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Poland's cautious course

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The world watches with a mixture of incredulity, hope, and concern as Poland continues to seethe with ferment and to grope for a new direction. Never before have workers in an East European communist country mounted a nationwide strike. Yet that is what Poland's new trade union organization Solidarity did recently when thousands of workers halted work for a brief hour in cities all across the nation. The astonishingly disciplined strike demonstrated that, a little over a month after the Gdansk agreement, the independent unions enjoy growing public sympathy and are a political force the regime must reckon with.

As the tug of war with the government goes on, the question is whether the communist leaders of Poland will have the political will and tenacity to reform both their party and Poland's discredited systems of economic management. Without such fundamental changes, it will be difficult for the regime to build public confidence or prevent further outbursts of unrest.

So far there has been no frontal assault on these problems. At the just-ended meeting of the party's Central Committee the new Polish leader, Stanislaw Kania, struck a tolerant attitude toward the independent unions and acknowledged the errors of the old Gierek regime. He promised investigations into the corruption of party officials and spoke of "democratizing" reforms within the party. The meeting also ended with dismissals from the 150-member Central Committee.

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