Poland takes a spring break from crisis
These are delightfully sunny April days. They may be helping to encourage the lighter mood and the feeling --space has been won. This time there is hope that it may "hold" better than earlier breaks in the crisis.
It needs to. People are visibly tired.
The reasons for this week's change are the muted Brezhnev speech in Prague about events in Poland and the subsequent news that the Warsaw Pact exercises had ended.
The first -- it is frankly admitted -- was something of a surprise but very welcome. On the second, officials and ordinary Poles alike showed equal relief.
An official who is a party member remarked to this writer: "With the threat of a general strike and its inevitable consequences for the country in every way , it was natural the Russians were concerned.
"It was natural, too, that in case a Polish 'collapse' left no alternative but intervention, they should turn routine exercise into a test of coordination for whatever action might be required.
"But now, there is no strike and the need does not arise. So the maneuvers are over, and for everyone that is a matter of relief."
Now Polish leaders are reemphasizing Poland's immediate domestic problems. There are signs of growing confidence for the future. It seems to be taken for granted, after a long spell of ambiguity, that the special congress really is going to take place before too long.
There is talk that it may be a week or two earlier than the July 20 deadline announced by Communist Party leader Stanislaw Kania at the Central Committee's March 19 plenum.
There seems more confidence that between now and then the parliament is going to make a real start on "socialist renewal" -- perhaps beginning at an important session Friday with some of the reforms standing highest in popular demand.
To name but two -- the new censorship law removing most of the worst restrictions of the past, but leaving the government predictable safeguards; and the private farmers' with for their own independent union. On the latter the government seems ready to withdraw from its initially hostile stance and reach a compromise.
The agreement averting the general strike and the fact that Lech Walesa's more moderate line prevailed in the union seem to have encouraged the party leadership to take a more realistic and less hostile view of Solidarity.
"All the unions" have been invited by the party to cooperate in the planning of May Day. This includes the 1 million-strong remnants of the old official unions but means mainly the 10 million behind Solidarity.
Walesa agreed but added, "So long as it is not made into an expensive show."
Mr. Kania is visiting the Lenin shipyard at Gdansk this Thursday --his first visit to Solidarity's birthplace since he took office. It could mean a further cementing of a party-Solidarity "partnership."
May Day is the "workers' day," but some of the independent union branches are even suggesting they might put in a few hours work in the national interest.
This seems to be becoming a common theme, with the party, Solidarity, and the Roman Catholic Church moving closer together all the time in a common effort to halt the drift into the political and economic disaster so ominously close only two weeks ago.
The party "split" seems momentarily muted. Politburo members whose likely removal was rumored prior to the recent plenum have subsequently been among those touring the country to reassure the restless party rank and file that the whole leadership is serious about "renewal."
Of them, Stefan Olszowski, who is representing the Poles at this week's Czechoslovakia Communist Party congress, made a strong rebuttal of assertions that he was opposed to reform. He obviously has reservations -- certainly approved by the Russians -- about how far reform can safely be allowed to go.