Will Polish workers 'buy' unions without Solidarity label?
Warsaw — Solidarity as a name will soon be no more than a memory for the millions of Polish workers who flocked to it so enthusiastically two years ago.
Specific provisions of the government's draft legislation on the future form of trade unions are not yet known, but it is certain that the old name will be ruled out when the bill is presented to the Polish parliament next month.
The legislation will preclude the kind of nationwide mass organization with regional chapters that transformed Solidarity from a traditional kind of trade union into a movement that could be and was easily politicized.
Even the name Solidarity remains a highly emotional point to the mass of its followers, as the government newspaper Rzeczpospolita conceded candidly Sept. 22 .
But it may not matter so much - if the government fulfills its declared intentions on the essence of the new unions. As Shakespeare said, ''A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.''
Talks with workers in many parts of the country since the imposition of martial law (and the suspension of Solidarity) have convinced this writer that this may be true of Solidarity as well.
''We want our union back,'' was often the simple, direct reply to the question. ''Our union,'' they said, as conceded under the terms of the Gdansk, Szczecin, and Jastrzebie agreements, which settled the August 1980 strikes in the Baltic shipyards and in Silesia.
At present Solidarity is suspended. Behind the scenes, party hard-liners have wanted to rescind its legal status and be done with it.
But martial law chief Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski and probably most of the leadership immediately around him - whether conservative or moderately reform-minded - reject that proposition.
They are aware that any such move would provoke strong, possibly violent, reactions among the workers.
They also know that the significance of Solidarity cannot be erased simply by a change of name. Jaruzelski has repeatedly committed himself to the restoration of an ''independent, self-governing'' trade union movement.
But it would be a trade union movement that, however much the terms of Solidarity's original charter are modified to ensure closer accord with the Constitution, guarantees a meaningfully independent voice for workers in terms of genuine democracy in labor relations with the government and in social affairs generally.
Whatever name the new unions are called by - and they will almost certainly be designated by occupation, trade, and profession - the workers will accept them only if they embody and hew to the basic principles of the August 1980 agreements, on which Solidarity was subsequently founded.
That is, they must be independent unions administered and led by officials who were nominated freely and elected by secret ballot. They must also enjoy the rights normally associated with labor unions.
Eliminating its name and the organizational structure that lumped together steelworkers, dockers and shipyard men, shop assistants, and clerks will not eliminate Solidarity as a force in terms of its mass of still loyal members.
The government view, Rzeczpospolita says, is that the name Solidarity was so overshadowed by the union's lurch into politics and by underground efforts to foment resistance to martial law that any return to it is impossible.
But the paper also cited the 1980 agreements as ''the starting point'' for determining the shape of the new unions.
It quoted the Szczecin agreement, which pledged the government to acceptance of ''self-governing trade unions, socialist in character, in keeping with the Constitution;'' and the still more explicit commitment at Gdansk to ''free trade unions independent from the party and employers'' in accordance with International Labor Organization conventions on trade union freedom.
The paper also recalled the declaration of the Gdansk inter-factory strike committee that the new union would confine itself to the social and material interests of employees and did ''not intend to play the role of a political party.''
If matters had stood there, the course of Solidarity - and Poland - might have been very different. But events throughout last year ruled that out. The many disagreements and conflicts were complicated by the leadership's own political and economic failures and its own internal divisions.
Early in the year, the government offered the Solidarity internees the option of emigration. Not many took it.
In August some 1,200 were released. But the majority of the national and regional leaders remain in custody.
Whatever the draft bill's final form, a key question is the extent to which moderate elements of Solidarity's apparatus are brought into the shaping of an accord for the future.
Such elements certainly exist - as does a strong feeling for moderation among the rank and file workers - but thus far they have not been able to play any part at all.
From time to time recently, the government has announced that some local leaders have ''come out of hiding,'' explained themselves to the authorities, and returned to ordinary life. A few have been fairly well-known figures. But they seem not to have been brought into the talks about the unions.
The government has claimed that it has sought contacts with the underground activists since April but that its overtures were ignored, as was General Jaruzelski's pledge to parliament in July on independent unions.
According to Lech Walesa's wife, Danuta, little or no serious effort has been made to involve even him. The record shows Walesa was one of the union's moderates until events overwhelmed him last fall.
The draft bill may incorporate union independence and democratic, secret elections for office. But there are sensitive issues - such as the government's intention to withhold for an indefinite period the right to strike. That was one of August 1980's most cherished gains. Getting the workers to accept that as part of the deal will take Solidarity's moderates - by whatever name they may call themselves.