Labor leader Lech Walesa today appealed for unity among Polish workers on the eve of a nationwide strike called to protest the government's economic policies and alleged harassment of his independent Solidarity trade union.
The Communist authorities meanwhile launched a propaganda campaign against the one-hour strike, which is seen as a crucial test of Solidarity's strength. Newspapers and television news bulletins denounced what was described as "strike terrorism" and called on workers to defy the union and work normally.
As preparations for the strike went ahead throughout the country, fresh details were revealed about the teams of soldiers created last week to assist regional administration. Officials said that around 880 teams had been formed with three or four soldiers in each -- making a total force of around 3,000 soldiers.
The relatively small numbers of men involved and their dispersion throughout the country appeared to run counter to suggestions by U.S. Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger after the troops' deployment that the Polish government is in "serious danger" of taking highly repressive measures against Solidarity at the behest of the Soviet Union.
While the feasibility of introducing a state of emergency has been debated on several occasions by senior party officials, and contingency plans are assumed to have been drawn up, there is no evidence that such a move is imminent.
The intentions of the new party leader, Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, are likely to become clearer over the next few days following a meeting of the policy-making Central Committee Wednesday and a parliamentary session on Friday. But it appears that he is still seeking a political solution to Poland's problems and may appoint a new, broader-based government, including independent experts and lay Catholics.
The most recent official statements about the role of the Army task groups have concentrated almost exclusively on combatting administrative abuses. The ambiguous references in last Friday's initial government statement to the troops' involvement in helping to maintain law and order have been dropped.
This slight change of emphasis would appear to suggest that, while the formation of the special task groups was partly intended as a psychological warning to Solidarity, the government is now anxious to play this aspect down. The most likely explanation is that, beneath the rhetoric of attacks on Solidarity, moves are under way to reopen serious negotiations.
The extremely complex political game now in progress, in which trials of strength are combined with renewed attempts at negotiation, was also reflected in Walesa's remarks to striking textile workers in Zyrardow. He confirmed that serious talks between Solidarity and the government would begin soon, but declined to say exactly when.
The union leader expressed support for the Zyrardow strikers, but he expressed concern about the rapid spread of uncoordinated local protests. He criticized in particular a general strike in the western region of Zielona Gora, where 150,000 workers are demanding the dismissal of unpopular local officials.
Appealing for unity, he said: "If we are united, we will win. If we lose, everyone will lose."
Tonight, television news screened pictures of the military task groups being deployed in villages and small towns. Soldiers, dressed in green army fatigues, were shown taking notes of citizens' complaints.
Each team was equipped with a jeep and consisted of an officer plus two or three assistants.
Other reports indicated that the operation appeared to have been mounted in considerable haste. The Army's deputy chief of staff in the eastern province of Lublin, Col. Aleksander Jakima, was quoted by the Polish information agency Interpress as saying that 21 task groups in his region had trained on the day prior to their deployment Monday.
The soldiers' new duty, he said, included "analysis of the illegal trade in meat and supervision of regular supplies of coal for agriculture."
Another officer in the western city of Poznan, Lt. Col. Stefan Lukasziewicz, said his men had already launched investigations into favoritism and corruption. They had settled a dispute over the distribution of sugar at a state farm and had uncovered "gross indolence" by the authorities in supplying rationed goods such as coffee and toilet articles.