WARSAW, Poland -- Poland's last Communist prime minister warned last week that his country faced either dictatorship or a slide into anarchy and chaos that could threaten its territorial integrity.
Mieczyslaw F. Rakowski, the Communist reformer who led the party into oblivion, said he expected "strikes and demonstrations" and "more aggressiveness" to become important factors in Polish political life.
He spoke as one major labor organization, the formerly Communist OPZZ, threatened a general strike and newspapers continued to print daily strike calendars listing largely unpublicized labor protests endorsed by Solidarity.
There have been nearly 300 protests this year, not as many as precipitated the fall of communism in 1988 but perhaps enough to unsettle the fledgling democracy that succeeded it.
"These strikes could usher in not more democracy but less," said sociologist Edmund Wnuk-Lipinski, who is an anti-Communist.
Polls in June showed that the present leadership under President Lech Walesa was losing popular support, just as Mr. Rakowski's did during his 10-month term as prime minister in 1988-1989.
President Walesa stood only fifth in the lineup with a 4 percent approval rating, behind Prime Minister Jan Krzysztof Bielecki with 15 percent, as Poles protested 8 percent unemployment, a rising 70 percent inflation rate and a sharply declining standard of living.
"Bielecki's [economic] problems are the same as ours were," Mr. Rakowski said. "And opposition against his financial policy is much stronger than that against our policy."
Mr. Rakowski, 65, a veteran journalist who now edits a monthly magazine and has written a best-selling memoir, said that the world "had to accept that there will be no political stabilization in Poland in the foreseeable future."
He warned that the newly unemployed were no longer relatively uninfluential small-town workers and fresh graduates but "the real industrial workers from the huge factories. These [workers] can shake the country, and there is a real danger that they will explode."
The former premier said he saw three potential avenues down which his country might go:
"One is that there will be a coup d'etat, by persons unknown," he said. "And another is that Walesa or people around him take steps toward a kind of dictatorship" like that of prewar Polish leader Gen. Jozef Pilsudski, who imprisoned opponents but permitted parties and a free press.
Indeed, a Walesa adviser, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, recently suggested forming a "strong, decision-making body" around the president.
"We had [such] a decision-making body not long ago," replied commentator Ernest Skalski dryly in the Warsaw daily Gazeta Wyborcza. "It was called the Politburo."
The third and perhaps most likely development, Mr. Rakowski said, was that "we will live for 10 or 15 years with anarchy, $H demonstrations, strikes. From year to year, this country will decline until it is at the tail end of Europe. Everyone will be able to go abroad, earn a bit of money, come back, organize street trade.
"There will be no clear situation, no dictatorship, no full anarchy -- as it was in the 18th century. . . .And yet Poland existed then, without a stabilized economy, without policies acceptable to other powers, in an unclear limbo with a lot of slogans, a lot of speeches."
That era ended in the partition of Poland by Russia, Prussia and Austria and its disappearance as a state.
"Yes. But look at our politico-economic status vis-a-vis Germany," he said. "In the next decades, the Germans will be more powerful than we are. What does that mean for us? Maybe that in five years someone in Germany will bring up Szczecin or Walbrzych." These areas belonged to Germany before World War II, but Germany has agreed to abide by the current borders.
Mr. Rakowski said he had discussed German reunification with a Moscow official early last year. "And he said, 'Comrade Rakowski, Poles should look at the map when Poland was the Duchy of Warsaw,' " -- a tiny state established early in the 19th century by Napoleon that briefly gave partitioned Poles the illusion of independence to come.
The former premier, considered one of Poland's leading intellectuals, claimed that Mr. Walesa was failing to protect Poland from such a development. "He has been to America, to England, to France, but not to the Soviet Union, or Russia.
Mr. Rakowski also said that Mr. Walesa had not used his undoubted charisma to persuade people of the validity of his policies.
"If you explain to the people why the standard of living is going down, then you can expect that at least some of them will accept your explanation," he said.