National day could signal easing of Poland's martial law

Poland has passed through several potentially ''fateful'' moments in seven months of martial law without any definitive result one way or the other.

But this week may prove more conclusive. Thursday is the national holiday, and a substantial easing of emergency conditions is expected by then. So is the decision on whether the Pope will visit Poland again next month.

Foreign Minister Jozef Czyrek is in Rome, reportedly to present the government's formal invitation to Pope John Paul II for his second visit to his homeland since he became Pontiff four years ago.

Martial law chief Wojciech Jaruzelski is due to make a major policy speech to parliament Wednesday. His second such speech in a week, it is expected to set forth his perspectives for a steady - but not yet final - dismantling of martial law and for Poland's recovery from crisis.

Announcement of the release of half, or possibly more, of union activists and other opposition elements still interned is anticipated. No firm figures have been disclosed, but, since the start of July, there has been a steady increase in the numbers set free. Only about 2,000 are thought to be still in custody.

It has been said that a national day amnesty could cover all but those General Jaruzelski regards as the most recalcitrant and hard-core of political opponents.

There is no indication whether Solidarity leader Lech Walesa will be released. Recently there have been more exploratory contacts among some of his Solidarity advisers, Roman Catholic intellectuals from a group that has been monitoring the situation since martial law was declared last December, and officials of the government's department on trade unions.

Their efforts may well be helped by last week's shuffle of the Communist Party Politburo. Its most formidable conservative, Stefan Olszowski, lost his responsibility for party propaganda.

His replacement has not yet been disclosed. But it seems safe to assume it will be someone who will institute a more open information policy.

This would reflect the more tolerant appraisal of Solidarity - its good points as well as its bad - that General Jaruzelski is known to hold. Under Mr. Olszowski the union was painted as an antistate organization bent on seizing political power.

Last week's Politburo changes (more are expected July 21) - coupled with the release of internees, must at least create a better background against which the general can frame his message to a nation that has yet to be convinced.

It is not easy to determine how much influence the clandestine groups operating in Warsaw and other former militant Solidarity strongholds since December wield among the work force at large.

The government has dismissed as irrelevant their announcement of their own moratorium on opposition activity over the July holiday period. But that ban should help create a calmer atmosphere in which a move toward dialogue with Solidarity could become possible.

That, of course, is an essential prerequisite to the papal visit, and the final decision on the timing of that visit is expected shortly.

The Polish leadership remains ambivalent about having the Pope return to his native land. On the one hand, it wants the visit to come off, for it would represent some apparent understanding and modus vivendi between two Polish patriots - the martial law leader and the Pontiff. For many Polish citizens, that would give a significant boost to Jaruzelski's objectives.

On the other hand, the regime is apprehensive that, however meticulously the visit is framed, the emotionalism surrounding it could inject political notes into what is visualized as a purely pastoral occasion.

To some extent that is going to happen anyway. The question will be whether the political tones are held within safe limits. It seems that General Jaruzelski believes they can be, given the encouragement implicit in the presence of the Pope again on Polish soil.

When they reviewed the question in early June, both government and Roman Catholic authorities gave an impression of a tacit understanding that the visit will be strictly a pilgrimage related to the celebration of the 600th anniversary of the Black Madonna shrine at Czestowchowa in southern Poland and not a television spectacular on the scale of the Pope's 1979 visit.

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.