Terrorist drama at Bern embassy steals spotlight from Polish problems

The terrorist drama at the Polish Embassy in Bern has diverted Poles' attention from their many troubles at home - at least for a few days.

And it has given the authorities here a brief respite after the clashes and rioting across Poland last week. The government quickly offered to send a ''special group'' to help free the hostages being held by the gunmen in the Bern embassy, but this was turned down by the Swiss.

By Wednesday evening the armed group that seized the embassy - demanding the lifting of martial law and the release of political prisoners in Poland - had released all but five of the 13 people they originally took hostage. They had also extended by two days (until early Friday) the deadline they set for blowing up the embassy and their hostages.

(Police rescued a diplomat who had been hiding in the embassy unbeknown to the terrorists.)

For most ordinary Poles, all this has provided grim but welcome relief from the lackluster fare that forms most television programming here and fills newspaper columns.

For the authorities, it has provided an opportunity to draw parallels with the motives behind the embassy's seizure and the Solidarity underground militants held responsible for the Aug. 31 unrest.

Officials used it, too, for a further campaign against what they perceive in the Western news media as a bias against Poland's martial law regime. They are particularly unhappy about US and West European broadcasting networks.

Much of the Western broadcast coverage of the embassy seizure, it was said - particularly in Polish-language programs - served to encourage terrorism as a political weapon against Poland and to encourage underground, antisocialist Solidarity groups bent on turning the union movement against the state.

To many Poles as well as outside observers, it seemed another case of the authorities overreacting to events as they had before last week's demonstrations. In a morning briefing for the foreign press here Sept. 8, however, a spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs alluded neither to union ''extremists'' nor to the Western media.

Meanwhile, attention to the incident filled a kind of vacuum after last week's rioting.

Although the protests marking the anniversary of August 1980 fell far short of the general mass action the underground had hoped for, they were considerably more widespread than authorities had expected.

In few cases were workers directly involved on any significant scale and work in most industries went on more or less as usual.

But the general atmosphere and events in key centers such as Nowa Huta, Gdansk, and the industrial belt around Wroclaw indicated a serious and continuing lack of confidence in both the government's long-term intentions and its immediate anticrisis program.

Such skepticism is shared by the silent majority that took no part in the demonstrations. People resent martial law and are impatient for deeds, not just more words.

Even Trybuna Ludu, the Communist Party newspaper, admitted the majority's failure to join the protesters in the streets did not mean they give real support to the authorities.

The newspaper noted the lack of substantial public response to government-sponsored endeavors to stimulate discussion about social shortcomings (economic included), the dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church, or the reconstruction of the unions.

Despite this last bout of unrest, government sources insist the program of reform outlined to parliament by martial law chief Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski last month still holds. It included his declared aim of suspending martial law ''by the end of this year.''

But there are signs that technocrats and non-Communist Party politicians are as impatient as the general public at the slow pace of implementation of the most essential reforms outlined first in the August 1980 strike settlements and confirmed by the party congress a year ago.

The minister responsible for chemical and light industries recently asked 48 enterprise directors what was needed to stimulate productivity and output.

First, they all told him, reactivate workers' self-management and solve the question of the unions. Only then, they said, would the climate be right for productivity to increase.

The government claims this is being done. But a parliamentary commission revealed that only 150 of some 2,500 enterprise self-management councils operating when martial law was imposed have been reactivated.

A deputy commented: ''If the (economic) reform is based on self-management, there is no chance of implementing it without active self-management councils in the enterprises.''

There are, moreover, the 200 or so major enterprises (employing the biggest work forces) in key branches in which nothing can be done as long as they remain ''militarized'' under the emergency regulations.

A larger role for parliament is being discussed by noncommunist and nonparty MPs as another prerequisite for arousing public interest in anything like the government's own ''patriotic revival'' movement. Many people, including party members, see the latter as little more than a front organization.

A meeting of parliament's expert advisers Sept. 6 stated that ''the time has come to substitute declarations and appeals with action to materialize the idea of conciliation.''

The idea is that parliament itself should inititiate legislation for the liberalization and dismantling of martial law, to include restoration of independent and self-managed unions and a start on new election laws for parliament and local councils. The free choice of candidates for such elections was one of the stipulations of the initial reform concept.

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