The Polish party congress last week was in some ways a triumph for Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski. It also signaled the effective end of the Solidarity era. The Polish leader did what several other Communist Party leaders have done at recent East-bloc congresses: He brought new and younger people into the upper leadership.
Scarcely a quarter of the Central Committee's former members were re-elected. And seven of 15 Politburo members were replaced. Among the newcomers are three generals. Among those removed was one of the banned Solidarity trade union's most strident opponents.
But this congress sharply pointed up how different the situation in Poland is from the ``liberal'' euphoria prevailing at the last congress, five years ago. At that congress, strong democratizing trends emerged within the party, in tune with Polish moods at large, and most of the hard-line faction was removed.
The recent gathering was designed from the start to be a stabilizing one, a reaffirmation of five years of General Jaruzelski's efforts to bring more discipline into the party and into public, working life.
The general was hailed at the end for two achievements:
As the ``helmsman'' who had steered the party through ``the most difficult period in its history,'' and,
As the man who transformed the party from a crumbling organization that had to resort to martial law to survive into a ``political and moral force'' that overcame the Solidarity challenge.
Of the trade union movement that dominated the Polish scene from 1980 through most of 1981, there is little left. The capture a month ago of its last major underground leader, Zbigniew Bujak, brought clandestine active opposition to a virtual close.
This party convention showed how far the regime has moved away from the ``open'' government which was one of the great issues of 1980 and which the government went on lauding as a principle even during martial law and after.
The congress adopted a program for continued economic reform.
But it is along lines already established and still frustrated by the difficulty of putting market economics into practice when Polish belts are already so tight, after nearly a decade of economic decline.
``What we need now is work discipline and consistency,'' the general said at the end.
Significantly -- beside the distinctly military look of the new top leadership -- Jaruzelski brought into the Politburo Alfred Midowicz, the leader of the new, purportedly ``independent'' unions established in Solidarity's place.
He and his unions have several times shown a degree of militancy on price-and-wage issues -- the nub of the economic reform -- embarrassing to the government.