Dotting i's and crossing the government: Polish writers are written off
Dissolving the Polish Writers' Union is an attempt by the government to squash two threats with one blow. First, it aims to bring literary recalcitrants at home into line with official cultural policies. Beyond that, a major - if not the paramount - aim in the dissolution is to break its links with Polish emigre writers in the West.
The dissolution, ordered by the Polish authorities Aug. 19, was not unexpected after six months of acrimonious political wrangling between the authorities and the union's leadership.
The 1,400-member union (of which only about 200 belonged to the Communist Party) was one of 37 cultural and social groups suspended when martial law was imposed in December 1981. Other suspended organizations embraced a wide range of creative artists, theatrical workers, and students as well as writers, teachers, and journalists.
A few groups - new journalists and student organizations, for example, and some artistic groups - were reformed after they removed ''oppositionists'' from leadership positions and recognized the basic political conditions challenged in the earlier Solidarity era.
The latest to reappear, for example, is the filmmakers' association. After a long tussle with the authorities, controversial figures removed themselves from the leadership to save the organization and enable it to resume activity.
Throughout this year, the main board of the Writers' Union adopted a more intransigent stand. In June it declined a government approval for convening a meeting at which the authorities obviously hoped ''compromise'' conditions and new leaders might emerge for the union's reactivization.
For the government, the union's stand became increasingly one of political interest to the Soviets in their insistence that the Poles put their ideological house in order. Thus it became more and more difficult for Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski to avoid a showdown with the intellectual world.
Now, the ultimate step of dissolution has not only made future modus vivendi with the intellectuals - even with those who already showed greater recogniton of the general's situation - infinitely more difficult. But it has also removed the one major, morally influential organization - apart from the Roman Catholic Church - which still stood apart from the political ''normalization'' processes that were put into place after martial law was lifted last month.
The government's concern extends beyond merely bringing writers into line with this general ''normalization'' to ensure that the Communist Party's leading and ruling role is rigorously reasserted in all branches of Polish society.
It has also specifically required the union to ''renovate'' its leadership, renounce former links with the independent trade union Solidarity, and rescind an agreement with Solidarity in late 1980 in which the writers' guild said it would promote educational and other groups operating independently of the party's cultural authority.
Moreover, the government has demanded that union rules be changed to deny continued membership to Polish emigre writers living and publishing abroad, either through Western or emigre publishing channels.
Among these are such notable figures as Leszek Kolakowski, a Warsaw university philosopher eminence gris of the Gomulka reform period in the '50s; Nobel literary prizewinner Czeslaw Milosz; and - more notoriously in these turbulent years of the '80s - Zdzislaw Najder, formerly one of Poland's outstanding literary critics.
Mr. Najder is now head of the Polish section of Radio Free Europe. As such he has been a principal target for the official anger at critical Western broadcasting to Poland during martial law and since.
He was sentenced to death in absentia by a Polish court early this year on charges of ''acts against the security of the Polish state'' - that is, treason.
Recently, official criticism has been noticeably stepped up against Professor Kolakowski and writer Milosz, who was able to visit Poland after winning the Nobel Prize in 1980, and has since to some extent been republished in Poland.
For many years, Polish writers resident in Poland who have had works rejected for normal open publication in the country were able to publish in long-tolerated ''unofficial'' journals at home, as well as in emigre publications in the West such as the Paris Kultura. Also, emigre writers associated with such journals have been able to retain membership in the Polish Writers' Union.
That such freedom existed for Polish writers has put General Jaruzelski in an extremely embarrassing position - both in the past, under martial law, and now, increasingly, under the so-called normalization, which the Soviet Union is watching carefully.