Warsaw — Polish authorities might claim with considerable justification that the underground failed to turn the Aug. 31 Solidarity anniversary into a show of widespread opposition to the regime.
Anything that might be called a ''demonstration'' was confined to a few major cities. So was police action, which went as far as the use of teargas and batons.
But it is a very different thing to suggest that attitudes toward Solidarity and the reform agreements of three years ago have changed. It is also difficult to see how the government can claim - as a statement by the official Polish news agency Sept. 1 asserts - that a quiet day meant that ''the division between we and they becomes less and less visible.''
Even this statement conceded that one explanation for the general ''peace and quiet'' and ''normal'' work throughout Poland on Aug. 31 was the formidable mobilization of security forces under orders to forestall the smallest suggestion of assembly or attempt to stage a demonstration.
The statement suggested the absence of serious or major incidents showed public ''disapproval'' of the underground's efforts to promote further activity.
These clandestine groups are weakened and diminished. As of Aug. 29, it was announced, 171 underground activists had taken advantage of an offer of amnesty. Some of these activists spoke of an awareness of diminished public support for active protest and of disagreements among themselves.
But it is not necessarily a question of public ''disapproval'' and certainly not of any manifest cooling of loyalties to Solidarity or concern for the changes brought with it in 1980.
It is increasingly clear that Poles at large are simply tired of living in a state of permanent crisis and conflict, wish only for a quiet life, and see futility and very little point in continued open protest. It does not mean they love the government any more now than they did under martial law. Nor does it mean they are any more reconciled to the effective prolongation of martial law through the recent toughening up of the penal code against any future opposition and dissent.
The statement also claimed that the government is winning approval for its ''socialist renewal'' and the ''democratic exercise of power'' prescribed by the 1980 agreements.
''The effects are not to be seen at once,'' the statement said. ''The process is slow. But it is leading inevitably toward national agreement.''
But, in many recent conversations, this reporter has found ordinary Poles as skeptical as ever that the government is making good on its promises in any practical, concrete way.
The editor of the independent Roman Catholic weekly Tygodnik Powszechny, Jerzy Turowicz, wrote last week: ''Discord between the authorities and the large part of society continues in Poland. That large part of society desires social peace and conciliation. This, however, cannot be done unless the crisis of confidence is overcome and that can only be achieved through deeds, not words.''
Turowicz was replying to an article in which government spokesman Jerzy Urban defended ''preventive'' powers assumed by the government for a ''transitional'' era up to 1985.
Turowicz also disputed Urban's insistence that opportunity for dialogue between the authorities and society existed. He countered that for a dialogue to be genuine it must turn on questions of relations between the two sides and questions of institutional guarantees for society's role in public life.
''I fail to see,'' Turowicz wrote, ''any genuine dialogue on (these) important subjects, nor do I see signs of a change in climate that would make it possible.''
The many Poles who think and feel the same way found little encouragement in the handling of the crowds that built up Wednesday in Gdansk. It is a place of special concern to workers throughout the country.
The use of the police on such a scale does little to dispell a picture of ''we and they'' or to carry conviction in the ''democratic'' exercise of power. The gap was evident at the official laying of wreaths at the shipyard memorial to 1970.
This kind of ceremony normally draws a crowd of onlookers, but this time ordinary citizens boycotted. And when they came later in the day - as official nervousness mounted over what might happen when the workers left the yard - many were denied access to the monument to lay their flowers. There was the ubiquitous insistent checking and ''controlling'' of the citizens' ID cards by the ZOMOs.
It all looked terribly unnecessary for a government that claims to be gaining in ordinary public esteem.