Krakow living with its own style of martial law

''Controlled talk!'' a toneless voice says every time you dial a telephone in Warsaw.

In Gdansk, it has a less arbitrary ring: ''Attention! This talk will be controlled!''

Here in Krakow, there is nothing at all, although telephones are under martial-law surveillance throughout Poland.

Officials here decry any suggestion that Krakow has been able to dispense with the warning because its administration is ''liberal'' compared to other regions.

Yet, one feels that martial law is not quite so obtrusive in daily life. The presence of visible security is minimal, even now with the tension surrounding the anniversary of the suspended Solidarity union's founding. In contrast, Warsaw streets are closely patrolled and in Gdansk, riot squads are always at the ready.

Partly, one supposes, it is that Krakow has a style of its own.

The very bricks of the venerable Jagiellonian colleges breathe an established culture. Six centuries of deeply European academic tradition seem to prompt a more philosophical, calmer view of life, detached even under the unwanted military exigencies of the moment.

This year, four younger universities - including Warsaw's - were forced to part with rectors regarded as having too many reservations about martial law. The Jagiellonian has so far not been affected, though it might well be when the new education law comes into force next month.

As it stands, the universities may enjoy a meaningful degree of independence. Rectors and other academic officers are to be elected by the universities themselves. In theory, an independent student union is possible, although it is precluded under present conditions.

Right now, the university's main concerns are those brought about by Poland's general economic situation, with its budget cut by 50 percent and hard currency costs for equipment ranging from three to 10 times what they were.

Prof. Alojzy Golebiewski, a vice-rector, says the university is having to manage on one-third to one-fourth of its former budget. ''We have no money for replacements or for international cooperation and exchanges. Since martial law nobody can go abroad.''

For these special local reasons, the Communist Party in Krakow seems to have a more difficult task than in other regions. Under martial law its ranks have shrunk as several thousand turned in their cards. Many more were expelled after they failed ''verification.''

Among academics and university employees membership is half what it was. There are no party members at all in some institutes. The student following is nil.

Only 11 of 170 Krakow residents interned Dec. 13 are still held, according to the party. A dozen or so others are serving prison terms handed down by military courts after the December strikes.

Among them is Mieczyslaw Gil, leader of Solidarity in the Nowa Huta steel plant, where two weeks ago most of the 1,500 people who work the first shift took part in a ''release Walesa'' march.

There were 13 arrests - but only one was a worker from the plant, said Krystyn Dabrowa, the regional party secretary, in a Monitor interview. They were dealt with by civil ''social tribunes'' - not military courts. These civil courts may impose fines but cannot send people to jail.

Mr. Dabrowa is usually spoken of as ''liberal,'' but he disavows that for both himself and his administration. He is an astute politician. And he is more candid than others about the uphill battle the party faces in its search for credibility.

He agrees that August 1980 ushered in ''authentic reform'' necessary to ''repair the bad phenomena of the past.''

''So far,'' he says, ''we have not managed to convince society, particularly youth, that we genuinely want to continue those changes.''

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.