SOLIDARITY didn't want to form a government. But in the end, it had no choice. After the Communist Party's prime ministerial candidate, Czeslaw Kiszczak, failed to put together a government, a dangerous political vacuum developed. Price rises on basic foodstuffs were sparking work stoppages. Only Solidarity could put together a workable parliamentary majority. Only Solidarity had a chance to gain the public support necessary to avoid a social explosion.
So when Solidarity leader Lech Walesa asked the formerly subservient partners of the communists to join in a government, they agreed. Tadeusz Mazowiecki, a Walesa aide, was named prime minister on Saturday. Mr. Mazowiecki, a Roman Catholic intellectual, is linked to Solidarity's Christian Democratic wing. He had previously expressed doubts about Solidarity's shift from trade union to political movement.
The communists are not giving up all control. General Wojciech Jaruzelski remains president, able to dissolve parliament and wield vast powers over foreign policy. Solidarity has agreed to name communists to run the key Defense and Interior Ministries. Party-appointed apparatchiks will continue to dominate the bureaucracy.
Given this continued communist power, Walesa's decision to form the government is risky - and controversial. Many within Solidarity fear the communists will hide behind the former opposition's legitimacy, forcing it to take responsibility for painful austerity measures before giving it real power to shape its own policies.
But staying in the opposition presented different, equally dangerous challenges. After demanding democracy and power-sharing for years, it was difficult to justify not accepting the chance when it comes.