After a year of martial law the Polish government claims to be victorious. Yet the only real success seems to be that it is the same government which imposed that law in December 1981.
Why is that alleged victory so heavily guarded by bayonets, still visible behind the political facade? Why has martial law only been suspended, not lifted , and so partially?
Most Western commentators believe that a military politician has only one enemy, the one in the opposite camp. But General Jaru-zelski apparently had to give way to his own hardliners, who pressed him not to waste the achievements of martial rule. And it is dubious that the predicted amnesty or leniency will relieve the fate of those convicted for offenses against martial law. No police in the world would tolerate freeing those whom they had once chased, and Jaruzelski heavily depends on the morale of the security forces.
There are other reasons why Lech Wale-sa's demand to return to the Gdansk agreement of August 1980 and build national reconciliation on that basis is unrealistic. How can he expect the government, which controls the country and has outlawed and crushed Solidarity, to go back to the situation in which it was powerless and the union powerful? This proves that Walesa is much better in huge public meetings than in backroom negotia-tions.
Another and the most important reason for the government to refuse any reconstitution of an independent union is that what is really independent must, sooner or later (but probably sooner), become anticommunist and antigovernment. It will take decades, not years, before the Poles forget the lesson of 1981, and by now any really independent organization is virtually impossible.
The government seems to understand that. There are few attempts to make the nation love the authorities. They will be probably satisfied with fair, even cool acceptance. But in spite of all the bitter lessons of history (probably the highest rate of uprisings per capita, joke some, and none of them successful), the Poles prefer to be brave than wise. The ethos of resistance will result in acts of violence and sabotage, which will be severely punished by the government under a modernized penal code, flanked by unwritten sanctions in state-controlled jobs.
Jaruzelski would probably like to follow Kadar, who tolerated political neutralism, announcing that ''who is not against us is with us.'' But he did not say that until three years after having taken power and, more important, until Hungary ceased to import grain and dropped its rationing system.
Poland is and will remain economically enfeebled for a long time. To get healthy it needs not only Western credits (providing Western politicians with additional leverage in the Polish crisis) but the cooperation of its own citizens, which it is even less likely to achieve. Given the level of technology and the participation required, Polish industry cannot work without Poles' good will and thus a vicious circle is created: there will be no economic improvement without political participation and there will be no participation without economic improvement.
That stalemate will last longer than the average observer can guess and will make Poles even more angry. Polish children not yet born will probably learn from their parents why they are smaller, less healthy, and worse educated than the average in other European nations. Nobody would deny the communists the credit for having urbanized Poland in the '50s, for having absorbed ''redundant people'' from the countryside into the towns, and for the education revolution, thanks to which we handful of refugees can more easily adapt to life abroad, being professionally well prepared, unlike the first illiterate Polish emigrants a century ago.
On the other hand, the communists can't shed responsibility for the drastic decline in the living standard, the higher mortality rate, the family crisis brought on by the disastrous shortage of housing, the worsened level of schooling, especially in the countryside, and so on. There is hardly any domain of national life not touched by the crisis.
There is no way to portray the Polish political landscape without the Roman Catholic Church in it. The only institution in public life representing continuity is more and more at the center of the scene, like it or not. Even people who had been close to the communist establishment and made a political U-turn now tend to affiliate with the church: writers appear in Catholic periodicals, and intellectuals participate in KIK (Clubs of Catholic Intelligentsia) panels.
When Jaruzelski toughened his position and when Walesa attempted to derail the role foreseen for him by the government Archbishop Glemp, openly and strongly criticized by the clergy for being too soft, could do nothing but speak louder as well. He condemned the limited suspension of martial law recently as designed mostly for export and display, thus reducing the chance of national reconciliation even more. Yet that is exactly what most Poles wanted him to do - and that is why in the future, when Poland is again on the edge of an outburst, his voice will be able to calm down emotions.
The general probably has ambivalent feelings about the church. So does the most radical part of what has remained of the opposition underground. Extremist elements don't like shock absorbers. They should understand, however, that although there are many forces (especially in the West) that would like to heat up the Polish pot - nobody would like to have it explode.
Therefore for people like me there is no way but to settle abroad and to believe that a historian in the distant future will allow us a small paragraph in his sad book on Poland.