Poles remain cool to regime two months after martial law ends

Polish grocery stores are better stocked these days, and the consumer situation in general has improved in Poland since martial law was lifted Dec. 30 .

But these changes apparently have not fostered warmer feelings among ordinary Poles for their military government.

Communist Party membership - which fell by one-quarter to one-third since 1980 - has not picked up as much as party leaders had expected. And the proportion of Polish workers in the party is regarded as low. According to official party figures, membership dropped by 800,000 over three years, and the membership figure now approaches 2.4 million. Only 40 percent of party members are workers. The rate of new members joining the party is still slower than the rate of those dropping out or forced out.

The leadership puts a good face on this situation, saying this thinning-out has largely eliminated the ''hostile forces'' in the party - ''liberals'' and the like. They suggest the party will thus be consolidated, and more of a fighting organization.

But some official reports also concede party rank and file remains uninterested in the party program. The reports also reveal the party is still weakest in the 200 or so key industrial centers where Solidarity was strongest.

Loyalty to the banned union remains rocklike in the industrial cities. In Gdansk, more than 2,000 Poles rallied illegally Sunday at the workers' monument near the Lenin Shipyard. The rally followed former Solidarity leader Lech Walesa's statement last week that ''stronger actions'' may be required to persuade the government that Solidarity must still be reckoned with, even though the union is outlawed. Demonstrations continued in Gdansk Monday.

Before martial law, more than a million Communist Party members also belonged to the union. The memories of 15 months of grass-roots democracy, local autonomy , and pluralism before martial law frustrate revitalization of the party as well as recruitment for the government-approved union replacements for the banned Solidarity.

Latest published figures show 1.2 million workers have joined the government-approved unions. That figure is way below the membership level of 30 percent of a labor force (more than 10 million people) officially predicted for 1983.

Members, moreover, are spread thinly among thousands of work places. Most Poles who joined the new unions are middle-age blue-collar workers. The official news agency says that a majority of the working population is ''still undecided'' about the government unions' ability to serve the workers' interests.

Unabated distrust and apathy are terms which might be applied as well.

Workers in the old Solidarity strongholds - the shipyards, mines, and other big industries - have stayed away from the new unions, for the most part.

Besides their general lack of interest in the unions, workers in some areas are apparently restless. The party secretary at the big Ursus tractor plant was quoted as telling a Warsaw regional party meeting last month:''The situation among the people is tense. The party,'' he warned, ''should listen to what they have to say.''

Lech Walesa - currently sitting in the courtroom where one of his staunchest August 1980 aides, Anna Walentynowicz, is on trial for continuing union activity under martial law - still declines to have anything to do with the new unions.

Following a ''legal'' tussle with the authorities, he has been reinstated on the payroll at his old place of work, the Gdansk shipyard, but has not been allowed to resume working there.

When Polish leader Gen. Wojciech Jaruzselski and Jozef Cardinal Glemp, Roman Catholic primate of Poland, met last week to set the date for the Pope's visit (June 16 to 22), they certainly discussed the state of the country. They probably talked about the new unions and the regime's continued repressive measures against Solidarity activists or sympathizers.

The Pope is unlikely to visit his native Poland without speaking out on such issues if they remain unresolved. The two leaders may have exchanged assurances of some sort. A degree of social and industrial peace cannot be attained without moderation on these issues and moves to simulate some semblance of public trust in government intentions.

There have been some signs the government has not completely written off the possibility of a fresh turn to Walesa to gain some acceptability for the new unions, possibly even allowing his own return to the shipyard.

Official hesitation to open a new Solidarity wound looks implicit in the handling last week of the trial of Anna Walentynowicz, one of the union's founding activists.

The trial, which opened last Wednesday, has been adjourned. No date was announced for resumption of the trial. It is considered possible that the ''relaxed'' attitude toward the trial may stem from a government desire not to seem provocative just as General Jaruzelski and Cardinal Glemp have met and agreed that the Polish situation is such that the Pope's visit can go ahead.

Another signal of progress was the announcement Monday that food rationing will be phased out over the next several months.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
QR Code to Poles remain cool to regime two months after martial law ends
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today