How Poles read 'parasite' law: forcing restive youth to toe the line
In their fifth try in 14 years, Poland's communist rulers have got a bill against ''social parasites'' legislated into law.
It was easier to persuade the majority this time: Parliament is not merely functioning under a Communist-dominated ''coalition''; it is doing so now by grace of military rule.
A handful of independents spoke out against the bill - discounting even its ability to deal with a universal problem of people who do not or will not work. A dozen voted against it. Another 20 abstained.
Ostensibly, the measure is part of a package to combat such social ills as growing juvenile delinquency and alcoholism as well as ''socially unacceptable'' evasion of work. But grave as those other problems are - especially alcoholism - Poles are focusing on the implications of the third. Youths are particularly concerned.
Young people see the new law as a move not just to catch up with idlers and loafers but also to discipline them in general. The great mass of young people resent the continuation of martial law and generally are alienated from the system.
From now on, males between the ages of 18 and 45 must report to local authorities if they have no gainful employment. There is to be a ''means test'' in which, if they have not worked for three months, they must explain why and disclose their means of livelihood.
Noncompliance means they may be directed to employment - under conditions, incidentally, that could bring Poland into more conflict with the International Labor Organization. If they do not take such jobs, they face a compulsory 60 days of roadmaking or similar labor - or imprisonment. After that, presumably, the whole process could start again.
For years the black market and other forms of illegal economic activity have been rampant in Polish society. Corruption and venial abuse of power are officially admitted to have affected a considerable slice of the ruling apparatus in the years preceding the August 1980 crisis.
Many of the jobs now available were held by people who failed the political ''verification'' applied under martial law. Although many call for graduates as trainees, they will be closed to young people identified as enthusiasts of - and unrepentant sympathizers with - Solidarity or advocates of ''renewal.'' (That word is seldom heard these days.)
Increasingly last summer, youth as a whole was identified with the relatively small numbers involved in street clashes with security forces. Some would have seized any opportunity to throw stones or break windows. But, as independent onlookers attested, many were young people whose frustrations impelled them to extremes.
A deputy in parliament spoke out forthrightly Oct. 26 against propaganda that has increasingly singled out youth as responsible for the unrest and disruption of ''normal'' national life.
It was absurd, said Karol Malcuzynski - independent MP and director of the Society of Authors - to see the riots as the work of youth and foreign agents. It was not the CIA, he said, that brought young people into the streets but their own problems.
For many Poles, communism - for all its promised and then dashed hopes of reform - has allowed a more tolerant society than in other East-bloc countries except Hungary. But now Poland has joined the Soviet Union in adopting legislative compulsion against ''parasitism'' and those who do not work.
Other East European governments can find provisions within their standing penal codes to deal with their problems of alienated youth. In recent years the notoriously hard-line Czechoslovak regime has had frequent harsh recourse to it for political reasons. Poles fear their government will do the same.