Poland's Communist authorities appear divided over what future role to allow the independent trade union federation Solidarity once martial law is lifted. Should it be tamed or should it be eliminated once and for all?

A month after the mass arrests of Solidarity activists and suspension of many basic freedoms, there seems to be no clear agreement among military and Communist Party officials about what to do next. The government has taken its first tentative steps toward easing martial law but still seems as far away as ever from finding a lasting solution to the country's political and economic crises.

A major question mark hangs over Solidarity's leader, Lech Walesa, who apparently still is refusing to negotiate with the government unless he is accompanied by the 17-member union presidium.

Walesa's stand has posed a dilemma for the government. Without his cooperation, it will be hard put to drum up significant popular support for a "Solidarity II" purged of dissidents and political "extremists." So far only a handful of middle-level union officials has signed loyalty pledges in return for their freedom.

Hard-liners in the nation's leadership contend that Solidarity is beyond redemption. An underground bulletin recently quoted an editor of the party daily, Trybuna Ludu, as saying in private: "Military rule and repression will continue in Poland until the very word Solidarity is erased from people's memories."

Other Polish leaders, however, are still looking for ways of controlling Solidarity by insisting that it break all ties with intellectuals and dissidents and stick to trade union matters. This group apparently includes Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, the martial-law chief, who repeatedly has said he has no intention of returning to the state of affairs before Solidarity's emergence in August 1980.

A commentary yesterday in the Army daily, Zolnierz Wolnosci, said Polish workers one day would understand the need for "a strictly working-class organization without false advisers, without developed regional structures, without 43,000 full-time officials and without political adventurers." It did not say, however, whether the new union would be called Solidarity or not.

The confusion about Poland's future is heightened by the fact that, a month after the military takeover, it is difficult to pinpoint exactly where power lies. As one Polish political analyst said: "The present system is a hybrid. It's not pure military dictatorship, but it's not rule by the Communist Party either.

With his four positions--head of the ruling Military Council for National Salvation, Communist Party leader, premier and defense minister--Jaruzelski is obviously the man in charge. But he shares decision-making with an informal group made up of senior generals and Communist Party politicians.

Its key members include the deputy defense minister, Gen. Florian Siwicki; the party's propaganda chief, Stefan Olszowksi; Deputy Premier Mieczyslaw Rakowski and the secretary to the government, Gen. Michal Janiszewski, a Jaruzelski appointee.

It is believed that these men made the decision to impose martial law, once they decided that Solidarity could not be contained by political methods alone.

All members of the ruling group are committed Communists. But the Communist Party that emerges from martial law, after a period of soul-searching, will probably be very different from the one that ruled for the last 10 years. If Jaruzelski and his generals have their way, it will reflect military values: austerity, discipline, ideological uniformity.

It is also likely to be much smaller than the unwieldy, 3-million-strong party led by Edward Gierek in the 1970s. Many of his recruits either have resigned in disgust or are being purged by the new leadership.

After 36 years in power here, the Communist Party remains deeply unpopular. The decision to impose martial law has destroyed whatever chances it may have had in the foreseeable future of ruling Poland on the basis of popular consent.

The suspension of Solidarity, at the same time, has given a new dynamic to this virtually bankrupt country's economic crisis. Any economic reforms are bound to mean even lower living standards for ordinary Poles. These enforced sacrifices are likely to lead to still greater social and political discontent, which, now that it has no organized channels for expressing itself, could result in riots and public disorder.

To keep the situation in hand, the authorities may find it necessary to maintain strict controls despite their declared intention of relaxing martial law as swiftly as possible. This would result in yet greater unpopularity for the government and even less chance of creating a modern and efficiently functioning economy.

For now, the military authorities are attempting to create an impression of life returning to normal while they suppress Solidarity's underground activities. Some of the restrictions imposed when martial law was first declared have been lifted, but the formidable apparatus for controlling 36 million people and preventing open discontent remains.

The aim of the restrictions is to make life more difficult for the underground. But if carried on they could have economic repercussions. It is difficult to speak of decentralization of decision-making if all major factories remain militarized.

Senior Polish officials seem well aware of the dangers that lie ahead. Their argument in favor of martial law is that the alternative--allowing Solidarity to dismantle gradually the political power base of the Communist state--was even worse. The result, they say, would have been bloody civil war or a Soviet invasion.