SOLIDARITY'S Congress, which opens in Gdansk on April 19, takes place amidst growing conflict over the pace of democratic and economic reforms in Poland. The conflict pits the Polish trade union against the government that it helped to install after last summer's huge election victory against the Communists.
Solidarity, the country's major political and social force, is increasingly impatient and dissatisfied with the fact that Poland is only half democratic. The country's parliament is not the result of completely free elections. Its president, Wojciech Jaruzelski, is the Communist who tried to crush Solidarity with martial law decrees. He is said to be hindering quicker changes today.
So on the eve of the congress, Solidarity has gone on the offensive, pushing for speedier reforms and the final realization of a fully democratic Poland. General Jaruzelski must go, officials of the trade union say, although his mandate does not expire until 1995. He must be replaced by Lech Walesa, Solidarity's leader.
``Solidarity is definitely leaving its quiet little corner from which it has supported the government of Tadeusz Mazowiecki,'' says Jaroslav Kaczynski, editor of the Solidarity weekly, Tygodnik Solidarnosc, and a confidant of Mr. Walesa. ``It has not stopped [supporting] the government, but its attitude has changed. We need a new balance.''
The government, on the other hand, claims success with the present system and stresses the need for stability.
``We need a peaceful period to give a chance for all the changes to work,'' says government spokeswoman Malgorzata Niezabitowska. ``We do not need broader reforms but to deepen them. Parliament is working very well and Jaruzelski has been extremely loyal and worked well with the government.''
The simmering conflict was brought to the surface with Walesa's open declaration last week that he is a candidate for the presidency of Poland. A Walesa candidacy has been talked about for some time. For many, the announcement was welcome. Others, however, criticized the timing.
Zdzislaw Najder, chairman of the Lech Walesa Citizens' Committee, deems it necessary to bring Walesa into Poland's political life. ``A great political force like Walesa cannot be kept on the sidelines. For the good of Poland, Walesa has to be integrated into the political life of Poland,'' he says.
Mr. Najder's committee gathers 200 of Poland's political leaders, all hand-picked by Walesa. It functions almost like an auxiliary parliament and is seen as the nucleus of a new political party.
Solidarity's economic expert Tomasz Stankiewicz, another strong Walesa supporter, says that Walesa ``has to be president before any social disturbances occur.''
Jaruzelski, just home from an official visit to the Soviet Union, has said nothing publicly about the debate around his office. Some think he will go quietly, others say he will fight to the end.
``Let him say no,'' says Mr. Stankiewicz. ``He is the most hated man in Poland, and it would be the easiest thing in the world to organize a movement to demand his resignation.''
Jan Litynski, a veteran dissident and a Solidarity member of parliament, sees Walesa's move as a sign that the Solidarity leader is nervous about a loss of popularity and that his position has weakened. The present political setup works well, he says, but Walesa, through his action, has appeared disloyal to the government and parliament.
Respected journalist Andrzej Wroblewski, editor of Gazeta Bankowa, also favors stability and the continuation of the present system, at least for a while longer. He argues that no law has been voted down in parliament because of Communist opposition or a veto by Jaruzelski.
Mr. Wroblewski calls Walesa's action ``distasteful'' and sees his move as a sign of discontent with the growing popularity gap between Prime Minister Mazowiecki and Walesa.
In the latest poll, Mazowiecki, who was proposed as prime minister by Walesa, was supported by 90 percent of the people. And last week for the first time, Mazowiecki was mentioned in the press as a potential successor to Jaruzelski. Meanwhile, Walesa's popularity has dropped to 74 percent.
Solidarity also faces problems. But with the loss of 8 million members since it was founded in 1980, and the increasing difficulties in balancing between supporting the government and its economic policies and defending its members interests now hurt by these policies, it is experiencing an increasing identity crisis. Right now Solidarity is a government, a dominant force in parliament, a political and social movement, and a trade union.
But in the parliamentary elections expected next spring, the hope is that new political parties take over. Then, with a new parliament, and maybe with Walesa as president, Solidarity's role in Poland might be very different.
``With Walesa as president, we'll have true democracy,'' says Krzysztof Wyszkowski, a trade union veteran and journalist, who is close to both Walesa and Mazowiecki. ``With him as president, democracy will live on its own, and Solidarity will be just a trade union.''