Poles count on early end to martial law

The likely end of martial law and talks about ''national agreement'' are more and more the order of the day here.

The apparent intention to end emergency rule at a special session of parliament opening Dec. 13, the anniversary of last year's military crackdown, will no doubt hearten the nation at large, but broader national accord is still going to take some time.

''It will still be a very important step,'' said one of parliament's most independent-minded, non-Communist Party members. ''Meanwhile, we at least have moved on from the language of the streets and force, and begun talking to each other.''

For the next few weeks, the government is likely to continue the conciliatory measures that began with the release of former union leader Lech Walesa. For example:

* This week's lifting of the ban on a number of Roman Catholic intelligentsia clubs and hints at other such returns to ''normal.''

* Freeing more - perhaps even all - of the internees, who still number about 1,000.

* Campaigning to encourage workers to join the new unions.

The government is keeping its options open about Lech Walesa. No meeting with him is planned as yet, and the present policy seems to be to minimize his role in the public mind. His release was given minuscule space and his subsequent public utterances have been ignored by the Polish news media.

On the other hand, the authorities would welcome it if he called on the Solidarity underground, for example, to join him in backing the new unions and testing the merits and reality of their promised independence.

Shortly before Walesa was freed, a new faction of union activists still in hiding criticized the underground's tactics thus far and called for a more pragmatic approach to the possibility of new talks with the authorities.

The regime, meanwhile, is working to rebut Western criticism about the union law. The new unions, as Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski and others stress again and again, are to be genuinely independent and self-managing.

Their limitation to an individual enterprise is to last only one year. Thereafter they may develop national and then inter-union links by occupation, trade, and profession on the Western pattern. And officials note, the law recognizes Solidarity's most prized gain - the right to strike - albeit only after prescribed arbitration channels have been exhausted.

Officials insist the new law is ''liberal.'' It is unique in the East bloc: Nowhere else does any legal recognition of the right to strike exist. Even Hungary, whose unions have some decisionmaking role in labor relations, does not grant them the right to take direct action.

So far, it is said, 1,130 Polish enterprises have applied to register unions. Many former Solidarity activists are being elected chairmen of the initiative groups, for example, at the giant Nowa Huta steelworks.

Most workers there declined to take part in demonstrations of recent months, but they still resent the outlawing of their union. And they are dissatisfied about economic conditions. They told General Jaruzelski as much from the foundry floor when he paid a three-hour visit to the plant last week.

The economic outlook remains grim. A recent agreement with Western creditor banks defers payment of $2.3 billion of foreign debts due this year, providing a breathing space till the late 1980s. In exchange for payment now of $1.1 billion in interest charges, the banks are to turn back half the money to Poland in short-term trade credit.

Despite three months of rising industrial output - up 5 percent last month on October 1981 - and a continued upturn in coal and coal exports for hard currency , performance overall remains stagnant.

The effects on consumers are severe. Housing, while improving slightly, is still 42 percent short of the year's plan. Recent months have seen a little more meat purchased from private farmers, but it still is below last year's figures. The arrival of a first Cuban shipload of 620 tons of grapefruit - a luxury not seen here for several years - was a top news story.

of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Unlimited digital access $11/month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.