Premier and Cabinet Resign in Warsaw : Lawmaker Calls for Legalization of Solidarity Unit
The government of Prime Minister Zbigniew Messner resigned today after sharp criticism of its management of the economy. A lawmaker called on Parliament to legalize the Solidarity labor federation.
The resignation of Messner and all 19 government ministers was announced in a speech by Messner to the Sejm, or Parliament.
It was the first time in Poland’s postwar history that the entire government stepped down. Messner said the resignations would make it easier for Parliament to make “proper decisions” about the government’s future.
Messner, prime minister since 1985, defended the government’s performance but conceded that there were “mishaps” in not standing up to inflationary wage demands.
Wave of Strikes
Inflation caused a wave of labor strikes in April. A second wave in August ended when authorities and Solidarity leader Lech Walesa agreed to hold broad-based talks next month that may include the topic of legalizing Solidarity.
Under Poland’s system, the Communist Party led by the Politburo is the actual seat of power and appoints the government through its majority in Parliament. The government is responsible for executing the party’s goals.
The party leadership has maintained that its goals for reforming the economy and political system have been correct but that the implementation by Messner’s government has been faulty. Recent articles in the Soviet press also have criticized the Polish government.
A new government is expected to be named in a parliamentary session later this month. It is possible that Messner or some of his ministers could be reappointed.
The outlawed Solidarity federation “should regain its proper place in the trade union movement,” Ryszard Bender, independent Parliament member from Lublin, said during a debate in Parliament on the economy and government.
“Apart from associations, apart from Solidarity . . . there is also a need to have new political parties,” he said.
It was apparently the first call in Parliament for legalizing the union since Solidarity was suppressed in 1981 by the imposition of martial law.
Joint Statement Urged
Bender urged Poland’s leader, Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, to make a joint statement with Walesa, “the first Nobel Peace Prize laureate in Polish history,” concerning Poland’s “most vital interests.” Jaruzelski smiled slightly but had no other visible reaction to the remarks.
In his speech, Messner appeared to question the recent emphasis on dialogue with the opposition. “We are paying for (the strikes) now with escalation of demands and greater chaos in the market, loss of authority of management. We again have become a symbol of anarchy in the world,” he said. “Political methods of solving tensions cannot mean tolerance for law-breaking.”
About 30 deputies spoke after the government’s resignation, with several endorsing the planned talks with the opposition. But Bender was the only speaker openly calling for reinstatement of Solidarity.
Before Messner’s speech, Parliament heard a critical report from a committee set up to monitor the government’s performance in implementing economic reform.