Will Polish calm satisfy Kremlin?
When Polish leader Stanislaw Kania heads for Moscow this weekend to attend the Soviet party congress, he will take with him a progress report on Poland that should earn him high marks in the Kremlin.
With the student issue settled and the farmers shelving for now their demand for their own independent union, the country is free of open domestic strife for the first time since early last summer.
The astonishing thing is the brisk and businesslike way in which the regime managed all this within 10 days of naming a new prime minister.
This will not be lost on the Russians.
They may not be so happy about some of the concessions involved -- the new latitude for students, for example.
But their general satisfaction can be deduced from the "cordial" (Prague) and "friendly" (East Berlin) way in which Mr. Kania was received last Sunday by the Czechoslovakia party leader, Gustav Husak, and two days later by East Germany's Erich Honecker. The two had been responsible for most of the East bloc's sternest criticism of recent development in Poland.
Later in the week, the new prime minister, Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, had a "cordial" and "friendly" meeting here with the ambassadors of all the Warsaw Pact states, including the Soviet Union's Boris Aristov.
All this adds up to a considerable mending of fences. And it means Poland will not stand already condemned during the behind-the-scenes inquiry into Polish events that no doubt will occur when all the bloc leaders gather during the Moscow conference.
The probable response from Poland's allies will be a message to its leaders saying in effect:
"You have done pretty well, better than we had expected. Keep it up -- but take very good care to keep everything firmly under control, especially those "antisocialist" types in and behind Solidarity." (The allies have made some elements in the union a special target all along.)
It remains to be seen how long it may be before the Pole's proposed reforms, which go well beyond orthodox East-bloc prescriptions, are subjected to a new challenge.
The new government itself seemed to be exhibiting a more independent style when Premier Jaruzelski decided, after seeing the bloc envoys, to invite Western ambassadors in for a talk. He and US mission chief Francis Meehan had an affable 40-minute exchange on bilateral relations and possibilities (perhaps enhanced by the new mood here) of further American economic support.
These meetings reflected the premier's policy statement, which confirmed Poland's place in the "socialist community" but also declared its desire to continue open relations and detente with the West.
The Russians will not object, at least while they are trying to make up their minds about the Reagan administration. But they will surely be seeking assurances from the Poles that the "renewal" promised in all spheres of party and state administration will be kept within safe bounds so that the party's position is in no way undermined.
But a diffusion of power is, in many ways, what already has happened. And the leadership is committed not only to drastic weeding out of corruption and privilege within the ruling party apparatus but also to an altogether different approach by the party to the "leading role" it claims in society -- the most fundamental issue of all.
Some remain strongly opposed to the arrival on the political scene of a new, independent power, Solidarity. Although the union disavows any desire for a political role, in the broad sense it cannot avoid one.
Its opponents play up the "antisocialist" trends within the new union organizations, deliberately (it is suspected) exaggerating them -- with encouragement from bloc dogmatists -- to delay deeper social reforms.
To the "liberals" this is the same brand of monopolistic conservative thinking that made the party so closed in on itself it couldn't cope with today's new social forces.
The "liberals" want a redefinition of the party's "leading role." They say it should "guide," not "command" with no concern for public opinion. Their formula is akin to that long ago adopted by the Yugoslavs.
If such a change becomes accepted, it would mark the end of an era in which the party held a political monopoly and the nation was called a partner, but perforce a silent one. The reformers want the party to operate as a political party that can quickly respond to social moods and changes in society; and do so on the basis of opinion from all strata instead of relying on the kind of information its own closed and introverted organizations have been accustomed to report.
How long the Russians will tolerate that kind of change in the party is the big question. They may have to admit that for Mr. Kania and General Jaruzelski to reverse the trend has become impossible -- even if the Polish leaders wanted to do so. And it appears they do not.
On the other hand, if the Polish leaders can demonstrate it is a politically essential but firmly controlled process -- and the Soviet Union will be spared the cost of having to bale out a collapsed and strife-torn Poland economically -- then the Kremlin may growl but decide it has to live with this as it has with o ther, older Polish idiosyncrasies.