Soviet official calls for dialogue with solidarity; Polish reform under siege: how much can be salvaged?

The options before the Poles prior to the imposition of martial law were narrow enough. Now, with the government's desperate, last-minute effort to avert a total breakdown, they are narrower still.

There are, in fact, only two options.

* If the gamble fails, and bitterly frustrated Poles are provoked to the kind of futile resistance so prevalent in their history, the Soviet Union - however reluctantly - will have no choice but to intervene.

That would mark the end of the reform movement.

* If martial law succeeds, then there still would be a chance that ''renewal, '' already achieved to a substantial degree, could be carried further. But it would be less far-reaching politically than the founding agreements at the end of last year's strikes would suggest.

There were two sides to Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski's announcement of the state of emergency:

1. An unequivocally tough warning of no leniency for those defying the new military administration and supporting strike action or other protests.

2. Reassertion of his commitment to the moderate wing of the Communist Party, the wing to which he has belonged ever since he took over as prime minister last February.

There would be ''no turning back from socialism,'' he said, but there would not be a turning back to ''the false methods and practices'' of the Gierek regime either. That discredited regime is being held responsible for Poland's current crisis of discontent.

The emergency was declared, General Jaruzelski said, to preserve ''the basic features of socialist renewal.'' He promised that all the reforms - including economic reform, delayed by a year of government-union polemics over detail - would be continued.

Conflict has not been limited to the economic changes that are Poland's paramount need in its present situation.

Over all, the liberalizing social changes envisaged in the August agreements, there has been the struggle between the moderates, both within the Communist Party and within Solidarity, and the militants and radicals in each of these two big power groups.

There were times during the past year when party hard-liners adamantly opposed to any reform and the more extreme personalities in the union seemed to have a common political objective, i.e., ''agin the government.''

Often ''progressive'' party liberals seemed to be pressing - just like Solidarity's radicals - for too much change in areas of key sensitivity to the Russians. Moscow does not tolerate any kind of apparent challenge to fundamental party doctrine and authority.

Increasingly, since the union's congress in Gdansk in the fall, the union radicals took a more demanding, more intransigent line. At the same time they began whittling away the influence and authority of its national chairman, Lech Walesa.

But at the same time as Mr. Walesa's hold on Solidarity's vast membership diminished, so did the ''solidarity'' and the discipline of the union itself.

Some of the demands presented by the militants would have taken the direction of the economy out of government hands.

They called for a national referendum to determine the relative popularity of the party and the union. They demanded fully free procedures for local government elections due in February. That would have occasioned acute embarrassment for a communist regime promising greater democracy but aware that it could not win a majority in a free election.

One of Solidarity's most persistent demands was for ''access to the news media.'' It was a somewhat anomalous formulation, because the union had gained very considerable access and had won newsprint allocations for the biggest weekly in the country. In addition, it had some 2,000 smaller, local newspapers and enterprise bulletins, and they operated largely uncensored. Union leaders frequently took part in television and radio discussions.

What it wanted, in fact, was complete and independent editorial control over programs and broadcasts involving the union. That, again, was a concession no Communist regime could make if it was to stay in power.

There were clear signs, just before the curtain was lowered on all union activity, that considerable numbers of Solidarity members were restless and uneasy about this continued confrontation with the government. Meanwhile, the shortages of food - the situation of gravest concern - grew steadily worse and remained totally unresolved.

There was also a backlash among the party's grass-roots members, who had consistently pressed the leadership to hasten reform.

Now, there was evidence that local Solidarity officials were arousing resentment by their activities against party groups inside plants and the latter reacting accordingly by telling their own leaders the party must take a firmer line.

Much of this can be ascribed to the youth and inexperience of the union. Considering all the frustrations bottled up over the years, this was bound to produce its own radicalism.

But it would be tragic, indeed, if the ''too far and too fast'' of the radicals in Czechoslovakia in the last weeks of spring, 1968, were to be repeated - with the same dire outcome - in Poland.

It will all depend on the degree of acceptance General Jaruzelski can win for his plea for an ''atmosphere of order, businesslike discussion, and discipline.'' And that will determine how much of the ''renewal'' - greater freedom for culture, the press, and the Roman Catholic Church; and more responsibility for parliament as well as an end to the abuses of communist power - is to be preserved.

The next few weeks - or even days - should tell.

About these ads
Sponsored Content by LockerDome

We want to hear, did we miss an angle we should have covered? Should we come back to this topic? Or just give us a rating for this story. We want to hear from you.

Loading...

Loading...

Loading...

Save for later

Save
Cancel

Saved ( of items)

This item has been saved to read later from any device.
Access saved items through your user name at the top of the page.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You reached the limit of 20 saved items.
Please visit following link to manage you saved items.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You have already saved this item.

View Saved Items

OK