Poland's new premier, Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, today appealed for 90 strike-free days, reshuffled his government and promised firm action to lead the country out of crisis.
Addressing parliament, the 57-year-old general warned of possible "fratricidal conflict" unless what he described as "the present destructive process" was interrupted. In an unusual move, the entire parliamentary debate was broadcast live nationwide.
The first reaction from the independent trade union Solidarity to Jaruzelski's appealing was one of qualified welcome. Meeting in the Baltic port of Gdansk, Solidarity leaders overwhelmingly adopted a resolution banning strikes not approved beforehand by the union's national coordination committee.
The Solidarity leaders make an important exception to the ban: no approval is needed in cases involving a direct attack by the authorities on a union branch or the union's members or collaborators.
A spokesman made it clear that this provision was specifically intended to cover members of the dissident Committee for Social Self-Defense (known as KOR) who have been the subject of mounting official criticism lately, including a warning by the prosecutor general that they are under criminal investigation. Many KOR members, including the group's leader, Jacek Kuron, act as advisers for Solidarity.
[In Moscow, reliabel sources reported that military reservists called to duty the Polish unrest last August had been returned to civilian status.]
Asked about Jaruzelski's proposal for a three-month moratorium on strikes, Solidarity leader Lech Walesa said he was in favor of the idea in principle, but that the government must outline its position more fully.
"They would have to give us something in return," he said.
In fact, the wave of industrial unrest has receded signficantly in Poland during the last few days, partly due to a determined government attempt to settle all outstanding disputes before Jaruzelski took office.
Students are still occupying several university buildings around the country, and farmers demanding an independent union continue their sit-in in the southeastern town of Rzeszow. But for the first time in many weeks, no major factory or other economic enterprise is known to be on strike.
Printers have called off a strike planned for Friday to protest censorship and restrictions on Solidarity's access to the news media.
In his 40-minute speech to parliament, Jaruzelski said that over the last few months, Poland had faced extreme danger.
"We are threatened with economic chaos and fratricidal conflict. These words are not easy to say, and I am conscious of their weight and bitterness. But, as regards the future of Poland, no one can be silent or surrender to the rampant tide," he said.
The new premier said the government wanted to fulfill its promises to striking workers, but could do so only in an atmosphere of calm and work. Calling for "three work-filled months," he said the time would be used to tackle the most urgent social problems and initiate far-reaching economic reforms.
He promised a 10-point package of action including improving supplies of basic goods and raw materials, tighter price controls, boosting agricultural produce and restricting investments.
The new appointments to the government included the reform-minded editor of the weekly magazine Polityka, Mieczyslaw Rakowski, who becomes deputy premier with responsibility for information. Andrzej Jedynak, formerly minister for heavy industry, was also appointed a deputy premier.
Other changes involved the ministers of education, chemical industry, forestry, health and agriculture -- mostly areas in which there have been conflicts between government and workers.
Jaruzelski announced that the first deputy premier, Mieczuslaw Jagielski, would head a special committee coordinating attempts to stabilize the economy and implement economic plans. The appointment is significant since Jagielski negotiated the Gdnask agreement, and he is one of the few government ministers to enjoy Solidarity's confidence.
In Gdansk, Solidarity leaders made it clear that while they respect Jaruzelski, they still intend to drive a hard bargain with his government.A special session of the union's leadership will be held next Wednesday to consider the proposed strike moratorium.
In the meantime, a union spokesman called for negotiations with the government on four specific issues: Consorship, the drafting of a new law on trade unions, political prisoners and economic reform.
A Solidarity delegation will come to Warsaw on Saturday for discussions on the proposed trade union law. The union side is likely to call for the law to be drafted in such a way as to allow registration of a rural branch of Solidarity.
The Solidarity resolution also called for withdrawal of a new government regulation limiting pay to strikers to 50 percent of average earnings. This has been described by Solidarity as "an antistrike bill," but in practice it has proved impossible to apply.
Jaruzelski's television appearance drew generally favorable comments from ordinary Poles today -- in contrast to the indifference that greets most politician's speeches. But one member of parliament, Ryszard Reif, who leads the progovernment Catholic group, Pax, said some people wondered if the new premier understood that society could not be organized like an army.
"In the Army's ranks, there is no place for criticism -- but in society crisitism is the basis of normal life and progress," Reif noted