Courtesy Reuters

The Polish Road to Communism

On Novy Swiat, a main downtown street in Warsaw, there is a women's lingerie store called Bardotka, a diminutive for the surname of the celebrated French actress. To a Western resident of Moscow (or most other East European capitals) where such establishments tend to have names like Wearing Apparel Store Number Six, the Polish whimsy is remarkable. The observation, however, is not nearly so lighthearted as it may seem at first. There is a growing divergence between the Soviet Union and its largest ally that is understandably a matter of the utmost sensitivity for both countries. Profound differences in the way Poles and Soviets order their worlds in the 1970s start with superficial points of style, but they extend increasingly to fundamental issues of politics, economics and ideology.

Official Poles prefer not to discuss the subject openly with outsiders, but they do acknowledge that for all their supposed commitment to Soviet ideals, Poland today is in certain key respects much as it might have been had the communists failed in their takeover bid three decades ago. The Catholic Church has as strong a hold on the national spirit as ever, despite the regime's concerted antagonism. The Polish Church, with about 30 million adherents in a country of some 35 million people according to accepted estimates, represents the most formidable organized opposition force anywhere in Eastern Europe. Nearly 75 percent of the country's agriculture remains in private hands with no prospect of widespread collectivization. There are, by recent count, 188,000 privately owned businesses and small manufacturers employing about 400,000 people. And the numbers are rising.

Not that Poland is about to break away from the Soviet orbit. No one encountered there, including the most disenchanted intellectuals, seriously thinks such a thing is possible or even worth considering, given that the consequences would almost surely be catastrophic: memories of Czechoslovakia 1968; Hungary 1956; indeed, Poland 1830 when Nicholas I crushed a popular rebellion and then told assembled Polish noblemen, "I am, praise God, Emperor of Russia and by virtue of this

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