Poland ousts scapegoats; but debate rages on how to make good on promised reforms

The leaders of Poland's Communist Party have removed some obvious scapegoats for the summer crisis. But the weekend purge in which six leading officials were dismissed falls well short of the reformers' expectations of immediate, far-reaching changes.

The party announcement foreshadowed undoubtedly substantial economic and political reform. It endorsed the emergent independent labor unions. And it promised a democratization of the party and a new style of government at all levels.

But it has not yet offered many details as to when and how all these things will be done. It is said only that the whole subject is to be opened to wide party and public discussion prior to a special party congress. No date has been announced for this critical meeting.

The dismissals from the Central Committee of six officials were disclosed after an extraordinarily tense, all-night session Oct. 5-6. It indicated the extent to which the party has been shaken by recent events and conflicting opinions about how to put things right.

Those dismissed included Edward Babiuch, who was prime minister for five months, and five associates. All had been dropped from the Politburo two months earlier. A first reaction to all this was: "But we know all about these men -- they've already been sacked. What about the others?"

During Sunday's debate at least three committee members thought things should have gone further and forthrightly said so. They even seemed to chide Stanislaw Kania, party first secretary, who, in his opening report the previous day, refrained from mentioning names. "We cannot come out of this crisis merely with promises and declarations of goodwill," said Tadeusz Fiszbach, a party official from Gdansk who played a major role in reaching agreement with strikers there.

Another, Tadeusz Grabski, critized several key "hard-liners" as being like "the worst actors, who are always the most difficult to get off the stage." Mr. Grabski, fired by Edward Gierek in February, was brought back as Central Committee secretary.

Both Mr. Fiszbach and Mr. Grabski are counted among the genuine reformers. It was widely hoped that Fiszbach would be appointed to the Politburo. Instead, two lesser- known committeemen were named alternate members to this top ruling group.

Pending further information, several conclusions may be offered:

* The confrontation between the reformers and "hard-liners" was tougher than expected. There was plenty of criticism of the Gierek style of leadership. But the assessment of his responsibility for the crisis was deferred until his recovery from ill health.

* Mr. Kania, his successor, has little option but to stick to the "middle ground" as much as possible. Throughout the strikes, he insisted on a peaceable solution through dialogue, opposing any use of force. At the latest committee meeting he stood for genuine reform as the "only way" out of the crisis. No one seems to question his sincerity.

But he also has to keep the conflict from sharpening to the point where Soviet "anxiety" about the Polish party's ability to rule prompts intervention from Moscow.

* The failure to set a date for the special party congress would seem to be a matter of crucial importance. Only a congress can alter the composition of a central committee, which at present seems uncomfortably balanced between those fighting for real reform and those ready to stand to prevent reform.

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.