With one dream come true, Poland's opposition forces face the dilemma of deciding when enough is enough.
As workers continue to strike for expanded demands in scattered locations across Poland, debate over how to restore discipline to the worker movement rages among the Catholic and political opposition that has supported labor's objectives so far.
A fundamental split has developed between those wanting to stop the demands and consolidate the freedoms already won, and those wishing to go futher in challenging the Polish communist authorities.
Meanwhile, the Polish United Workers' (Communist) Party, its authority sorely damaged by the recent strikes and the troubled state of the economy, is struggling to hold the line against new worker demands and the spread of political activism to other groups.
In this volatile mix, some here see the messy birth of a more democratic, although still fundamentally socialist, Poland. Other see a dangerously explosive, potentially self-destructive movement snowballing -- or at best evolving into a temporary fling at freedom that eventually will be co-opted by the authorities.
There is general agreement that the situation is difficult to read still because the country's traditional power relationships were upended by the strikes and the government's promise to allow independent trade unions, and these relationships remain very much in flux.
The workers' push has been unique in Soviet-led Eastern Europe not only for its key breakthrough -- the founding of independent trade unions -- but also for its function as melting pot of Polish opposition forces. Catholic priests, dissedent groups and the intelligentsia all have contributed to the movement in a joint effort never before so fully realized in the Soviet Bloc. This alliance contributed to a well-organized mass movement that laid down both economic and political demands.
With the original set of 21 demands now settled in the signing of the Gdansk agreement three weeks ago, however, the question of how to shape the new union movement is threatening to disrupt the coalition.
Citing dangers of prolonged protests, strong moderate elements in the Catholic Church and Polish intellectual groups have counseled restraint. This faction would like to stop the proliferation of demands in factories around Poland, and is advising union organizers to concentrate on laying the legal and structural basis for their fledgling free unions.
In contrast, several opposition groups believe it is impossible to restrain workers from making more demands. This faction is also pressing for the consolidation of the independent unions, but additionally, it is urging that fresh demands not be discouraged but rather rechanneled -- for instance into organizations of peasants, students and journalists -- to weaken further the control of the party over Polish life.
In some cases, workers appear to be taking no advice from anyone. Transport workers, for instance, in the southern industrial city of Katowice this week staged a wildcat strike, defying appeals by the new independent trade union committee there to go back to work.
This instance and reports of a renewal of strikes in other places reflect both the deep anger Polish workers feel toward the system as well as the lack of experience among Poles in dealing with democratic reforms. wHaving won the right to strike, workers seem to be insisting on trying it out repeatedly.
Elsewhere, though, the new union structure appears to be taking hold with more stabilizing results. In Gdansk, where shipyard workers were having second thoughts about how much money they had settled with the government for and were still dissatisfied with several of their bosses, the independent union committee persuaded workers not to walk off the job a second time.
In a town of Kalisz, where a second wave of strikes broke out, authorities were said to be eager to see a free union set up in order to have an established group at least to negotiate with.
One of Poland's leading establishment thinkers, sociologist Jerzy Wiatr, regards the new trade unions as leading to a more governable and healthier system.
"The old control is finished," he said recently. "No one thinks of going back. The new unions represent a very healthy process. With them, authorities now have someone to talk about workers' complaints. You can't talk to a crowd, but you can talk to a legitimate union."
Others are less convinced, either of the movement's positiveness or its permanence. One of the things that makes the situation so unsettling is the cleavage that exists not so much between as within the Polish Communist Party and the opposition.
"The recent package of changes created a new situation for the opposition," said Wiatr, who is director of the Institute of Social Sciences in Warsaw. s
"The lines between the moderates and extremists in the opposition had been blurred before. They all agreed that the situation as it used to exist was intolerable, and that kept them united.
"But now that some reforms have been allowed, the moderates appear satisfied. It is no longer a case of nothing to lose and everything to gain. They are now afraid of wrecking the ship by continuing to protest. The extremists don't agree and want to keep up the pressure.
"The question for them is whether what has been achieved is all that could have been," Wiatr continued. "The interesting point is that in becoming legitimized, the opposition had been split."
In the party, meanwhile, there is also a split -- between those who accept the new order and those who regard it as a tactical retreat. There is general agreement on one thing, however: that somehow the party must regain public confidence and reestablish its authority. How to do this has sparked intense debate in party caucuses and unleashed a flood of criticism about the way things have been.
A central theme in the process of party renewal is an attack on corruption and excessive privilege among the party's 3 million members. So far, the attack has been largely rhetorical, with only one high party official coming under investigation.
It remains to be seen whether party reform will go beyond cleansing corruption and lead to a more democratic organization. It also remains to be seen to what extent opposition groups will choose to operate within the party structure. Observers say this depends on both sides.
Wiatr said authorities would be wise not to persecute opposition leaders, but the oppositon will have to recognize the need for compromise, too, or the state would be forced to react.
The new leadership under Kania has launched a media attack against dissident groups, charging them with "antisocialist" aims in an effort to split the dissidents from the worker movement. At the same time, 14 dissidents arrested during the strikes were freed shortly after the Gdansk settlement.
For years, the official attitude toward Poland's dissident organizations has been ambiguous -- essentially antagonistic but, relative to other East European states, tolerant. Prominent dissidents have been periodically arrested and harassed by police, but the generally easy attitude adopted by the government has encouraged dissident organizations to flourish in recent years.
The current split within the polish opposition is represented by two men. One is Tadeusz Mazowiecki, editor of the Catholic monthly Wiez and a leader of the Catholic Intellectuals' Club in Warsaw. He belongs to the moderate faction.
The other is Jacek Kuron, spokesman for the Committee for Social Self-Defense, known as KOR. He is associated with the so-called extremists.
Mazowiecki is tall, slender, reserved and academic. Kuron is barrel-chested, forceful, intuitive and charismatic.
Both men regard the new trade unions as the start of a broad social movement but they clash on tactical considerations.
"The problem now is how to keep the trade unions strong," explained Christopher Sliwinski, a sentor member of the Catholic Intellectuals' Club and a person close to both men. "Kuron believes it is more important to keep the pressure on, to keep menacing, to wave the possibility of strike before the authorities. For Mazowiecki, the important thing is to keep authorities in a position where they will keep their promises and that means lessening tensions while insisting that everything in the Gdansk accord is followed to the letter."
When the strikes began along the Baltic Coast in August, Kuron was closely associated with strike leader Lech Walesa in the Gdansk Lenin Shipyard. They had spent months working together to politicize workers in the area.
Now that the idea of independent trade unions has achieved legitimacy, Walesa appears to want to distance himself officially from KOR. He has allied himself formally with the Catholic Intellectuals Club, which, unlike KOR, is an officially recognized group. Mazowiecki is a member of the so-called group of experts for Walesa's free union while Kuron is not, although Kuron frequently meets informally with Walesa and other members of the Gdansk union presidium.
The Catholic church, too -- the main pillar of opposition in Poland -- has been providing material support. The bishop of Gdansk gave Walesa use of a white Mercedes -- and advice. While the Catholic hierarcy took a balanced position during the strikes, expressing sympathy with strikers' demands but warning against pressing them too far, it since has embraced the new trade union movement openly.
Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski, head of the Polish Church, said a private mass for Walesa in Warsaw a week after the Gdansk agreement was signed and the two men reportedly discussed the new union organization over breakfast.
"It is the preoccupation of the church to see this society take on more responsibility for what is being done," a senior adviser to the cardinal said. "In that sense, we see the trade unions as a very positive development."
Wyszynski is said to have advised Walesa to steer away from KOR and depend on the moderate Catholic intellectuals for advice. "KOR did a great job in preparing for and during the strike," the cardinal's adviser said, "but KOR as an ally for the new unions in the future is an uncomfortable one."
In discussing his relations with the opposition groups, Walesa is noncommittal and prefers to speak in personal rather than official terms. "I have many friends," he said when asked of his relationship with Kuron now. "I can say they will never let me down and I will never let them down." n