Poland: labor truce holds . . . just

The defusing of another Polish strike threat has left the new prime minister's three-month truce intact -- but only just. despite the outward calm the political outlook is not auspicious. Some of the basic causes of Poland's current crisis remain unresolved.

Significantly, too, the political atmosphere now is not conducive to making a real start on tackling these underlying problems. At the core of the controversy raging within the Communist Party is the unprecedented issue of the secret ballot.

The genuine reformers within the party are insisting that even national leaders be elected step by step to the top from grass-roots organizations. They are pushing for a restructuring of the whole party hierarchy to make the Politburo answerable to the membership as a whole.

Not surprisingly those already in the Politburo, who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo, are grimly opposed to such a radical innovation. They see in this move a dangerous dilution of the party's ideological profile and its essential grip on all state administration and public life.

This has become the overriding issue. Only the special party congress can resolve the problem. But the party hierarchy is split on this issue between those who see the urgent need for reform and those who, like the Russians, would prefer to stall to gain time.

Official indecision is also inhibiting Poland from acting quickly and decisively on the political front. The recent strike threat at Radom was a case in point.

Workers there threatened major strike action if culpable officials remained in office any longer. They have, finally, been removed.

But many Poles would agree with the assertion of the Polish newspaper Zycie Warszawy that the Radom affair was yet another unnecessary conflict and one that arose largely from official indecision.

Zycie Warszawy -- Warsaw's most read daily -- hews to the general party line. It nonetheless has become the voice of the more thoroughgoing, liberal interpretation of the promised reforms.

The government, it says, was largely to blame. It said the failure of the government to produce a coherent, specific program and its tardiness in moving on vital issues such as reducing censorship had caused Solidarity to become more politicized and more militant.

Alluding to the strong feelings at Radom, the editorial warned the party it could not hope for rapport with the workers unless it held accountable those who violated basic principles of justice, democracy, and the rule of law.

The newspaper also implied that the regime's inaction was responsible for a flood of rank and file demands and initiative with which it could not cope because of its own internal divisions over the nature and scale of reform.

Many of government, in fact, recognize Solidarity's place as Poland's future labor movement. But hard-liners and liberals differ on how large a role the union can have.

Official reformers and Solidarity leaders are aware of how quickly time is passing without clearcut decisions.

Radom was the 27th of 49 provinces to oust discredited leaders. But one of the Politburo's most powerful personalities, Mieczslaw Moczar, indicated again recently that this renewal of personnel needs to be taken still further.

"All those who abused power must leave," he said. "Those who do not understand new times and the new tasks also. . . ."

The national leadership of Solidarity has frequently declared itself for moderation and compromise. But often regional issues were caught up in fundamentals of the August agreements and got out of hand accordingly.

"We must stop all strikes," union leader Lech Walesa said recently, "so the government can see Solidarity has the situation under control. We have all to concentrate on basic issues. There is a fire in the country."

A visiting West European communist referred to Solidarity's membership -- almost 10 million of Poland's workers -- as "a proletariat conscious of its national role. . . ."

Solidarity, he said, had taken official propaganda about the role of the working class -- the "vanguard of history" as Marx put it -- seriously and was "putting it into practice."

Something similar can be said of Rural Solidarity, which has constituted itself the "independent, self-managing trade union of individual farmers" despite government objections.

Its leaders claim half of Poland's 3 million private farmers. They remind the party it has always said "socialism" depends on a worker-peasant alliance. At a founding congress March 8 and 9, the farmers elected national officers -- by unprecendented secret ballot.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.