"It's like a tragedy," said one Western analyst about Poland. "You see it's coming, and you can't do anything about it." The final act of the tragedy, in the view from Bonn, is not necessarily here yet. The latest Soviet warning to Poland, the toughest to date, is still seen as psychological pressure rather than an ultimatum.
Or at least the question of whether it ism an ultimatum (to block the Sept. 26 reconvening of the Solidarity congress) is still only a question and not yet an assumption.
The overall attitude, however, is foreboding about an ultimate collision between Moscow and Solidarity.
The Polish trade union is seen as pressing too far too fast for Soviet tolerance, as refusing to be ralistic and content with the extraordinary gains it has made so far. The Soviet Union is seen as increasingly frustrated by the ineffectiveness of its threats that have stayed short of actual military intervention in Poland.
Solidarity and the Polish government are seen as risking a breakdown of compromise in favor of maneuverings to blame the other side for any final confrontation.
But analysts are reluctant to articulate their pessimism for two reasons.
First, the West has a sorry record in predicting what would prove unacceptable to the Kremlin in the past year. A free Polish trade union, strikes, a free peasants' union, open grass-roots elections within the Polish Communist Party, popular recall of especially corrupt party officials, "horizontal" policy campaigning within the party that flouted the hierarchical authority of "democratic centralism," emasculation of the security police, and competitive news reporting -- all these shibboleths have fallen one &gt;Please turn on Page 14&gt; &gt;From page 1&gt; after another, without marching orders being issued to the Red Army.
"This is pure speculation and typically Western, so don't believe it," one analyst said in presenting and immediately discounting his opinion. "It's just typical intellectual gossiping."
The second reason for public reticenceabout Western expectations is even more compelling: Analysts don't want to give the Kremlin any pretext to think that the West would condone a Soviet invasion of Poland.
They may think that Solidarity is courting Polish martydom as a kind of psychic drive -- but they don't want any inference drawn that this might justify Soviet inflicting of that martyrdom at the point of a bayonet.
Privately, however, analysts do express their concern about the momentum of events in Poland.
The dynamics of the solidarity movement they describe as democratization and frustration. The combination led to the political demands that so upset the Kremlin at the first part of the Solidarity congress this month: the call for worker self-management in factories (the very first heresy that Lenin suppressed in the Soviet Union in the early 1920s); a referendum on self-management and disobedience of parliamentary laws if they don't grant self-management; the right to organize Solidarity chapters in the Army and police; free parliamentary elections with non-Communist as well as Communist candidates; and above all, the call for free trade unions in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.
Solidarity's democratic determination to let each delegate speak his opinion left the way open for militants to take the floor at the congress, of course. But even more than that the constant feeling that the Polish party is not living up to its part of the original social contract of a year ago has driven Solidarity to make political claims.
Thus Solidarity originally eschewed a political role -- not because the party forbade it, but because Solidarity regarded political participation as a trap to burden it with responsibility without authority -- to make the public blame Solidarity for the deteriorating economy while not giving the trade union any real power to change things.
When the government's economic reform still seemed paralyzed, however, even after the Communist Party congress that was supposed to revivify the party, Solidarity decided that was the only organization with enough vigor to actually reform the economy. But the only way it could take economic action was to take quasi political action -- in presenting its own design for economic reform and in controlling the selection of plan managers to implement it.
In this context any additional reneging on government promises to Solidarity -- as in not naming and not punishing the security officials who beat up a local Solidarity leader in a hard-line provocation in Bydgoszcz last spring -- only strengthened Solidarity's resolve, and anger. And the constant Soviet and East European sniping at Solidarity finally goaded Solidarity to reply in kind with its call for free Soviet and Eastern European trade unions.
Under these circumstances Solidarity -- largely from the democratic influence of impatient young members who are not restrained by memories of Stalinist terror-- lost its shrewd earlier insistence on strengthening the despised party as a buffer between Solidarity and Moscow. And Solidarity leader Lech Walesa's tactics at the first part of the Solidarity congress aided this shift by default , since militant delegates were allowed to let off rhetorical steam as a tradeoff for giving the moderates control of the union's more crucial organizational rules.
Whether the moderates can now regain control of Solidarity's rhetoric at the second session of the congress -- or whether the first session's heady momentum of uttering honest opinions will again prevail -- remains to be seen.
It also remains to be seen how long the Polish Party -- and the Russians -- will accept the Solidarity moderates' distinction between sometimes-flaming rhetoric and Solidarity's record of responsible action.
For their part, the Polish party and government have become substantially weaker over the past year. Administration is "aproaching chaos," one Western analyst noted. And the Army and security forces, which have always constituted the party's last resort for any suppression of Solidarity, are presumed to be riddled with Solidarity supporters by now.Some three-fourths of Army recruits have entered the Army after the founding of Solidarity, for example, and are probably themselves members of the union.
On the Soviet side, a comparable frustration reigns, for one attempt after another to restore hard-line party control in Warsaw has failed.
As always in the past year, then, the final choice for the Kremlin must still be: How much longe will the chaos and sabotage resulting from any Soviet invasion of Poland outweigh the dangerous example in the rest of Eastern Europe of Solidarity's unpunished defiance of Moscow?