Solidarity, Poland's independent labor federation, tonight called for a halt to all hunger marches and strikes in an effort to defuse tensions caused by growing discontent over food shortages here.
A union communique said that Poland was in a "tragic state" and that its demand to "cease all strikes and protests" symbolized its constructive attitude in the present crisis. The union also urged its members to work an additional eight free Saturdays to help rebuild the country's shattered economy.
But Solidarity vigorously denounced the communist government as the source of the crisis and warned that it would call a nationwide strike of printers for next week if the authorities continued their propaganda campaign against the independent union.
The communique, issued after three days of meetings by Solidarity's national executive committee at Gdansk, comes before the expected visit to the Soviet Union later this week of Polish Communist Party leader Stanislaw Kania.
Over the past two weeks, Poland has experienced a wave of popular discontent that Kania described yesterday as possibly leading to the country's "greatest ever national catastrophe." The union action today appeared designed to shift public grievances away from street demonstrations over food shortages to more manageable issues such as union access to mass media.
In an apparent move to break the impasse that followed the collapse of government-union talks last week, Kania today held his first meeting with Archbishop Jozef Glemp, the new Roman Catholic primate of Poland. Warsaw Radio said they discussed matters of great importance.
At the moment, however, there are no indications when direct talks will be resumed between the union and the government.
The union executive committee also said that it has decided to coordinate future protests and that regions are supporting this move.
One potentially explosive demonstration scheduled for next week was a nationwide march on Warsaw, sponsored by students and human rights activists, to protest continued detention of political prisoners. The government had vowed not to allow the march to take place.
Today Solidarity issued an appeal to organizers to "temporarily postpone" the march, saying that "in the present, tense situation the union should oppose all actions which might be used for provocation or diverting public opinion from our country's tragic situation."
At a meeting of the policy-making Central Committee of the Polish Communist Party this week it was made clear that the authorities were preparing to take a tougher line against Solidarity. The union was accused of paralyzing the economy, slandering the government and attempting to undermine Poland's alliance with the Soviet Union. Today, the union rejected these accusations and put the blame for popular unrest on the government's economic policies. It said the union was neither trying to assume the role of a political party nor challenging Poland's foreign policy.
Rather, the communique said, it was the government's failure to carry out meaningful economic reforms and its "lack of orientation about the living conditions of large sections of the population" that are at the root of the crisis. The union warned that there was "a real danger of hunger" for the poorest segments in society.
On the crucial issue of price increases on basic commodities, Solidarity today came closer to accepting their necessity by saying that some were "justified." But the union rejected the proposed hikes later this month as ill-conceived and said they should be turned over to experts for an assessment. The union also demanded that they be accompanied by genuine reforms.