Vienna — Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski appears finally to have gotten Poland's Communist Party set on a middle-of-the-road course toward reform.
The party had been adrift ever since crisis broke out in the Gdansk shipyards in August 1980. Like the population at large, the party's grass-roots members continued to grow more distrustful and apathetic.
The imposition of martial law last December served to confirm that the party was so divided and disenchanted within itself that it could not govern by other means.
Now, General Jaruzelski appears to have asserted himself and moved the party onto a moderate course between the hard-line ''right'' and over-liberal ''left.''
The process began in early June with the removal of hard-line Warsaw party secretary Stanislaw Kociolek. He was replaced by Marian Wozniak, a moderate who last week was elevated to the party Politburo.
Mr. Wozniak has a background in economics and, though a newcomer to the top party echelon, is extremely close to Jaruzelski's own thinking.
The general is surrounding himself with a group of experts and economists as well as political associates identified with some genuine resumption of reform, albeit within limits imposed by the nature of the crisis itself.
The demotion of Stefan Olszowski, leader of the conservative faction in the party hierarchy, is a more significant step in the same direction.
Last week Olszowski lost his job as party secretary for ideology and propaganda. In the July 21 government shuffle, he was named foreign minister. He remains a member of the Politburo, because the foreign minister customarily has a place in the party's top policy body.
But Mr. Olszowski's party activity and influence will be effectively circumscribed.
His place as propaganda chief is expected to go to another newcomer, Jan Glowczyk, who is best known as editor of the economic journal Zycie Gospodarcze.
In any case, a change of propaganda line, especially vis-a-vis the West, may be expected.
Under Mr. Olszowski the news media have harped nonstop on the subject of Western ''interference,'' especially since the imposition of martial law and the subsequent Western sanctions. It became almost a campaign against West Germany on the old theme of ''Bonn's revanchism,'' a theme rarely heard after Poland sealed an ''Ostpolitik'' treaty with West Germany in 1970.
At the same time the papers stressed more and more the ''socialist'' connection with the East bloc as the only way out of Poland's difficulties. It has been obvious since December, however, that its Eastern allies can do little more to help.
The general is second to no one in the Polish leadership in extolling Poland's essential place in the Soviet alliance and its appreciation of aid received since 1980.
But neither Jaruzelski nor Vice-Premier Mieczyslaw Rakowski, a close aide, wants to see Poland return to an old ideological isolation.
Jaruzelski will be hoping for positive public response to the release of 1, 227 detainees - more than had been expected. Only about 600 (of 6,000 initially held) are still in detention. Almost all of them are national and regional leaders of Solidarity, or hard-core political dissidents.
The government apparently has given up hope of finding a meaningful, cooperative nucleus among them for the building of new unions. The intention, as Mr. Rakowski told parliament, is to make an entirely ''fresh approach.'' It is to include a form of self-management in the factories within three months, but not on the scale Solidarity envisioned.
Postponement of the papal visit will disappoint the nation but many Poles will agree - as the Pope himself apparently has - that the situation is still too delicate.
The departure of Jerzy Ozdowski from Jaruzelski's Cabinet removes the independent Roman Catholic representation in the government and replaces it with the leader of the pro-government Catholic Pax group in parliament.
It would seem to be no more than the kind of give-and-take accommodation the general had to make with the hard-liners, demonstrating that, while he cracks down on them, he is also checking the over-ardent reformers.
The essential point is that the party begins to look like a functioning force with a direction for the first time.