Warsaw's local Communist Party leader called today for a "counteroffensive" against dissendents, but the Kremlin softened its line, saying the changes in Poland were "the business of the Polish comrades."
Solidarity leader Leach Walesa, meanwhile, warned his union's 10 million members to expect a major "provocation" preceeding next month's crucial Communist Party congress, and the country's Roman Catholic bishops, in a statement after a two-day meeting, warned that Poland was facing danger and "has the right to form its own history under which the nation shapes its fate in a conscious way." They praised both the communist leadership and Solidarity for showing a "will to struggle for the sovereignty of the country."
The statements came as the party rank-and-file was wrapping up selection of delegates to the Polish national party congress that convenes July 14. The independent union federation Solidarity is also going through elections to choose its leaders officially.
Stanislaw Kociolek, the Warsaw Communist Party chief, told the delegates-selection meeting that Poland's "crisis, and our lateness and inconsistency in overcoming it, have been exploited by the opponents of socialism," according to the state-run news agency PAP.
"They are pulling up all the forces, anything they can muster, for a new offensive, for counterrevolution," PAP quoted him as saying. He called for a "counteroffensive," saying that "in this struggle, which has the trappings of an open bid for power, the vital interest of the Polish nation and state and our independent sovereign existence are at stake."
The Warsaw membership is to vote by secret ballot on whether to retain Kociolek as local party chief and send him to the national congress. He has been criticized for his alleged role in the use of force to put down 1970 food riots at Gdansk.
In one of the mildest statements from the Soviets in weeks on the Polish crisis, Kremlin spokesman Vadim Zagladin said the Soviet Union was not opposed to changes in Poland -- as long as proponents of change toe the Marxist-Leninist line.
"The danger is not due to the fact that somebody tries to hamper this process of renovation, but that the renovation is being used by some for counterrevolutionary aims," he said on national television in Moscow.
Changes are essential in any socialist society, Zagladin announced, and those in Poland are "the business of the Polish comrades" if they do not run counter to communist principles.
The secret ballot process is one of the reforms in the wave of liberalizations that have swept Poland since last summer's strikes. About 2,000 delegates are being chosen in party cells nationwide to pick the party leadership and decide whether to ratify the reforms instituted under the strike-ending Gdansk accords signed Aug. 31.
In a surprise appearance at a meeting of Solidarity's Warsaw branch, Walesa told delegates representing 900,000 regional union members to be on their guard.
He has condemned recent desecrations of monuments to Soviet soldiers in Poland as provocations aimed at discrediting the union.
Walesa also stressed the need for union unity and a refinement of protest tactics and rejected any attempt by authorities to censor the union's internal news bulletins.
As an example for revising protest tactics, he suggested that if more vehicles were needed for social services, there should be no outright strike, but car plants should halt all other production until the social service needs were filled.