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What kind of life for Polish intellectuals after martial law?

By Charles Sawyer, Special to The Christian Science MonitorCharles Sawyer is a free-lance photojournalist specializing in East Europe. / February 1, 1982



When Poles ask themselves what life will be like after martial law, few can be quite so pessimistic as the intellectuals.

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They face the prospect that their professions may be eliminated or transformed beyond recognition. For them, martial law began when Polish Army troops stormed the Academy of Sciences Building in downtown Warsaw and herded many of Poland's most respected scholars into waiting trucks for transport to detention camps.

The decree of martial law has spared none of the professions open to intellectuals. An immediate result: theaters and film studios were shut down; universities were closed; state-owned publishing houses furloughed; newspapers put out of print; concert halls stilled. Thus the intellectual life of the country has disappeared from the public arena.

Judging from the rhetoric of the military regime, intellectuals will be singled out for repression after martial law is lifted. Blame for the ''excesses'' of Solidarity is assigned to union hotheads who incited workers and politically minded eggheads who guided them into the role of political opposition. Following this logic, any post-martial-law formula for governing is likely to keep the union leaders in jail and force the intellectuals out of their professions.

There is reason for this repression beyond the need for a scapegoat. Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski and his council of military rulers wrested control of the country by force. Their agenda for the coming months will focus on relaxing restrictions without losing that control.

In the long run the intellectuals pose a great threat to that control. Their writings and works can undo the coercion of tanks and troops as readily as strikes and banners can. By his choice of repertoire even a concert pianist can stir the sentiments of an audience against the authorities.

The contrasting conditions of intellectuals in Czechoslovakia and Hungary illustrate the pivotal role intellectuals are thought to play in maintaining control. In Hungary, Janos Kadar has won stable control by building a healthy, prosperous economy while reassuring the Soviets that their geopolitical interests are protected. He can afford to give Hungarian intellectuals comparative freedom.

Czechoslovak leader Gustav Husak cannot afford to be so tolerant. His control has never been secured. The ''Prague spring'' of 1968 had none of the cathartic effect of the failed Hungarian revolt of 12 years earlier. It left a permanent discontent that requires vigilant control of the intellectual professions.

In Poland a pattern is taking shape. One by one the intellectual professions will resume under strict control and after thorough purges. Committees have been established, and the work of ideological verification - political vetting - has begun. Loyalty oaths are becoming the minimum precondition for preserving a professional future.

The universities are particularly hard hit. Thus far only a few technical institutes have opened for the spring term. The independent students' union has been abolished. No student organizations outside Communist Party control are to be tolerated in any foreseeable future.

The despair of Polish intellectuals was apparant in the recent petition signed by well over a hundred leading intellectual figures. Addressed to the Polish parliament and Archbishop Jozef Glemp, the petition called on the authorities to honor the country's international commitments to human rights by ending military rule.