Military regime failing to regain Poles' confidence
The view of Poland being conveyed officially is one of outward calm, of a country largely back to ''normal'' daily work under the umbrella of martial law.
Reading between the official lines, however, the observer sees a very different picture, one of grave uncertainty. This far less optimistic version tends to be confirmed by independent sources in direct touch with the situation in Poland.
In this picture the once-dominant Communist Party is seen to be at odds not only with itself. It is also very much aware that it is at odds with the workers , with the intellectuals, with the Roman Catholic Church, and with the nation's youth (now that the independent student body, which was allowed to function last year, has been dissolved).
Behind the official diplomatic language during his Dec. 30 visit to Bonn last week, Vice-Premier Mieczyslaw Rakowski is said to have left an impression in private contacts of considerable anxiety - about the outlook for the country, about the state of the party, and about the possibility of any early end to martial law.
The military regime has yet to start making any headway in tackling an array of formidable problems. It has yet to reestablish any meaningful dialogue with the workers. The party's credibility with the people remains in tatters. The economy is in a shambles.
Yet the government must regain at least some credibility before it can safely contemplate dispensing with the present emergency restrictions.
In particular, the regime is visibly uncertain about how to handle the stifled Solidarity union. This uncertainty was implicit in a Jan. 5 report from Warsaw that a number of trade unionists from the official (government-sponsored) unions, ''including Solidarity activists,'' had met under government auspices.
They talked, according to the official news agency, about the future of ''an independent trade union movement.'' This meant, in effect, the future of Solidarity and/or whatever might be put in its place.
At this writing, none of the participants in the meeting has been identified. If Solidarity leader Lech Walesa had been there, the authorities would have been glad to make it known. Presumably, therefore, he was not.
Walesa has not been mentioned for more than a week, even by government sources that several times earlier had reported meetings. All this would seem to confirm previous reports that he would not be willing to resume contacts with the authorities until he and his associates could do so as free and independent agents.
The government may be trying to promote its own ''branch unions'' (as the remnants of the old party-controlled unions have become known) in an attempt to sidestep the Solidarity leadership and divide its membership, with some workers joining a new union movement that the government could better control.
It is still impossible to conceive of meaningful progress along such lines without an open hearing for bona fide authorizied Solidarity delegates or spokesmen. In the last few days there has been a noticeable hardening of tone in the news media against Solidarity, in strong contrast with the twice-repeated, unequivocal pledge by Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski about the union's continued existence and place in society.
The party newspaper Trybuna Ludu and the armed forces' always hard-nosed daily Zolnierz Wolnosci both said Jan. 4 there can be no place in a socialist Poland ''for Solidarity in the form it took before Dec. 13.''
There could, the newspapers conceded, be ''an independent union.'' But it would have to act strictly in compliance with Solidarity's charter - and with a new trade union law modifying the right to strike. Except for martial law, the new legislation would have gone before parliament last month.
The intention clearly is not only to block any return to the radicalism that had gained the upper hand in the union, but also to bind a future Solidarity more closely to recognition of the Communist Party's leading role. In addition, the authorities hope to rebuild the old unions on some quasi-independent basis as a counterweight.
Again, without the free, active, and equal participation of Walesa and his colleagues it is hard to see any such maneuver succeeding.
A similar dichotomy hangs over the party and its leaders' agonizings as to how it might regain some credibility with the people. The old divisions between moderately ''liberal'' reformers and hard-line orthodoxy have reappeared. Momentarily, neither seems to have the edge, and the party remains no nearer to finding its way.
By last summer some 300,000 members had quit the party. The number may well have doubled by now. In the past few weeks the official media have admitted that many are ''handing in their cards.''
An official ''verification'' of members is under way. It could become a full-fledged purge with a view to recreating the party (officially named the Polish United Workers' Party) on a much more disciplined, selective, exacting basis with limited membership.
But the party's future, like Poland's, is likely to remain in doubt unless and until the military rulers can find a way for a resumption of last year's dialogue with Solidarity and the Catholic Church.