Poland: Western reports overstated?
The military government's endeavor to pacify Poland may be yielding a little more success than Western governments and reports from the dwindling number of travelers leaving Poland suggest.
The latest pool dispatch from Western reporters still in Warsaw shows how difficult it is for anyone to gather accurate information.
With normal communications cut (their sole outlet being the government telex) , and reporters still confined to the capital, the foreign press in Poland makes plain that it is impossible to confirm information or the many rumors brought out of Poland by sources traveling to the West.
Until independent observers regain freedom of movement - and are allowed to write freely - no dependable picture of what has happened in Poland since Dec. 13 can emerge.
The latest press dispatch from Warsaw spoke of no more than ''pockets of (continued) resistance'' to martial law. The phrase may well have been supplied by the censors.
But official Polish reports in the last 24 hours did admit more substantial unrest. For example, it reported that some 3,000 miners - out of a combined work force of 18,000 - were still occupying two pits in Silesia.
Official claims made Monday night that the situation is getting back to normal in Gdansk and Gdynia seemed overstated. Whatever the truth of reports that the Gdynia shipyard is still occupied by defiant workers, the authorities have seen fit to suspend work at all the ports until after Christmas.
That in itself indicates that uncertainty persists along the Baltic coast where Solidarity came into existence.
Nor is it surprising that active protest apparently remains strongest in Silesia - the home of Poland's disenchanted miners - and in industrial cities like Radom, which was the storm center of the riots and repression of 1976.
The suggestion of relaxation may thus be more apparent than real, but it is supported to some extent by moves disclosed in the last 48 hours. The regime has:
* Eased internal travel restrictions for the Christmas period.
* Promised a break in the 11 p.m. curfew (still 10 p.m. in six of the 49 provincial capitals) to allow attendance at the Roman Catholic midnight mass Christmas Eve. (Even under martial law, Polish Catholics would flock to their churches on Christmas eve.)
* Shortened the curfew at Gdansk, which had been lengthened by two hours after last week's street fighting.
The seriousness of the situation in Gdansk is confirmed by a visitor who reported seeing ''hundreds of spent tear-gas canisters'' on the streets and windows of buildings near the shipyard shattered, apparently by blasts from tank gunfire.
Estimates in the last two days that martial law has resulted in 200 casualties remain unconfirmed. They have not come from eyewitnesses.
When shooting by security forces at the Wujek mine at Katowice last week took the lives of seven miners, the authorities were quick to admit it. But 200 would be twice the combined total of Poles who fell under police bullets in the uprisings of 1956 and 1970. The martyrdom and memories of those incidents were instrumental in the evolution of the reform movement last year.
Concealing such loss of life would be very difficult or impossible. And under present conditions, such news would bring all Poland out in uncontrollable anger.
Meanwhile, the latest statements about Solidarity leader Lech Walesa by Jerzy Urban, the former government spokesman who is now the voice of Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski and the military council, are not without some significance.
The authorities - well aware of Mr. Walesa's immense influence - are clearly handling him with great care.
According to Mr. Urban - and there is no reason to doubt his statement - Mr. Walesa has been visited by a priest and by his wife and his children. He has also, Mr. Urban said, had ''several rounds of talks'' with military council emissaries.
Talks, it is noted, not negotiations. The messages to the outside world attributed to Mr. Walesa can be discounted. (His purported call for ''mass strikes'' would not be in character, and it would be extremely unlikely that Mr. Walesa could secretly transmit such a call to the outside world.
One can be sure that Walesa will not ''negotiate'' except as a free agent, and that the authorities will have to concede that freedom if they want him to help them come to terms with the workers and the nation. No one else can do it.
Much now will depend on the outcome of a visit to Warsaw by papal emissary Archbishop Luigi Poggi and the parallel visit to the Vatican by the secretary episcopate, Bishop Bronislaw Dabroski. The latter was close to the late Polish primate Stefan Cardinal Wyszynski, whose diplomatic skills were accepted by the communists in previous Polish crises.
Much must depend, also, on the attitude Western governments and banks take toward Poland's appeal for even more financial help in meeting its current debt obligations. Europeans and church leaders on both sides of the Atlantic seem less cool to this request and to Poland's still more urgent need for continued Western support than does Mr. Reagan.
''In terms of food and what will help sustain people through this winter, as much help as possible should be given, regardless of governmental and bank anxieties about the security of their money,'' one high Roman Catholic source commented to this writer.
The Polish request for new aid to meet this year's obligations presents Western governments with their most critical political decisions vis a vis Poland since the crisis exploded 18 months ago.
Outright rejection could spark Soviet intervention. That option is something the Russians do not relish. Nor would it be in Western interests: It would wipe out for the foreseeable future the most hopeful democratizing development in Eastern Europe in many years.