Despite some good news, Poland's crisis is unresolved
Poland's harvest is encouraging, coal output is rising, and Western banks have deferred this year's debt repayments. These are good tidings to the hard-pressed government here. But they do not go far toward reducing Poland's general economic and political crisis.
After the underground failed to stir significant popular protest Aug. 31, the streets are calm enough. But there is still only minimal popular response to Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski's call for ''national conciliation.''
Coal is an exception to the general malaise in the workplace. Production - and exports - are increasing. But faceworkers earn almost four times the national average wage. Few other sectors get anything like that kind of effort. Overall labor productivity continues to lag.
Grain deliveries to state agencies are nearing 4 million tons, nearly twice last year's total. But hard currency must still be found for substantial imports of protein feedstuffs if the grave decline in animal herds is to be halted.
Favorable weather meant good food supplies this summer - at reasonable prices even by Polish earning levels. But customary winter difficulties are not far off , and the shortages of consumer durables and decent textiles continue. (A woman friend paid 11,000 zlotys, or an average monthly wage, for a black-market pair of Austrian shoes).
This month may see talks resumed with Western governments over some deferral of the $17 billion owed them.
But the West is in no hurry to reopen the talks. The new Washington-Moscow tension over the South Korean airliner debacle is not likely to diminish President Reagan's demand that Poland first extend a ''complete amnesty'' for political prisoners.
Lifting of sanctions is not yet in sight.
It is not easy for General Jaruzelski to smooth the path toward this. The Soviet bloc's approval of his ''normalization'' was implicit in the recent visit of East Germany's Erich Honecker. But Jaruzelski must still demonstrate that, without martial law, the regime is strong enough to preclude another challenge.
That explains the ''taking no chances'' police measures of Aug. 31 as well as the stricter press censorship and an amnesty that has freed many but disqualifies an opposition hard core. Nine of such hard-core persons already have been sentenced. Four leaders of the dissident Workers' Self-Defense Committee (KOR) and seven Solidarity activists are facing anti-state charges.
The KOR case has been pending since February. The delay may mean that General Jaruzelski is hoping the political climate improves enough that low-key trials and leniency are possible so as not further to aggravate public feeling.
His central problem is still the failure to gain any real credibility with the nation at large. It is one thing to claim - as on Sept. 1 - that the ''we'' and ''they'' gap between the rulers and the ruled is narrowing. But it is a difficult proposition to reconcile with what is actually happening in Poland.
Only three months after the Pope's visit, for example, relations with the Roman Catholic Church have chilled distinctly. The government says relations are ''soundly established'' and minimizes current ''differences.''
But it was embarrassed by the Polish episcopate's statement Aug. 26 bluntly accusing it of passing up the chance for national agreement presented by the Pope's June visit.
Communist Party ''conservatives'' are as strongly opposed as ever to any too accommodating tie with the Catholic Church, or to genuine implementation of the August 1980 agreements between the government and the workers without which - the bishops warned - real national dialogue and social peace both are threatened.
An even blunter charge came Sunday when the primate, Jozef Cardinal Glemp, condemned the authorities' attitude toward Solidarity. Workers who once were ''treated as partners,'' he said, are now ''rejected, ridiculed, and insulted.''
These stern words were an obvious retort to the speech by Vice-Premier Mieczyslaw Rakowski in the Gdansk shipyard Aug. 25 in which he mixed violent general attacks on the union with frequent crude and ironic gibes at its former chairman, Lech Walesa.
The authorities hailed Mr. Rakowski's extraordinary performance as a ''victory.'' But from what this writer saw and heard in Gdansk a few days later, that was not - to say the least - a widely held view in the shipyard or in Gdansk at large. The latter was a sad picture of almost two cities - the ubiquitous ZOMO riot police and a silent, unsmiling people ''controlled'' at every street corner and crossing.
Again, Poland's ''third force'' - the people of the countryside - seems as skeptical as ever of government plans for agriculture, despite improved prices and the new private inheritance guarantee.
An example just now is the Western Catholic churches' offer to start an agricultural development fund for the private farmers. A start has yet to be made to get it moving, although General Jaruzelski approved it before the Pope's arrival in June.
The project could, in fact, be in doubt. Such church philanthropy in a politically sensitive, Catholic countryside is ideologically unwelcome to the state. Cardinal Glemp in last Sunday's sermon, spoke dryly of ''unusual delay'' with the legislation.
The $3 million to $4 million project itself represents only a fraction of what is needed after two decades of neglect of the needs of small-scale farmers. But it could, nonetheless, mean real help to the most needy - the 1.7 million poor farmers with fewer than 12 acres and only a horse and an ancient plow.
Public confidence is continuously strained by persistent displays of naked power by police, even though the authorities claim the opposition is broken.
An example of this is case of high school graduate Grzegorz Przemyk, who died a day after an ambulance took him to a clinic following a brush with the police in mid-May.
A public outcry forced the Warsaw prosecutor to open an immediate investigation, and scores of witnesses - companions, physicians, forensic specialists - have testified.
Almost four months after the event, Polish authorities disclosed that six persons are to be charged in connection with Przemyk's death. The public charges are in marked contrast with official attitudes in previous instances of police abuse of their powers.
Two policemen and two ambulance crewmen face charges for assault, and two doctors are to be charged with negligence in not diagnosing the youth's injuries. It is now admitted that after he was taken into custody, he was beaten up at a police station and again in the ambulance taking him to a clinic, where doctors allowed his mother to take him home after only a cursory examination.
The case caused a public uproar, with some 20,000 people attending his funeral in an antipolice protest.
Wednesday's statement on the inquiry's findings repeats the authorities' original assertion that force had to be used to restrain the boy because he was ''behaving violently.'' The statement again claims that the regime's opponents had whipped up public feeling on the issue.
Where youth is concerned, 4,000 university places are going begging for the new academic year. Some 70,000 teaching posts are vacant in primary and secondary schools, so underqualified personnel and recent high-school graduates are hired to teach.
Waning youth interest in university education is apparent - but it is not surprising, given the bleak prospect of finding jobs related to studies.
And the prospect for most things after high-school graduation seems grim. Graduates wait at least eight years to get a tiny apartment.
''What's the use of wasting my time studying? I can better use the time starting to arrange my life a bit earlier,'' is the comment of many young people these days.
Teaching jobs, which pay less than work as a janitor, do not tempt youngsters.
Formally, Soliditary itself is no more than a name. But however much the authorities may try to write it off, it remains a potent symbol for most ordinary Poles. The frequency and violence of attacks like Mr. Rakowski's serve only to confirm and harden such feeling.
The same is true of Lech Walesa. Whether he ever has an active role again, his name has yet to lose its magic appeal. Official derision merely helps keep it alive.
Because of Moscow's certain reactions, General Jaruzelski cannot countenance allowing Walesa to have anything like his old role. The general can argue that he doesn't need the union organizer - that the new government-sponsored unions now have more than 3 million members.
But the new unions are not picking up membership in Solidarity's strongholds, the important heavy industries. Walesa might influence them, however.
The authorities could at least listen to Walesa, if not as the former union leader, then as one of the ''authentic'' worker voices who, as the Catholic Church keeps saying, must sooner or later be heard.
Their own credibility as well as a compromise with public feeling would seem to require it. But the chances for such a common-sense gesture do not yet look bright.