A senior Soviet official says privately that success of Polish martial law will depend partly on a dialogue with Solidarity and loyalty from the Polish Army. He adds that failure could mean civil war, but that so far things are moving ''in a positive direction.''
''Our hope has always been that the Poles will draw themselves out of their crisis. . . . We think the recent developments indicate a possible way out: a difficult way out, but a way out,'' he said in a lengthy informal discussion Dec. 15.
The official, a prominent member of the Communist Party Central Committee, welcomed the generally ''serious . . . even understanding'' public reaction to the Polish developments from US officials - despite a charge by the Soviet news agency Tass that comments by Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig Jr. amounted to interference in Polish affairs.
He said that presumably even US officials must realize the compelling reasons for what he called ''the internal Polish decision'' to impose martial law.
''Solidarity had rejected the idea of a national front. . . . Subversive forces were getting militant. . . . In the face of winter, something really had to be done to provide for the people. . . .'' That, he said, remained the central challenge. (American officials express skepticism about this Soviet official's moderate tone, see Page 6.)
The official said it went without saying, meanwhile, that high risks were involved in the Polish move. Failure could mean civil war, something that would be ''very dangerous for everybody,'' for the Poles, the Soviets, and ''even the Americans, despite their distance from Poland.''
The official, who has regular access to top-level thinking and decisions, said it was clear that martial law was not a panacea for Poland's problems.
And imponderables remained, he said. One key element would be the strength of ''the (Polish Communist) party within the Army.'' He said he was confident on that score.
His hope was that the Polish leadership's action would secure the short-term imperatives of political calm and economic production. ''The Army can certainly bring an element of organization into production,'' he said. But he added: ''This is a temporary measure.''
In the long run, the Soviet official said, there would obviously have to be renewed efforts for political entente in Poland, and the Solidarity union movement would necessarily be a factor.
''It is an organization of millions of people, although it is hard to say precisely how large. It is an amorphous organization, not tightly organized. Undoubtedly, there will have to be dialogue, an intensive, effective dialogue. . . . Even if the crowd is wrong, someone has to talk to it.''
The official said it was impossible to say what form such a dialogue might take. Much would depend on the attitude of individual Solidarity members and officials, he suggested.
''We shall have to see, of course, what the course of events will be,'' he said. But in general the situation so far ''seems much calmer than before.''
Tass Dec. 15 conveyed a similar impression of the overall Polish situation. But it also quoted official Polish news reports as saying ''vigorous action by security forces'' had thwarted strike efforts at a steelworks in the city of Katowice, and that there had been other ''isolated actions by counterrevolutionary elements.''
(A further Tass dispatch later in the day provided a slightly reworded account of the steelworks protest that indicated it was still continuing.)
For the long run, no Soviet official has ruled out any Soviet policy option on the Polish crisis, including direct intervention. Nor did the official interviewed by the Monitor Dec. 15.
In its first public reaction to the Polish crackdown, the Soviet Union said Dec. 14 that the crisis in Poland had directly affected the security interests of all Warsaw Pact states. It stopped short of a vote of confidence in the ability of martial law to bury the crisis.
Diplomats here assume that eruption of civil strife in Poland would make intervention a live issue for the Soviet Politburo, an impression consistent with private comments from various Soviet sources.
But the official interviewed Dec. 15, while declaring that civil war would be ''dangerous for everyone,'' put greater emphasis on what he termed the fervent Soviet desire that the Poles sort out their problems for themselves.
He stressed that the Soviets would ''continue to assist'' Poland economically ''to the greatest extent possible.'' Politically, he said, ''We are holding to a line of calm . . . and restraint.''