Polish party chief Stanislaw Kania went on the road for the second day in a row today, this time to the southern industrial city of Katowice, seeking to convince workers of his sincere intentions to honor recent labor agreements and to rally Poland's Communist Party.
But continuing work stoppages in different parts of the country, along with growing membership in independent trade unions, suggested that deep suspicion between workers and authorities continues. Polish television tonight showed Kania appearing before a hall of party workers in Katowice and calling for unity within the badly shaken official trade union movement.
At the same time, the Polish press agency reported that in the Baltic port of Gdynia, where Kania was yesterday, the seamen and dockworkers' union chose last night to quit the official central trade union council and form an independent union -- a freedom now guaranteed under the labor agreement signed last week.
Among the labor actions reported today, a unspecified number of journalists' union members also have decided tentatively to withdraw from the central trade union committee and establish an independent organization.
The press agency listed 10 cities and towns where strikes persisted, but said walkouts had ended in three other places. The number of strikes reported by the government-run agency has been dwindling steadily since last week, although authorities remain openly concerned that fresh revolts will slow the nation's recovery effort.
As a sign of the government's heightened worry over the continued unrest, the Communist Party youth paper.Sztandar Mloydych, lashed out against the Committee for Social Self-Defense, accusing Poland's leading dissident group of exploiting labor for "antisocialist" purposes and nudging workers into prolonged walkouts.
Whether the labor agreements are carried out depends on more than the continued good faith of the authorities. The central question is whether Poland will be able to afford the deals it has struck.
The answer spins largely on fortune's wheel -- on good weather for harvests, on revived markets abroad for Polish exports and on the price of oil. It also hinges on the willingness of Western banks to reschedule past loans to Poland and grant new ones.
[West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt has said Poland should be helped as far as possible, replying to a letter from President Carter urging economic aid for Poland, the Federal Press Office in Bonn said today. Carter wrote to Schmidt urging help for Poland two weeks ago at the height of a strike movement on the Polish Baltic Coast.]
Implanted in the new labor agreements are the seeds of a planner's nightmare. The problem is not so simple as just finding the money to pay the higher wage and benefit scales. That simply requires a directive to the government mint.
The crunch comes rather when workers try to spend their new cash -- approximately $3.7 billion, according to Polish Deputy Premier Henryk Kisiel -- and find there still is not much to buy.
Rushing to market new consumer goods in time to meet the money increases, some of which have already been handout, is now the Warsaw government's prime economic concern. This push will require the cancellation of some large-scale investment projects in order to finance it.
Just which projects will go is under discussion still. Possibilities include everything from further development planned for the Katowice steel mills to Poland's first atomic power plant being built at Zarnowiec.
One trick to any centrally planned economy is striking the right balance between consumption and production investment. A look at what Warsaw has spent on each reveals a troublesome tilt in favor of the latter.
In shopper terms, the pattern of spending has resulted in, for instance, too many machine tools coming off production lines and not enough home appliances appearing on store shelves. Senior Polish authorities searching now to define the causes of the summer's labor unrest have put the blame chiefly on the shortage of consumer goods. Frustration over shortages was certainly a main cause but, as Western observers note, it is not the whole story.
"The balancing, or inbalancing, of the market was not by itself sufficient to explain the revolt," said one Western diplomat. "There was an ensemble of factors that seem to boil down to a basic dissatisfaction with the bureaucracy of the system.
"You have to take the revolt of the unions together with dissatisfaction with state administration, opposition to press censorship and discontent with industrial and agricultural management."
While determined to stick to the socialist system, Polish Communist Party officials are now debating in private how far to go toward a changed application of it. A top-level, 20-member party commission is currently drafting the outline for a broad decentralization of political and economic authority.
A form of decentralization was tried once before. In 1972, the Warsaw government introduced large economic organizations whose Polish acronym spelled "WOGS." Each organization contained at least 10 enterprises and enjoyed considerable managerial autonomy.
The reform failed, according to Polish analysts primarily because Warsaw central ministries could not resist overriding the authority of the WOGS. Moreover, the WOGS that dealt in exports often accumulated large hard-currency sums and how they disposed of these funds became a subject of controversy.
Under the reforms now being contemplated, there will be no WOGS but rather more freedom and responsibility granted directly to individual enterprises.
The rebalancing of the Polish economy is complicated especially by Poland's indebtedness. Warsaw has exhausted its leverage to borrow to finance reform and must operate under the burden of paying off a national debt to the West of $20 billion.
Kisiel yesterday reassured Western bankers and governments that Poland would meet its debt payments on time and not ask for a moratorium. But many of Poland's academic economic experts say the government cannot avoid a debt rescheduling if it wants to forestall still higher debt levels and meet internal demands.
"There is no question of declaring bankruptcy," said Zygmunt Szeliga, deputy editor of the Polish weekly Polityka and an economist. "Poland is a big country with big resources and wants to act seriously. But postponing repayment may become the wisest course."
Poland has remained a good credit risk up to now in large part because it has rich deposits of coal, copper, zinc, lead and sulfur and a strong industrial base. Moreover, Poland has paid its debts on time.