POLAND CAREENS from crisis to crisis. No sooner is one issue between the workers and the government settled than one, two, three more rise to take it place. Less than a week ago, for instance, the two sides agreed on a schedule for work-free Saturdays and on union access to the media. But because all battles over issues are surrogates for a continuing battle over power, the argument merely led to conflict in new arenas. The particular issue that now has Poland astir involves the government's new and restricting regulations on strike pay. Solidarity members see these regulations as a plot to erode the right to strike they had earlier gained.
What complicates the struggle on the workers' side is the lack of full discipline. Not only is there a spontaneous democratic spirit at the heart of Solidarity; this is the movement's strength and pride. Its leaders also lack the logistical and organizational means to fight their battles as effectively as they might. This has placed extraordinary demands on the Solidarity leadership. It must respond to the political guerrilla war tactics of the government and party, even while it tries to build consensus and shape common policy within its own freewheeling ranks. Needles to say, the officials are well aware of this condition and are doing their best to exploit it to distract and split the workers.
The officials are also using as a political weapon the charge that the workers' strikes, some of them organized and some of them wildcat, are damaging the economy. Narrowly, the charge is true, but it is grossly unfair to make it. It is the communist system that done the basic damage to the Polish economy. Strikes are the workers' only real weapon. Undeniably, however, the charge against striking is not without a certain intimidating effect.
The Polish authorities claim that Solidarity is turning into a political party. The dynamite in this charge is, of course, that it suggests the rationale by which the Soviet Union might decide that the Polish Communist Party can no longer ensure its own formal monopoly of power. In that event, the Kremlin would be sorely tempted to authorize the use of force in Poland, with all the dark consequences that would surely bring.