The Polish Communist Party's long-awaited emergency congress has opened with a reaffirmation of its commitment to reform and readiness to cooperate with the independent Solidarity union as a partner in steering Poland out of its crisis.
But the session also opened in some disarray when the delegates failed to agree on how to elect a new leader. The conference was virtually split between those favoring immediately electing a leader direct from the floor, and those who voted for electing a new Central Committee before throwing the leadership open to a vote by the congress. At this writing the method of electing a new leader had still to be resolved.
The congress is the first in Eastern Europe where delegates have been elected by secret ballot and are meeting to set policy rather than simply rubber-stamp programs laid down by the leadership.
Nearly 2,000 delegates -- and representatives of the Soviet and East European Communist parties -- heard the Polish leader, First Secretary Stanislaw Kania declare July 14:
"We are definitely for the realization of the agreements of last August and September (settling the mass strikes on the Baltic coast and in Silesia). They represent fundamental conditions for overcomming the crisis."
Of the independent union movement that grew out of the strikes (and now counts 8 to 9 million members against 2 to 3 million in the old unions), he said:
"Our party has many times defined its constructive attitude toward Solidarity and we confirm it once more from this congress.
"We are open to all the proposals coming from the union and especially those for its active participation in shaping the social policy of our country."
He also, however, indicated regime support for the so- called branch unions -- the remnants of the former regime- sponsored Central Council of Trade Unions -- and warned Solidarity's rank and file against letting themselves be used by the "enemies of socialism" who, he said, were seeking to manipulate the union for their own political ends.
The congress is taking place in the Palace of Culture, in a vast auditorium under the towering spire in the neo-Gothic style of Soviet building in the Stalin era. The building was, in fact, a Soviet "gift" to Poland in the early years of the postwar reconstruction of the capital.
A single slogan on the face of the building proclaimed the classic communist slogan "proletarians on all lands, unite!" Inside there were no slogans and no portraits. Only a bronze bust of Lenin stood against the red background to the stage where the Polish leadership and the visiting comrades sat.
Mr. Kania's address hewed closely to the anticipated moderate line.
There were the now-customary acknowledgements that Poland's Warsaw pact allies had legitimate cause for concern as the 10-month drama lurched from one crisis to another of dangerous confrontation between the party and Solidarity. And an unequivocal declaration that Poland was and would remain an unswerving ally of the Soviet Union, which had brought it freedom and independence 37 years ago.
He praised the energy and vigor with which the workers in Solidarity pressed their demands for reform and a more just society and promised them that this was the party's foremost aim in the new program.
He harshly criticized "extreme reactionary groups" headed by dissidents as well as "some of the activists and advisers" in the independent union movement who were trying to give it the character of a political party in opposition to the socialist state.
There was more on this theme but it had all been said before and its restatement now seemed intended more than anything as reassurance for Poland's bloc allies that the party was getting back on the right road, at the same time as Mr. Kania sought to assure the nation that it had a program for getting the country out of its present social-economic plight.
"Millions of Poles, he said, "are waiting in expectation, that this congress will open a perspective of overcomming the difficulties so deeply felt by every family.
"Our allies, showing great sympathy, expect, too, that we will draw up a program for overcoming our crisis with our own forces.
"We shall meet those expectations and we shall do everything we can to match this as our national and international duty."
[Reuters reports that the congress will have to take some tough decisions on the economy and some of the options were laid before the delegates in a report that said it would be five years before the national income recovered to 1980 levels].
[The dispatch also indicated that a report released July 13 said that the cost of living might have to rise by more than 50 percent because of increases in food and other prices].
[Mr. Kania said the economy was in such deep trouble that it would be justified to declare a stat e of national threat].