A possible first step toward the end of martial law in Poland was taken Nov. 11 when the government announced the imminent release of Lech Walesa, the leader of the now-banned Solidarity union.
Mr. Walesa is to be returned to his home and family in the Baltic port city of Gdansk from his remote exile in southeastern Poland during the next few days, a government press spokesman said.
The decision followed a Nov. 8 letter addressed by Walesa to Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, chief of the ruling Military Council and Communist Party leader, just before the protest action planned by underground Solidarity activists.
''It seems to me the time has come to clear up certain issues and take steps toward mutual agreement,'' Walesa wrote.
''Time was needed for many to understand what and how much can still be accomplished on both sides. I propose a meeting and serious discussion of subjects of interest, and with goodwill we shall surely find a solution.''
''A solution,'' wrote Walesa, who has been interned since martial law was imposed Dec. 13 and was the symbol of resistance, ''will be for the good for all of us.''
His letter was signed ''Cpl. Lech Walesa,'' a reference to his rank during military service.
The spokesman disclosed that following his letter to General Jaruzelski, Mr. Walesa was visited by Gen. Czeslaw Kiszczak, the minister of internal affairs, at the hunting lodge where he has been housed since spring.
Decisions on or arrangements for a Jaruzelski-Walesa meeting, according to the spokesman, have not yet been made.
The spokesman prefaced his announcement by noting the passing of Leonid Brezhnev. The Soviet leader, he said, had been ''a great friend'' of Poland. Ironically, the announcement of Walesa's release came just hours after the announcement of Brezhnev's passing.
This dramatic gesture of releasing Walesa - coming hard after the failure of the underground to bring about a nationwide work stoppage Nov. 10 - may well mark the end of organized resistance by the militant remnants of the union.
[The government spokesman said he hoped the authorities could fulfill tentative plans by military leader General Jaruzelski to suspend martial law by the end of the year, reports UPI.
[Official figures released on the called-for strike said more than 800 people were detained in demonstrations, the most serious in Warsaw, Wroclaw, and Krakow. ''There has not been a single strike in Poland,'' he said.
[Although there were scattered reports of stoppages, most people appeared to have worked normally. Management, military commissars, and Communist Party activists had made clear that troublemakers could be fired, fined, or jailed.
[The underground has also called for demonstrations on Dec. 13 to mark the first year of martial law. But after the response Nov. 10, they are sure to ponder whether such a call has any point.)
Walesa, once the leader of the 10-million member Solidarity, will be the first of the union's top rank to be freed from internment that has stretched to nearly a year.
[Asked if further releases were planned, the government spokesman stated: ''The proper authorities decide on individual cases - the general tendency has been to free people,'' Reuters reports. The authorities have ordered mass releases twice, but on each occasion it was just before planned antigovernment protests, and many people were re-interned.]