Poland's `economic' decision to close shipyard is laced with politics
Paris — The announcement was phrased to please visiting Margaret Thatcher or any other confirmed capitalist. ``From Dec. 1,'' declared the official PAP agency, the Lenin Shipyard in Gdansk will be closed ``in conformance with the Bankruptcy Law.'' But this is much more than a simple economic decision. It is a huge political gamble which could sabotage planned ``round-table'' talks between the banned Solidarity trade union and the communist authorities.
The Lenin Shipyard symbolizes the political struggle of Polish workers. Just outside its main gate stands a soaring steel cross dedicated to martyred workers from 1970 and 1976. In 1980, a strike at the shipyard led to the Solidarity's birth. This year, the shipyard spearheaded two waves of worker unrest.
Solidarity leader Lech Walesa, himself an electrician at the yard, denounced the decision as a ``provocation,'' adding that the union ``would defend the enterprise which is, for the union and the nation, a symbol of the fight for a new and better Poland.'' Shipyard workers are sure to agree. When this correspondent visited the yard over the summer, they dismissed the shutdown threats.
``Close us down, those are just rumors to scare us,'' said Grzegorz Szrejder, a 27-year-old welder and union activist. ``The workers won't allow it to happen.''
Now that the announcement has happened, will the workers take to the streets? The shipyard reopens Wednesday following All Saint's holiday, and Poland awaits the response. Heavy concentrations of Zomo riot police are said to be converging on Gdansk.
New Prime Minister Mieczyslaw Rakowski named a government two weeks ago, pledging to take radical measures. In an interview last week with Monitor television (see story Page 12), he said that large money-losing firms must be closed down to open up room for free-market economic reform.
``Huge branches of our industry control the whole market, and leave only a small place for competition,'' Rakowski said. ``In Italy, for example, there are thousands of small enterprises.''
Closing down large enterprises also means dealing with the social consequences of that decision. But Rakowski seems determined to avoid serious negotiations with the workers. In the Monitor interview, seemed to rule out Solidarity's relegalization.
``There is no possibility to accept two trade unions in one factory,'' Rakowski declared. ``Based on experience, I know this will lead to huge political fights.''