Compromises were reached today to defuse a general strike in southwestern Poland and peasants' demand for an independent union, easing slightly the crisis situation here.
In the province of Jelenia Gora, where workers had gone on strike over predominantly local issues, agreement was reached to turn over a Central Committee health resort to the general health service until a new hospital can be built in the area. Government officials successfully resisted demands for a newly built Interior Ministry sanitarium to be converted to general use.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court rejected demands for a rural branch of the independent trade union Solidarity, but left open the possibility of peasants organizing "associations."
It is still unclear whether this limited form of trade union will be enough to satisfy the peasants who have been demanding full parity with industrial workers. But Solidarity leader Lech Walesa called the court decision a "tie," and appealed to both farmers and industrial workers to demonstrate calm and order "so that no one can accuse us of trying to unsettle things."
Meanwhile, the official news agency PAP said that more government changes will be announced at a parliamentary session beginning Wednesday. Parliament will also be asked to confirm formally the appointment of the defense minister, Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, as premier in succession to Jozef Pinkowski.
The government came in for severe criticism of its handling of the crisis at a Communist Party General Committee meeting that ended late last night. In a closing speech made public today, the party leader, Stanislaw Kania, admitted that fulfillment of agreements with striking workers had been delayed as a result of "government inefficiency," in addition to economic problems.
But Kania also criticized Solidarity, which he accused of breaking promises not to act as a political party. He called on members of the Army and security services to defend socialism in the same way they would defend Poland's independence.
Kania's speech, combined with Gen. Jaruzelski's appointment, appears to signal an attempt by the communist authorities to chart a more consistent course in their relations with Solidarity. Needless tests of strength, like the ones over Saturday working, will be avoided, but a firmer line will be taken toward what are regarded as political strikes.
In the background, there is the hint that the party leadership will consider force if all other methods of solving the crisis fail. Jaruzelski is known to have consistently opposed using troops to break strikes, but if any Polish politican has the authority to send the Army in he is the man.
Kania made it clear in his speech that the official party line remains one of negotiation and compromise. This was reflected in the agreement reached with striking workers in Jelenia Gora.
In its argument before the Supreme Court about whether a rural branch of Solidarity could be formed, the government held that private farmers are not employes and therefore cannot qualify to form a union.
The peasants held that they are forced into dependence on the government through contractual obligations for selling their produce and acquiring agricultural supplies.
Peasant leaders, who are still staging an occupation of administrative offices in the southeastern city of Rzeszow, will consider future tactics at a meeting with Solidarity's natonal committee Thursday.
In his speech to the Central Committee plenary session, Kania said industrial output was 10 percent less last month compared to January of last year, while wages were 18 percent higher.He said this raised "a real threat of unemployment and a lack of basic goods."
Because of lack of economic resources, he said, some provisions of the Gdansk agreement that ended last summer's strikes should be considered for renegotiation.
Warning of tougher action against Solidarity, Kania said: "The Central Committee agreed to the idea of independent unions because the masses wanted them and because they promised to follow a socialist path. Solidarity promised not to be a political party, but some strikes are purely political. They also paralyze transport and communications systems, thus affecting our national defense."
He added: "If necessary, force should be used to defeat the enemies of socialism."
Kania failed to set any precise date for the convening of an extraordinary Communist Party Congress, despite his earlier promise to do so. The possibility that the Congress may be delayed beyond the target date of the end of March or early April has already drawn protests from rank-and-file party members anxious for greater democracy in party life.