Why Polish workers ignore Solidarity's strike calls
''For (ration) coupons only,'' reads a notice on a meager display of shoes in a Warsaw shop window.
For some weeks now, shoes as well as underwear, stockings, socks, and tights have been rationed. Textiles in general are so scarce they may soon be rationed.
As much as anything else such examples reflect the current realities of Polish life - and explain why there was no response to underground calls for further Solidarity protest stoppages this week.
In the first reactions to the Oct. 8 law that outlawed the independent union, hundreds of the 14,000 workers in the Gdansk shipyard downed their tools for the morning shift.
One who didn't told reporters as he left the yard later: ''Of course, I sympathize with Solidarity. Of course, I want to strike for Solidarity. But I have three children, and my wife said, 'You had better not risk losing your job.' ''
The authorities precluded a repeat of the yard's initial stoppage by putting the workers under military law: Anyone taking part risked losing his job; organizers faced jail terms.
When US President Reagan announced new trade sanctions on Poland, a leading member of the Polish government dismissed them lightly. ''We have already become used'' to the earlier US restrictions, he said.
But Polish news media, even curtailed as they are under martial law, paint a picture of ever-worsening hardships for Poles.
In the Polish Constitution martial law is ambiguously called a ''state of war.'' The Polish economy seems to stand on a war footing in so many respects now that older people recall, if not wartime itself, at least the first dour years after World War II.
It is not just the severe impact of new market prices that trebled and in some cases quadrupled the cost of foods in February, or the stringent rationing of staples like meat, sugar, and butter.
This year's harvest has been relatively good, but there is a big need for imported grain. Aid for items like meat is also needed, but East-bloc allies are either unable or reluctant - or both - to help as much as they did in the first 18 months of crisis after the strikes of August 1980.
As winter approaches, warm clothing becomes an urgent problem. The economic weekly Zycie Gospodarcze writes of a light industry where textile production is at a standstill for lack of materials, and as much as 75 percent of output is rejected as substandard.
In the months ahead such shortages and hardships are likely to be the focal point for the resentment of, and perhaps resistance to, the government's cavalier disregard of the workers' loyalty to Solidarity unless the authorities somehow contrive to make life easier.
World recession has contributed, of course. But the major factors were the breakdown of an ill-planned economy and the labor unrest it fueled over three years.
Ninety percent of Nowa Huta's 37,000 workers belonged to Solidarity. Now that the government has banned their union, it is unlikely that they will heed government urgings to increase productivity.
In talks with this reporter in the Gdansk shipyard workers made their attitude clear a few weeks ago: ''We are working,'' they said. ''We're doing our job.''
More than that? ''When we have Solidarity back,'' they said, ''we shall see.'' But now, they have seen and that may explain their mood of resignation which was behind their abstention from further strike action last week.
Such individual, inner retreat into symbolic passive ''resistance'' to working could be very widespread. It would bode no good for government hopes of better work performance. It can create difficulties as baffling as outright resistance.
It remains to be seen whether the existing underground will rally significant support for its call for a four-hour nationwide stoppage on Nov. 10, the second anniversary of Solidarity's registration.