Four out of 10 Poles now expect their country's crisis to end violently in the near future, according to a public opinion poll published here today.
The unusual poll, which appeared in the Warsaw daily Zycie Warszawa, confirmed a sense of deepening pessimism among people here following continuing conflicts between the independent trade union federation Solidarity and the communist authorities. It contrasted with a similar poll taken a year ago when only 10 percent of the respondents believed the country to be approaching "disaster."
The survey appeared to have been taken at the height of the government's latest propaganda offensive against Solidarity, during which the union was accused of being under the control of "counterrevolutionary elements" planning a "takeover of power." Since then, political tensions have eased somewhat with the passing of a compromise law on workers' self-management and a general toning down of alarmist commentaries on television and in the official press.
Today the Solidarity congress in Gdansk got down to detailed work on the union's program, which calls for pluralism of ideas, an independent judiciary, decentralization of the economy and a free press. But the original draft of the program, worked out by the union's experts, stops short of reiterating a demand made by the first stage of the congress for completely free elections.
Outlining the program, Solidarity expert Bronislaw Geremek said it was aimed at "an evolutionary process of change." Its main goal should be "reform of the representative system and the introduction of a sytem of controlling the authorities."
Sharp debate was expected on the draft theses with around 150 of the 898 delegates asking for the right to speak.
The more moderate line emerging from the congress was echoed by a relatively conciliatory statement from the Communist Party's ruling Politburo last night. The Politburo expressed concern at what it called "an escalating propaganda campaign conducted by Solidarity," but expressed the hope that millions of Solidarity members would persuade the union to cooperate with the authorities.
A marked change has been apparent in the tone of official propaganda in the last week. At one point, the party leadership alleged that the whole of Solidarity had succumbed to antisocialist forces and dialogue was no longer possible.
The line now is that the radicals represent only one faction of opinion within the union, and it may still be possible to talk sensibly to other, more moderate Solidarity leaders.
Political analysts say the party's attitude has now become one of "wait and see" pending the end of the Solidarity congress on Monday. A meeting of the policy-making Central Committee has been scheduled for later this month at which the leadership of Stanislaw Kania could come under threat if the present stage of the Solidarity congress ends with more tough resolutions.
Much depends on the attitude adopted by the congress toward the self-management law passed by parliament. Radical delegates proposed today a series of amendments to a draft resolution broadly endorsing the law, but calling for a struggle to ensure that economic power be transferred to workers' councils.
The opinion poll in Zycie Warszawa, unusual in a communist country where public opinion polling is rare, indicated that public support for Solidarity remained high but was perhaps not as solid as a year ago. Of those who expected violent conflict, 51 percent blamed the authorities, 12 percent blamed Solidarity and 32 percent blamed both sides.
Nine out of 10 respondents said tension in the country was high, but 51 percent attributed this to market shortages against only 25 percent who attributed it to continuing disputes between the government and Solidarity. Only 8 percent were frightened by the threat of war or "foreign intervention," but 40 percent expected the crisis to lead to violence "soon."
A majority of 51 percent still believed that Poland's problems could be resolved peacefully.