Cautiously avoiding answers that could cause them political problems at home, officials of Solidarity, the Polish workers' union, met the American press on its own ground yesterday.
It was the polish workers' first exposure to an American news conference and, by most estimates, they evaded questions with the verbal dexterity of a veteran Washington politician.
The four-member Solidarity delegation, including an interpreter, was invited here by the International Metalworkers' Federation, which is holding its 25th triennial World Congress at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill.
The conference's 500 delegates, representing many of the noncommunist world's largest industrial unions, approved a resolution yesterday expressing "deep admiration for the workers of Poland in their historic achievement in forming the independent, self-governing union, Solidarity." And at the news conference, IMF President Eugen Loderer gave the Solidarity members additional support by protecting them the one time persistent reporters came close to extracting a solid answer on the union's relationship with the Polish government.
"I'm in full agreement with you that this is a very special political event," Loderer said of the formation of Solidarity. But, he said, "I would like to ask you not to ask too much of our Polish friends, for the simple reason that trade unions as we understand them in the free world are still to be established over there."
For most of the conference, the Solidarity members, led by Mieczyslaw Gil, a steelworker who is president of Solidarity's Cracow region, did a pretty good job of protecting themselves.
"Solidarity is not a classis trade union movement" because of its size, about 10 million immediate members, and the numerous social-help demands that its members have, Gil said.
The greatest help Solidarity is receiving from free world unions is "moral support," Gil added.