Answering a new strike threat laid down by Polish workers, communist authorities cautioned against rash action today but made no promises that could satisfy the workers' demand for restoration of the original wording of the charter of their new independent trade union federation.
The Polish Supreme Court is due Monday to decide on an appeal by the union group, Solidarity, of a Warsaw regional court action last month that registered the nationwide organization but in the process wrote into its statute changes which, among other things, avow the supremacy of the Communist Party in the Polish state and other Communist principles.
That move provoked an outcry from union members, precipitating a threat to stage selected strikes as early as Nov. 12 if the decision were not corrected.
In an urgent meeting with Premier Jozef Pinkowski last week, union representatives received assurances of speedy consideration of their appeal by the Supreme Court. But they have held to their strike threat all the same.
Preparations have been under way this week at Solidarity headquarters in Gdansk for work stoppages in strategic spots next Wednesday depending on the outcome of Monday's verdict. The possibility of more militant action in a country still shaken economically and politically by the summer's labor upheaval has renewed fears of economic collapse or military action by Warsaw authorities with or without the participation of the Soviet Union.
Jozef Barecki, the government spokesman, stopped short in a press conference this evening of indicating what response the government would make in the event of a strike. But asked about the threat, he quoted what he said the premier had told Solidarity leaders during last week's meeting.
"The prime minister stated that strikes are not right now, that they are not a form for an exchange of ideas between Solidarity and the government," Barecki said.
"The prime minister had in mind not the interests of the state but of the public. I think Solidarity understands. I hope common sense will be the main characteristic of Solidarity and that they will not declare a strike because of a decision taken by a totally independent body," he added referring to the Supreme Court.
Polish authorities seem intent on avoiding open confrontation with Solidarity. But a more ominous warning against strikes came in a speech today by Kazimierz Barcikowski, a member of the ruling Politburo and the government's negotiator during the summer strike at the Baltic seaport of Szczecin.
"Recently, a number of people have been on the increase who -- because of political naivete or deep-rooted hostitility toward socialism -- ignore these principles and in extreme cases question them with brutal openness and undermine them," he said in a statement honoring the 63rd anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution. "No one who has preserved common sense can submit passively to this dangerous game with the fate of our nation and our state."
Authorities have taken pains to reaffirm their intention to honor the Gdansk agreement signed Aug. 31 that ended the major summer strikes and guaranteed the existence of free trade unions.
Again yesterday, party chief Stanislaw Kania in a speech to steelworkers in Krakow, said, "The new trade union Solidarity is developing. It is the working class' hope for the effective defense of their rights and interests, and we treat this union kindly."
Echoing this line, Politburo member Stefan Olszowski told party activists in Gdansk yesterday that the attitude of both party and state toward Solidarity was "sensitive and open."
At the same time, he added language clearly directed at the militant wing of the movement. "However," he said, "we must realize that close to a healthy workers' trend in the movement are antisocialist forces, jeopardizing the new trade union movement itself.
"From these elements is heard advice to escalate demands, including political ones. The demand is often backed up by threats of strikes. One should be conscious that in the present circumstances every strike can only worsen the economic siutation; every strike aims at the interests of the population and makes it even more difficult to overcome the present crisis.
"Therefore," Olszowski concluded, "the main concern of party members should be to counteract, with political methods, any attempts to strike."
While government officials have denied responsibility. Solidarity members suspect government influence on the courts in the registration matter, given the importance to the authorities of having language affirming key communist principles included in Solidarity's charter.
The union, which is the largest of the newly formed free trade associations representing from 6 million to 10 million workers, has objected to such explicit political reference on the ground that it is a nonpolitical organization. It charges the lower court with acting illegally by unilaterally rewriting the union charter before registering the group.
Solidarity has been supported in its appeal by, among others, the law faculty of Warsaw University, which issued a resolution stating that the court "exceeded its powers" and should have limited itself simply to checking compliance or noncompliance of Solidarity's draft charter with the law.
In the past, the responsibility of registering unions rested with the official Council of Trade Unions. This institution was discredited, however, by the summer strikes as being dominated by the Communist Party and unresponsive to workers' needs.
Looking around for a new forum for registration in the aftermath of the Gdansk agreements, authorities skipped the Ministry of the Interior or other existing administrative bodies such as Warsaw City Hall and, instead, designated the courts. The result is that the court system, which usually serves to arbitrate conflicts, has itself become the focus of dispute.
Authorities had been hopeful of averting a strike by agreeing to meet urgently last week with Solidarity representatives. The day-long session managed to prolong the tension over the registration issue, however, with the government insisting that final action on the matter rested with the courts.
Solidarity did win orally stated concessions on other issues of critical importance to it -- notably, permission to print a weekly newspaper, the release of printing equipment that had been held up by customs officials, plus assurances on certain wage matters. Other issues were left for later discussions by mixed Solidarity-government commissions.