Polish communist authorities drew the sharpest line yet in their mounting confrontation with the new independent trade unions tonight by vowing they would not permit them to carry out their threatened strikes next week.
The warning by the spokesman for the Communist Party Central Committee came after a wave of scattered protests and work stoppages in several Polish cities and reports of military maneuvers by Polish armed forces.
Moreover, Polish shops are beginning to experience serious food shortages that, with the onset of an early winter, are assuming dramatic proportions.
The Central Committee spokesman, Jozef Klasa, said the government still hoped for a compromise with the new trade union Solidarity. Failing that, however, Klasa said that "the party is determined for the first time since August, along with the government, to use every option at their disposal -- by means of persuasion and political and organizational possibilities -- not to let the strike happen."
Among the measures Klasa said are under consideration is an administrative move to declare the right to strike in some factories illegal -- an action that could then lead to a declaration of emergency in Poland. The right to strike was among the guarantees won by workers after last summer's strikes.
Klasa ruled out the use of force in settling the current dispute. Asked about reports of recent Polish military maneuvers, the senior party official said they have "nothing to do with the political situation in the country.
"The Polish Army will not take part in working out a political solution to the situation in the country," Klasa said, adding that "the Polish Army . . . can take care of order in the country but will not take part in a political struggle."
There is deep concern inside and outside Poland that a new wave of strikes would shatter the fragile understanding worked out between authorities and the new unions, reversing the gains won two months ago and bringing on both economic and political calamity to Poland.
The current tension centers on the issue of Solidarity's registration. The union, which is by far the largest of the new free labor organizations, was formally registered by a Warsaw court two weeks ago. But in the process, the court wrote into Solidarity's charter explicit references to the leading role of the Communist Party and other communist principles which the government had insisted should be there.
Solidarity has appealed and on Monday the Polish Supreme Court is scheduled to issue its decision. If the charter is not changed back to its original form, the union is planning to begin a campaign of selected strikes throughout Poland on Wednesaday.
Today, in a separate labor dispute, transport workers in the Baltic seacoast city of Gdansk staged a strike in a protest action for health workers whose wage talks with the government broke down at noon. The transport workers were said to be striking as a substitue for direct action by health workers who did not want to abandon hospital and medical duties.
In a televised explanation of the government's position, the minister of health tonight said the government could not afford the pay raises demanded. Already hard pressed to meet the pay hikes promised at the end of the summer strikes, Warsaw officials say their margin for further increases is slim.
In a frank hour-long talk with a small group of foreign journalists, Klasa, who became spokesman for the Central Committee two months ago after a career as both a diplomat and party activist, emphasized the government's determination to avoid confrontation with the new worker movement. On the registration issue, he stated there is still possibility for a mutually accepted compromise, although he outlined no specifics.
Polish authorities have consistently maintained the registration is a matter strictly up to the courts to resolve.
In the event the Supreme Court's decision does not satisfy Solidarity Klasa said Warsaw officials would first appeal to workers not to go on strike.
"However," he added, "there is a limit which warrants the defense of the raison d'etat of the socialist state."
Klasa said the government wants certain communist principles spelled out in Solidarity's charter to ensure that the new union operates on a socialist basis.
Solidarity, on the other hand, while declaring its willingness to abide by these principles, objects to having them stated explicitly in its statutes since, union leaders say, this would give their organization an undesired political character.
"The authorities do not want Solidarity to acquire a political character," said Klasa. "But it is a duty on their part to recognize the political system in which they operate."
Of gravest concern to Polish authorities is that new strikes would spell catastrophic consequences for an already severly crippled economy. Disastrous potato and sugar beet harvests on top of shortages in goods resulting from the summer's work stoppages have left the national economy sorely damaged.
Polish party chief Stanislaw Kania, in a speech to steelworkers in Krakow on Wednesday, referred both to this serious economic condition and the danger of further strikes.
"This right [to strike] is abused," the Polish leader said. "There are people who are set on perpetuation of tensions and organization of mass strikes. In our situation it must lead not only to political tensions, but to utter ruin of the whole economy.
"If we look at the problem from the point of view of the responsibility for the country," he continued, "if we want to keep all our obligations put down in the [summer] agreements, and cope with social expectations, this phenomenon must be evaluated as harmful to the country."