Ever since Poland's military leadership launched a broad campaign for support in next month's parliamentary elections, Mikolaj Kozakiewicz has found himself surprisingly in the public spotlight and granted extraordinary personal rights.
An outspoken critic of recent government policies, Kozakiewicz nevertheless was named in August to the prestigious "national list" of unopposed candidates for the Sejm, or parliament. Since then, his attacks on censorship, controls on education and toughened criminal laws have been covered by Poland's official media with an enthusiasm that has left the 61-year-old sociologist slightly bewildered.
Even Rzeczpospolita, the official government daily, granted him ample space when he lambasted the Movement for National Rebirth (PRON), the Communist-controlled front that nominated him to the parliamentary ticket.
"The only explanation is that I am repeating some attitudes that are well known in the country," Kozakiewicz says. "Perhaps I was chosen to represent these attitudes."
In almost any other Soviet Bloc nation, such a concession to dissident views in a parliamentary election would be almost inconceivable. In the context of Poland's many-sided political struggle, however, Kozakiewicz has become less a symbol of liberalism than a token.
For more than three years, Kozakiewicz has been a leader of a substantial movement of moderates who believe that a program of aggressive political and social reforms is needed to bridge the gulf between Poland's Communist authorities and a society alienated by the suppression of the independent trade union Solidarity.
Now Kozakiewicz believes the change he sought has been smothered and its proponents reduced to dissidents powerless to prevent a trend toward national polarization.
"We are moving further from the ideals of 1980 and 1981, rather than closer," he said one recent morning in his cluttered, book-lined study. "We have in Poland a split society -- and the government is deepening this division."
In preparing for the elections, Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski's government increasingly has appeared to prefer repression to efforts to win over the disaffected, Kozakiewicz and other critics say.
"The government's frustration comes from the fact that all actions from its side to increase social consensus have no effect," said Bronislaw Geremek, an opposition historian and adviser to Solidarity. "So what can they do to get national support? The only solution is to try to introduce the feelings of uncertainty and fear."
Weeks before launching the election campaign, Communist authorities introduced measures that reversed a liberalization of university government, toughened many provisions of the penal code and eliminated the prospect of multiple unions at the factory level. A year after a general amnesty emptied jails of dissidents, three top Solidarity leaders were given jail sentences and the number of political prisoners climbed to more than 230.
Government spokesman Jerzy Urban was quoted recently as saying that such measures were "a kind of retreat on what was a bold attempt to move forward."
"The last few months have brought a number of moves that were not easy to receive by some milieus," Jaruzelski conceded in a speech to a Central Committee plenum called to plan election strategy. But, he warned, "The party does not and will not forget . . . a struggle against what hampers and threatens it, a struggle first of all with political means, but also with means of protection of state order, if necessary."
The government's new toughness has been matched by a new challenge from the banned Solidarity, which has called on Poles to boycott the voting Oct. 13. After a similar campaign by the union last year, the government reported a turnout of only 75 percent in local elections, far below the norm for elections in Communist countries.
Both sides portray the upcoming elections as a major test, and many Poles seem to be stranded between the two sides. Recent official polls have shown that a substantial majority of the public disapproves of government policies. But Solidarity's strike efforts and other protests this year have failed.
"Quite a large part of the population is uncertain what to do," said Geremek. "The problem for Solidarity is that these people will be frightened by the new measures."
It is exactly this disaffected mass that Kozakiewicz and other moderates in and outside the party hoped to reach after the declaration of martial law and crackdown on Solidarity in December 1981.
"My whole activity is directed at the search for a modus vivendi between the opposition and the so-called establishment," he told Rzeczpospolita.
The would-be reformers generally believed that Solidarity had been unrealistic in some of its demands. But they hoped that by decentralizing and overhauling the economy, loosening controls on social and intellectual movements, and allowing room for independent criticism and debate in the media and public life, Jaruzelski's government could build a national consensus that would include Solidarity's former leaders.
Kozakiewicz, a teacher and prolific author who had been a member of the officially sanctioned Peasant Party, was one of the founders of PRON, an organization promoted by the government as an independent social movement for reform.
"We thought and dreamed that PRON would be an agent of systematic change in Poland, a kind of not-so-aggressive form of Solidarity," he said.
Slowly but surely, however, PRON's original aims were diluted and its nominal independence was proved illusory, Kozakiewicz said: "PRON became an element of the system, not an independent side."
At the same time, liberals in the party and government have seen economic and political reforms watered down, resisted by an entrenched bureaucracy and, finally, reversed in some cases.
"The steps being taken are pushing us backward," Kozakiewicz said. "It is understandable from the government point of view, but it is also harmful."
The election itself has been one of the sharper reverses to moderates' hopes. Reformist leaders had hoped that the authorities would allow voters a real choice on ballots.
Instead, the electoral law approved by the outgoing Sejm provides for nominal two-candidate competition for 410 of the 460 seats but leaves control of the election and the choice of candidates to the Communist authorities. After failing this summer to enlist a group of independents close to the church for the candidates' list, authorities presented a selection that includes more nonparty "independents" than in the past but offers scant variety. The most notable political independent in the previous Sejm, Edmund Osmanczyk, was excluded.
Kozakiewicz, in fact, said he knew of no other Sejm candidate who is an open critic of government.
"The changes in the election law are not sufficient," he said. "From the point of view of open critical activity or open debate with the authorities, I don't know of another person on this list like myself."
That isolation, combined with the onslaught of official press attention, has left Kozakiewicz feeling uneasy. Quietly, he seems to acknowledge that he has been turned from a reform movement leader into an instrument of election propaganda.
"I am not avoiding difficult problems," he said. "I say true things, but things that are inconvenient and unpleasant. People are finding in these articles their own opinions. In that way, I serve a useful role."