Poland's military authorities today published revised plans for big increases in the prices of food and many other basic consumer items in an apparent attempt to avoid large-scale public unrest.
Under the new proposals, which are scheduled to go into effectFeb. 1, prices will rise by up to 400 percent on many items. But compensation, particularly for important groups of workers such as miners, also will be more generous.
Despite the imposition of martial law and the suspension of the right to strike, Polish leaders are clearly very concerned at the possibility of an angry reaction by workers to the price increases. Attempts at price reform in 1970 and 1980 resulted in the fall of the governments.
Most observers here, however, believe that the authorities will be able to contain any major disturbances this time. Senior officials have made clear that there will be no significant relaxations in martial law until what are regarded as long-delayed and essential economic reforms are accepted by society.
An open letter to the nation written by the government's economic committee, and published in Polish newspapers today, said that the fact that necessary price increases had been postponed so many times in the past for political reasons was one of the main reasons for the chaotic state of Poland's economy.
"This is the bill we have to pay for ignoring the laws of economics for a long, long time," the letter said.
Under the proposed price increases, which still apparently have not been finalized, the price of pork chops will go from 51 cents to $2.40 a pound. Sugar will go up from 6 cents to 26 cents a pound, chicken from 30 cents to 74 cents and milk from one cent to 6 cents a pint.
Some of these comparisons are misleading in view of the artificial official exchange rate for the zloty and the much lower monthly incomes of Polish workers compared to American workers. But they illustrate the dramatic size of the proposed increases.
Under the new proposals, all workers will receive additional compensation of at least $8 a month, and miners could receive up to $20.
In another move designed to improve food supplies, the government yesterday took a step toward compulsory grain purchases from private farmers. An official communique said that farmers would be asked to make a "grain loan" to the state against a promise of repayment at current purchase prices after 1983.
Agricultural economists have long argued against introducing compulsory grain purchases on the grounds that this could destroy the farmers' incentive to produce. The fact that the new measure has been approved by the government reflects the almost total collapse of normal economic ties between town and countryside.
According to the official figures, purchases of grain by the state are 50 percent below target--despite a good harvest last year. Since they have nothing to buy with their zlotys, farmers are either hoarding grain or selling it for inflated free-market prices.
Meanwhile, a new Solidarity bulletin entitled KOS (the Polish initials for circles of social resistance) has begun circulating here. The bulletin is short on news--a possible indication that open resistance to the military authorities is now muted--but contains plenty of advice.
One article in the new weekly includes a section on how to respond if picked up by the security authorities. It gives the following tips:
Do not sign any declarations. Signatures under duress are not legally binding, but they could be used as propaganda weapons against Solidarity.
Make use of your legal right to refuse to answer questions.
Remember that in many interrogations, the police play roles of tough cop and understanding cop. Don't fall into the trap of trusting the gentle cop.
Beware of police agents planted in your cell. Be careful about talking to fellow prisoners whom you do not know.
Another Solidarity bulletin reported that kindergarten teachers in the southwestern town of Wroclaw had been summoned to a meeting with local military commissars. It was suggested to them that they ask children to spy on their parents-- inquiring, for example, whether their parents use typewriters at home.
Wroclaw Solidarity leaders answered official allegations of embezzling $1 million of union funds in the same bulletin. They replied that the money was withdrawn from a bank account on Dec. 3 after union officials received a hint that it might be frozen.
The money would be used to help the families of detainees, the bulletin said.
Another Solidarity bulletin, "Commentary on Current Events," published an appeal to union members to follow the example of Lech Walesa, head of Solidarity, and refuse to hold any talks with the authorities until basic demands are met. According to the government, some Solidarity activists have already opened informal negotiations on the possibility of reactivating some local union branches.
News services also reported:
The official newspaper of the Polish Communist Party published an article on former party leader Wladyslaw Gomulka, who was deposed in 1970 following bloody riots over price increases. He was described by the paper as "an ardent internationalist and a patriot-Communist."
The praise for Gomulka appeared in an article on his life and political activity published in the context of the 40th anniversary of the Polish Workers' Party, forerunner of the present Communist Party.
Gomulka was a founder of the workers' party and helped steer Poland through its first years of Communist government after World War II.
Trybuna Ludu described Gomulka as "a great son of the Polish nation" and said he was slandered in the final years of his leadership of the party.
In a front-page article, the paper also said martial law had not halted party activities and that preparations were going ahead for a plenary session of the Central Committee.
Meanwhile, a powerful Cabinet committee said future trade unions would be strictly controlled, indicating a return to the kind of state-run labor organizations that preceded the birth of Solidarity.
A high-ranking Roman Catholic official said the government had begun transferring some of the 5,000 Poles arrested since the military crackdown to permanent internment camps, a sign that martial law might last a long time.