Poland holds its breath -- and waits
The next two days may be even more crucial for Poland's future than the bitter week in December 1981 that brought martial law.Skip to next paragraph
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There is a chance that street demonstrations and clashes with police could lead to the bloodshed forecast by the government.
Or, there may be a turning point of the kind the Roman Catholic primate and bishops appealed for in a pastoral letter read in all churches Sunday.
It was an anguished call to government and people alike to show restraint and cooperate in ''easing tension through talks not coercion and violence.''
And a reminder that, ''martial law interrupted dialogue but did not rule it out.''
Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski also appealed to Poles in a Sunday speech at Poznan to make Tuesday, Aug. 31, ''a day of peace,'' that would ''not be stained by excesses and irresponsible demonstrations.''
If, in fact, the second anniversary of the banned trade union, Solidarity, passes Tuesday without serious conflict, it could provide an opportunity - possibly the last - for the government to reach some kind of accord with this tired and despairing society.
The substantial easing, if not yet full removal, of martial law has become urgent not only for Poles but paradoxically in East-West relations as well.
The West saw a step forward here in the July releases of hundreds of internees and the reduction of many civil restrictions under emergency law.
The Reagan administration, however, said it was not enough.
But since then, the Western alliance itself has been riven by Mr. Reagan's attempt to pressure the Western European allies into backing his pipeline sanctions against the Soviet Union and their refusal to bow to that pressure.
The controversy is seen as threatening the stability of the Western alliance much as the crisis in Poland and Western efforts to influence it came to be seen by the Russians as ''interference'' and posing a dangerous threat to the cohesion of the Warsaw Pact and, therefore, their own security.
An impasse seems to have been reached - with this country at its center - in which an easing of tension in Poland could help reduce the conflict in both Eastern and Western alliances.
Publicly, the Poles still reject any idea of appearing to yield to outside (Western) pressures. But they frankly admit they have a special interest in the relief of present international tensions and are not unaware of what they can do to help.
An immediate step was spelled out by Archbishop Jozef Glemp, to the great religious concourse at Czestochowa Aug. 26.
''Free Walesa,'' the primate said simply. ''Let him express his viewpoint as a free man. Allow the union (Solidarity, though he did not mention it by name), only gradually at the start, to resume its activity.''
Significantly, the specific mention of Solidarity's exiled leader aroused applause that held up the primate's speech for a full two minutes.
Freedom of speech for Walesa and a genuine start to dialogue - not just media discussion - about the future unions, have become the key test of good faith between General Jaruzelski's pledge to continue the 1980 reforms and a still skeptical Polish nation.
Can that skepticism be diminished by the way in which the media - excepting only the Roman Catholic but pro-government daily, Slowo Powszechny - ''censored '' the primate's direct allusion to Walesa and boiled his words down to a plea for general amnesty?