Poland's martial-law leader, Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, met today with the head of the country's powerful Roman Catholic Church as Polish officials appealed for $6 billion in new credits to keep the economy afloat during the coming year.
The military authorities lifted censorship on Western correspondents here, enabling them to report these developments, which reflect the government's attempts to extricate Poland from its deep political and economic crisis. A ban on travel outside Warsaw remained, however, and foreign journalists were required to file stories through telexes in the Foreign Ministry press center.
The meeting between Jaruzelski and Archbishop Jozef Glemp was announced by a government spokesman at a press conference here. The official news agency PAP said the two "exchanged views on the current situation and voiced intentions aiming at the normalization of life in Poland."
Official church sources said Glemp would summon his bishops to a conference in Warsaw Friday to discuss the church situation and its policies under martial law, Reuter reported from Warsaw.
Jaruzelski and Glemp are believed to have last met Nov. 4 when, with Lech Walesa, the now detained leader of the independent Solidarity trade union movement, they discussed plans for a national coalition.
Despite initial optimism, nothing came of the idea. Relations between Solidarity and the Communist authorities deteriorated rapidly, and Jaruzelski, acting in the name of the Military Council for National Salvation, declared martial law throughout Poland on Dec. 13.
Earlier, Glemp, who has denounced sharply the mass internment of Solidarity activists, reportedly refused to meet the premier unless Walesa was present. Church sources told Reuter that while Glemp had met with Jaruzelski today, he would not take part in actual negotiations unless Walesa were present.
Poland's military rulers are known to be eager to secure the church's support in finding a peaceful solution to the country's problems and persuading a hostile and apathetic work force of the need for economic reform. As at previous times of crisis, the Catholic Church has emerged as a national rallying point for Poles during the past four weeks. With Solidarity suspended, it represents the only real negotiating partner for the authorities.
Glemp also wants to avoid further violence and bloodshed in Poland. Church sources said that, in addition to expressing his abhorrence of martial law, he would seek specific concessions from Jaruzelski. These are likely to include the full publication of the names of detainees, improvement in the conditions of internment and a suspension of the widespread practice of demanding loyalty oaths from Solidarity activists.
Nearly a month after the crackdown on Solidarity and the suspension of many basic freedoms in Poland, senior Polish officials appear increasingly confident that they have succeeded in their short-term aim of reasserting political control. Some restrictions are gradually being eased, including a total communications blackout. The government is restoring telephone service Sunday within town or city limits.
There are still, however, plenty of signs of military rule. A six-hour, nationwide curfew remains in force, most newspapers have still not resumed publication and the sale of gasoline to private motorists still is banned. Arrests and trials of Solidarity activists continue.
On this freezing weekend, with temperatures falling to zero, the streets of the capital were virtually deserted. Shops were open--before martial law they were closed most Saturdays--but shelves were as bare as at any time during the past year.
Despite the withdrawal of some Army units from around Warsaw, soldiers and police still manned roadblocks in the city. Dressed in overcoats, with automatic rifles slung across their backs, they huddled around open coal-burning braziers on street corners to keep warm.
With public order restored and no reports of active resistance to martial law, the government's chief worry now seems to be how to get a bankrupt economy working again. The task, senior government ministers insisted at a press conference today, is burdened by Poland's heavy indebtedness and Western trade sanctions.
The deputy premier in charge of the economy, Janusz Obodowski, told reporters that Poland's hard-currency debts total $28.5 billion. Of this sum, the highest yet mentioned by a Polish official, $26.5 billion is owed to Western governments and private banks and $2 billion to Poland's Soviet Bloc allies.
Obodowski said Poland would be seeking new credits of $1.5 billion every three months during the coming year in order "to meet our minimum needs" for food and raw materials. In addition, he said, Poland will have to refinance $10 billion in principal and interest on debts due for repayment in 1982.
"What we are asking for is a year's breathing space for the Polish economy," said Obodowski. "Poland is a medium-developed country with an extensive and potentially profitable industrial base. We want to achieve conditions for industrial expansion, but we can't do this if we're strangled by huge interest payments." Obodowski was introduced at the press conference as "the strongman of Poland's weak economy."
Obodowski expressed concern that economic sanctions proposed by the Reagan administration could, by cutting back the supply of essential technology and raw materials for Polish industry, lead to further drops in production and push Poland into still greater reliance on the East European trading organization Comecon. This would inevitably result in lower standards of living for the Polish people, he added.
A similar point was made by the government's chief spokesman, Jerzy Urban, who said sanctions would have the opposite effect to that intended.
"The more difficult the economic situation in Poland, the more the population will feel it," he said. "The government will find ways of feeding itself--so it will be ordinary people, not officials, who suffer. This, in turn, will mean greater political discontent, which will cause us to use administrative methods in order to restore peace."
Urban said that further economic assistance from the West was necessary to create conditions for significant political relaxation.
"Poland will not bow to political pressures even if they are applied by economic means," he added.
The arguments presented by Urban and Obodowski reflect what has become a standard Polish government line in private conversations with Western diplomats and journalists here. But this was the first time that the case had been presented so bluntly and so publicly--another indication of official concern at the danger of economic collapse.
Obodowski warned that national income, which fell by 14 percent in 1981, could drop even further this year. As a result of massive imports of Western licenses during the 1970s, Polish industry is now heavily dependent on Western technology and would have difficulty purchasing many of the necessary components and raw materials from other Comecon countries.
Meanwhile, there were signs of renewed political activity in Poland following a hiatus in which day-to-day decisions have been made by an informal ruling group composed of Army generals and senior politicians. Preparations are in progress for a meeting of the decision-making Central Committee of the Communist Party, and a session of the National Assembly is scheduled for Jan. 20.
The assembly, which was scheduled to meet last month, will be required to endorse the martial-law decrees passed by the State Council.
Jaruzelski's political strategy appears to be to consolidate his centrist faction in the Communist Party by weeding out real or potential opponents.
The first two major political casualties since the imposition of martial law appeared last night with the resignations of the party leaders in Gdansk and Katowice, Tadeusz Fiszbach and Andrzej Zabinski.
Both men were closely involved in the negotiations that led to the signing of labor agreements with striking workers in August 1980. But whereas Fiszbach subsequently attempted to reach a political accommodation with Solidarity, Zabinski was regarded as one of the leading hard-liners in the party.
The resignations, which are seen here as more in the nature of dismissals, were widely predicted as Jaruzelski moves against the representatives of both wings of the party.