Polish parliament assents to martial law as lesser evil

As expected, the Polish parliament endorsed martial law as the lesser of two evils, preferable to confrontation. Also as expected, it urged the military government to return the country to full civilian rule as soon as possible.

In a resolution voted after Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski made a lengthy policy statement Jan. 25, it said the restoration of civil liberties should not be delayed longer than necessary.

There was some dissent from the floor, mainly from the five-member Roman Catholic group, ZNAK, which protested that martial law had split Polish society into authorities, who dictated, and citizens, who were expected to obey quietly.

General Jaruzelski, the head of the military council, held out the prospect of early relaxation of more martial law restrictions if the country remains calm. Some civilian restrictions had already been eased.

It was a statement in which he:

* Combined a generally moderate tone and a reaffirmation that reform would continue with a stout defense of martial law.

* Denounced Solidarity, liberal intellectuals, and journalists as sharing responsibility for the crisis. (He had no parallel admonition for Communist Party hard-liners.)

* Issued a firm warning that martial law, even if relaxed, could be resumed if ''antistate forces'' became active again.

For the moment, that is as far as it goes. It probably is best not to judge the merits and intentions behind the generalities about reform until nearer the tentative ''end of February'' deadline the general mentioned.

In its best sense, the speech recalled the note on which this soldier-politician took over as prime minister almost a year ago. Then he appealed for 90 days ''free of social disruption and strikes.'' But within a month the truce was broken.

This time he is asking for 30 days or so, during which there can be no strikes.

Again the general appealed to Poles to be patient and work together. He offered to lighten the restrictions on their lives if law and order are maintained and the economy begins to pick up.

That said, many Poles will see the speech as lacking specifics about what the regime means when it talks about continuing reform, except for one thing: Whatever is done with trade unions, the news media, or public institutions at large, it will be under the strict control of a Communist Party that is reasserting the leading role it lost over the last year.

Draft bills on the trade unions and self-management might have been law by now except for the Dec. 13 imposition of martial law. Now they will be reworked to embody stricter concepts of the right to strike (though preserving it as a principle) and workers' control in the factories.

Some in the party Politburo and in the echelon around it still want to use martial law to finish off Solidarity.

This is not the intention of Jaruzelski and the moderate reformers close to him. But while internment lasts, they cannot find people in Solidarity with whom to negotiate. Government sources speak of continued contacts with Lech Walesa (but Jaruzelski did not mention him). The Solidarity chairman remains under house arrest.

Almost all of Walesa's colleagues in the union's national leadership are interned. Zbigniew Bujak, the militant hard-liner of the union's Warsaw chapter, eluded the police net, but his calls from underground for a long struggle against military dictatorship make him an unlikely negotiator.

Some ideas of official thinking -- including a vague formula for a Solidarity ''independent of employers'' -- have come from government sources.

Almost certainly the unions will have to reregister with new charters that acknowledge first and foremost the party's dominant role in society.

Above all, any new Solidarity will have to agree to confine itself to the bread-and-butter, working-conditions unionism that the moderates urged at the outset. It will not be allowed to mix into party politics.

Accommodation along such lines should not be impossible if the government exploits its own moderate center ground to create conditions in which moderate, responsible Solidarity leaders feel free to negotiate.

With the economy in such a calamitous state, there is no other way out, even with help from Poland's Comecon allies. Only through a real accord with the workers and their unions can the government hope to get the country working as it must to survive. Under the best of circumstances, getting the economy back on its feet will take at least three years.

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