WARSAW, JULY 10 -- It was a hard invitation to refuse.
Lech Walesa, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and father of anti-communist change in Eastern Europe, summoned Solidarity members of parliament to "return to their origins."
He called them to a meeting with workers at Gdansk's shipyard -- the hallowed birthplace of the Solidarity union movement. One hundred and sixty lawmakers, 60 percent of the ruling Solidarity caucus, heeded the call last Sunday.
"The question is whether you are going to be above us . . . or should you first come back and ask what's most important -- not in your opinion, but in the opinion of those who elected you?" Walesa thundered. "One blow from the farmers or the miners will put all your laws into the wastebasket."
In the two days since the lawmakers were dressed down for six hours in the name of the working class, there has been an angry reaction among Warsaw professionals, who say Walesa and the workers he leads have fallen back on a Communist myth -- that of workers having "an unfailing class instinct" -- to usurp the authority of an elected government.
"Walesa and the workers say with pride, 'We are simple people.' I say it is high time to get a little more complicated. They do not realize that in contemporary Western life real power is held by managers and by professionals," said Sen. Andrzej Szczypiorski, a well-known writer and long-time Solidarity activist who refused to attend what he calls Walesa's "Bolshevik show."
Complaints in the aftermath of the shipyard scolding emphasize a split that has pulled the Solidarity movement apart in the past three months. The division has all but destroyed the alliance between professional and working classes that was a key strength of the Solidarity movement in its decade-long fight against Communist rule.
Walesa's chief advisers complain that control of the government has been stolen by an intellectual elite that cozies up to former Communists, while imposing unbearable economic hardship on workers.
In the government, there is grumbling that Walesa is behaving like a demagogue and thereby exciting ugly nationalist and antisemitic sentiments among Poles hard-pressed by the country's attempt at rapid transition to a market economy.
A personal power struggle has arisen between Walesa -- who has launched a campaign for the presidency -- and Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki over the pace and style of reform in this the most economically ravaged of the democratizing countries of Eastern Europe. Walesa demands improved terms for workers while Mazowiecki insists that there are no painless cures for decades of mismanagement.
A government poll this week indicates a distinct class and income split between supporters of the two leaders. Walesa's political strength is among less-educated farmers and workers living in small towns and rural areas, the poll showed, while Mazowiecki's support is strongest among the better-educated people of large and mid-sized towns.
According to the poll, Mazowiecki is by far the most popular politician in Poland, with 61 percent supporting him as a possible presidential candidate and 31 percent expressing disapproval. Walesa, by contrast, won support from only 32 percent of those canvassed while 61 percent said they did not want him to become president.
Although Walesa does poorly in opinion surveys, he has demonstrated this year that he has more power than government leaders over striking workers. Walesa single-handedly headed off a potentially disastrous nationwide railroad strike in May. Government leaders in Warsaw acknowledge that widespread strikes would scuttle economic change and probably force Mazowiecki to resign.
In a concession to Walesa's populist power, Mazowiecki last week removed three former Communists from his cabinet and lifted a cap on wage increases.
In part, Walesa's control over strikers explains why so many Solidarity lawmakers felt obliged to travel north on the weekend to the former shipyard electrician's hometown of Gdansk -- back to the hall where the union was formed in 1980.
But the threatening language that Walesa used at the union hall on Sunday appears to have backfired -- at least among a number of influential writers, lawmakers and journalists.
"The legendary strikes in the hall of the Gdansk shipyard were called precisely to make a return to this hall unnecessary. They were called to start a democratic mechanism in a free country, to make the government and parliament rule the country and to make the courts independent," Thomasz Wolek wrote in a widely quoted commentary in the daily Zycie Warszawy.
"Summoning legally elected legislators to shipyard workers -- even if these are the most prominent ones -- violates the very essence of democracy," Wolek said.
In an interview here, Sen. Szczypiorski, a well-known writer who has been the most outspoken of Walesa's critics in the Senate, said that many working people remain captives to their narrow socialist education.
"They feel that the state has an obligation to feed them," said Szczypiorski. "What they do not realize is that this country has to go through a disastrously cruel democracy for a couple of years."
"The workers are still keeping with this old Communist bias that the working class is the power in the society . . . but there is no more demoralized group than the working class," Szczypiorski said.
Mazowiecki refused to attend the weekend meeting in Gdansk. However, he has invited shipyard workers to Warsaw for a special meeting on Wednesday.