Poland's Communists rally to Kania and reform -- and rebuff Soviets

The emergency meeting of the Polish Communist Party Central Committee June 9 and 10 has consolidated the power of Stanislaw Kania as party chief and kept the reform process on track.

But this rebuff to the Soviets leaves unanswered the larger question of whether continuing Soviet displeasure with Poland will prompt direct intervention.

The special session was prompted, and dominated, by a letter from the Soviet Central Committee that was almost an explicit invitation to the Poles to make changes in the top leadership. But the result was a show of support for Mr. Kania and Prime Minister Wojciech Jaruzelski, and the failure of hard-liners to derail the reform process.

The Central Committee did take full note of the criticisms and the "anxieties" of Poland's allies, and action is to follow in the areas most criticized by the Russians.

But for Poles, who read the speeches and the Soviet letter (broadcast on television and radio and published in all the newspapers June 14), the essential fact was that the leadership under Mr. Kania is intact and the "renewal" process is still on course.

A party member summed it up: "Thanks to this plenum we have avoided disintegration. It is an important step toward unifying the party around the present leadership. It paves a more hopeful way to the most important thing of all now, the [special party] congress [scheduled for july 14]."

The publication of the Soviet Letter was significant. "Everyone has to understand these were no jokes," a reformist noncommunist journalist said. "It should bring home the very strong views of the Soviet Union on certain points and the fact that we must pay heed to them.It will perhaps help damp down emotional feelings and show that Kania is politically worth supporting."

[Reuters reports from Washington that the US State Department has accused the Soviet Union of interfering in Poland's internal affairs by sending that letter warning the Central Committee of Poland's responsibility to the Soviet bloc.]

At first the meeting went predictably, with hard-liners making an early showing and meeting with no particularly forthright counterattack from the reformers.

But that changed when conservative Tadeusz Grabski challenged Mr. Kania directly. Taking his cue from the Soviet letter, Grabski said bluntly that the Politburo under Mr. Kania was "incapable" of leading Poland out of its crisis.

The debate became heated. When a break was called, Kania and Politburo members conferred outside the committee room. When they went back in, he proposed that the committee take a vote of confidence for each Politburo member. After another spirited debate -- in which strong support for Mr. Kania was evident -- a vote was taken on his proposal.

Eighty-two members voted against any votes of confidence; only 24 were for, and five formally abstained. Some 30 members declined to take part at all.

This, in effect, was a defeat for Mr. Grabski and a vote of confidence in Mr. Kania and General Jaruzelski, who also was singled out in the Soviet letter.

The committee's refusal to take individual votes preserved "unity" and avoided adverse votes that might well have befallen Mr. Grabski and other orthodox members, thereby providing fresh grist to the Russians' mill.

In reporting the conclusion of the meeting, Warsaw radio made a point of saying that the "comrades in uniform" had supported the leadership of Kania and Jaruzelski.

Seven full members of the committee are from the Army, as are nine deputy members, and 15 of the 16 are generals. General Jaruzelski, as defense minister , is their chief. Thus their support has double significance and must give the Russians further cause to think about their problems in Poland.

Messages reaching party headquarters here Thursday declared support for the results of the meeting. The Lenin shipyard at Gdansk -- cradle of the reform movement -- said, "We support the line of Kania and firmly condemn the viewpoint of Grabski as harmful to party unity."

Mr. Kania indicated a strengthening of party discipline, strong action against "forces hostile to socialism," and curbs on Solidarity activities held inconsistent with its charter, as well as support for the remnants of the old party unions.

But the question remains: How will the Soviets react to what, however circumspectly it was done, is still an independent-minded rebuff? An answer of some ki nd will surely not be long in coming.

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