Poland again chooses moderation over confrontation
Solidarity's decision to avoid further strikes and street marches indicates that radicalism is losing out in the current Polish political and economic crisis.
Several developments have helped to pull the fuse on the growing confrontation between the ruling Communist Party and the union:
* Solidarity's national committee, at the end of a three-day session at Gdansk, called for members throughout the country to refrain from further strikes and demonstrations.
* The Roman Catholic Church is apparently lending support to government efforts to calm the crisis.
* The Communist Party Central Committee warned earlier in the week that no more strikes would be tolerated.
These events, taken together, offset efforts by radical elements in the Solidarity union to take stronger actions against the government.
The militants in Solidarity are largely influenced by the so-called "Marxist left," which has been behind the increased politicization evident in recent union decisions to go onto the streets and adopt more open antigovernment tactics generally.
This, in fact, had reached the point where a leading Catholic unionist, Kazimierz Switon, has accused Solidarity advisers from the KOR dissident organization of trying to ideologize the new union movement.
He has also raised the possibility that Solidarity might split in two -- one side remaining secular and nonpolitical, the other takign whatever political label it chose -- as an ultimate solution of the growing divisions.
Mr. Switon has gotten less publicity but is an even more legendary figure in the bid for independent unions than Mr. Walesa. He tried to start a "free trade union" in the mid-1970s. Between 1977 and 1980 he was arrested and detained 29 times.
Like Mr. Walesa (with whom he shares a working-class, Catholic background) he advocates a "step by step" aproach to achieving legitimate union aims, opposes "irresponsible" strikes over secondary issues, and believes firmly that now that Solidarity can function as a legal, normal union with its own news media, radicalism is counterproductive.
Poland's new primate, Archibishop Jozef Glemp, met Wednesday with Communist Party chief Stanislaw Kania. It was the archibishop's first meeting with the political leadership, apart from a protocol chat with Prime Minister Wojciech Jaruzelski shortly after the archbishop was appointed in mid-July to succeed the late Stefan Cardinal Wyszynski.
Mr. Kania and the archibishop reviewed the dangers, which Mr. Kania had just told the Central Committee could bring Poland to the greatest catastrophe in its frequently tragic history. They reaffirmed the importance of the cooperation initiated by the former primate, and the archbishop said he intends to continue this policy.
Such a meeting of church and government leaders had been expected sinc the previous week. Knowledge of it must have strengthened the Catholic, self-acknowledged apolitical forces that constitute Solidarity's center (the probable majority). This group, which is headed by national chairman Lech Walesa, has recently found itself taking issue with the militant and radical wing more and more.
The decision against further strikes seemed to confirm that radicalism was losing out. Solidarity even appealed to its members to work eight of the "free Saturdays" remaining this year.
Nothing is more needed. Economic output showed another near-disastrous dip of 17 percent last month, compared with July 1980, when crisis was already rumbling to the surface.
Many Poles have thought the union could well give up a few Saturdays, in response to government apepals, just as they criticized the government for not moving more quickly against the black market in food and other commodities.
The mutual distrust and suspicion that have continuously characterized government and union relations have blocked cooperation for the national good.
Facilitating such cooperation is the goal of the Catholic Church's reentry into the situation. There are also signs of renewal of the triple alliance of state, church, and union that began to emerge under the influence of Cardinal Wyszynski last year.
Mr. Walesa's latest statement, which was made after the Gdansk meeting, seems to confirm the movement toward greater cooperation. In the recent street demonstrations he was a little-seen, almost unheard-of figure, swept along against his will by the sudden wave of radical militancy.
The government gave him little support. Instead, its spokesmen and media attacked the militants momentarily uppermost in union leadership.
But moderation has prevailed again, at least for the moment. Just low long it lasts will in large part be up to the government.
Mr. Walesa provided a helpful hint when he said Solidarity's members "should [in this situation] be citizens of Poland first and unionists afterward."