Share this story
Close X
Switch to Desktop Site

Time running out for compromise between Solidarity and government

Poland's government and the Solidarity free trade union are flexing their muscles. But both sides are aware that time is running out for them to sidestep confrontation and work together to resolve the country's mounting problems. And the Roman Catholic Church is working hard behind the scenes to bring about just such cooperation.

Solidarity, in the week since Polish Prime Minister and defense chief Wojciech Jaruzelski took over the Communist Party leadership, has decided to call a one-hour nationwide stoppage for Oct. 28 to protest against ever worsening food shortages.

About these ads

The Polish government, meanwhile, hasannounced its plan to intervene in labor unrest by sending groups of troops to trouble spots. They are meant to help distribute supplies and to act as a kind of ''peace-keeping force'' in local conflicts.

In this critical situation, the Polish primate, Cardinal-designate Jozef Glemp, has held separate meetings with General Jaruzelski and Solidarity's national chairman, Lech Walesa. According to a reliable source in contact with the Catholic Church, Glemp conveyed concrete proposals to Solidarity from the party and government leadership.

At this writing, no details had become available. But it is noted that General Jaruzelski spoke recently of ''broadening the platform of agreement'' in ways that could draw the unions, including Solidarity, and social organizations, including the Catholic Church, into a cooperative effort to meet the crisis.

The government's decision to employ troops to help resolve present unrest should not be seen per se as an antistrike operation, (though in emergency it might come close to that as a law and order necessitate). Rather it can be seen as a follow-up to the general's apparently continuing resolve to avoid use of force and to work for national consensus. The teams of troops are designed to match efforts Solidarity's moderates have lately made with their own ''union guard'' to calm the numerous outbreaks of popular agitation.

The recent situation - with unrest in some 30 of the country's 49 regions - was alarming enough. But it also became increasingly obvious that, one, the government and its media were over-dramatizing events with the insistent claim that the extremists had ''won control'' of Solidarity; and, two, that this official line could be highly counterproductive.

The decision to employ troops to resolve unrest could be a step toward ''a state of emergency'' (as union radicals claim) should its primary purpose prove fruitless. But, as announced, the composition of these military teams - officers , non-commissioned officers, and national servicemen of two full years of training - suggests a wish to convince people at large they are there, in fact, to help just as much as Solidarity's moderates.

Up to this point, relations between government and union gave a persistent impression of two people continuously talking past each other, frequently as though each was concerned only to show its own strength and test the other's.

About these ads

Mr. Walesa is still its head, but Solidarity's national committee is more militant than before its congress when - by sheer weight of personality - he held almost untrammelled authority. Nonetheless, Solidarity's final decision to limit present action to a one-hour stoppage is seen as a last minute success for Walesa's own moderate view against the radicals.

General Jaruzelski now is reportedly prepared to present Solidarity with an acceptable form of co-respons)bility in the immediate problems.

But, within the union, there are those who profess to see this as no more than a trap to weaken it. These union members want any such offer rejected. Walesa's response is that this could conceivably be part of some such maneuver but that nonetheless the overriding consideration now is that neither the government nor the union has any alternative but to try and work together.

Follow Stories Like This
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.