Polish youth unimpressed with regime's call for political support
Young Poles' response to official efforts to kindle their political interest and commitment continues to be extremely low-keyed. The recent conference of the Polish Communist Party exhorted youth to reach for its aspirations with ''vigor characteristic of youth, with ambition and courage, with a zeal that can tear down all obstacles.''
Under the current political and economic conditions, this piece of lofty rhetoric is unlikely to make much impression on a majority of young Poles. ''Like telling us to reach for the sky,'' said one.
The authorities recently conceded that fewer than 30 percent of some 10 million eligible young Poles (between the ages of 16 and 28) have joined the official organizations through which the appeal to youth is channeled.
Moreover, other polls among young people reported equally disconcerting figures for the authorities. One 1983 survey of Warsaw students showed more than 70 percent professed religious feeling. Almost all of these attended church regularly. These figures were higher than the same group's survey before the 1980 crisis.
Increasingly of late, the authorities put the educational system at fault for youth's political indifference, alienation, and delinquency. They also accuse teachers for failure to instill ''socialist values.''
The failure of the Socialist Polish Youth Union (SPYU) to enlist youth is often explained as the work of the ''enemies of socialism'' - presumably the faculty.
In Poznan, students were asked to describe the ''ideal society.'' They listed ''all the characteristics of a socialist society'' - without using the word ''socialism.'' They named Sweden and Switzerland, but not West Germany, the United States, or Poland, as closest to their ideal.
''Nearly all our youth is at some point on the left,'' says a veteran Polish politician. ''But it is also nearly unanimously anticommunist.''
Another poll showed 72 percent believed the church, now more than ever a haven for thoughtful youths, should not confine itself to purely religious activity, but should talk with the authorities on behalf of society.
The government campaign for ''the minds of youth'' was stressed at a January meeting of its Youth Council and again at last month's party conference. It is waged through the Socialist Polish Youth Union, a one-time umbrella for all official youth group activity which virtually collapsed in 1980.
It has made some recovery since. There has lately been a redoubled membership effort in the armed forces factories, and schools.
The SPYU still has only 2 million members. Membership in both the Polish Scout Union and the Pathfinders has fallen, and the Rural Youth Union claims only one Pole in three as a member.
Moreover, many youngsters join for membership bonuses such as recreational facilities, funded holidays, and group trips abroad. It also helps later on in securing an apartment, one of youth's most bitter frustrations.
An affair like that of 18-year-old Grzegorz Przemyk, who died of injuries received after the police arrested him last May, confirms public distrust. Only after a public outcry was an inquiry ordered. The court hearing against six men involved was adjourned in January, purportedly because of ''new evidence.''
Meanwhile, sociologists point to an alarming growth of both alcoholism and drug use among young people.
When Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski - a teetotaler - became prime minister in February 1983, he established an anti-alcohol campaign. Yet since last year's law cracking down on sales and drinking, both consumption and domestic bootlegging (because of higher prices) have risen.
And last summer's efforts to restrict the area for poppy cultivation and opium sales - except for medical use - have proven ineffective. Opium-smoking is said to be on a serious increase, particularly among the young.
However, polls indicate that youth still places human values above material things. Many would also opt for involvement in social affairs, but they do refrain because of what they still see as abuses of authority, barriers to initiative and enterprise, and continued inability of Polish society to influence the decisionmaking.