One month after Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski took over as Poland's premier, his appeal for "three months of labor peace" is receiving its first test with a one-hour strike in the industrial city of Lodz this week and the threat of another strike next week.
Compared to earlier rounds of labor unrest, this week's strikes were relatively minor affairs. But they were important psychologically because they presented the new premier with his first unrest since taking office on Feb. 11, spoiling the atmosphere of calm deliberation and constructive work that Jaruzelski was seeking to project.
The settlement at Lodz was reached only after talks lasting five hours between Jaruzelski and Lech Walesa, leader of the independent trade union federation, Solidarity.
Rather than face a direct showdown with the 10 million-strong union, the 57-year-old Army general appears convinced that the only way for the government to regain its authority is by winning public trust through a consistent policy of cooperation and compromise. As a result, the Lodz union seems to have got nearly everything it wanted.
But the path chosen by Jaruzelski is not an easy one. Nor does it seem more than the general's tactic to negotiate a truce while rebuilding morale and reorganizing his forces.
One recurring frustration is that Solidarity's national leadership does not have full control over its rank and file. Thus workers in Lodz went ahead with their planned one-hour strike on Tuesday despite appeals by Walesa.
Another problem is that, in the peculiar conditions of a one-party state, trivial conflicts can assume much more serious proportions than they would elsewhere. In a country such as Poland, without independent legal mechanisms respected by both sides, even petty disputes are resolved by one method alone: power.
Jaruzelski is perhaps better placed than any other Polish politician to assess the respective strengths of Solidarity and government. As defense minister for 13 years, a position he still holds, he is in close touch with local Army commanders. This provides him with an alternative, and frequently more reliable, source of information to the normal channels of state bureaucracy.
Partly as a result of these intelligence briefings, Jaruzelski appears to have ruled out force right from the first rumblings of unrest in July. Even in 1976, during scattered workers' riots against food price rises, he is widely believed to have advised the ruling Politburo: "Polish soldiers will not fire on Polish workers."
It is not a coincidence that the two strongest advocates of political methods to resolve the crisis are Jaruzelski and Stanislaw Kania, the present Communist Party leader. Both men have a background of responsibility for security -- Jaruzelski as a professional soldier, Kania as the Politburo member in charge for many years of the Army and the police.
Kania and Jaruzelski have been close political associates for at least a decade. Together they are believed to have played the leading role in engineering the coup that overthrew former Polish leader Edward Gierek in September. Jaruzelski's appointment as prime minister strengthened Kania's standing.
The problem is that they are caught between the conflicting expectations of their own people and their Soviet neighbor. The kind of radical reforms that might restore the standing of the Polish Communist Party in the eyes of society are precluded by Moscow for ideological or political reasons. Soviet pressure is understood to have included demands for the stationing of more "advisers" in key ministries.
Jaruzelski, meanwhile, finds himself faced with the unenviable task of attempting to rally an army of defeated bureaucrats. Like a good strategist, he is doing his best to disguise an essentially weak position by energetic activity.
Already Jaruzelski has succeeded in establishing a new style of leadership. To his subordinates, he behaves as a superior officer rather than as a chairman of the board. He projects and image of personal involvement and brisk efficiency.
A slightly build man, who always holds himself ramrod straight, Jaruzelski seemed slightly in awe of the enormous task that faced him when he took over as premier last month. When he addressed parliament, his voice was measured and calm, but his hand twitched against the podium.
In his first 30 days in office, the general has announced a 10-point program to restore order to the economy, launched a campaign against alcholism (Poles are among the world's heaviest drinkers), and presided over meetings of constitutional experts, economists, and local government officials. At government headquarters, sleepy clerks are being eased out by military adjutants in gleaming uniforms.
Most noticeably, Jaruzelski has taken to visiting factories or housing suburbs unannounced for spot tours of inspection. There is some risk involved in such visits, since, given the present popular mood of widespread discontent, it is impossible to predict in advance whether he will be well-received.But he has won respect by making the effort to listen to the opinions of ordinary people.
Jaruzelski has emphasized the fact that he is a soldier first and a politican only second. He wears his uniform almost constantly and has made it clear that he intends giving up the premiership as soon as order is restored.
The Army is still held in high regard by Poles. Even hardened Solidarity activists confess to being affected by the mystique of the military uniform. A Warsaw office worker commented: "The Army is the one official institution that hasn't been compromised in the eyes of the nation -- and shrewdly Jaruzelski is making the most of this."
Despite the fact that Jaruzelski was a member of the Politburo throughout the 1970s, he has succeeded in distancing himself from the mistakes committed during this period. At the same time, he built up professional ties with senior Soviet officers, a valuable asset at a time when the Kremlin's confidence in Polish politicians appears to be dwindling.
The son of small landowners, Jaruzelski was born at Kurow in the Lublin district of eastern Poland on July 6, 1923. His career has been more colorful than that of most of his colleagues who rose diligently through Communist Party ranks.
In 1939, when he was 17, Poland was invaded by Germany and the Soviet Union following the Hitler-Stalin pact. Like millions of Poles, Jaruzelski's family suddenly found themselves on Soviet territory. Many thousands were killed during this period or deported to Siberia and never seen again.
This harrowing experience produced a different effect on different people. For some, it remained a psychological scar they could neither forget nor forgive. Others, such as Jaruzelski, made the best of their situation by joining the Polish Army formed on Soviet territory and fighting alongside the Red Army against Nazi Germany.
If Jaruzelski felt any resentment about the treatment his family received in the Soviet Union, he did a good job of concealing it. After the war, any trace of nationalism in the Polish Army or Communist Party was ruthlessly suppressed. Soviet officers, or Poles of Soviet extraction, held one-third of the command posts.
Following the upheavals of 1956, however, the Polish Army was renationalized. Together with other high-ranking officers, Jaruzelski helped introduce Polish insignia and uniforms.
In addition to being a career officer, Jaruzelski was always a committed communist activist. In 1960, he was appointed chief of the Army's political directorate, a key post considering that 85 percent of Polish Army officers are also Communist Party members.
After three years as chief of the general staff, he was appointed defense minister in 1969. He is widely credited with helping to turn Poland's 310,000-strong Army into one of the most efficient, and best equipped, fighting forces in the Warsaw Pact.