'The Poles will not have made their stand in vain'
As this is being written, Poland is approaching the end of its first week of martial law; and whatever hopes there were that General Jaruzelski's Draconian decree would contribute, however paradoxically, to internal stabilization without destroying the fruits of the remarkable last 17 months in Poland are fast disappearing.
An outsider analyzing Polish events since July 1980 is at a disadvantage because he can only guess at the kind, tone, and timing of Soviet influence on Polish authorities. Certainly the Kremlin always wanted stronger action against Solidarity and other independent groups - and it undoubtedly welcomed the decision of Dec. 13 - but we do not know whether it counseled this kind of action at this time or even delivered an ultimatum to the Polish government to act or face direct Soviet intervention.
We can analyze more closely events and attitudes in Poland itself, which has been under the unrelenting and unprecedented eye of both national and international media. After 16 months of turbulence and change - ''renewal'' in the current Polish lexicon - the necessity to face up to the grim realities of Polish economic and financial chaos and to the onset of winter became more and more clear and more and more urgent. The party was in shambles and divided. Solidarity was beset by internal divisions as to its proper priorities and, mindful of the regime's past record of broken promises, whether to keep up its pressure for more concessions and even a decisionmaking role. The Roman Catholic Church, waiting for a new primate to set its course, was playing its usual mediating role but without the wily and implacable Cardinal Wyszynski.
The people showed immense toleration for discomfort, shortages, uncertainty, and turbulence. Even though 36 years of communist rule were adequate to confirm their belief that the party was to blame for everything, there were beginning to be signs of impatience with internal instability, partially caused by increasing shortages of basic food-stuffs and fuel.
Complicating matters were the reported incidents among the peasants who wished to barter the produce of their bumper harvest for goods which they wanted and needed and which cash could not buy. And ever since Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski became prime minister in February 1981, the role of the army has increased to the extent that it is a major arbiter in Polish politics.
However, hope grew when the Polish ''summit'' - an unprecedented meeting of General Jaruzelski, Archbishop Glemp, and Lech Walesa - was announced in November. Few details of that meeting have been made public but the only conclusion one can draw is that it was so unproductive that further meetings were not scheduled, although the primate proposed their resumption in letters to Jaruzelski and Walesa before the events of Dec. 13.
A state of emergency had been threatened by the authorities before and obviously planning had been thorough. The Solidarity resolution of Dec. 12 may have been the immediate reason for the military action. Certainly the threat to hold a referendum dealing with the role of the communist party, free elections, and Poland's military relations with the Soviet Union was a provocation of such magnitude that the regime could hardly ignore it - as it had some other Solidarity resolutions.
Some had hoped that even so drastic a measure as martial law could be utilized as a means of bringing about cooperation on Poland's immediate economic problems even though basic political and philosophical differences would remain. However, the drastic nature of the decree, the continued news blackout, the violence and the continuance of martial law have steadily eroded this possibility. If there is no breakthrough in re-establishing the dialogue among the regime, the church, and Solidarity, Poland is faced with a military government of infinite duration - another Polish first in postwar Eastern Europe.
One can endlessly discuss the division of blame over this latest ominous turn of events, but what kind of Poland will it be in that case? Not the one that either the party, Solidarity, the church, or the army wanted. Solidarity can be decapitated, but the heady experience of the last 17 months assures that, overtly or clandestinely, Solidarity, by whatever name, will live on at least on local or regional levels. The church's opposition to the regime will become more marked and, as in the past, the Polish people will turn to it for guidance and sustenance.And it is likely that the economic malaise martial law was meant to cure will only grow worse. Polish productivity, never very high and seriously eroded even more by the uncertainties of the past 17 months, will probably decrease even further. A sullen and hostile work force, intimidated by force and faced with the same difficult living conditions, cannot be expected to be enthusiastic toilers in a ''socialist paradise.'' If the fall of the Gierek regime resulted in part from loss of communication with the population this regime will have an equally difficult time for the same reason.Although the military has, to all appearances, replaced the party as the governing organization in Poland, it derives any legitimacy it has from the party and Moscow. The distrust and dissatisfaction directed against the party all these years will now be transferred to the military. The assurances that the process of ''renewal'' will continue and the clock will not be turned back to June 1980 will be difficult to observe and will not be credible since the relative freedoms of the July 1980-December 1981 period will undoubtedly not be restored, certainly not in their entirety.But the West's position is unenviable, too. Its weapons are economic and financial, but it is Poland which owes the West $27 billion, not the other way around. To offer or withhold economic or financial assistance will probably have little desirable political effect. When a regime sees its life at stake, as apparently this one did, those offers of political incentives or imposition of conditions have little effect. Even the extension of rescheduling terms and new credits will not revivify the Polish economy enough to enable it to pay its debt. And Western governments which provide even food aid will be open to the charge that the military regime will use it for political purposes. However, even if the US does not meet the Polish request for fill at least part of the gap, albeit at high cost to Poland.However, in general the Poles will not have made their stand in vain. Soviet control over its Warsaw Pact partners is not so complete or pervasive as it was. Nationalism has become an increasingly powerful motivating factor in all of these countries. Furthermore, the internal difficulties of the Soviet Union makes the kind of dependence which would drain the Soviet economy unwelcome in Moscow.Nevertheless , whatever the immediate future of Poland, the increasing instability in Eastern Europe, both political and economic, becomes a disquieting factor in European politics. An alternating cycle of isolation and interdependence is essentially an unhealthy situation, and instability can lead to conflict and friction which could threaten not only the stability of Western Europe but also sow the seeds for more dangerous hostility. And certainly the possibility that the Western allies will not be able to negotiate among themselves a common policy for future relations with the USSR, Poland and the other Warsaw Pact nations could have serious adverse effects at a time when US relations with its allies is already under severe strain.