The polish government has moved quickly to counter Moscow's endorsement of lingering hard-line elements in this otherwise reform-minded country. No sooner had the Soviets come out in favor of the Katowice Party Forum's attacks on the Polish Communist Party leadership, than the Warsaw regime responded by denying that the group had any real support here.Moscow, the Polish leaders seemed to be saying, should be chary of backing such a nonrepresentative group.
The Polish rebuttal came in the form of a June 2 Politburo statement condemning the group as a hindrance to efforts to rebuild party unity. The rebuttal came only one day after the Soviet news media gave approving coverage to the Katowice Party Forum and its parade of old dogma.
All this way an indirect reminder for the Russians of what the Poles told ideologist Mikhail Suslov when he visited them a month ago: Reform is here to stay and the process of "renewal" -- demanded by the vast majority of the population -- cannot be reversed.
The timing of the whole affair was interesting. The forum had been biding its time behind the scenes since November. In mid- May it met openly -- possibly with the blessing of a few highly placed local functionaries -- to formulate its first resolution.
But the resolution was not published until last week, when the nation was in mourning for its late Roman Catholic primate, Stefan Cardinal Wyszynski.
The resolution attacked the leadership of Stanislaw Kania, alleging "passivity" in the face of "counterrevolution and revisionism."
Many party organizations and other institutions reacted quickly and angrily, but top leadership made no formal comment.
That changed, however, as soon as the Soviet news agency Tass circulated a lengthy dispatch from its Warsaw correspondent that, in effect, presented the Katowice group as "healthy forces" within the Polish party. The Politburo apparently decided to nip its troublemaking potential in the bud.
The forum is one of three die-hard groups, made up mainly of older members of the party, that recently have ventured into the open in a campaign to obstruct and stem the reform tide.
Another is the so-called Grunwald Association, which claims to have 100,000 members. It cloaks conservative aims under an exaggerated patriotism and nationalism (and undertones of anti-Semitism). Leading figures in the party apparatus have questioned why it was allowed to organize.
"From the start it has promoted divisions and discord among society," commented Josef Klasa. The head of the party's press department, Mr. Klasa generally holds very progressive ideas about media latitude.
The third group, a club of Marxist intellectuals calling themselves Warsaw 80 , espouses a spectrum of conservatism, much of it considerably more tolerant and less dogmatic.
The main complaint of these "pure" Marxist-Leninists is that the party is so divided that the reformist stream is carrying it to social democracy.
The Katowice group represents the most extreme ideological views. Its organizers are mainly academics, some of them scientists, others with technocrat-managerial posts.
It is not suprising they should seem to the Russians to be the kind of "healthy elements" Stalin looked for in Yugolsavia in 1948; or the group his successors did find ready and waiting why they entered Czechoslovakia in 1968. But, in today's Poland, the forum's invective about "revisionism and rightist opportunism" and "liberal-bourgeois and Trotskyist- Zionist outlooks," as well as its open antagonism to privte farmers and the government's relationship to the Roman Catholic Church shows it to be out of touch with reality.
If any fresh confirmation of what has been evident here since August is needed, then Moscow's representatives could have seen it in the homage Christian and communist alike paid the late primate at his funeral Sunday. It was a most extraordinary demonstration of national unity -- and of the yearning of all Poles for national identity and respect for their own history.
The party has until its special congress in mid-July to overcome internal divisions. Those divisions center not on whether to reform but on how fast.
Leaders visit factory after factory to take part in debates variously described as heated, fervent, critical, and controversial, with workers bluntly warning them, "The time has come to pass from words to deeds."
The preparatory elections for the special congress in July have reached the provincial level. This time some 600 to 700 of the 1,700 delegates to the congress will be workers. That is twice the number of worker-delegates elected in previous congresses.
Under the present party charter, members of the leadership may run as delegates in the province of their choice. Some have been challenged to go back to the basic group where they began party work.
Some have complied -- notably Tadeusz Fiszbach, party secretary in the Gdansk region, where the reforms began. A committed reformer, he is trusted by local workers.
There is still some uncertainty, but Poles do not doubt that the congress will be held.
Soviet approval for the Katowice comrades is seen as designed primarily for Soviet domestic consumption.
One source here summed up: "I am convinced the Soviets are reconciled to this congress and, after it, they will count on a strengthening of the party and will want to come to some kind of understanding with it s new leadership."