The Polish government's choice of Vice-Premier Mieczyslaw Rakowski as its emissary to explain to West Germany why it imposed martial law is an adroit move.
A distinguished editor and journalist, Mr. Rakowski is well known to many top members of the West German administration. He speaks fluent German.
But even more important in the present situation, for years he has been known to West Europeans as one of the most serious and influential liberals in the top ranks of Poland's Communist Party. Mr. Rakowski has been at the heart of the Polish crisis ever since he became vice-premier in February, when Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski took over the premiership.
From March until contacts virtually broke down following the union's first national convention in October, Rakowski was the government's principal negotiator in the frequent conflicts with Solidarity.
Since the declaration of martial law Dec. 13, he has been in charge of its administration in all social and economic areas as well as the operations of regional government now under military supervision.
American economic sanctions on Poland have caused acute disappointment -- rather than dismay -- in Warsaw because of the country's long and close links with the US.
Reactions could be sharper now that President Reagan has added sanctions against the Soviet Union. For, by implicating the Kremlin in the present crisis in this way, he is seen as brusquely overriding the expresssed view of both the Poles and the Soviets that it was up to the Poles to resolve the crisis. Mr. Reagan is also ignoring the Poles' own insistence that they are in fact resolving it without Soviet interference.
The West German position -- and, to a lesser extent, that of some of the other West Europeans -- is that the West, as well as the East, should not interfere in any way. Naturally it has met high approval in Warsaw.
Mr. Rakowski's mission to Bonn was clearly intended to convince the West German government that General Jaruzelski and the military administration are sincere when they assert: first, that martial law was the only way to prevent civil war; and, second, that they intend to return to the ''renewal'' and reform program as soon as martial law can be lifted.
Mr. Rakowski, however, told reporters in Bonn Dec. 30 that he had not given the West Germans any reassurances (as some earlier reports had suggested) that martial law in Poland would be relaxed. Rather, he said he had simply described the situation in Poland and listened to Bonn's demands.
The Rakowski visit is also meant to cut across the expectations, expressed earlier this week by Assistant Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger, that in due course a number of West European governments would be more ready to put pressure on both Poland and the Soviet Union.
Warsaw radio said Dec. 30 that US sanctions against Poland could backfire and cause martial law to be prolonged.
In an evident follow-up to General Jaruzelski's Christmas Eve pledge that the reforms will be resumed when martial law is lifted, Warsaw radio also said an average 42 hour workweek will be introduced in 1982 in most industries and state administration.
It seemed to indicate an intention to restore the free Saturdays won in last year's strike settlements but suspended as the economic crisis deepened. That became a major source of conflict with Solidarity.
Workers, it was said, will get 34 to 38 extra free days a year (in addition to Sundays and holidays), depending on whether they put in a six- or eight-hour stint on the Saturdays they do work.