Wojciech Jaruzelski now must choose. Following the announcement by leaders of Solidarity this week that they would operate publicly for the first time since 1981, analysts say the Polish leader has a chance to break the country's political deadlock. Three paths are open to him:
He can negotiate.
He can throw the opposition leaders back into prison.
Or he can try to ignore them.
General Jaruzelski's goal is clear. He wants to strike a type of Hungarian-style compromise with his people. In return for a large amount of freedom to say what they want, travel where they want, and make money as they want, Poles must accept, even embrace, rule by the Communist Party.
To achieve this consensus, experts emphasize that Jaruzelski will not permit the rebirth of the independent trade union Solidarity as it existed before it was banned in 1981. After he gave amnesty to all of the country's political prisoners two weeks ago, he warned the activists against rebuilding into organized opposition groups.
``Jaruzelski will insist that the public comply with him,'' explains Jan de Weydenthal, an analyst at Munich's Radio Free Europe (RFE). ``He will be gentle, talk nicely to you, give you a passport, a job, but on the condition that he and the Communist Party are allowed to call the shots.''
At the same time, Mr. de Weydenthal and others say Jaruzelski is unlikely to throw the Solidarity leaders back into prison. That would embarrass his regime in front of Poland's Roman Catholic Church and the Western democracies, both of which praised the amnesty.
``Jaruzelski wants to take a conciliatory line,'' says Jacques Rupnik, an Eastern European specialist at the Paris Center for International Studies.
For the time being, he seems to have chosen the final option: ignoring Solidarity. In the first official comment, government spokesman Jerzy Urban said Solidarity's meetings were ``social gatherings'' and that union leader Lech Walesa, a Nobel peace prize winner, was ``an ordinary private citizen.''
Analysts say that Jaruzelski -- should he wish to do so -- could afford to offer his opponents a voice, softer and less powerful than what Solidarity used to speak with, but with more clout than any other opposition in the East bloc.
A first step would be improving church-state relations. Polish officials have been holding talks this week with the Catholic episcopate.
``The regime can make some concessions to the church,'' says Vladimir Kusin, another analyst at RFE. It can go ahead with ``the Pope's visit next year, including a trip to Gdansk, the granting of legal status to the Church, and the upgrading of relations with the Vatican.''
Should a settlement be reached with the church, Solidarity hopes that Jaruzelski will dare to take the bigger step and strike at least a tacit bargain with them.
``Both side are moving,'' concludes de Weydenthal. ``Jaruzelski would love to make an overture, on his own terms, and the opposition would love to have an overture. That doesn't mean there will be a dramatic breakthrough. But at least new possibilities are emerging.''