Striking Polish workers refuse to settle for half a loaf
Warsaw — In the conference hall of the Lenin shipyard in Gdansk where Poland's growing strike movement began Aug. 14, delegates from 400 idled plants are in permanent session discussing and hearing reports.
Behind the committeemen's dais are the Polish national flag and the traditional banner with the Polish eagle. To one side is a plaster half-figure of Lenin after whom the yard is named. At center stage, behind the chairman, a crucifix, highlighting the importance of the Roman Catholic Church, which commands the allegiance of more than 90 percent of the population.
Nationalism and religion are the twin forces that are leaving an indelible stamp on the course of Poland's national crisis.
Meanwhile the strikers at Gdansk, the Baltic strike headquarters, and elsewhere in Poland still show no inclination to meet concessions from the state three-quarters or even half way.
On the contrary, their self-confidence and support grow all the time. New stoppages now are reported in the southwestern city of Wroclaw.
"The future of Poland is at stake," the nation was told on television and radio after 24 hours of intense activity both at Gdansk and here in Warsaw. They were spoken by Ryszard Wojna, a leading commentator and member of the party committee.
The Wojna television commentary echoed beleagured Communist Party leader Edward Gierek's insistence that, in spite of the greater freedom of discussion from now on, Poland's alliance withe the Soviet Union must remain a subject on which censorship could not be removed.
Poland, said Mr. Wonja, "is inside the security zone of a great socialist power."
The implication was clear enough. Well-placed sources with whom this writer had just been speaking reflected a much-deepened concern over the possible consequences outside the country's control if there is not a break in the crisis very soon.
It is still considered unlikely that things will reach such a pass to prompt some form of Soviet intervention.
It is still believed the Soviets are as interested as all parties here in a return to industrial peace. But, clearly, uncertainly grips many Poles.
Officials privately talk appreciatively of the restraint and good sense they see in Western government's comments on Polish affairs. [Reuter reports that American dock workers will refuse to handle cargoes to and from Poland, effective Aug. 27, to demonstrate solidarity with Polish workers.]
Only days after Sunday's leadership shake-up, things are beginning to move:
* The central union organization is setting up an expert commission to prepare detailed amendment of the union structure.
* A new labor law is foreshadowed enshrining the legal right to strike, which would be a "first ever" within the Soviet bloc but not, it is thought, likely to worry the Russians too much if all else is calm.
* One of Poland's most able and progressive economists, Josef Pajestka, dropped 18 months ago because his ideas brought him into conflict with politicians, is being brought back as economic adviser to the government's negotiating team at Gdansk.
Although the state is giving ground, the workers are not yielding an inch.
Now the church, as well as the state, is strongly urging a return to work before the situation worsens. The church is likely to be heeded more than the Communist Party.
It is emerging as the indispensable factor to this embattled Communist regime in safeguarding the national identity.
Within the last 48 hours the Roman Catholic Church has come forcefully into the picture.
In an unprecedented shift the state-run television broadcast a sermon Aug. 26 by Stefan Cardinal Wyszynski. It has never happened before. The cardinal's pilgrimage to Czestochowa was the first item in a main evening newscast. The sermon was repeated in Wednesday morning's TV program, indicating just how much the government is now counting on the church's cooperation. It was shown yet again.
Another sign of the times: Foreign television teams have been told they may film anything they want without official authorization, subject only to the wish of an individual or an institution they might with to visit.