Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski won a confidence vote after he offered to resign over his government's controversial offer to reinstate Solidarity.
Solidarity Chairman Lech Walesa did not immediately comment on Wednesday's vote by the Communist Party's governing Central Committee on a resolution to end the seven-year ban on the trade union.During an acrimonious debate, the Central Committee spent two days devising conditions for restoring legal status to Solidarity - Poland's most potent opposition force and the only independent labor movement ever allowed in the Soviet bloc.
Prime Minister Mieczyslaw Rakowski has offered to legalize Solidarity for a two-year trial on condition it declare support for socialism, observe a strike moratorium and give up Western financial aid, which has exceeded $1 million a year. He recommended the offer so long as the union agrees to act as a partner, not a "political opponent."
Some Solidarity activists have described the conditions as unacceptable, even "laughable," saying the right to strike is fundamental to a trade union.
On Wednesday, chief party ideologist Marian Orzechowski said the Central Committee had paved the way for granting the union movement legal status.
"We don't know the reaction of the other side yet," he said on state radio. "But I think that the most important thing has been said. The `magic word' (legalization) is used in the document. . . . The basic barrier that has been blocking all practical steps was overcome."
The Central Committee passed the resolution on political and union freedoms by a vote of 143-42.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Charles Redman said the Polish leadership's "stated willingness to relegalize the Solidarity trade union under certain conditions is a step forward. . . . Relegalization would be a major achievement on the road to Poland's reform and recovery."
Solidarity, born during the summer of 1980 in a wave of strikes nationwide, was crushed in a December 1981 military crackdown and banned in 1982.
But the movement that once claimed the membership of one in three Poles has remained active, first as an underground organization, then increasingly in the open. Recently, Walesa has been treated as a member of the "constructive opposition" whose views are carried by the state-run media.
In an unusually candid description of the Central Committee debate, the official PAP news agency reported "accusations that party policy was incomprehensible, faulty and often contradictory of the expectations and view of party members."
The agency said the doubts of committee members were justified by the "bad experiences" of 1980 and 1981, when Solidarity pressured the government with strike threats.
The accusations prompted Jaruzelski, Rakowski and other members of the party's ruling Politburo to offer to step down, the news agency said. But the 230-member Central Committee gave Jaruzelski's government a unanimous vote of confidence with four abstentions.