Polish resistance - grave news for Soviets
All indications from Poland are that the intended carrot-and-stick approach to martial law has gone awry. The stick has fallen more heavily than hoped. Guns have been fired. By official accounts, at least seven people have been killed. But some Western reports put the number of deaths at 200.
''Jaruzelski is now a man with blood on his hands,'' says one Western analyst who has spent much time in Poland over the past year. ''Poles do not forget such things easily.'' Indeed, it took Poland a full decade to expunge its bitterness over the killing of workers during the unrest of 1970.
At the same time, the carrot element in the martial law strategy seems so far to be failing. The government's attempt to convince Poles that there was still hope of holding on to at least some of the promised reforms seems to be gaining few takers.
All this is very bad news for Poland's soldier-ruler, Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski. It is terrible news for the Kremlin, a fact not fully papered over in the adulatory celebration of President Leonid Brezhnev's 75th birthday here Dec. 19.
If the situation next-door does not improve, Soviet leaders may have a much harder time dodging or deferring the question of direct intervention there. At the very least, they will have to divert more and more of their own strained economic resources to Poland.
Martial law, as viewed both in Moscow and Warsaw, was to have been more than nightsticks and water cannon and gunshots. The less of those, the better. The largely conscript Army, drawn from the same Polish citizenry that flocked to Solidarity, was to be used as sparingly as possible. (Indeed the main role in countering opposition to martial law is reported, so far, to have fallen to career internal security police.)
Most importantly, at least some of the reforms won by Solidarity in the past 16 months were to survive the crackdown. Persuading the Polish people (and, in the best of all possible worlds, Lech Walesa) of this would be crucial to the success of the operation.
Otherwise, Poland's economy could sink from bad to worse. The Soviets would have to choose between: footing much of the bill; or intervening - with no guarantee this would not mean footing an incalculably larger bill.
The first week of Polish martial law seems to have brought this choice closer. This may help explain why Mr. Brezhnev, amid the idolatry of his birthday celebration, stressed the ''unity, cohesion, and good teamwork'' of Soviet leaders.
The impression among foreign analysts (although none, in Moscow tradition, could say for sure) was that Brezhnev saw possibly daunting times ahead and was, in effect telling his colleagues: Remember, we're all in this together.
By official accounts, Poland is a country gradually becoming ''normal,'' or calm. This, the Polish news agency said Dec. 20, applies to ''95 percent of (economic) enterprises.''
But strikes persist. (Western news reports suggest wider strike action, particularly in the important mining sector, than does officially distributed information.) Warsaw radio said Dec. 20 a number of shipyards would remain ''closed'' for the next week. An official Polish news report added that ''counterrevolutionaries'' had blown up the entrance to a coal mine in the Katowice region, the area where at least seven people were killed earlier in the week, and that as many as 1,300 miners were ''being held underground.''
''The second exit is mined, and political criminals from Solidarity . . . are threatening to blow it up if the forces of public order are brought to the mine, '' said the report, quoted by the Soviet news agency, Tass.
This was the first official indication since imposition of martial law that the ''forces of public order'' may not be the only ones in Poland with firepower. The dispatch added that a ''Solidarity arsenal'' has been uncovered at one Baltic shipyard. The take ''included more than 500 rounds of ammunition, a grenade launcher, firearms, rubber clubs, metal rods, and Army bayonets.''
Mr. Walesa, the Solidarity leader, reportedly remains under effective detention at an official guest house near Warsaw. The Polish authorities say they are treating him well, and holding talks with him. He does not seem interested in the carrot still being energetically proffered by Jaruzelski.
The BBC says one report in Warsaw has it that Walesa was asked to go on nationwide television, presumably to appeal for calm. His reported reply: ''I'd rather die.''
The clear hope among both Soviet and Polish officials remains that resistance to martial law will gradually lessen and that talk of continuing ''reforms'' will gradually tempt more and more Poles into at least grudging support of the new regime.
Solidarity ''arsenals'' notwithstanding, opponents of martial law are never going to be able to defeat Jaruzelski and company in a military sense, of course. But the ''victory'' Polish authorities are seeking is not merely military. It is political, and economic.
The official East bloc media have left little doubt that Solidarity and its backers will not be offered the kind of influence they had one week ago. Reform, the implication is, will come essentially from above. Decisions, once taken, must stand. But the authorities are saying, in effect, they will implement as much as possible of what Solidarity has demanded.
Some foreign ''experts'' here, including a Western ambassador or two, argue that since the Soviets never liked Solidarity, they aren't going to let Jaruzelski offer any reform. This remains to be seen. But the evidence so far is that such ''experts'' are wrong.
Soviet officials may not be nice guys. They don't like grass-roots dissent. But they are not fools, either. They want, above all, for Polish martial law ultimately to work. And as one senior Soviet official put it privately a few days back, some workable modus vivendi with the millions of Poles who sympathize with Solidarity is essential to that goal.
Throughout the Polish crisis, the official Soviet news media have been reluctant to carry pledges by Warsaw officials for reform. The stress was on the need for a ''decisisive rebuff'' to the ''counterrevolutionaries'' seeking such reform. This, for the time being, has changed.
A commentary in the Soviet Communist newspaper Pravda Dec. 20 said, in approving tones, that no one can ''encroach on the program of genuine (socialist) renewal in Poland. This has been unequivocally stated by the military council of national redemption. The renewal will be continued, for the good of the Polish people, for the good of socialism.
''This is indicated. . .by the council's decision to implement even now 'those economic reform elements which do not contradict martial law.' ''
On Dec. 19, Pravda printed a birthday message to Mr. Brezhnev from General Jaruzelski, the only Warsaw Pact leader who did not travel to Moscow for the occasion. The message included a pledge to continue ''socialist renewal,'' the term which Polish authorities have given the reforms of the past 18 months, and to implement communist ideology according to ''Polish national conditions.''