Six months later protest mood ebbs in Poland
The relatively quiet observation of the six-month anniversary of martial law in Poland June 13 underlines a significant change of mood in the country at large.Skip to next paragraph
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Few workers are turning out for protests anymore. Even in Wroclaw and Krakow, the two cities that saw significant protests, most of those who took to the streets were teen-agers and younger students.
According to the official news agency, most of the more than 100 people detained in Wroclaw were students. In Krakow a procession of antigovernment youth dispersed only when police used tear gas.
Warsaw, home of a normally militant chapter of Solidarity, was quiet. So was Szezcin.
At Gdansk, the Baltic port that was the birthplace of the independent union Solidarity, a small demonstration closed without incident after appeals from the police.
As a result, the local curfew was reimposed in Wroclaw, a stronghold for a radical underground group, from 8 p.m. for minors. Entertainment and sports events were again suspended.
But the military council has recommended that regional governors elsewhere lift the curfew (reapplied after the troubles in early May) and remove the ban on social and other organizations.
If a major aim of military rule was to restore law and order the authorities have scored some successes on the productivity front. Coal mines will produce 11 million tons more this year, including nearly 5 million tons more for export, than in January-May 1981.
Also on a more hopeful note there is seasonal plenty of vegetables, strawberries, cherries, and apples on the markets.
This week consumer morale was boosted when the the state shops took beef on the bone and most poultry off the ration card. But many people still cannot afford this windfall even at the lower state prices.
None of this is meant to say Poland is about to turn a corner. Or that the government is winning the confidence of its own rank and file, let alone the nation at large. It is still dogged by a hard-line opposition to genuine economic reform, free individual farming, small private enterprise, and even a real modus vivendi with the Roman Catholic Church.
But it is possible that a modest beginning is a bit nearer even though the mood of the country is still unsatisfied, the economic reform scarcely under way , and the financial situation of Poland unresolved. Many people are still downhearted and uncertain about the future, skeptical of the government's ability to change things however much they credit Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski with sincerity in his renewed appeals for ''national accord'' between the authorities and all noncommunist groups.
There has been a round of contacts with Solidarity, including its leader, Lech Walesa. Different approaches have appeared among some of the former radicals.
One well-known Warsaw union militant did almost a U-turn in flatly rejecting a strike call for June 13 reportedly put up by the clandestine leadership in Wroclaw. ''It would be suicidal,'' he was reported as saying, ''tantamount to a call for revolution which could have only one end.''
That end would be the direct Soviet intervention that calmer minds see as likely only if the country erupted again, and thus possibly starting a slide into civil conflict.
The leadership appears to be making a serious effort to ease conditions. It aims not only to create a civil situation in which the Pope's planned visit can take place but also, and more important, conditions that might persuade the West to reconsider sanctions.
''It will not be so easy to deal with hard-liners,'' a party moderate commented.
Right now it is the youth who represent the most restless group in Poland. Its attitudes are partly the result of romantic myths they entertain of Poland's history (also nurtured by many older people). But they arise also from the natural frustrations of contemporary life: young people are denied outlets like free travel and the job prospects for recent graduates are meager.
At the end of the 1981 university year, no fewer than 8,000 graduates were unable to get the kind of jobs for which they had qualified. An equal number will be in the same boat this year. This is the result of years of admitted overproduction of students accompanied by prolonged failure of the regime to balance education with other development.