmers. Notices along the shore warn of water pollution. It is the legacy of a communist regime that failed to protect Poland's natural environment as it pressed ahead with industrial expansion.
The question of government priorities is closely related to the business that began in a big sports hall at Gdansk Sept. 5 -- the first national convention of Solidarity.
There, without the razzmatazz of a Western convention but with considerable disorganization because of inexperience, delegates from throughout the country spent three days thrashing out the union's first comprehensive program. The second, more vital stage of the congress meets in three weeks.
The main product thus far is a threat of more militance unless the government yields more ground in areas where it has said the limits of concession have been reached.
Or, unless moderation and restraint is more firmly established in the union leadership.
It is too early to pass judgment. But at times one felt that the novelty of the occasion was too much even for the union leaders and their "intellectual" advisers.
There was an air of confusion. Sometimes the leadership and the presidium of the convention (which was elected by the delegates at the start) seemed at loggerheads. At others, both appeared to be out of step with the floor. And on occasion, the proceedings assumed the cut-and-dried tone of a party congress.
Frequently the floor seemed impatient about the time spent on procedural matters and votes. Occasionally there was a strong impression that it wanted nothing so much as to see the convention get down to the real issues of trade unionism.
This obviously is the trend the government hopes proves dominant in the end. Although state television and radio were barred from the congress, broadcast coverage has been plentiful, drawing on the official news agency's continuous reporting, TV film from Western Eurovision, the Polish newspapers, and foreign comment.
Probably, as the Communist Party daily Trybuna Ludu commented hopefully, this phase of the convention is best seen as a "prelude and reconnaissance" for Solidarity, a time to overcome some of its own indecisions.
Is it to be a national "movement," which would give it a political connotation that the government alleges would be contrary to its charter, or a trade union dedicated to defending the welfare and interests of the workers?
Is it to challenge the regime to the point of confrontation over worker self-management? It claims total autonomy for each workers' council, including the hiring and firing of enterprise managers.
The government is playing a waiting game, counting on gaining public support through its "patience" and its media's "fair" coverage of this convention.
It thinks the public may get tired of all the haggling and ups and downs of tensions. It may be right.