Poles must tighten belts even tighter, says Cabinet minister
Stanislaw Ciosek, Poland's minister of trade union affairs, says frankly that Poles are in for a lot more belt tightening.
In a recent interview with the Monitor, Mr. Ciosek said that Poles ''have no option now but reduce standards (of living) by 30 to 40 percent . . . even up to 50 percent. This must be the basis of the economic reform. There is no other one from which we can start getting out of the crisis.''
''We have no alternative but get consumption down,'' Mr. Ciosek said. The International Monetary Fund, which has nearly completed negotiations with Poland about its entry into the world banking institution, is saying much the same thing.
Mr. Ciosek acknowledged the appeal of Solidarity, the independent trade union suspended under martial law, and the expectations the union raised. But he said Solidarity failed to draw any lessons from the former Gierek regime's ''success propaganda'' years (1971-75), when incomes soared but the increase in productivity was ''practically zero.''
''It was another case of building castles on sand,'' he said. ''Essentially, Solidarity did the same. It did not tell people they had to work better and, because of the crisis, accept lower living standards meantime. No one from Solidarity said we have to get consumption below production or that we cannot eat more than we produce.''
But he indicated the West--in particular the United States--shared some of the blame for Poland's current predicament.
The West is ''making it impossible,'' he said, for--Polish authorities to work out a realistic national, social accord to pull the country out of its crisis. The--Reagan administration is insisting that martial law be terminated, internees freed, and the Solidarity suspension removed before the West lifts the credit freeze and other economic sanctions imposed after the emergency was declared last December.
''The West's conditions are not acceptable,'' Mr. Ciosek said flatly, ''because they utterly fail to take into account the whole process at work here in Poland.''
He argues that Western attitudes are inspired almost exclusively by concern for Solidarity and its leader, Lech Walesa, whereas Poland's situation is so grave that such matters must take second place.
Trade unions must remain suspended in the present circumstances, he said.
''We are seeking a national agreement determined not just by politicians--not by (martial law chief Wojciech) Jaruzelski, (Archbishop Josef) Glemp, and Walesa--but by the realities.''
Mr. Ciosek said discussion about union revival was continuing, but the government position remains essentially that published in February. That envisaged independent, self-governing unions committed to unequivocal recognition of the country's geopolitical position (i.e., as a communist state permanently allied to the Soviet Union).
The unions would keep out of politics. They would retain the right to strike, but only as ''a last resort.''
Mr. Ciosek is considerably more open and forthright than the typical communist minister. With candor he argued that Poland's most pressing need is public recognition here--and presumably in the West--that things must get worse before they can get better.
''To begin lifting ourselves off the bottom, we first must reach it so that we can then jump off from firm solid ground.
''We need an agreement with society at large, with conditions and understandings on both so we can go to the workers with a concrete timetable, say that after five, perhaps four, years of reduced consumption we can begin to climb back to decent standards.
''It sounds brutal, but it is correct and it is realistic. Martial law is no bed of roses, but we must use discipline instead of money because we have no money--it's as simple as that.''
He stressed the West's failure to see that Poland's situation was more complex than the issue of Solidarity, and that this lack of understanding made it harder to get on with reforms.
He acknowledged that without fresh credits Poland would not surmount its difficulties. He left no doubt that he meant hard-currency credits and technology.