The Soviet Union declared today that Poland's independent trade unions have turned to "open confrontation" with the communist government in an effort to aggravate "the political struggle" there and drive the country into the Western camp.
The brief but strongly worded Soviet statement was followed quickly by similar declarations from three other Eastern Bloc countries. This indicated that despite Friday's Warsaw Pact meeting in Moscow that appeared to give Poland a reprieve from military intervention, the Kremlin is warning the Poles anew of the risks of their experiment with liberalization of party control.
Taking direct aim at the Solidarity independent union movement numbering more than 10 million Polish workers who have rejected the old Communist-controlled unions, the official Tass press agency, in a dispatch from Warsaw, asserted that the independent movement has started a "campaign" to replace loyal trade unionists with "antigovernment" agitators.
A spokesman for the official Polish information agency, Interpress, as well as officials of Solidarity denied the Soviet accusation with one Solidarity branch calling it "a complete lie . . . aimed at misleading Polish, Russian and world opinion." [Details on Page A24.]
The Tass formulation is similar to those used by Soviet news media before the 1968 Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia, and was given added significance by quick repetition on Soviet radio. It is expected to be published Tuesday in authoritative central newspapers of the Soviet party and government.
In almost identical language, the official East German news agency condemned "counterrevolutionary groups acting inside Solidarity" just three hours after the Taff statement was distributed. The official Czechoslovak news agency, quoting Rude Prova, the Communist Party newspaper, said ominiously that each communist country shares responsibility for the fate of other communist states, and the Bulgarian news agency accused the United States of attempting to take control of the Polish economy.
At the Vatican, Pope John Paul II said he was worried about "very alarming" reports about Poland and he asked special prayers for "Poland, my country."
Tass allged it has received reports from around Poland that "counterrevolutionary groups, operating under cover of local Solidarity sections, turn to open confrontation" with local party and factory chiefs.
It asserted that "so-called 'protectors' worker's interests" had fired the guards and replaced the management of a major spark plug factory in Keilce. Tass declared that some loyal party activists who opposed this "went missing." tSolidarity spokesmen, while acknowledging there had been scuffles at the Kielce plant in September, denied any troubles over the past two months.
Under Soviet doctrine of party control of trade unions and enterprises, the charge made by Tass is a most serious one. It is aimed at warning not only the Poles, but also Soviet workers, who may have learned -- however sketchily -- of the Polish developments.
"It is indicative that a campaign has been started in a number of Solidarity committees recently to replace trade union workers by person who openly adhere to antigovernment positions," Tass asserted. "These and other facts show that counterrevolution is leading the situation in the country toward further destablizaton, toward the aggravation of the political struggle."
Because it bears such strong resemblance to Soviet press portrayals of the situation in Czechoslovakia before the 1968 invasion there under the "Brezhnev doctrine," the Tass report is considered here to be extremely important in assessing Soviet views of the continuing political struggle in Poland between the embattled and still-divided leadership of Communist Party chief Stanislaw Kania and the independent unions. It is likely there will be similar sharp outcries here in the future.
The impact of today's Tass statement is increased by reports from Washington and other Western capitals that the Soviets have brought their military units along the Polish border and in western Russia to the highest state of readiness, together with heightened prepardness in East Germany aand other Warsaw Pact countries.
Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev is on an official visit to India, pursuing Soviet foreign policy interests on the subcontinent badly strained by last December's invasion of Afghanistan. It seems unlikely here that Brezhnev would risk the possible gains of that trip which ends later this week, by ordering another invasion even as he seeks to calm Indian fears of Soviet penetration into Asia.
Kania pledged after Friday's sudden Warsaw Pact meeting here that stronger moves would be made against "antisocialist" elements in Poland, and the Tass dispatch, combined with the massive Soviet military buildup, may be designed to strenthen his hand in intimidating the independent unions and strenthening hard-liners' views within the Polish Politburo.
Today's Tass dispatch underlines anew Moscow's unremitting pressure, backed up by the real threat of an invasion, to force the unions back to their earlier position of subservience to the party.