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Moscow looks at Polish strikes and sees a plot

Amid growing industrial unrest in Poland, the Soviet press has broken its near-total silence on the disturbances. Coverage yesterday was limited in length, largely echoing the statements of official Polish spokesmen. But it made plain Moscow's view that the strikes were political rather than economic actions, encouraged if not initiated by Poland's enemies in the West.

Repeating a frequently used argument, the Communist Party daily Pravda said Wednesday that Western radio stations were inciting the strikers to extremism. It also seemed to hint that the Polish government would respond as they did in December 1981, with martial law.

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``The sadly famous Solidarity has already tried to play on Poles' feelings. Everyone knows what came out of that,'' Pravda concluded.

The major focus of Soviet attention was the Lenin Shipyard strike in Gdansk, in its third day yesterday. The strike in the Nowa Huta steelyard near Krakow began over a week ago. Wednesday's coverage here dwelt on the danger the strikes pose to reform. Price rises are part of the reform process, Pravda stressed. The paper cited Polish economists saying the slightest step back from current policies would be a blow to hopes of curing the country's economic problems.

Reformers here have been watching events in Poland carefully for many months. They are intensely aware that economic reforms in the Soviet Union - particularly an increase in food prices, an inevitable part of price reform - could trigger similar unrest. Price reform here is still a hazy concept, but is scheduled to take place in the next two to three years.

But Soviet reformers' nervousness is tinged with confidence they can handle the problem more skillfully. They view the Polish leadership as little more than competent managers of reform, and feel that Warsaw does not really share Moscow's enthusiasm for radical change.

One prominent reformer recently compared Polish leader Wojciech Jaruzelski to Yegor Ligachev - the second-ranking Soviet leader, who is viewed as a supporter of less far-reaching reform.

They have also suggested that the degree of social polarization in Poland is greater than in the Soviet Union. Here, they say, reforms can mobilize support of a broad spectrum of intellectual opinion, while in Poland, the vast majority of intellectuals are already irreversibly alienated from the government.

Since the latest disturbances began, Pravda claimed, Western radio stations have filled the airwaves with calls to broaden the extent of protests and strengthen demands. Solidarity's ``self-styled leaders'' have ``crawled out into the light,'' Pravda says. Moscow has also accused Western radio stations of fomenting disturbances in the Soviet Baltic states and in Armenia and Azerbaijan.

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Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev may have an opportunity to see Poland's problems at first hand later this year: It was announced in April that he would be visiting Poland this summer. This will be his second visit since becoming general secretary in March 1985.

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