Moscow stays cool while Polish order yields; Shake-up of Polish leadership seen as 'liberal' step to meet strikers' demands
The Sunday shake-up of the Polish government, amid mounting labor unrest, comes as no surprise. High leadership changes were regarded as inevitable in the aftermath of any acceptable settlement of the Polish strikes.
Just how high they would reach was not clear, but there was speculation that they might go right to the top of the Communist Party.
But party leader Edward Gierek has survived, and at least for the time being, appears to remain fully in control of the party and the country as a result of the Aug. 24 shake-up which involved at least four members of the ruling Politburo.
Polish Prime Minister Edward Babiuch resigned after being removed from the party Politburo. Another key figure to fall was Foreign Minister Emil Wojtasek.
The most significant of the changes is the return to the Politburo of Stefan Olszowski, the former foreign minister who was removed from the Politburo at the February party congress and appointed ambassador to East Germany. On the television presentation of Sundary night's events, his picture was the first to be screened after that of Mr. Gierek. He was aman formerly credited with "liberal" trends and is now seen as Mr Gierek's likely successor.
[Reuter reports that Mr. Gierek also promised free trade unions with elections by secret ballot.]
In addition to three new deputy premiers, the Communist leader also appointed new controllers in charge of television and radio -- changes calculated to lead a more open system of public information.
Aside from the Cabinet reshuffle, far reaching changes in the council at the head of the official labor union structure now are virtually certain.
There also seems no doubt in view of the strikers' solidarity that the government will have to give some ground if it is to get industrial peace on the Baltic before the strike fervor spreads to the miners and steel workers in the south.
In a significantly pointed weekend comment, the party newspaper Trybuna Ludu echoed the strikers' grievances against the unions saying that they had developed "bad habits," sometimes in "downright docility" in their dealings with management.
That is an euphemistic understatement but it goes to the crux of the demand for independent unions. Like so much here this past two weeks it is also an admission without precedent in the long troubled record of the regime's labor relations.
Before the latest shake-up, party sources discounted suggestions that Mr. Gierek's position parallels that of his predecessor, Wladyslaw Gomulka, when he was dismissed in late 1970 as a result of the workers' riots in the same Baltic ports that are again in the "front line."
"The party leadership is working intensively on a political solution of the crisis," a senior official told me late Aug. 23, "and that work is being inspired and led by Mr. Gierek personally."
That statement had its own ambivalence, and he declined to carry it further.
Even without violence, however, the present situation is every bit as grave as 1970. Most people agree that, for a variety of reasons, it is even more serious. But it is plain that while Mr. Gomulka was personally identified with the worst "mistakes" of the late 1960s and the decision to use force, Mr. Gierek is not seen as "personally responsible" now, but as part of a "collective leadership."
"Nor has there been any shooting," the spokesman added. True, but again the argument begs the question, since four years ago some violence was employed to break strikes over the same issues and grievances behind the present total shutdown of the northern shipyards and industries.
Moreover, severely repressive measures followed in 1976 and are not forgotten. The leader of today's Interfactory Strike Committee, Lech Walesa, was among those dismissed from their jobs because of their involvement.
Mr. Gierek's future may be clarified by meetings early this week of the party Politburo and the central committee to which the government negotiator is to report on his opening 2 1/2 hours of talks with the strike leaders Saturday evening.