WARSAW, JUNE 30 -- A new, privately owned magazine with an independent political stance has appeared here, marking a concession by communist leader Wojciech Jaruzelski to Poland's opposition-minded intellectuals.
The monthly current affairs journal Res Publica, due to go on sale at newstands next week, is only the third general-circulation publication independent of communist tutelage to be published with official sanction in the Soviet Bloc, editors here said. The others -- also in Poland -- are the Krakow weekly Tygodnik Powszechny and its sister monthly Znak, which have close links to Poland's Roman Catholic Church.
Despite the government's relaxed attitude, however, the magazine bears clear marks of government censorship. The most conspicuous, noted with dashes and the title of the censorship law in brackets, are in the book review section. Editors said they were not allowed to print reviews of two books published in the West by Polish emigre dissidents.
Res Publica's owners and editors, who say they will remain independent of the church, government and Solidarity-based opposition, spent two years seeking to gain permission for official publication of their journal, which for several years was published clandestinely.
A permit was finally obtained in March in what editors here say was an important step by Jaruzelski's government in its efforts to broaden its weak public support with a modest political liberalization.
Res Publica, allowed a circulation of 25,000 copies, is the first of Poland's hundreds of underground journals to obtain legal status.
"The appearance of our publication in a significant way improves the atmosphere of political life in our country," said an editorial in the first issue, according to a prepublication copy. "We expect that in this new climate a place will be found for various other social initiatives, which are steps on the road to the institutionalization of already existing elements of pluralism."
The official sanction of Res Publica -- its name is Latin for Public Affairs -- makes Poland a leader of the glasnost, or openness, policy of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. To date, Poland is the only East Bloc regime that allows independent or privately owned publications, although some private periodicals elsewhere, including one in the Soviet Union called Glasnost, are seeking official sanction. The nonstate publications here must still be approved by government censors but are allowed to print articles strongly critical of official policies.
While Tygodnik Powszechny was returned to its independent owners 31 years ago in a concession to the Catholic Church, the tolerance for Res Publica reflects the liberal atmosphere Gorbachev has begun to inspire in Eastern Europe, western analysts said. "Five years ago Jaruzelski would not have been able to do this even if he had wanted to," said a diplomat.
One factor that likely influenced the government step was the moderate, nonaligned politics of Res Publica's founders. The editor-in-chief and chairman is a historian and author, Marcin Krol, 43, who has a reputation as an independent critic of the government and communist system but also of the banned independent trade union Solidarity.
A former adviser to the Catholic hierarchy here and staff writer for Tygodnik Powszechny, Krol sees himself as a realist trying to find ways for Polish society to coexist with its Soviet-backed government. He shuns what he sees as the counterproductive tactics of more militant opponents who boycott state-sponsored activity and seek to nurture their own illegal institutions outside the system.
Unlike many Solidarity leaders, Krol is also convinced that Poland under Jaruzelski's rule is a country vastly different from that before 1980, and offers real possibilities for the development of free expression and limited political pluralism. "Whoever judges that nothing is changing, whoever doesn't see that we live in a changed country, in another country -- don't read on," begins the editor's first essay for Res Publica.
The magazine's first issue is dedicated in large part to demonstrating its thesis and, implicitly, justifying its legal appearance together with the acceptance of state censorship.
The magazine has reporting on social and foreign affairs and the economy, book reviews, interviews, a review of the foreign press, philosophical essays and even a translation of a brief section of Dante's "Inferno." One article examines whether China's economic reform program has stalled. The press review summarizes a Time magazine interview with Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov.
Krol, discussing the government's censorship approach, said in an interview that "there's an enormous difference in the censorship between now and 10 years ago."
"The censors now are practically not interested in things you say about present-day Poland," he said. "The Soviet Union, East Bloc totalitarianism, things like that are still taboo, but that's it."
While the relaxation of censorship made Res Publica possible, Krol conceded that by emerging from the underground the journal had sacrificed a significant slice of its freedom. "When you write for the underground you have to know beforehand that you won't change anything," he said. "But above ground, some things can't be said."
Krol, who has published several books in the West, said that some of his own work might continue to turn up in underground publications. At the same time, he said, he hoped to use Res Publica to stretch the limits of Polish glasnost. An upcoming issue, he said, might seek to take on several long taboo issues of Soviet-Polish relations.
"The possibilities are greatly limited," the editor wrote in his inaugural essay. "But our possibilities are not entirely meager. It is worthwhile first of all to describe the changes that take place, . . . remembering that a good, reliable and at the same time lively account is a step in the direction of further changes."