Polish leader warns radicals, soothes jittery East-bloc allies
Reform yes. But only under proper -- that is Communist Party -- control. This was the message in the keynote speech to the Polish Central Committee Dec. 1 by its leader, Stanislaw Kania.
The Communist Party meeting took place against a curiously contrasted background of apparent calm in Poland and reported Soviet moves in neighboring East Germany. According to Western allied sources in West Berlin, two big areas of the East German-Polish frontier have been closed to Western observers. The areas involved are wedged between three zones permanently off-limits to Westerners, so the whole border in effect seems to have been closed.
No reason was given when the Soviets gave notice of the moves to the Western allies' military mission in Potsdam, though it was described as only a "temporary" measure. One cautious Western assessment was that it might be part of Soviet contingency readiness for possible intervention in Poland should the crisis there take some sudden, grave turn for the worse.
But there has been no accompanying sign of military activity suggesting the kind of Warsaw Pact buildup that could be expected as a preliminary to any such move.
Against this uncertain backdrop, Mr. Kania's speech to his party's Central Committee combined both a firm warning to radicals at home and a strong reassurance to Poland's hard-line East-bloc allies. Up to the very eve of the meeting, those hard-liners were sharply questioning the Polish party's ability to cope with the internal situation and to meet the challenge from the new trade unions.
Indeed, the East German border closure is identified in Warsaw not with any military intention but as part of a psychological campaign evident in recent East-bloc comment on events and trends in Poland.
Some of these latest calculated "warnings" have reminded the Poles that the Russians were "compelled" to intervene in Czechoslovakia in 1968 to quash a reformist threat to "socialism," which is how the hard-liners view Poland's new unions and other steps toward reform.
But Warsaw, according to a Western source contracted Tuesday, showed no visible sign of anxiety.In fact, it presented a calmer, quieter atmosphere than it has for some time. "No one here is talking about intervention," the source said, "though, of course, a fear of something like that is always lurking in the back of many minds."
In his speech, the Polish leader went further than he had before to meet the allegations and fears of Poland's Soviet and East European critics.
It was, for example, the first time he had gone so far as to acknowledge the constant claim that "antisocialist forces" had gained influence and were manipulating the unions against the regime. Some union branches, he acknowledged, had been penetrated by people linked with "subversive centers" working against the party's ruling writ for the overthrow of the system.
He inferred that thesep people were behind the groups in the new union movement who wanted to keep pressure on the government to hold it to its promises of reform. Some of the unions had overstepped their powers and function in an open challenge to party authority, Mr. Kanis said.
But the party, he asserted, would not tolerate any more political strikes nor any threat of "anarchy" resulting from such efforts. All this clearly was intended, however, for Poland's critical allies as much as for the unions.
The party chief came out categorically against wildcat strikes and situations in which some of the unions have seemed to be using the strike threat as a "first resort" rather than the last resort. The more moderate Solidarity union leader, Lech Walesa, has lately repeatedly urged the latter, comparatively cautious, approach.
But the message also was clearly that the new independent unions -- like the "renewal" program in party and government administration and in social management at large -- are here and here to stay.
Poland can recover, he said, only if the unions, the party, and state institutions fight "anarchy and disorganization" together. There was an admission of the party's mistakes through the 1970s as a major contribution to the crisis. And Mr. Kania reaffirmed there would be no letup in efforts to put the party's own house in better order.
There was an underlying theme that the promised social, political, and economic reforms will go ahead. The reservation remains, of course, that change must be consistent with the "socialist" character of the system and the party's executive role therein.
In other words Mr. Kania was saying the party is firmly committed to reform but it must bear the stamp of party authority. Only in that way can a real start be made in the task of bringing the country back to stability.
The speech also conveyed a strong impression not only that Mr. Kania genuinely stands for reform but also that he is, depsite any opposition, firmly in control of the party, acceptable to all the main factions, and, even more important, the man most likely to get public support.
His acceptance by the Russians also seems evident from their grant of some $1 .1 billion worth of hard-currency credits to Poland for 1981. That is almost doule the amound of aid provided this year in the wake of the summer crisis. The Soviet Union is also making available an additional $200 million worth of goods.
This news, announced by Warsaw Radio Monday, stole a march on A European Community move to help Poland over its crisis. The idea, it was disclosed at the EC summit, is to offer 20,000 tons of butter and 40,000 tons of meat -- Poland's two most chronic shortages -- from Community surplusses at below world market prices.
But the methoed of doing this has still to be worked out, and the EC summit concluded Tuesday with a reminder of the serious consequences for East-West detente of any interference in Poland's internal affairs.