YESTERDAY was D-Day of sorts in Poland, the day when Solidarity was to show whether it could bring people into the streets and the regime was to show whether it could keep them home. Since all means of physical, legal and social reprisal lie with the regime, the outcome was a foregone conclusion. Gen. Jaruzelski "won," in that massive official intimidation made the difference. But in that it took intimidation to make the difference, he confirmed the bankruptcy of his regime.
Last July the government tried to buy back, with token reforms, some of Solidarity's constituency. The people wouldn't have it. That stirred the underground Solidarity leaders to bid for a showing of active street resistance on the movement's second anniversary yesterday. They overreached. That leaves Solidarity to continue demonstrating its following chiefly by passive resistance in the work place. The workers pay a price in how they live, but that is their choice, and choice is what Solidarity is about.
The struggle between the Polish people and the regime in Warsaw -- the regimes in Warsaw and Moscow--is not a wrestle in which one contestant will finally crash the other's arm to the table. Official force will not douse Solidarity, and even occasional violent resistance will not remove the grip of martial law. There must eventually be an accommodation, but it will be the present tension by another name, tighter than what existed when the government recognized Solidarity in 1980, looser than the martial law imposed last December.
The only path is a dialogue between the unions, whose leaders are captives or fugitives, the Catholic church and the government. Solidarity made an important concession this summer by offering a moratorium on strikes and demonstrations, but the government flung it back in its face. Having stood up to Solidarity's militants, Gen. Jaruzelski has now to step toward its moderates. The West can best remind him by keeping agreed economic sanctions in place against Warsaw and Moscow.
The Reagan administration has done its bit to make a hash of the sanctions question. The United States and its allies are split on the pipeline, and few people even remember whether the argument is over Afghanistan or Poland or grand strategy or hard currency or low politics or what. It should not be too much to ask that everyone respect one simple requirement. In dealing with Poland, link economic concessions to real political improvements. When Lech Walesa sees Gen. Jaruzelski across a table -- not figuratively through bars -- it may be the right time.