The Soviet Union's increasingly harsh propaganda campaign against Poland's independent trade union movement is aimed at many audiences, but it has only one intention: to stop the growth of the union's power in every way.
In their variety, the audiences illustrate the complexity of the challenge facing Moscow as it tries to deal with the volatile situation without using the military units poised for action on Poland's borders.
The Polish people are the principal target of Soviet propagandists. Moscow wants to intimidate the union and its leaders, while warning and also encouraging the embattled leadership under Stanislaw Kania to be tough in any negotiations. In addition, Moscow seeks to give old-line Communists reason to fear anew "reactionary" elements in Polish society.
Moscow's other targets are the rest of its East European satellites and the millions of Soviet residents, who because of continued jamming of Western radio stations have only sketchy knowledge of what is happening in Poland. Nevertheless, they harbor many frustrations because of living and working conditions in the Soviet Union.
Finally, Moscow aims its campaign against the West, in part to build excuses in the event the Kremlin should choose military intervention to bring Poland to heel.
In the past week, with Poland wracked by a new confrontation that finally ended yesterday with concessions by the government on press freedoms and a reduced work week, Moscow has been loudly signaling all these audiences as never before. On Thursday, the official Tass news agency dropped its earlier restraint to portray the Solidarity trade union movement, which has 10 million members and wide popular support, as little more than a gang of right-wing thugs conspiring to provoke counterrevolution. The harshly worded dispatch was given the widest possible circulation via the national television news and central press.
Yesterday, the government paper Izvestia accused Solidarity's leaders of "embarking on a path of blatant abuse of such an extreme method of solving disputes as the strike. In fact, it now looks as though they are unable to use any other means."
Strikes are forbidden under Soviet labor regulations, although they occur from time to time. They are never reported in the press, however. Izvestia said the Polish government has shown constant willingness to negotiate differences, but "this clearly was not to the liking of Solidarity leaders, who followed a path of confrontation and aggravation in the country's economic and political affairs."
Today, Tass continued the sharp denunciation, saying in a dispatch from Warsaw that some of Solidarity's members "as before, pursue the line of undermining stability and continue strikes."
Moscow broke its silence on the failure of the talks to resolve the issue of a "Rural Solidarity" independent union for Polish farmers. It called this attempt at forming yet another broad-based workers' organization a "political demand," deliberately intended to "split the peasant movement, interfere with supplies of farm products for town, worsening that already complicated situation to make the economic status in Poland more difficult."
The attack is part of a steady, if at first ambivalent, hardening of views against the unions that has been in progress since the crisis began last summer. But at each turn, the pace of events has moved far beyond what seemed at the time to be Moscow's clearly stated limits for what it would tolerate. As confrontation has followed confrontation, Moscow's language has taken on the appearance of 11th-hour edicts that the rush of change has brushed aside.
The first barrier to go was the admonition in September that unions must remain subservient to the party. Pravda reminded its many audiences that Lenin had said labor unions must serve as "transmission belts" from the party to the people, and that the party was the supreme authority in all matters.
When that was swept aside, Moscow increased its attacks on "outside forces," finding counterrevolutionaries from West Germany, the United States and the AFL-CIO collaborating to undermine the Polish Communist Party.
To preserve the contention that Solidarity and the other unions are still under party control legally, Moscow has not reported in detail the Nov. 10 court decision that dealt a fatal blow to party supremacy clauses in the unions' charter.
While identifying Solidarity leader Lech Walesa as early as Sept. 2 as "one of the members of the opposition group," the Soviet media seemingly had not decided yet how to deal with Solidarity.
In December, Pravda and other outlets recounted how the Polish military paper, Zolnierz Wolnosci, had declared that "the party, all patriots, and the vast majority of Poles say: yes to the process of renewal, to necessary changes in the trade union movement, including Solidarity."
But that positive picture came just after the sudden Warsaw Pact meeting in Moscow at which Kania received renewed assurances of support. Since then, the labor movement has continued to gain power, and while Kania has not veered in his loyalty to Moscow, the spate of current denunciations are read here by implication as veiled thrusts at him as well for not stemming the growth of the independent movement.