After five months of martial law, Poland has sunk into a state of tensely suspended animation, as the uneasy ruling triad of the Communist Party, the government and the military has failed to come up with News Analysis News Analysis substantive solutions to the country's political and social problems.
Without an eventual agreement between the Polish rulers and the suspended independent trade union movement Solidarity, which now is considered nearly impossible by all sides, or a miraculous upswing in the economy, many here believe that the so-called "Polish crisis" has not yet reached its apex.
This week's popular protests, followed by the new official crackdown, are viewed as the beginning of the inevitable popular eruption that must either bring the regime to its senses or, much more likely, will strengthen the extremes in the camps of both the rulers and the ruled.
To a Western reporter visiting Poland for the first time, some government and party officials make the case that they want to remove the harshest features of martial law both to release popular tension and to persuade Western creditors--owed $2 billion to $3 billion in interest alone this year--of the wisdom of sending good money here after bad.
These officials are presumed supporters of martial law chief Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski. They, and the general himself, are described as moderates who realize that the jury-rigged solutions to past Polish crises--a few pay raises here, a few government heads lopped there--are not enough this time.
Earlier this year, Jaruzelski dispatched emissaries to Paris, Washington and other Western capitals to outline a series of measures, to begin around May Day, that would gradually liberalize martial law rule. These envoys asked for indications from the Western governments that financial help would be forthcoming.
To make these kinds of promises in the face of hard-line opposition, informed sources say, Jaruzelski and his supporters argued that the domestic and international response would be positive.
Their hard-line party colleagues, led by Politburo member Stefan Olszowski, reportedly argued that this soft-headed approach would only lead enemies inside and outside Poland to insist on ever more impossible and unwise concessions.
The martial law curfew was lifted last weekend as scheduled, and at least a third of the estimated 2,000 to 3,000 political detainees were released.
The public reply, much to the "I-told-you-so" satisfaction of the hard-liners, was Monday's street riots and demonstrations.
For one stunned day there was no official response.
"We have two choices," said one official early Tuesday. "We can crack down, or we can pretend it did not happen."
This official indicated that Jaruzelski was urging the latter. Throughout the afternoon, the party conferred behind closed doors. Finally, Interior Minister Czeslaw Kiszczak emerged to tell the Sejm, or national assembly, that the crackdown was on.
The smart money in Poland now, according to many foreign observers, is on the hard-liners to prevail in an increasing number of party decisions.
"As a result of the demonstration," the official said, "certainly those who were against the recent loosening will get tougher. Certainly, Solidarity will never again be recognized in the shape it was."
The best indication of the extent of these internal debates is the fact that, after five months, virtually nothing has been done to attempt to put Poland on any kind of long-term course--either forward or back.
This week's inside skirmish, observers here say, was more easily read than most.
Hard and soft party lines are relative abstractions here today, since virtually no official has expressed much public or private interest in returning to the days before last December or in granting Solidarity substantive existence under any circumstances. But a battle for party supremacy is nonetheless believed to be going on, and Polish analysts scout official speeches and ostensibly offhand party comments to keep score.
Asked what was going on within the inner party council, a Polish sociologist who has long followed these things pointed to an ostensibly obscure speech last week in Poznan by Deputy Prime Minister Mieczyslaw Rakowski, who has been a favorite of the Western press and has been considered a relative liberal.
Rakowski is viewed here as something of a political chameleon with a good nose for the way the political wind is blowing. During the Poznan speech, the sociologist said, Rakowski said that before December he had favored an agreement between Solidarity and the government. But now, he said, was not the time for agreement but for "renaissance."
According to the sociologist, "renaissance" is code for the revitalization of the demoralized Communist Party and the reassertion of the authority it feels it has surrendered to the military during martial law. Rakowski's use of the word "is a signal to the hard-liners," the sociologist said. "He smells that Jaruzelski is weakening, and he wants to survive.
"The people in the party apparatus are watching," and making their own determinations of those who are in charge, the sociologist said. "You can't just call up the district party leader somewhere in the countryside and ask, 'Well, are you for me or for the other guy?' It's done through this kind of code." Over the next few weeks, observers will watch for the word to crop up in the speeches of others and begin counting noses.
While this intricate political juggling goes on, unemployment in Poland is expected to rise to 12 percent. Although the interest was paid on last year's foreign debt, and the principal rescheduled, this year there is no money even to pay the interest. While there are, for the most part, goods in the shops, price increases under martial law have made many items prohibitively expensive. Thus, the flames of worker discontent, and international disaster, are fed.
The party says it is working on all of this but, in a peculiar inversion of positive and negative indicators, several officials in interviews countered questions about what was to be done with the assertion that Poland's economy "hasn't hit bottom yet."
Regardless of their differences over interim solutions, all factions of the party appear to agree that Poland's problem is not a political one. With the apparent assumption that postwar Polish history is merely repeating itself, the prevailing view is not that the masses simply have reached the end of their patience with inept party rule but rather that they once again can be bought off. The right economic formula, if it can be found and if what authorities regard as "Western-influenced" rabble-rousers give it time to work, will defuse political demands.
"We are aware that many people are dissatisfied," another official said. "We don't expect to use force and then have them carry us around on their shoulders.
"I'm not saying it will happen tomorrow," he said, but the problems "won't be solved by an agreement with the church or with Solidarity. Their views. . . are far from reality." The answer, he said, is for the government to come up with a "realistic perspective" for prosperity and "convince people of it."
If neither the rabble-rousers nor the masses are convinced, there is the ultimate Polish bogeyman prepared to persuade them. "Confrontation is no solution," the first official said. "The entire political situation is such that it would not be permitted, and any attempt means the intervention of the neighbors." "The neighbors" is code for the Soviets.