As the Poles finish electing delegates to their special party congress, they seem to be rejecting both radical and hard-line extremes in favor of the patient , prudent middle-of-the-road course persistently promised and urged by party chief Stanislaw Kania.
Ever since the early June challenge in the Central Committee to his leadership, Mr. Kania has been winning more public support and acceptance and gaining stature in the Polish Communist Party itself.
Just how much authority he now has was evident last week, when he intervened twice in the delegate selection process on behalf of controversial figures that the party's more ardent reformers identify as "conservative," reluctant supporters of the "renewal" movement.
In both cases the reputed hard-liners from the party apparatus were subsequently elected as delegates to the congress. Mr. Kania's concern at this juncture is to maintain both continuity and unity in the leadership, and in that way deflect Soviet accusations that "good communists" were being sacrificed at the whim of the radical reformers.
A meeting in Poznan that was electing delegates narrowly rejected three nominations supported by the party's central organization because the nominees had not first been chosen by their basic party organizations. This was in line with one of the procedural changes proposed in a new "democatizing" party statute that is to come before the congress opening in Warsaw July 14.
There was a rank-and-file move to apply this change before its formal adoption, but the leadership became uneasy when the positions of several leading figures, including some in the Politburo itself, were obviously in question.
The Poznan meeting accepted Mr. Kania's suggestion that a second ballot be conducted.
At the weekened, Mr. Kania intervened again, this time on behalf of Stanislaw Kociolek, leader of the Warsaw party organization. Mr. Kociolek is a party veteran whom the public has associated with the decision to use force against the food rioters in the Baltic ports in December 1970.
He became first secretary in Warsaw last year, and Mr. Kania had already defended him against this charge several times since then. He did so again, telling the meeting that far from advocating the use of force, Mr. Kociolek had spoken out against it and had, in fact, resigned in protest the party post he held then.
Despite Mr. Kania's efforts on their behalf, the future of some of these controversial figures will remain in doubt until the congress elects -- by secret ballot -- a new Central Committee that -- by secret ballot -- will select a new Politburo. The vast majority of congress delegates will be first-timers.
Regional and local party organizations throughout Poland have been electing officers as well as choosing congress delegates.More than half the regional secretaries have been replaced. At the local level, the number is even higher.
But this does not necessarily men the congress will adopt the more radical reform line.
Meantime, the Soviet party's admonishing letter in early June has been backed up in the last few days by messages from the East European allies. Predictably the Czechoslovak party message reflects its solidly pro-Moscow line.
But messages from the Bulgarian and Hungarian parties, which were handed to Mr. Kania last week by visiting delegations, were notably subdued, even friendly in tone. Each declared its confidence in the ability of the Polish party -- by inference under Mr. Kania's leadership -- to overcome the country's and the party's troubles.
There are still two weeks to go before the congress, but at this point everything seems more favorable for it than a month ago.
Mr. Kania is confidently building on the middle ground, in the process beginning to refurbish the party's confidence and gaining support from the moderate majority in Solidarity. The union, in fact, is curbing its extreme dissident voices and publications by local organizations that have fueled Moscow's more extravagant allegations of "anti-Sovietism" within both the union and the reform movement at large.
Like the Soviet letter, the latest messages from the bloc are intended to sound a warning note. But Warsaw also reads them as indicating confidence that the present leadership can cope and ackno wledging that there is no viable alternative to "renewal."