Share this story
Close X
Switch to Desktop Site

Polish-Soviet strains: time for Jaruzelski to take a stand for reform?

Poland is recalling its ambassador to Moscow because of the abrasive Soviet magazine attack on the Polish weekly Polityka a fortnight ago. This is what sources with close contacts with the Communist Party are saying. One Western radio report has said that Ambassador Stanislaw Kociolek is already back in Warsaw; but this remained unconfirmed at time of writing.

It is possible the envoy has been summoned home for consultation. That could be expected, given the strong reaction of officials here to the attack in the Soviet magazine New Times that ostensibly criticized Polityka for content that was allegedly ''revisionist.''

About these ads

The attack was obviously aimed at Vice-Premier Mieczyslaw Rakowski, who was editor of the weekly when most of the articles being criticized were published.

The sources say Mr. Kociolek will not be returning to his post, apparently because of internal Polish party politics.

He has been a controversial figure in the Communist Party ever since the Poznan riots of 1956. The seaport strikes of 1970 (which saw considerable loss of life) and August 1980 fueled that controversy anew.

Mr. Kociolek was among the most notorious hard-liners who lost seats on the Central Committee at the ''democratizing'' Solidarity-style party congress of July 1981. He was removed from his post as leader of the all-important Warsaw party committee in June 1982 - six months after martial law was imposed. He was soon sent to Moscow.

It is suggested that he continued to sympathize with hard-liners still in the party apparatus. Politburo member Albin Siwak, one such hard-liner, has long been known as a militant opponent of Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski's program for ''national conciliation'' and economic reforms.

Although the reforms are not so far-reaching as the pre-martial law proposals , they constitute considerable departures from orthodox forms and the tight centralization favored by the Soviet Union.

When Mr. Kociolek was posted to Moscow, some party members expressed dismay that a man so staunchly pro-Soviet and out of touch with the new mood in Poland should be sent there. If he is removed, that will reinforce the impression that Jaruzelski and the moderates identified with him are reacting strongly to the New Times attack.

About these ads

In its May 14 edition Polityka published what was seen as a firm ''reply'' that was restrained and slightly caustic but avoided any direct polemical note.

New Times is closely affiliated with the Soviet Foreign Ministry. Although Poles regard Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko as an orthodox communist who has no liking for reform - and consequently no liking for most developments here since August 1980 - they do not think he would have initiated such an attack. And certainly, it is said here, Yuri Andropov, the Soviet leader, would not.

The theory apparently is that it was through Ambassador Kociolek that hard-liners in Warsaw maintained contacts with hard-liners in the Soviet party structure. Both groups oppose the pending visit of Pope John Paul II to his homeland, and both are firmly opposed to the ''reformist'' trends they still see in Polish policy.

One such reformist trend, it is said here, is General Jaruzelski's recent backing for the so-called Patriotic Front of National Revival (PRON). Predictably, the Russians profess to see PRON as a potential rival to the Communist Party.

Jaruzelski hopes to win wide public support for PRON. The party and other news media here have just embarked on a tremendous buildup for the Pope's visit in June. An airport news conference by Jozef Cardinal Glemp, prior to his departure for Rome, was given extensive TV coverage.

It seems designed to stamp the visit with what a well-placed source described as ''one of the major factors concerned with pacifying public opinion and creating an atmosphere for conciliation within the nation.''

''The Russians think the party should be doing this alone by different means, not with the church or PRON,'' the source said.

''The (Pope's) visit and PRON are both essential parts of the process and of Jaruzelski's commitment to the Polish line for solving the crisis. . . . If the Russians don't like it, that is their business.''

But PRON has yet to strike a responsive chord among ordinary Poles. Nevertheless, it is the first body, in Poland or elsewhere in the East bloc, in which the party does not have a built-in majority.

PRON's own ideological secretary is secretary of the national council, which has 400 members, only 120 of whom are communists. Eighty-five come from the Peasant and Democratic parties, which cooperate closely with the Communist Party in parliament. Some of the remaining 200 council members are from small lay Christian groups; the rest have no particular party tag.

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