Poland: hopes of compromise endure despite angry words
Despite the latest noisy showdown between Solidarity and the government --not to mention the Kremlin's latest display of both printed anxiety and naval force -- the prospect here is still by no means hopeless.
For what now emerges from all the angry verbiage of the last 48 hours here is that a quite considerable advance wasm made on several vital issues before the government and union quit last week's talks in a huff.
And although the Russian troop-landing exercises in the Baltic near Poland and the Warsaw visit by Soviet Marshal Viktor G. Kulikov, commander in chief of the Warsaw Pact forces, might look ominous, they do not mean that Soviet intervention is being contemplated any more seriously than before.
True, it is the marshal's fourth visit here this year to confer with Poland's defense chiefs. But checking on the state of his alliance at a time when East-West relations have fallen to chilly levels can be seen as a routine part of his job. He had already visited Czechoslovakia and East Germany. Poland was an obvious next stop.
Meanwhile, despite bitter charges and countercharges about who caused their talks to close without an accord Aug. 6, both the government and the Solidarity union are saying this is merely an inter ruption -- and not a termination -- of their efforts to reach an agreement.
As soon as the talks ended, the government mounted a savage attack on the union, accusing it of overstepping its charter and desregarding its pledge to respect Poland's Constitution and its international obligations. And the Communist Party newspaper Trybuna Ludu devoted vast space to indicting the union and justifying the regime's stand on the issues.
Nevertheless, a front-page commentary in Trybuna Ludu was headlined "There is no other way." The reference was clearly to the negotiating table. One passage read: "Both sides have said they don't want to bar the way. Goodwill and common sense must prove it."
Similarly, on the other side, spokesmen for Solidarity lost no time in blaming the government, accusing it of inaction and inefficiency over the food situation. The government, it said, had thwarted an agreement by unilateral amendments to a draft communique just when "we were getting closer" on several important points.
But the union also advised branches against further protest actions, at least pending its national committee's meeting at Gdansk today. It invited the government to send representatives but, since the meeting is essentially an internal union affair, acceptance seemed unlikely.
Observers from the Roman Catholic Church may be there, as they have on similar occasions in the past. The posibility was mentioned by the new primate, Archbishop Jozef Glemp, on his return from his first visit to Pope John Paul II since his own elevation to the Polish primacy.
The archbishop spoke of people being guided by "undesirable emotions" and urged Poles to work for the good of their country. It was not the kind of forthright intervention his predecessor, the late Stefan Cardinal Wyszynski, made at earlier danger points.
But it was his first comment on affairs at a period of renewed tension, and in private conversation officials made no secret of their hopes that the Catholic Church would appeal to and support the moderates in the union leadership.
One of this country's most-experienced observers of world affairs commented to this writer: "For the Soviets the overriding issue over Poland is not Solidarity, nor even its capacity to make life hard for the government.
"The Russians simply do not know how to approach that kind of situation; the last thing they want to do is to get enmeshed in it as they would by any intervention.
"For them it is first and foremost -- and almost exclusively -- a question of the balance of power. The balance of power in Europe and in the world. If something happened in Poland to upset that balance, then -- and only then -- would they be compelled to think of taking some action. But it would still be reluctant and the very last resort."
Not only the Kulikov visit but also comments by the Moscow newspapers Izvestia and Pravda at the weekend sent political signals to Poles at large of Kremlin anxiety but to the present party leadership also that it still can count on Soviet support. Whether that support will also mean more help in coping with the desperate food situation will be made clear only after party leader Stanislaw Kania and Prime Minister Jaruzelski have been to see President Brezhnev.
Their visit was due last week but was rejigged because Mr. Kania was indisposed. A meeting of the party committee was also put back until Tuesday.
These comings and goings between Warsaw and the USSR always serve to remind all concerned that intervention could still occur if government, nation, and union "dialogue" were finally to wither on the vine.
Among the advances made in the most recent government-union talks: The government agreed to Solidarity's longstanding demand for its own regular television and radio programs, offering 30 minutes weekly on national television and 15 on regional, and an hour on national radio and 20 minutes regional. All this is quite apart from its normal inclusion in newscasts.
It suggested compromise on the union's claim to full "hire and fire" rights over enterprise directors under self-management.
But Solidarity demanded full control of purchase, transport, and distribution of foo d. The government apparently was affronted.