WARSAW — Solidarity leader Lech Walesa said Sunday that Poland's new prime minister, Tadeusz Mazowiecki, must prove himself in six months to a year or all that the country has achieved could collapse.
Walesa indicated that he wants to call a national strike moratorium to help Mazowiecki, one of his trusted aides and the first non-Communist prime minister in Eastern Europe in more than 40 years.
"The government can retain public trust for no more than six months to a year," Walesa told West German Labor and Social Affairs Minister Norbert Bluem during talks in Gdansk.
"After that time, the public has got to see the first signs of improvement. Otherwise, things will start to fall apart in about 15 years," reporters heard him tell Bluem.
He did not elaborate.
The two men later addressed a crowd of about 2,000 outside St. Brigida's Church.
"We now have the conditions, including a prime minister, for things to get better. They must get better. But we cannot afford economic losses at this time," Walesa told the crowd, which burst into chants of "Solidarity! Solidarity!"
Bluem told the crowd it is time to show what can be done without communism. "Marx is dead, but Christ lives on," Bluem said, raising his hand in a V-for-victory salute with Walesa.
Bluem indicated that he was in Poland to sound out the prospects for a visit by Chancellor Helmut Kohl and to find out what demands on Bonn the Solidarity-led government is likely to make. He gave no further details.
Walesa told a visiting delegation of Norwegian businessmen and union officials Sunday that he intends to appeal to the nation for a halt to all strikes, witnesses said.
Solidarity sources said union leaders are expected to meet soon to discuss how long the strike moratorium should last. Industrial unrest has swept Poland since huge food price rises were imposed by Communist authorities Aug. 1.
Strikes have begun to subside since Mazowiecki took office, but Solidarity leaders fear that labor unrest could hinder his reform efforts.
The success of austerity measures that Mazowiecki is expected to introduce depends largely on industrial peace in the country's factories, mines and shipyards.