Polish workers are victorious -- and skeptical
Gdansk, Poland — The polish workers have won a significant victory with their workers' councils, but many of the delegates at the second stage of Solidarity's first national convention here are not yet ready to admit it.
Parliament passed a compromise law Sept. 25 Granting the workers a say in the hiring and firing of directors of all enterprises except those of strategic military or economic importance. The militants, however, refused to give it a cartle blanche endorsement when the second phase of the union convention was called to order the next day.
They insisted on a full debate, but first they wanted to hear the tapes of the meeting of the union's national committee that recommended acceptance of then new law. When the debate began Sept. 27, it quickly erupted into a free-flowing democratic debate, with militants accusing Lech Walesa and other union leaders of selling out to the regime.
Meanwhile, the Soviets are watching Poland more closely than ever before to see what comes out of this convention. They are particularly interested in how the government follows up on Moscow's latest and sternest warnings of action against political "adventurism" by Solidarity and what Moscow sees as a general wave of "antisocial-and "anti-Sovietism" in the country.
From a thoroughly reliable (non-russian) source, it is learned that President Brezhnev told Romania's President Ceausescu quite categorically last summer that military intervention in Piland was absolutely excluded.
To most experienced outside observers here that has long been pretty evident. If pressure on the Poles is to become more concrete than ideology and propaganda , it will be in the economic sphere.
Poles themselves fear that trade may be put on a basis of mutual and equal fulfillment of contracts. This would not matter much to the Russians but would create great new difficulties for this country. Poles are also concerned that aid could be made conditional on the kind of solutions the Polish leaders adopt to hold Solidarity in check and to get a firmer grip on things in general.
As the second phase of the convention got under way Sept. 26, a continued show of militancy was to be expected. There was much handclapping when the floor voted to continue to ban Polish radio and TV coverage from inside the hall , despite the national committee's apparent willingness to let in at least Radio Gdansk to provide direct regional reporting under Solidarity guidelines.
As much as anything, this sort of thing reflects the continued distrust of the regime and a skepticism about almost everything the government says or does. The harsh, uncompromising views expressed by its own principal negotiator on labor relations on the very eve of Solidarity's convention did nothing to help remove such fears.
What has made the union members so skeptical are memories of 1956, when spontaneous strike action on the Baltic coast brought promises of genuine unions and a voice in management. Workers' councils and unions were grudgingly legalized. But within two years the Communist Party had reduced them to an effective role far removed from the promised "co-decisionmaking" in their enterprises.
Conditions are very different today. In 1956 there was no Solidarity, with its mass membership and sympathy throughout the nation. Even the Russians know this public support is not to be trifled with.
Union moderates -- apparently the majority -- are hoping that, once this convention session is under way, the "fundamentalists" will have had their say and the result will be something more than mere militancy.
These realities are symbolized by the continued presence in Poland of the Soviet planning chairman, Nikolai Baibakov, who arrived Sept. 22 for down-to-earth talks with the Poles about trade and economic "cooperation" -- i.e., Soviet aid -- for 1982 and the rest of the 1981-85 plan.
An informed source told the Monitor: "Baibakov is talking, asking questions -- and, so far, giving nothing."
He will be watching a test case in the Katowice mining region. A union activist is under arrest for manhandling of an unpopular pit director. One mine is on strike; others threaten action. Solidarity demanded the unionist's release Sept. 26.
Whether the regime might have been better advised to let the incident pass is a moot point, but it is just the sort of thing by which Moscow is judging the leadership here.