When Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, Poland's premier and Communist Party leader, declared war against his own compatriots last Sunday he must have been counting on three major factors:
First, that bloodshed could be kept to a minimum if his Army and his party struck swiftly, massively and without the appearance of Soviet involvement.
Second, that the Roman Catholic Church, regarded by a predominantly Catholic Poland as the highest moral authority in the land, would counsel nonresistance and calm in the interest of avoiding civil war and deaths.
Third, that Western governments, having fixed for months on the likelihood of a Soviet intervention in Poland, would be restrained by their own insistence on the principle of not interfering in another country's affairs.
So far, so good for the general, and his Soviet overlords. But if the first week goes to the authorities, does the play in Poland end?
Is what is happening now an interim or a final act? Can Poland eventually resettle itself into a calm without terror? Can a militarized Polish economy work any better than the overly centralized economy of Poland's past three decades? And can the West make a difference in any of the answers?
Ask a Pole and the reply, from a people who have seen too many tragedies acted on their national stage, generally carries little trace of hope.
Poland's despair at the moment is made all the heavier by a tremendous sense of isolation -- isolation from each other due to the cutoff of telephone communications and isolation from the West due to the ban on travel and the government's manipulation of information.
Contrary to what the martial-law proclamation originally described as the suspension of Solidarity union activities, it is now shockingly clear that with an armored hand, the Polish Communist Party aims to dismantle the national labor confederation. One does not smash union offices and confiscate material -- even after union leaders and activists are put in detention camps -- if one is talking about a suspension, unless perhaps the suspension is intended to last for generations.
The union is not the authorities' only target. The list of those interned and arrested, a list that continued to lengthen at week's end, includes many intellectuals, professionals and artists not connected with Solidarity. This could be just a part of the party's program of intimidation. Or it could be a drive to muzzle the nation completely. Poles themselves cannot be sure.
The West can be forgiven for failing to grasp at first the terror of what is happening in Poland. Early news reports of the crackdown were sketchy and dealt largely with accounts of official proclamations, Polish Army troop movements and word of scattered worker resistance. Looking just at the casualty figures, Poland's self-invasion would hardly seem alarming. There have been fewer dead so far than in a big airplane crash.
To comprehend the horror of what has taken place, one had to see it and feel it other ways -- by watching the expressions of Poles change to blank stares, by listening to people tell how afraid they had become again, by viewing a landscape scrubbed clean overnight of the flags and posters and other symbols of the freedom Solidarity represented, by reading the resanitized Polish press and by witnessing the confidence and defiance being squeezed out of a people who had been learning to risk self-expression.
To the historian, the crackdown in Poland fits into a pattern. The country's current grief and pain folds into the inevitable cycle of Polish postwar history.
In 1956 and again in 1970, the cycle began with the arrival of promising new governments offering radical economic changes and liberal political reforms. Gradually, political decay set in and stifling autocracy returned.
Management of the economy drifted off course, and the burden, falling mostly on the industrial working class, eventually touched off working-class revolts. These were put down by force followed by new promises of better times ahead.
After the 1980 upheaval, things were going to be different with the creation in Solidarity of an institution new to Soviet-led Eastern Europe, an independent trade union that could hold the authorities to their word.
By late this year, many Poles were coming to believe they had broken the cycle and spun out of Soviet orbit enough to feel and act again as true Poles -- a nation of workers, intellectuals, farmers and churchmen more united under their red and white flag than at any postwar time.
It was described as a victory for the real people of Poland. It was also cheered as a victory for East-West detente, which had encouraged a more liberal climate in Poland.
Following the declaration of martial law, a 30-year-old Pole, whose insightful and entertaining commentary on Polish events proved invaluable to this correspondent on a number of occasions during the past year, asked to relay his plea that the West now forget detente.
Although he loves Western styles and ways, he said he no longer wants to see the Warsaw government have the benefit of Western financial and food assistance. The notion that by continuing detente the West would maintain leverage over Polish affairs, he said, proved its ultimate hollowness during the past week.
However, a veteran Polish journalist who is a generation older, argued the opposite in an interview in his Warsaw home Thursday. He was more inclined to see the latest repression as not simply a matter of the Communist Party showing its ugly self but rather as the joint failure of Solidarity and the party to form a marriage.
Each side, he said, radicalized the other through a constant and wearying test of wills, and the whole nation lost. He said continuation of Western aid to Poland was important for providing relief to his hungry nation. On top of that, he suggested that Western contact could hope to bolster the position of moderates in the Polish Communist Party.
He spoke of the possibility that Poland might still eventually manage a kind of "Kadarization," a reference to the reform of the Communist Party in Hungary under Janos Kadar following the crackdown there in 1956.
In Hungary, though, 25 years ago people believed in the possibility of a reformed Communist Party, while the party for Poles today has no credibility. In view of this, it is difficult to see how Jaruzelski expects to run the country after the period of military rule ends. He has interned many of those with whom he should probably be trying to negotiate if the armored units are ever to be withdrawn.
One sanctuary remains in Poland: the Catholic Church. The Communist Party appears to have recognized the church's significance in the current emergency. For all their brutality, the authorities have so far stopped short generally of an assault on church property and rights. Religious services have been exempted from the ban on public gatherings and church publications have not been prohibited, although they will most likely be more heavily censored.
In the past, the politically sensitive position of the church in Poland was sustained by the bishops' cautious, balanced stance. The church was a shelter to, but not open defender of, Poland's worker and intellectual opposition groups. During the 16 months of Solidarity's life, Catholic officials sought to mediate between the union and the authorities rather than take sides.
Thrust now into a leading political role, the church stands in a most exposed and challenging position, although its response has been mixed. Its sharp appeal Tuesday to the authorities to stop abuses, and the fact that Pope John Paul II dispatched two top Vatican officials today to travel to Poland, suggests that the church intends to play its hand high and strong. A message from the Catholic primate, Archbishop Jozef Glemp, to be read from pulpits Sunday, however, is more moderate, urging Poles to turn the other cheek and avoid bloodshead.
"A slave is no worker," says a Polish proverb. As reports of strike actions and worker resistance continue to filter out of Poland, the strategy Solidarity's leaderless ranks seem to be devising is for the time being a mixed one of various guerrilla actions: occupation strikes in some work places intended to wear down the authorities by forcing the Army to lay siege time and again, production sabotage on the job and slowdowns.
Solidarity as a national force seems hardly capable of revival against the party's present show of military might. Local cells, or "sons of Solidarity," could conceivably keep the popular campaign alive. But the odds are against them too. They would have to reorganize, pick new leaders and learn to operate underground.
"Right now, people are working," said one Solidarity member standing outside the Ursus tractor plant Tuesday after the end of a one-day strike protesting the martial law measures. "But they are thinking. They are not sure what to do.
"There isn't a feeling of defeatism yet," said the worker. "We don't regard ourselves as losers. There is just no clear line about what should be done. We figure we should wait and see."