Poles shun regime's image polishing

Poland's Roman Catholics and Jews have been joining in extensive observances of the 40th anniversary of the Warsaw ghetto uprising. But their joint remembrance of that event in World War II is not sufficient to bridge the political gulf between government and the people that is the biggest and most intractable problem in Poland's current crisis.

To many Poles it appears that their government, which they do not like, is seeking political mileage from this anniversary. They suspect the lavish support afforded the current observance is intended to improve the regime's standing in world opinion.

Thus not even all of the few survivors of the uprising who are still living in Poland are joining in. (Before the war, Poland was home to 31/2 million Jews; today the Jewish community in Poland numbers some 15,000.)

Dr. Marek Edleman, one of those survivors, is a well-known figure who supported Solidarity and openly opposed martial law. He has described the observances as ''manipulated celebrations'' and declined to take part.

The official program continues through the end of the month, but the ''opposition'' plans to conduct an independent observance of April 1943 this coming weekend.

Meanwhile, the bitter divisions among the Polish people persist and the country remains still crippled by an economic situation that shows no sign of meaningful improvement four months after the most repressive features of martial law were removed.

Officials have been taking some comfort at 1983's first modest signs of an upturn in some areas of the economy. But the gravity of the outlook has just been exposed by the government's consultative economic council.

An equally gloomy view - based on the council's latest report - appeared in the authoritative economic weekly, Zycie Gospodarcze, whose editor is a member of the Communist Party Politburo.

It went straight to the heart of the Polish problem - focusing on the difficulties that amount to a standstill in carrying out the economic reform.

The reform is modest enough when compared, for instance, with Hungary's. But in the context of Poland's embittered politics it seems impossible to establish a viable starting point.

According to these two assessments, there still are no clear trends in industry toward more efficient management - which is basic to any reform - and no visible response to the more flexible system of financing, which requires enterprises to demonstrate greater efficiency before they qualify for fresh credit.

Nor is there any easing of the general pressure of inflation. Even the meager gains of recent months may be nullified by the time the government finally produces the promised package of taxes and other measures to halt the spiral.

Similarly, if the overall export picture seems brighter, that is due to the improvement in coal and copper production. But the processing industries and others that are almost as important as coal and copper remain in decline. The question is how to improve not only management but also the contributions of the labor force.

An answer that is evident to many Poles, but seems not yet to have found acceptance within the leadership, came recently from an unexpected quarter - one that presumably has the ear of Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, head of the Polish party and government.

Writing in the party daily, Trybuna Ludu, Col. Stanislaw Kwiatkowski, who was described as head of the government's public opinion center, said that, when martial law is completely lifted, the authorities will be better served by persuasion than the direct (repressive) methods of military rule.

The colonel made the point that the effective ''opposition'' is mainly intellectual, and the authorities must meet it on this ground, gaining popular support and isolating the opposition rather than eliminate it.

The Communist Party - and the leadership - are still divided on that - as Colonel Kwiatkowski himself had confirmed in an earlier article in which he wrote of an old-style ''ideological gendarmerie'' and its inadequacies for coping with the present situation.

The police and the courts, he said, would obviously still have a role, but they alone would not resolve Poland's problems. Prison sentences served only to create martyrs.

These comments are interesting, being aired shortly before a party Central Committee session on ideology due later this month. The allusion to ''martyrs'' is especially interesting in view of the expected trials of leaders of the dissident Workers' Self-Defense Committee (KOR), who have been in custody since December 1981 (when martial law was imposed), and of Solidarity activists arrested on serious charges when most of the union internees were released last December.

Making martyrs of them would more than anything else deepen the gulf that just now shadows national remembrance of one of Poland's - and, as the primate said, of history's - greatest tragedies.

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