Poland's military authorities have dissolved the independent actors' association in an attempt to end a highly successful boycott of state-controlled television and radio that was mounted as a protest against martial law.
The move against the association, which was announced in today's newspapers, was the latest in a series of official measures designed to end the boycott, which has effectively stopped the preparation of new drama productions for television. Actors supporting the boycott have been harassed and several threater directors have been replaced.
The deputy prime minister in charge of culture, Mieczyslaw Rakowski, has accused actors taking part in the boycott of using techniques of "moral terror" against their colleagues. In a recent speech, he complained that progovernment actors had suddenly found themselves ostracized at work while sales of a composer's works had plummeted after she joined the communist-sponsored Movement for National Rebirth.
The actors' boycott of television is generally recognized here as having been the most effective protest against martial law. It owes its success to the fact that, under the terms of their contracts, actors are free to choose whether or not they appear on television. A big majority of the 2,000 or so registered Polish actors were strong supporters of the independent Solidarity trade union.
After Solidarity was suppressed last December, most actors refused television and radio contracts. The result has been a halt in the production of drama for television--and endless reruns of old movies, plays and serials from other Soviet Bloc countries.
An actor who supports the boycott explained: "We felt it was wrong to identify ourselves with television when this is the medium that is leading an untruthful propaganda campaign against Solidarity. For most of us, appearing on television or radio is tantamount to collaboration with the regime."
The accumulating effect of the boycott is best illustrated by the fate of a weekly radio soap opera about a Warsaw working class family known as the Matysiaks. The serial, which dated back to the 50s and enjoyed a huge audience, rapidly degenerated after the imposition of martial law with one character after another dropping out.
During the Solidarity era, the Matysiaks would avidly discuss current events, including the rise of free trade unions. The actors' boycott, however, led to drastic changes in the script with Mrs. Matysiak first being moved out of Warsaw and later dying.
Mr. Matysiak was sent to a sanatorium and his son went to work in East Germany. Finally, after all the most popular characters had disappeared, the series itself was abruptly canceled.
At theaters in Warsaw, Solidarity supporters organized demonstrations in the first few months of martial law to embarrass those few actors who had appeared on television and endorsed the regime. Several actors had to give up their roles after being subjected to continuous heckling night after night. Writers who supported the authorities found piles of their own books deposited on their doorsteps.
The actors' boycott was at first virtually ignored by the government, but it seems to have become an increasing source of irritation. Last month Rakowski called leading theater directors and other cultural figures to a meeting at which he warned that stern action would be taken unless the boycott was called off.
At the same time, several actors supporting the boycott were mysteriously beaten up while others had their cars vandalized or received anonymous phone calls threatening members of their family.
The boycott was also criticized earlier this week by the leader of Poland's powerful Roman Catholic Church, Archbishop Jozef Glemp. In a sermon, he said that "those of our brethren who as a protest have cut themselves off from performing in specific institutions ought to return to them."
The church strategy has been to use quiet diplomacy to try to persuade the authorities to soften their policies. Church officials have adopted a markedly more conciliatory tone since a firm date was set for next June for a return visit to Poland by Pope John Paul and since receiving strong hints that martial law itself will be lifted on Dec. 13, a year after its introduction.