THE WEST, having been focused for more than a year on the possibility of a Soviet invasion of Poland, has been slow to absorb the reality of a Polish crackdown. It is becoming quite clear all around, however, that whatever else he may doing, Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski is doing the Soviets' dirty work for them. His charge from Moscow when he took power last October was to restore control. He tried it by negotiation, failed, and is now trying by force. That he may mean to spare Poles the bloodier and costlier results of a Soviet intervention does not alter the fact that he is the instrument of a Soviet purpose: to suppress freedom in Poland.

It is time, then, for Western governments and publics alike to put aside the somewhat ambivalent attitude they held before Gen. Jaruzelski's men moved. Earlier it made sense to hope that the parties would act in a way to make possible a political solution. But the Polish army changed the rules. It has foreclosed a peaceful resolution. To ask now for calm and restraint, as though the workers still had a duty to promote a settlement, merely comforts the forces of repression.

The West has no call to encourage Poles to strike, go into the streets or otherwise revolt. Quite the contrary. There is a sound basis for the line of reasoning in the American government which holds that 1)it is morally unthinkable to urge others to take steps whose consequences will fall on them alone, and 2)it is politically irresponsible to give grounds for having it said, if the situation worsens, that the United States or its allies acted provocatively. Yet the West must render moral support to whatever decisions the Polish people take about their future. No one should be able to say that the West was more interested in, say, getting its loans repaid.

Solidarity had called a general strike for today. Extremely dangerous days lie ahead. But two things should be clear at the end. It was the Soviet Union that foreclosed the Polish people's attempt to build a dignified national life. It was the United States, with its allies, that asserted their right to do so. It is wrong for Soviets to suppress Poles. It is wrong for Poles to suppress Poles. As the Polish bishops said in their brave statement yesterday, the right course is for the army to free its prisoners and to revive Solidarity so that Poland's "democratic renewal" can be carried ahead.