For Poland, Christmas will be white - and bleak
Despite their best efforts to get something into the shops for Christmas, Poland's military authorities have made it official: Their countrymen are going to have ''a bleak Christmas.''
There is some small sign of supplies in shops that have long been empty, but the state news agency PAP confessed at the weekend, ''The rigors of martial law can be felt in all spheres of everyday life, and Poles face the prospect of a bleak Christmas.''
The military regime is well aware of Poles' seasonal sentiments and their religious feeling for the greatest Christian feast on their calendar. To mitigate the dislocations the sudden, total militarization is causing, it has made urgent appeals for help from both East and West.
The military leaders may reckon a happy holiday could neutralize some of the public anger and protest and give the government a breathing space.
Supplies from the European Community, the Scandinavians, and the United States are arriving at Polish ports and borders, but the weather is making their transfer difficult.
Some of Poland's East-bloc allies are helping, too, according to official reports. They list more meat and ''Christmas parcels for children'' coming from the Soviet Union, medicines from East Germany, and foodstuffs from Czechoslovakia and Hungary.
West Germany, the US, the Netherlands, and the Scandinavian countries are sending food, clothing, and blankets. Wheat, butter, and similar supplies have reached Poland in the first phase of the EC response to the package deal the Poles made a few months ago. But the second phase will not begin until next year , when there is a clearer picture of what may come after martial law.
Distribution of the supplies on hand is being held up by blizzards in central and south Poland and by below-zero temperatures. Some trains reaching Warsaw and other cities are a full day late. Troops are working all-night shifts to clear the tracks and keep the main highways open.
In the meager censored (and delayed) dispatches that journalists are now sending out of Warsaw, the lot of housewives appears to be easing a little. The lines are just as long, but - according to one British reporter who left Warsaw last week - some shops were ''brimming'' with smoked fish, meat, pickles, and vegetables.
Another reporter still in Warsaw wrote that there was more bread and milk, and even cream and cottage cheese.
Vodka sales have been resumed, since even the most temperate Pole insists on a glass at the holiday, but they are rationed. The authorities seem to be doing their best. Because of the harsh winter conditions, they have mobilized the Boy Scouts to help elderly and infirm people with their shopping.
There is a new drive to check speculation. A summertime crackdown on food profiteering simply drove the big operators underground. Now the government is trying again.
Warsaw newspapers report a crackdown on people selling eggs at 60 zlotys apiece (four and five times the earlier price). But Polish money long since ceased to have real meaning. Wages rose more than 30 percent under last year's strike settlements and sparked massive inflation; now the zloty, with so few foreigners around, has soared to astronomical heights against Western currencies.
There are plenty of Poles whose monthly incomes remain little more than the current price of a ''free'' turkey.
For Poland, this attempt to provide some sort of Christmas by appealing for outside aid only means adding to and prolonging its long-term problems.
Extended help from the Soviets and other neighbors is an obvious mark of the Kremlin's anxiety about the situation and its desire to stave off as long as possible any necessity to intervene.
But the Poles will have to pay all this back someday.
Economically, the resort to emergency rule was not surprising. Several years before the crisis finally broke in August 1980, Poland - after Russia potentially the strongest economy in the bloc - was emerging as Comecon's ''sick man,'' as it failed to fulfill export contracts with its partners.
Those of its allies most affected had hinted - before cutting back on their own deliveries a few months ago - that some such action was unavoidable if Poland did not improve its trading performance.
Under their agreement, about two-thirds of Polish export to its allies should consist of engineering products. These have declined steadily.