Now that he has achieved his short-term goal of imposing martial law, military leader Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski faces a much more difficult task as he tries to use dictatorial methods to reform Poland's bankrupt economic and political systems so that they work on the basis of popular consent.
Since declaring martial law on Dec. 13, Jaruzelski several times has reiterated his determination to press ahead with reforms begun in August 1980 following massive industrial unrest. One of his advisers, Capt. Wieslaw Gornicki, has insisted that it is impossible to turn back "the clock of history."
But what Western diplomats and others see as apparent contradictions in Jaruzelski's efforts to return Poland to normality indicate that a tragic cycle in Polish history is about to be repeated.
A Warsaw intellectual put it this way, "The new rulers are falling into the old trap. They are attempting to treat this as a crisis of the regime--of mistakes made by individual leaders--when in fact it's a crisis of the entire system."
Jaruzelski, who has a personal reputation for honesty, appears to be sincere when he says he wants to decentralize the economy, end corruption and reform the administration. But he has also committed himself to preserving the Communist Party's monopoly of political power--and this is the goal that overrides all others.
The military government has promised to increase the efficiency of the economy and introduce limited political reforms. The dynamics of martial law, however, has meant that manipulation of the mass media is now total, and political reliability is once again being viewed as a more important quality for managers and officials than competence.
Military commissars have been drafted into every factory in the country. In some plants, such as the Lenin Shipyard in Gdansk, even the workers are being asked for pledges of loyalty or threatened with dismissal unless they disown Solidarity.
"The new government badly needs to get the economy working properly," a Western diplomat said, but
Regular communications with Poland remain cut. Washington Post correspondent Michael Dobbs is in Warsaw. many of the martial-law regulations appear to be working at cross purposes. "How can you run an efficient business without telephones and without a proper postal service?"
At the same time, there is some evidence that the authorities are moving against private businessmen--despite the fact that revitalization of small trade forms a key part of the plans for economic reform. The owner of a motor repair business in Warsaw said his apartment had been raided by secret police and young Communist activists looking for "hidden wealth." They stayed for more than six hours and checked every floorboard.
It is similarly difficult to see how a purged press, such as is now operating in Poland, can become a guardian of reform on a basis of pluralism of information or criticism of the government. Only a handful of selected newspapers were permitted to publish following the declaration of martial law. All journalists had to undergo "ideological verification"--basically a test of their loyalty to the new government.
"We used to make fun of the old propaganda of success under Gierek which colored everything to make the regime look good," remarked a Polish journalist. "But what we've got now is far, far worse."
Twice since World War II--in 1956 and 1970--Communist Party leaders have come to power promising to learn from the mistakes of their predecessors. On both occasions hopes for change were dashed. It was against this historical background that the Polish workers were so skeptical of the party's reform promises, and insisted on the formation of independent unions as a guarantee that the mistakes of the past would be avoided.
Now that Solidarity has been crushed, the new military authorities have attempted to distinguish between two phases of the union's existence. Official propaganda depicts the original round of strikes in the summer of 1980 as "healthy" workers' protests directed against the corrupt and incompetent regime of Edward Gierek. It was only later, according to this argument, that Solidarity was taken over by "antisocialist" forces who wanted to overthrow the Communist system.
The implication is that the new rulers do not want to return Poland to the bad old days of Gierek. As if to emphasize their good intentions, they have even detained many of the former leaders for appearance before a special tribunal. The Communist Party too has been told to put its house in order.
Jaruzelski clearly wants a political solution to the crisis to justify his decision to use force against Solidarity, to restore Poland's standing in the world and to persuade Polish workers to work more efficiently.
But whatever his original plan, the general must now ask himself if Solidarity will be able to regroup and plan a counterattack if he does not carry through to the end. His dilemma is that the more he loosens the reins, the more scope there will be for resistance to Communist rule in Poland. And next time the protests may not be as calm and orderly as they were 17 months ago.
The government, of course, puts it rather differently. A spokesman for the Military Council of National Salvation, Gen. Tandeusz Azacilo, said at a press conference that the precondition for the lifting of martial law was the end of all protest actions.
"The duration of martial law depends, to a large extent, on society itself," he added.
There are, of course, some necessary measures that the military authorities can now implement unhindered by trade union opposition. One is reform of the chaotic price structure. Previously sharp increases in prices were resisted by Solidarity unless combined with compensation in increased allowances, which largely destroyed the original economic benefit.
Since the declaration of martial law, the government has also introduced a six-day working week in key sectors such as mining and devalued the zloty from 34 to 80 to the dollar.
These measures could help stabilize the Polish economy which, before the military takeover, had been on the verge of disintegration. On the other hand, the government has not yet found ways of motivating a hostile and apathetic workforce, a large part of which regards passive resistance to the instructions of military commissars as a patriotic duty.
It is for this reason that any long-term recovery must be based on an economic system rooted in popular consent and incentives for hard work. The creation of such a system seems further away than ever following Solidarity's suspension: the government now has no partner with which it can negotiate.
In attempting controlled reform, Jaruzelski seems to have chosen as his model the experience of Janos Kadar in Hungary following the repression of the 1956 revolution. By a series of skillful steps, and starting off with a reputation as a Soviet puppet, Kadar managed to achieve his aim of reconciling the Hungarian people to a softer, more prosperous form of socialism.
Deputy Premier Mieczyslaw Rakowski, perhaps the most influential civilian in Jaruzelski's regime, made an explicit reference to Kadar in a speech he gave on Dec. 23 that was carried on Warsaw Radio yesterday.
"Nations live through different kinds of dramas, some much greater than ours. Janos Kadar was in a more difficult situation and he overcame it, arduously, slowly collecting his forces, gaining support from among the people who ached more than we do. He was supported by people of good will in his difficult struggle," Rakowski said according to a translation made by the Foreign Broadcast Information Service, a U. S. government agency.
"I believe that we will get out of our sorry plight, that we are capable of creating one Poland, that there will be harmony and order and that democratic processes will develop without disturbance," he asserted.
It is doubtful, however, that Jaruzelski can repeat Kadar's achievement. First, the starting points are very different: the Polish leader must contend with a powerful Roman Catholic Church, an independent peasantry and a working class that--however cowed it may be at present--is still a force to be reckoned with. These facts of political life narrow his options to uncontrollable concessions or massive repression.
Second, and perhaps more important, it took Kadar more than a decade before he felt confident enough to embark on significant economic reforms. It is not clear that Poland will be able to wait that long.Picture 2, Polish troops block street leading to Lenin Shipyard as protesters gather Dec. 16 to mark anniversary of the 1970 Gdansk riots.; Picture 3, Unidentified victim of Dec. 16 Gdansk protest lies in snow near Lenin Shipyard. Picture became available in London yesterday.; Picture 4,Protesters flee tear gas during demonstration Dec. 16 in Gdansk on the 11th anniversary of the 1970 Gdansk riots that saw numerous workers killed; Picture 5, Troops guard entrance to Lenin Shipyard in the port city during last month's protest. Photos by AP