Poland's independent trade union federation, Solidarity, reconvened its controversial national congress here today with delegates in a restless mood over a new law on workers' self-management adopted yesterday by parliament.
After an interval of three weeks since the first stage of the congress, the 824 delegates from all over Poland gathered again in the Olivia Sports Hall on the outskirts of Gdansk. The opening speeches made it clear that the delegates have not been deterred by an intensive propaganda campaign against Solidarity conducted by the communist authorities, with strong support from Moscow.
The delegates voted to extend a ban on official radio and television from covering the proceedings and loudly applauded a message of support from the AFL-CIO. A delegation from the AFL-CIO, headed by its president, Lane Kirkland, was refused visas to attend the congress by the Polish authorities.
A speech by Kirkland prepared for delivery at the congress was distributed by Msgr. George Higgins, of the Catholic University in Washington, a leading Roman Catholic labor figure, who said he had traveled to Poland in a private capacity. The speech, which was read at the congress, described Solidarity as the sole "authentic voice" of Polish workers.
Expressing "solidarity forever" with the workers of Poland, Kirkland said: "You have not only brought renewal to Poland. You have renewed the spirit of workers throughout the world."
Applause greeted part of Kirkland's message that said Polish glassblowers had been responsible for the first strike in American history, in 1619 near Jamestown, Va. The Poles struck for -- and won -- the right to vote in elections to the first American legislative assembly when representation had been declared limited to "those of English stock."
Much of the opening session was again bogged down in procedural issues, but several delegates expressed disapproval of the workers' self-management law passed by parliament yesterday that sanctions the establishment of workers' councils to run factories. The law included a compromise on the right to appoint directors, which has since come under fire both from some Communist Party officials and some local Solidarity branches.
The compromise, under which the government will have the final say in appointing directors in strategic industries and public utilities but not elsewhere, was approved by Solidarity's 10-member national presidium. Delegates today overrode an attempt by the leadership to confine discussion of the issue to committee and insisted that it be aired publicly before the entire congress.
This could mean a bruising floor fight, with Solidarity leader Lech Walesa again staking his authority on defending an agreement with the government.
The passage of the law also has raised delicate problems for the party leader, Stanislaw Kania, who earlier had asked parliamentary deputies to give the government virtually full power to nominate directors. Polish semiofficial sources said that his appeal was turned down by the deputies who insisted on a compromise despite his plea that it could undermine his own moderate leadership of the party.
In a speech to the Solidarity congress, the secretary to the union's policy-making consultative committee, Andrzej Celinski, pleaded for the compromise to be respected.
"For the first time in the history of the Polish parliament since 1947, the majority of delegates have rejected the government's draft, accepted the union's and didn't give in to dictatorship," he said.
The present stage of the Solidarity congress is scheduled to draft a union program and elect new leaders. Union officials said they expected the debates to be milder in tone than at the first stage of the congress, when there were calls for free elections and a message of support for independent trade unionists in other Eastern European countries.
The outcome of the congress is being awaited anxiously by the Kremlin and the Polish leadership, which has promised to prevent Solidarity from behaving as a political party. The security forces have stepped up their activities in the last few days and today joint police-Army patrols moved through Gdansk in jeeps, coinciding with the start of the congress.