Although the Communist Party is in shambles in the Soviet Union, it still retains some clout in Poland, even though communists are no more popular there than anywhere else.

The problem is that Poland, while the first in Eastern Europe to throw off communism's shackles, still has not replaced many unelected officials from the old system of government.Communists and their allies dominate the lower house of Polish Parliament, known as the Sejm - a situation that likely will change when parliamentary elections are held Oct. 27. But in the meantime, those legislators are blocking proposed spending cuts and criticizing the austerity budget needed to switch Poland to a market economy.

The Polish government's coffers are virtually empty and all the country's socialist programs are facing steep budget cuts.

In reaction to parliamentary criticism, Jan Krzysztof Bielecki, Poland's democratic prime minister in the nine-month-old Solidarity government, resigned this week. It was a surprising move, but one that takes political pressure off the democratic government and puts it squarely on the Sejm.

The communist parliamentary body had been resisting reforms while the country's deteriorating economy hsa caused strikes, rising unemployment, price increases and an increasingly unhappy populace. The Solidarity government has been getting the blame.

By resigning, Bielecki leaves the communists in the Sejm with no one to hide behind.

All of this is so much political maneuvering. The communists were allotted 65 percent of Sejm seats in the 1989 deal between Solidarity and the communist government at that time. But they are sure to lose that edge in October. The communists in the Sejm clearly hope that public discontent with the economy will return many of them to office. At a time when the country is broke, they are talking about expanding the budget instead of reducing it.

It's comforting that Polish communists are reduced to playing political games because they no longer have the military or police forces to impose their will.

But there is another lesson behind Poland's unrest. It is that changing from communism to a market economy is going to be a wrenching experience, with considerable economic hardship - not just in Poland but elsewhere.

Over a span of decades, communism wrecked the economies of Eastern Europe - indeed the economy of the Soviet Union itself - and fixing the damage won't be quick or easy.