For Poland: new leader, new breather

Poland has gained yet another breathing space. And this time, judging by the reactions of both ordinary Poles and Solidarity leader Lech Walesa, there is perhaps a greater opportunity than before to turn it to good account.

Currently in France, Mr. Walesa sees Premier Wojciech Jaruzelski's emergence as head of the Communist Party as "an improvement" on the former leadership.

Comments by Poles in or out of Solidarity suggest it means a better chance of cooperation among party, government, the union-that all three begin to see the common interest in not letting the perilous situation of the last month drift further. Among them:

"Jaruzelski is a decent man. He will respect the Constitution."

"Once again we have managed to avoid a catastrophe!"

"The uniform is an important symbol. Perhaps now we shall get more active, more resolute and visible leadership. That is what Poland needs."

The Soviets, too, seem to approve the latest shift in the Polish leadership. President Brezhnev sent General Jaruzelski a warm message of congratulations.

But some Poles shrugged off the resignation of Stanislaw Kania and his replacement by General Jaruzelski, who is both premier and defense minister, as "just another change of faces" unlikely to change anything -or "put more food in the shops."

Perhaps they are right. But Jaruzelski is head of an army that has always stood high in Polish national esteem and patriotism, regardless of government ideology.

When he becoame premier in February, there was a sense that the appointment of a "man in uniform" meant discipline and organization. It has yet to work out that way.

But the symbolism seems to carry weight with the public and withing the party -a party hovering on the brink of disintegration when this last Central Committee session opened.

"The change has fused the party and the Army, which could bring far greater efficiency and determination," was the comment of one wellplaced source in Warsaw.

"The party had to be saved. It came close to collapse under the weight of all the criticism leveled at the leadership in the first two days of the meeting. Jaruzelski emerged. . .as the only man likely to win acceptance from the wide majority of the party's grass roots."

The committee obviously agreed. Of the 184 members voting, 180 gave him their approval.

"The party can retreat no further," the new first secretary said after his election.

The change of leadership is much more an internal party question than a portent of significant changes in policy. It is a matter of saving the party from disruption within, thereby reclaiming its place in society.

Essentially, the reform leadership remains intact. A further meeting of the Central Committee will decide whether Mr. Kania remains in the Pokitburo. But General Jaruzelski was his teammate in the "renewal" process, and men like Kazimierz Barckowski, a steady, moderate figure, will stay.

Nor does the new policy statement, tough as it may be on the surface, foreshadow departure from the main concepts of reform. Any such move would spark dangerous public reactions.

Obviously, a much firmer stand will be taken against Solidarity's dissidents and against activities the regime sees as challenging Poland's "socialist" foundation and its alliance with the Soviet Union.

The new discipline will be applied within the party, too. During this last committee meeting, 12 of the 40 committee members who belonged to Solidarity disclosed they had resigned from the union.

It remains to be seen how Solidarity reacts to party proposals that the Sejm (parliament) legislate a ban on strikes for the duration of the crisis. Or to the demand for renegotiation of parts of last year's strike settlements.

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