Warsaw — Poland's tide of protest over food shortages and rationing failures is catching the headlines. But the most significant political development of the past week is the growing role of the Army in the Polish government and the personally strengthened position of Gen Wojciech Jaruzelski at its head.
Prime Minister Jaruzelski now has virtually all the vital sectors of government under his own control. He himself is defense minister. In his latest reshuffle he brought two more generals into the Cabinet, making four in all. And close associates are in charge of internal affairs, security, energy, and administration.
Besides the prime minister himself, the Cabinet's military figures are Gen. Tadeusz Hapalowski (minister of administration and local economy) and Gen. Czeslaw Kiszczak (interior minister). Both are highly regarded Army men.
Gen. Czeslaw Piotrowski was appointed minister of mining and energy a few weeks ago when Prime Minister Jaruzelski made the first of some big structural changes in government involving abolition or merger of various departments in the interests of efficiency.
A close Jaruzelski associate, Mieczyslaw Rakowski, who was made vice-premier in February when Jaruzelski took office, remains in charge of government relations with the press and the trade unions, including the dominant Solidarity organization.
Yet another associate, the distinguished professor Antoni Rajkiewicz, is brought in now as his principal economic adviser.
The premier's enhanced position was further demonstrated by his rejection of several candidates put to him as foreign minister in place of Josef Czyrek, who was elevated to the Politburo at the recent party congress.
For the time being, therefore, Mr. Czyrek is carrying on. But General Jaruzelski is known to have his own choice for the Foreign Ministry in mind and will -- he has indicated -- name him in due course.
One of the more significant results of the party congress was a diminishment to some extent of the rank and power conventionally attaching to a place in the Politburo, as in all the ruling communist parties, the Polish included, until now.
Party leader Stanislaw Kania and General Jaruzelski remain the established, foremost figures in this Politburo. But few other "old guard" members survived the party congress. Today half its members are newcomers. They are professional and grass-roots representatives from the provinces, not the customary old types with some base of their own in the party nationally.
General Jaruzelski's appointment as prime minister was widely welcomed by Poles at the time. Army and uniform are respected here, almost regardless of politics. And Poles lately -- with the liberation anniversary and this weekend's nationwide tribute to the heroic Warsaw uprising of August 1944 -- have been greatly reminded of it.
The economic situation has dramatically worsened through the general's near six months in office, especially in this last month of collapse in the national food supply. But his own standing in the public mind seems unimpaired.
His now obviously stronger position and the distinctly military presence in his new Cabinet is apparently seen by many Poles as a hopeful sign that a display of stronger government able to cope with their present trials is at hand.