Polish solution snagged over police brutality issue

Most Poles seem to feel Sunday's meeting of the Communist Party Central Committee will determine how Poland's crisis will be resolved. But although they give cautious expressions of hope, no one ventures to predict which way events will go.

Two late developments March 26 suggest that a spirit of compromise prevails within those power centers in Poland crucial to any settlement: the Communist Party, Solidarity, and the Roman Catholic Church. These were:

1. A delay in the talks scheduled Thursday between Deputy Prime Minister Mieczyslaw Rakowski, head of the government commission for cooperation with the trade unions, and Solidarity leader Lech Walesa. Both sides, it was learned, had expressed a wish for more time.

2. A meeting Wednesday morning between party leader Stanislaw Kania and the primate of the Roman Catholic Church Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski.

Both developments immediately prompted speculation of a three-way effort to secure at least a postponement of today's threatened four-hour strike. [At this writing, Reuters reports that the independent union movement confirmed it would stage today's strike although there remained a possibility through the night that it could still be averted.]

Yet as encouraging as these signs may be, the situation remains one of almost total uncertainty. Important factors are the conflict between the government and the unions, the Warsaw Pact exercises going on in several parts of the country, and the latest shock report on how low food supplies would be should there be a general strike.

The only sure elements seemt to be these:

* The country is in the midts of potentially its most dangerous crisis in its crisis-studded postwar history.

* It is a crisis between a nation and a discredited regime, which, despite great efforts by a new administration, is still unable to win the public confidence it needs to govern effectively.

* The crisis runs deep in the party itself and, above all, in the higher leadership and in an apparatus the larger part of which is still resisting the far-reaching changes that the moderates and "liberals" know to be the last alternative to a final breakdown.

The Politburo, the 15-member group at the head of the party, has been in almost nonstop highly controversial session for the last few days.

It was still meeting late Wednesday, which explained why the resumed government-Solidarity talks were adjourned after no more than the exchange of position statements on each side.

Clearly, Deputy Prime Minister Rakoswki was not in a position to announce decisions or make gestures that might facilitate a reciprocal move by the union.

The two statements showed both sides alive to the Damocles sword hanging over the counry and ready to find a way out by negotiation. But they are still far apart on what tragically has become the focal point for public opinion -- the violence at Bydgoszcz.

The government's dilemma is that the Politburo has already pronounced on the basis of a hurried first and incomplete investigation that the police behaved in accordance with the law.

If the report on further investigation undertaken by the justice minister does not do better than that, public feeling could harden still further.

What the Politburo said fueled a mood that will be difficult to heal. It will be difficult to reduce the present strike threat unless, as Mr. Rakowski hinted, there were some official admission that the summons to the police was prompted by "a mistaken judgement" about the local activists' intentions.

Many Poles sympathize with his remark that, though appointed a mouth ago, he had worked "hardly at all as vice-premier, but rather as a fireman extinguishing greater or smaller fires."

But this latest problem, people insist, was started by those old offenders, the police. And, though a new strike will be felt most acutely by themselves -- with many foodstuffs already almost as scarce as, say, five years after the war -- the Polish people seem reconciled to it unless official responsibility for Bydgoszcz is acknowl edged.

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