Both the Polish military government and Solidarity leader Lech Walesa would like to find a way out of their present political deadlock through negotiations. But both sides have become trapped by their own intransigence or that of their supporters.
That is the central dilemma facing Poland as the country moves into its third week of martial law. And it is this same Catch-22 situation that is stalling the efforts of leading members of the Roman Catholic Church as they search for a solution to the crisis.
Ever since the emergency was declared Dec. 13 - including immediate detention of virtually all Solidarity's national and regional leaders - the government has pressed Mr. Walesa to make a radio appeal to his millions of rank and file followers to accept the situation and allow him to enter into negotiations.
But church sources say that Walesa, although he recognizes the wisdom and necessity for negotiations, is refusing to consider them until both he and his associates can take part as independent agents and representatives of the union. To anyone who knows him, it is doubtful if he could ever be budged from that position.
The government, on the other hand, is caught in a situation of its own creating, however justified it may claim its actions were: It is now so committed to the elimination of what it saw as ''counterrevolutionary'' forces allegedly bending Solidarity to their own ''antisocialist,'' ''anti-Soviet'' political designs that it cannot reverse itself. Indeed, their eradication was one of the first objectives of its emergency decision.
It cannot, therefore, bow to demands by Walesa, the Catholic Church, or anyone else for the immediate release of these ''counterrevolutionary'' elements - let alone agree to their participation in talks to end the crisis.
Yet, to survive, the government must negotiate. It could conceivably persuade the Catholic primate, Archbishop Josef Glemp, to meet with General Jaruzelski by lifting its present restrictions on Walesa so that he could take part (as the primate insists) in a three-way meeting with the church and the regime.
Again, however, it may be assumed that Mr. Walesa would refuse to enter into any substantive negotiations without first consulting his former colleagues and having some of them by his side.
All this is the picture that can be pieced together from reports filtering out of Poland. In particular, Walesa's position emerges (via sources close to the church) from the reports given to Pope John Paul II by the secretary of the Polish Bishops' Conference, Msgr. Bronislaw Dabrowski, and by the Pope's personal envoy and adviser on Eastern Europe, Archbishop Luigi Poggi.
Msgr. Dabrowski visited Mr. Walesa before his departure for Rome to brief the Pope. He was the only non-regime person allowed to do so and was also in close touch with the authorities in Warsaw. Similarly, Archbishop Poggi went to Warsaw and met with the head of the military council, General Jaruzelski.
So far the Polish church's public statements since the emergency have been muted. But a statement from the bishops that has not yet been read in the churches described Solidarity's existence as an instrument for defending the workers' rights as ''indispensable to restore balance to social life.''
Another thorny issue at once arises: What sort of Solidarity?
One of the most orthodox and hard-line members of the Communist Party Politburo, Albin Siwack, has already said that only the ''kind of Solidarity'' that unqualifiedly accepts ''socialism,'' Poland's alliances, and the party's ''leading role'' will be admitted to any new front of ''national accord.'' The union's charter was much less explicit on these issues.
Such statements and the official disclosure that 10 of the interned union activists have formally been arrested and that at least three are to be tried for inciting a strike will only help sustain Walesa's doubts - and those of other moderates - about the government's intentions.
The only possibility for any kind of compromise seems to turn on two elements:
* A gesture whereby the government undertakes to refrain from drastic sanctions against the radicals.
* The rallying of enough moderate support in the union leadership to Walesa to make it possible for him to call on his more headstrong colleagues to stand aside in the national interest. But for him to have any chance of achieving that , he has to be a free man.
Ever since Solidarity's independent existence was finally legalized, Walesa has insisted that the union's paramount task was ''to consolidate what we have won,'' to avoid further, extravagant demands.
''Or we can lose everything,'' he told four foreign journalists (including this writer) in a two-hour talk more than a year ago. From the Bydgoszcz incident last March on through this year's dangerous crises he said it again and again. Frequently he urged more politically minded regional leaders not to escalate local issues into national ones nor to call for general strikes.
There was no doubt that Solidarity was drifting further into political areas remote from the Gdansk agreements. But too often the government bypassed its pledges on consultation before deciding issues vital to Solidarity's members. At Bydgoszcz, it had virtually to be forced by strike threats into instituting an inquiry into police behavior and removal of local officials whose highhandedness provoked much of the trouble.
Warsaw radio claimed Dec. 29 that ''on the whole'' work resumed normally after the Christmas closure. The last 1,100 miners at the Piast pit in Silesia were said to have abandoned their two-week stay-down strike.
It would not need much to send them back on strike again. Their mood - as well as that of millions of workers elsewhere in Poland - will not be helped by trials, no matter how much the government feels it must go on being firm even at the expense of any understanding with the workers and the nation.
''Don't underestimate the party, it is still strong,'' Walesa frequently warned the militants who said the party was ''finished'' as a real force in Polish life as many rank and file members left it.
The union militants overlooked - as Walesa did not - the massive apparatus that still held the many levers of power and management throughout the country. The military and party applied those levers two weeks ago.
Equally, the government underestimated Walesa, the obscure little electrician who climbed over the Gdansk shipyard wall from nothing and nowhere and created Solidarity.
Officials were too intent on screening out ''counterrevolutionaries'' to pay enough attention to him - and the need and wisdom of ''supporting'' him. Yet he probably still holds the key to the situation, if a peaceful settlement is to be reached.