Either the Kremlin is contemplating a tougher policy on Poland -- or it wants that country's beleaguered communist rulers to think it is. This, jittery foreign diplomats here say, is the most credible reading of unprecedently serious criticism of the Polish Coomunist Party carried by the Soviet state news media June 1 and 2.
But Kremlinology is among the most imprecise of sciences, if it is a science at all. Kremlinologists ultimately have very little idea of what goes on behind the Kremlin's lofty walls. Some analysts say that even relatively senior Soviet officials would not necessarily be informed of a major Politburo shift on Poland.
The verbal assault on the Polish party came in a lengthy Warsaw dispatch from the official Soviet news agency Tass, its weight reinforced when it was read on Soviet television and then printed in the authoritative Soviet newspaper, Pravda.
The account, attributed to hard-line Polish Communists meeting in the town of Katowice before a planned extraordinary national party congress, spoke of "revisionism" and "opportunism" within party ranks and of the risk that the Polish Communists were on their way to forfeiting their "leading role" in society.
Such language had appeard in the Soviet press before the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968.
A speaker at the meeting was quoted as saying the party's draft program for the congress, set for July, analyzed the Polish crisis in terms that run "counter to Marxist- Leninist doctrine."
Soviet officials who, in interviews with this reporter as recent as a week ago, played down the policy implications of recent Soviet media toughness toward the Polish party, were not immediately available for comment on the latest Tass dispatch.
These officials have unanimously acknowledged "serious concern" here over the Polish crisis. The latest dispatch would seem to suggest this concern is, if anything, heightening amid debate inside Poland over the approaching party congress.
Late June 2, one Soviet official did comment privately that he still felt that Poland and the Polish party would manage to sort their problems out for themselves.
While not specifically addressing the Tass dispatch, he echoed its allegations of serious problems within the Polish party. He charged that the Polish unions were not acting like unions, but were delving into state policy matters. But, he added, "I still very much believe in the Polish people and the Polish party."
Foreign analysts here point to two major options open to Moscow on the Polish front, and there are potential indicators toward each in the latest Tass material.
-- The get-tough approach. This, in the diplomats' guesstimates, could mean anything from pushing for a further leadership change to seeking delay of the party congress or mounting some form of direct intervention,
The Tass report did not mention either Poland's party chief or its prime minister, but did explicitly refer to several main, reputedly hard-line, Politburo members.
The charges and cautions against the party cited in the dispatch are serious stuff by Soviet standards -- particularly the idea that the communist party in a communist state might be losing its "leading role."
Some analysts argued that Moscow could also conceivably point to the Katowice statements as suggesting an "invitation" of sorts to intervene. And in an apparent slap at Polish communist talk of "socialist renewal," the report spoke of the need to apply traditional, not specifically Polish, socialism.
A speaker was quoted as saying that when the labor crisis began, "We had a party." Now, he said, it had been undermined.
-- The pressure-and-hope approach. This would consist of keeping pressure on the Polish communists to limit concessions and strengthen the party against "antisocialist," while hoping the Poles can deliver.
Proponents of this analysis note that the Tass dispatch could have been stronger. It quoted Poles, rather than Soviet officials. It was datelined Warsaw,not Moscow. Although the article did say it was time for the party to get tough, and to use "all available resources" in doing so, the immediate focus seemed to be on political and organizational toughness wit h an eye to the coming congress.