Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski is cautiously moving Poland step by calculated step toward the promised lifting of martial law next month.
And as the country's military ruler pulls the levers of power, the Communist Party and the Roman Catholic Church have been pushed very much back-stage.
As for the outlawed Solidarity union - which for two heady years formed the country's third major power center along with the party and church - it no longer has any role at all.
The Catholic Church has had nothing to say since General Jaruzelski met Archbishop Jozef Glemp three weeks ago. There have been no further expressions of ''common concern'' like that made only two days before the Solidarity anniversary Nov. 10 - a message that contributed to the failure of the underground union's strike call.
The Communist Party has also been remarkably subdued. It was not the party that issued a dramatic call to parliament Nov. 22 to lift military rule ''as soon as possible.'' Instead it was the general's own creation, the Patriotic Movement for National Revival (PRON), a new organization that is being allotted an increasingly significant role.
Solidarity and its scattered activist remnants are completely out of the picture. Since Lech Walesa was freed Nov. 12, his prior offer to work with the authorities in a ''spirit of friendship'' has been ignored.
It is clear now that Jaruzelski had no intention of bargaining. He has proved strong enough to stick to that, despite the symbolic hold Mr. Walesa still has among rank-and-file workers.
And, now he is free, Walesa seems to have become as expendable from the church's viewpoint as he has been from that of the state. It is a bitter irony.
As usual in Poland, the scene has many confusing elements. What is clear is that martial law is ending, and that Jaruzelski prepared the ground for making the change under tolerably peaceful conditions.
The process began in August. Although the rioting then was worse than the authorities expected, it was contained. It proved to be Solidarity's last fling, particularly for the handful of activists trying to keep up a forlorn fight against martial law from underground.
Their Nov. 10 strike call flopped. And this past weekend they canceled their call for protest Dec. 13, the anniversary of martial law, because of ''an entirely new political situation.''
The November failure was clinched by Jaruzelski's meeting with the primate only a couple of days before, and their announcement of a papal visit next June. Mostly, however, the strike call failed because people - no matter how loyal they were to Solidarity - were tired and convinced that further protests were futile.
Through the summer, too, the Catholic Church seems to have concluded the whole modus vivendi it had laboriously built with the state since the 1950s - including pastoral opportunities not seen elsewhere in the communist bloc - could be jeopardized by over-identification with the politics of the Solidarity cause.
Its paramount motive is always its ''eternal mission'' and an ''evangelical strategy'' - not a political one, as the primate said in a recent sermon. Parallels are being drawn with the ''prudence'' of ''unpopular'' advice given Solidarity by the late Stefan Cardinal Wyszynski amid the tensions of 1980, when he feared the Catholic Church itself could come under threat.
Archbishop Glemp counseled ''prudence'' in mid-September. And that was the message he brought back from the Pope earlier this month after their talks in Rome and during the Pontiff's sojourn in Spain.
Here Walesa reenters the picture in a labyrinthine story about his reportedly taped, allegedly bitter comments on the attitude of the church - and the Pope - during 11 months of martial law and his own internment.
It is difficult to ascertain just how much truth there is in the story. The authorities have denied knowledge of the affair. Some church sources acknowledge privately that some recording of Walesa's views exists, but they decline to confirm it publicly.
What seems reasonably clear, however, is that a chill has fallen and some change has occurred in relations between the episcopate and Walesa. It is said to result from his ''intemperate'' criticism of the church for not defending Solidarity and him more militantly.
Apparently he has not denied such criticism. In fact, it is said to have been the main topic of his meeting with the primate following his release. Afterward, Walesa said only that he needed more time to reflect on his future course. At time of writing, he had not been heard from again.
It is also said that Archbishop Glemp - though not ''fully convinced'' by Walesa's ''explanations'' - took a generous, paternalistic view of a man with deep feelings magnified by long isolation from events. Other church figures are said to have been less ''understanding.''
Meanwhile, the state authority and the church had expressed common interest in national conciliation and accord on how to bring Poland out of crisis. But this has yet to go beyond pious expression into any specific, combined action.
Instead, General Jaruzelski has moved unilaterally. It is said that he can now count on a majority in the party Central Committee - something a party leader has found difficult to achieve since August 1980. But a hard-line opposition faction has not yet given up.
Clearly, Jaruzelski is staking a great deal on his Patriotic Movement for National Revival. Lately it has begun to assume a slightly more representative character, with an interim national council headed by a veteran Catholic writer and with a sprinkling of figures from the arts, workers, party, and lay church.
Even though PRON's call for ending martial law, releasing all internees, and preparation for amnesty of those jailed for ''crimes'' against martial law enunciated things everyone wants, the new organization has yet to gain acceptance from a public still openly distrustful of anything organized ''from the top.'' Its proposed program will not, however, be without its effects, particularly on the eve of Christmas. The general's timing has been good. Parliament will adopt it Dec. 13-14 as bidden.
Now another effort to defuse opposition among young people has been made by allowing formation by students themselves of a new, not specifically political, Association of Polish Students. An end to martial law might spur the formation of unions within the new labor legislation. To date some 400 are registered out of some 1,600 applications; and founding committees are said to be springing up all over the country.
But it is admitted that bigger enterprises are slow to respond and that even where unions are formed membership is still small. Even within their strict limits, however, many Poles see the new unions perhaps as potential ''mini-Solidarities'' keeping alive the essential spirit of the old truly independent union for the future.
Already official minds are turned to the post-martial law period. In particular, the question being asked is: How will the West, above all the United States, react?
Technically, freeing Walesa, making some kind of common cause with the church , the release of internees, and amnesty for them (though the terms of the latter will be a factor) meet Washington's terms for lifting economic sanctions. The Polish authorities will expect some early move.
The effects on Moscow of the Jaruzelski program will be less apparent. Yuri Andropov is no more eager to be ''bothered'' by the Poles than his predecessor. The peaceful, adequately controlled removal of martial law will give him that much more assurance.