Poland melds party and military to brace against possible unrest
Poland's Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski has strengthened his powers while shoring up the Communist Party against possible unrest over food price rises, which take effect in January.
During a session of the Polish parliament Nov. 21 and 22, General Jaruzelski:
* Relinquished his portfolio as minister of defense, as he said he would do months ago.
* Was elected head of a new National Defense Council (KOK) through which his powers, in any emergency, will be greatly enlarged. He remains prime minister and party leader.
This new council, replacing a former military committee that had little power , in effect restores the Military Council of National Salvation, which ruled under martial law from December 1981 through last year.
This should not be seen, however, as another ''military takeover.'' It is, rather, the way in which the party itself is regaining its former commanding position - initially through martial law, and now through the KOK.
In Poland today, the military and the party have become one, and are more synonymous than ever before in Poland or in any East European state.
The new National Defense Council clearly is designed to avoid the kind of legal confusion which marked the confrontation between the government and Solidarity, starting in the summer of 1980 and culminating in martial law in December, 1981.
It will also enable the general to take more immediate action to contain any threats to party authority, such as the 1976 food price riots that were the beginning of the end for the previous regime of Edward Gierek.
The move - and the general's election - was voted unanimously by parliament, which later elected the members to serve with him.
The KOK's powers cover any future, formal need to declare a state of war. More politically significant for contemporary Poland, they will include internal security and legal, parliamentary authority - in effect, for the general himself - to order a state of civil emergency without further mandate by parliament.
A greater melding of the party and the military was signaled by Jaruzelski when most of military rule was lifted at the end of the year. Proclaiming his confidence in the generals as men who had somehow kept the country going, he said no fewer than 8,000 officers proved themselves in key posts in administration and industry.
Many had demonstrated reliability as good organizers, and the most able, he indicated, would be kept on in civilian administrative and managerial posts.
The outcome has been that generals occupy many of the key government posts they held under martial law. Apart from defense (which has gone to Jaruzelski's deputy, Maj. Gen. Florian Siwicki), they include Ministries of the Interior, Mining, Administration, and Energy.
A general runs the government Cabinet office and another, the Supreme Board of Control (over ministers and officials). Military men head both the party personnel office and its complaints bureau - i.e., the man with his finger on the ''mood of the country'' - and hold 10 of the 49 regional governorships.
All this points to a firmly disciplined, no-nonsense approach, especially as winter nears and the authorities still cannot be sure of popular reactions when new prices begin to pinch in the new year.
There is no sign so far of public response to militant underground calls for protest action and even strikes in strategic industries. Lech Walesa met with underground leaders over the weekend to call for such protests.
A shuffle of the Cabinet has replaced some of those deemed to have failed with reputedly more able, tougher administrators, both to get the economic reform moving faster and the food situation in better shape.
But Jaruzelski has said that that is up to the workers. ''Either Poles work harder or go on living with the crisis,'' he told the party committee this weekend.