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Nobel prize brings no peace to Polish rule

Jubilation in Gdansk and above all in its shipyard. Dismay and anger in Warsaw in the corridors of a communist power struggling to bolster its precarious hold on Poland.

This is the sequel to the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Lech Walesa, who three years ago rose from a little-known shipyard electrician to leader of both the biggest single labor union and the first free, independent one to emerge under communist rule.

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Predictably, the Polish regime's first reaction was to condemn the award as ''politically motivated.'' Over the next few days that will likely be given greater play in Poland.

But it cannot whittle away one jot of the significance of the Nobel committee's decision, either for the government or for Poles at large.

For a year, Poles have shown themselves tired of conflict and resigned to government terms, for the sake of a quieter life. Efforts by the small underground groups to raise public feeling on various Solidarity anniversaries this year found little active response.

But at the same time, there was negligible acceptance of regime efforts to belittle Walesa and destroy his image. Public loyalty to him - especially among workers in heavy industries - is undimmed.

The loyalty is strongest in Gdansk, where he was born 40 years ago and where he joined the first efforts to found a genuine labor union a few years before the 1980 strikes that created Solidarity.

But workers throughout Poland have demonstrated time and again that though Solidarity is outlawed, Lech Walesa remains its symbol - and would go on doing so even while the authorities refused to discuss union affairs with him.

The Nobel committee's award will simply confirm such feelings and renew their confidence in him as a potential leader.

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The government has done much to bring this new embarrassment on themselves.

Polish authorities claimed that Solidarity's unbridled challenge to them in late 1981 and Soviet reactions thereto forced them to declare martial law. But it was clear from their attitude toward Walesa since banning Solidarity and creating new labor unions last fall they never intended to treat him as a voice of worker opinion.

Although Walesa's first comment on the new government-initiated unions was far from wholly hostile, the authorities did not try to talk to him about the future. Walesa's repeated calls for peaceful negotiation - noted by the Nobel committee in making its award - were never tested.

Twenty-four hours before the award was announced, the government spokesman dismissed him as a person of ''no political relevance,'' with a following already reduced to ''a few.''

Wednesday he became a person of considerably enhanced relevance. He now poses an extremely serious and embarrassing problem for Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski vis-a-vis both the hard-liners in the party leadership and the Soviets.

The Soviets will almost assuredly remind General Jaruzelski that he should have done as they urged - to eliminate Solidarity, then isolate and silence Walesa politically by locking him up if need be.

It is easy to see how Jaruzelski was caught between those outside pressures and the knowledge that any such move against Walesa could fire a movement like the one in 1980 all over again.

Such considerations make it even more incomprehensible why Walesa was not given a hearing in recent months. Instead, the authorities chose to stage a television show at which Walesa was briefly allowed the floor - but under conditions obviously designed to discredit him.

What can the government do now? It can affect indifference while identifying the award as another step in the West's ''political campaign against Poland and socialism.'' It can even say Walesa may go to Oslo to collect his $192,000 award , which he plans to donate to a Roman Catholic Church fund to help Polish agriculture. Walesa might decide there would be too much risk that he would not be allowed to return to Poland.

Being an exile would be inconceivable for Walesa. He has said he would not give up the struggle: ''We have to reach agreement, but not on our knees.''

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