Jaruzelski, General Wojciech - ,, A biography against contemporary development in Poland

Seminar Paper, 2000

11 Pages

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1 Introduction

In the following pages I will describe the policy of General Wojciech Jaruzelski, Minister of Defence (1968-85), Prime Minister (1981-85), Secretary of PZPR (1981-1989) and President (1989-90) of Peoples Republic of Poland1,2. I try to make clear the motives of the policy and their affects on politics and society of the most disputable political figure in most recent Polish history or like the critical Polish author Kazimiersz Brandys wrote in 1981: „This Prime Minister and Party Secretary in generals uniform is a mysterious character. What is hiding behind these dark glasses: Poland or Rus- sia? The dreamers a whispering: Wallenrod. The sceptic rather think about historic closer characters. Realists are silent.“3

I will put stress on following events, his reign as Prime Minister and Party Secretary during the Solidarity movement, the imposing of Martial Law, the period of normalisation between 1983 and 1989 and finally his role in the Round Table process and the „Velvet Revolution“.

2 Prime Minister and Party Secretary (1981)

As General W. Jaruzelski stepped on the stage in February 1981 not much was known about him in public. From his biography two contrary tendencies where evident. On the one hand he was always a man the Soviets could rely on, because he was schooled as an officer in the Soviet Union and he was ruthless in the brutal military campaigns against anti-Communist guerrilla in post-war Poland. Becoming a political commissar of the army and Minister of Defence short before the Warsaw Pact invasion into Czechoslovakia gave no hint of being a deviator of Moscow’s line. During the Gierek period he made party career as a candidate of Politburo after the Baltic See riots in 1970 and joining it as a full member one year later.

One the other hand he is originated of an old Polish gentry family and he was deported in the age of 16 to Russia after the Soviet invasion as a forced labourer. He made the most important steps in his military career during Gomulka cleansed the army of Soviet agents. This showed that is was also Polish patriot. In public it was known, that he was materially uncorrupted, modernised the army and opposed the use of force in the riots 1970, 1976 and 1980.4

As Prime Minister he was confronted with very difficult situation in Poland with three major factors. Solidarity movement and related legal and illegal organisations, like KOR, KPN and Rural Solidarity have about 10 million members who are often also party members.5 With their occupation strikes since August 1980 they already reached some of their demands and gained enough self-confidence to make more and more far-reaching demands. With their strong network, infrastructure and intellectual advice they build up a state-in-the-state system, which was totally independent from the Party and the government.

The fraternal states of the Warsaw Pact and especially the Soviet Union were very worried about the developments in Poland. Already in December 1980 they threatened Poland with a military intervention. Troops were already gathered at the Eastern German, Belorussian and Ukrainian border and waiting for orders.6

The economic situation of Poland was very poor. After the bubble-economy created with western credits and higher consumption by Giereck since 1970. Poland was confronted with enormous inflation, huge trade deficit and foreign debts of 20 billion dollar. The subvention of basic food needed already 40% of states budget, and the supply with goods is insufficient.7 This economic depression and the deriving discontent were the reasons for the strikes and fostered the success of Solidarity, because the former government was neither able to overcome the situation nor to confront the public with the economic reality8. This lead to a vicious circle where declining economy provoked protests and strikes against it, which brought further insufficient supply of products and sped up the economic decline.9

In General Jaruzelski’s first speech as a new Prime Minster, he promised to undertake most urgent social programmes, the introduction of a plan for economic stability and preparation of wide- rangeing economic reforms. Therefore he asked Solidarity for a three month moratorium on strikes. In returned for the moratorium he offered a new Trade Union and Workers’ Self-Government Bill, a guarantee for private land-ownership and a Permanent Committee for government-union relation as a advisory board. He made the reformist party member and editor of Politika, a critical party magazine, Mieczylaw Rakowski to his Deputy Prime Minister and to the head of the Permanent Committee.

Some of the crucial demands of Solidarity stayed unanswered like the registration of Rural Solidarity as a trade union (but this was already refused in the Eighth Plenum of the Party some days before), a Censorship Bill and Solidarity’s access to the mass media. To keep peace in the Party and towards Moscow some hard-liners stayed in the government and the Central Committee. In the course of these concessions, the Minister of Education decided that Russian was no compulsory subject for students any more to end up student strikes.10

This programme was welcomed by Solidarity to overcome the increasing confrontation in society and improve the economic situation. A strong government, strong in comparison to the Party, for them was a guarantee of a reliable partner in the offered partnership. He was highly respected in the population as a opinion research showed in March, 85% of the people asked approved his appointment. Even Lech Walesa said: „I think he is all right, that he (Jaruzelski) is a good Pole“.11

Before the new government could have undertaken any of the declared activities, the first interventions were made by the leaders of the Soviet Union. In March 1981, after the Party Congress of the CPSU, where some points of the governments programme and especially the guarantees given to the opposition movement were criticised. The government was forced to revoke its offers and to normalise the Polish society.12

The first meeting between Jaruzelski and Walesa to diminish the tensions and to prepare partnership for a political solution became a farce, since at the same time the security forces broke the truce and provoked the Solidarity movement with interrogating and arresting Solidarity advisors as well as a brutal anonymous attack against an activist. The peak of the provocation was the Bydgoszcz incident, where policemen truncheoned farmer-representatives by breaking off an occupation strike.13 This incident led to spontaneous and uncoordinated strikes which were out of control of the Solidarity leaders.

Hence there is the question where the group around Jaruzelski was still able to control the situation anymore or if the security forces as a state-in-a-state had direct orders from hard-liners in the highest positions or even from Moscow directly.14 Was this a sign of the „rotting of social tissue“ or „the collective suicide of the nation“ as an eyewitness reflected it.15 Another interpretation could be that the new government was turning to machiavelism. Trying to negotiate with Solidarity for partnership and to provoke the movement to corrupt its principle of non-aggression, to show them toworads the public (and the western countries) as counter-revolutionary attackers against the state.16

This situation led to an abyss. Solidarity was threatening with an nation-wide general strike and giving a sample for its strength by a nation-wide warning strike. The answer of the government was that they would impose the state of emergency (stan wyjatkowy). The turning point in this moment weas the „Warsaw Agreement“, which averted the total confrontation. This agreement was rather due to the self-limiting forces of Solidarity than governments activities.17

The changes in society now also effected the party. Never before was so much pluralism in the PZPR than in spring 1981. One the one hand the „Grunwald Patriotic Movement“ a nationalist, antiSemitic and ideological hard-line group appeared again18. On the other hand the „horizontal movement“ emerged, which had strong ties to Solidarity and which wanted to build a network between basic units of the party, but this was defying the „Leninist centralism“ and hence unacceptable for the orthodox or Moscow.19

At the extraordinary IX. Party Congress in July the ruling group of Prime Minister Jaruzelski and Party Secretary S. Kania had to keep control over the Party. The Party delegates for the first time were elected by democratic secret ballots. 80% of the delegates took part for the first time. The option to change the state by changing the Party, as the reformers demanded, was no realistic opportunity as the experiences of Budapest 1956 and Prague 1968 showed. Also it was important to weaken the position of the hard-liners not to provoke new confrontations with Solidarity. Not only the active influence of the leaders also the new democratic rules led to a new Central Committee with rather conformist and colourless members, as only these candidates were able to get more than 50% of the votes.20

For the next few months the government tried again to improve the relation with Solidarity by passing a Censorship Bill21.and an Act on Workers’ Self Government. The government made clear that these regulation which were negotiated in together, where no sign of equal partnership. In both cases the government „improved“ the agreements without aggrement with their partner. This was not acceptable for Solidarity and they used their weapons of strike and blockades to strengthen their position. In this time it can be seen that the government with its pedantic provocation, tries to enlarge the tensions between different fractions in Solidarity, which emerge at the Solidarity Congress in summer and autumn. This policy was not successful, the cohesion in the movement was still to strong. This policy was rather counter-productive as it can be seen that the non-communist parties in the Sejm were refusing for the first time to vote for the governments union bill. It had to be re-negotiated before.22

The following time was dominated by its peace (before the storm). Solidarity was occupied with it self and seeking for new ways to enforce their demands. The government and the Party took symbolic steps like replacing Kania by Jaruzelski as the party leader, a meeting of Walesa, Archbishop Glemp with W. Jaruzelski and the first official celebration of the Independent Day of the second Republik of Poland at 11 November. These steps had not the wanted effect on the public, who were still queuing up and tried to prepare for a hard winter.23

In conclusion it must be said that the government of Jaruzelski had nearly no possibilities to overcome the economic crisis and the political confrontation. Factors outside their control acted in the country and they were only able to react. The question if Jaruzelski was at all able and willing to develop a programme to solve the major problems has to be put in questions marks.

Although the government and the Party were inactive, General Jaruzelski and the armed forces prepared the stage for a new play.

3 Martial Law (1981 - 1982)

From end of October on first military activities in the country could be seen. Military operation groups were active in small towns and the rural administration. Later they also were sent to the cities. The task of these military operation groups were to help with their logistic to overcome problems in supply, they were also mend as a public relation activity. The most important task was to get accustomed with the places and to fill records about the persons against they will strike soon.24

On 13 December General Jaruzelski declares martial law (stan wojenny). In the night the troops invaded into the cities, set road blocks in and between the cities, civilian telephone and telex lines were cut in the whole country and all media were in control of the army. Thousands of Solidarity activists, their advisors and also critical Party member (also Gierek) were taken into interment camps. All gatherings, processions and demonstrations were banned and a curfew for the night was imposed.25 Beside these oppressing methods the military leaders sized power in a coup d’etat legalised by the Council of State, by installing WRON (Military Council for National Salvation) as the supreme institution26, military commissars being appointed to all levels of state administration and the militarisation of enterprises in which workers were taken under direct military discipline and military law.27

People, Solidarity activists as well as Party members were taken in surprise. The Solidarity answered in a few desperate isolated occupation strikes. The conscripted army was used to cut these strikes off and special trained and very good equipped forces of the ZOMO riot police and Internal Defence Forces were brutally clashing the resistance. The security forces even threatened strikers with the usage of chemical weapons (Huta Katowice) and the killing of seven miners in the Wujek colliery.28 After three weeks Jaruzelski had his second truce, but this time after a „war“.

Seen as a military operation the imposing of martial law was a full success.29 The PZPR interpreted the general social and political reforms made by the Solidarity movements as threats to its rule and to its guarantor the Soviet Union. For the latter it is positive that this first step toward a normalisation, turning back these reforms in Poland was done by Poles and not by an intervention like in ‘56 and ‘68.30

Imposing martial law, the open use of brute force and the militarisation of society shocked and paralysed Poland as well as the western countries under leadership of Reagan’s US. Jaruzelski was shown in the media as brutal dictator with blood on his hands in the centre of civilised Europe.31 There were 28 proven cases of killing, which is relatively less by standards of the normalisation in Hungary 56 or CSSR 68 and military coup d’etat in Latin America.32 The harsh actions led to a political and economic isolation of the country. During Gierek’s reign Poland became dependent on Western credits and supplies. This led to a break down of the economy and gave no hope to overcome the situation in a recent period. Only Western Germany continued its détente (Ostpolitik) and individual help from Germans for their Polish neighbours improved the burdened relationship.33

The Soviet Union also was not willing to support Poland to recover, albeit the economic breakdown had negative effects on the other COMECON countries, because the success of a coup d’etat of the armed forces against government and Party would give a bad example for the other satellites. During the martial law the Party lost about 30% of its members and its „leading role“ defined by Leninist ideology.

The emigration of hundreds of thousand most young Poles led to a brain drain and still has negative effects on social and economic situation of the country. Intellectuals and also party activists decided for an inner emigration and refused to take part in the rebuilding of the country.34

The silence in the country was not used by Jaruzelski’s group, because of the lacking off any-far reaching political and economic concept. Also the first steps of reforms, like the price rises of 300% to eliminate the surplus of money and decentralisation had nearly no positive effects because they were counter-productive (directors made wage rises to „bribe“ reluctant workers) and was stucked in the bureaucracy.35

In conclusion it can be said imposing martial law was successful in the meaning of averting a Soviet invasion. It is probably that Jaruzelski’s group prepared this operation since December 1980. The negative effects on the economic and political situation were so negative that Jaruzelski with his action reached what he wanted to fight. Quotes of his speech at December 13, 1981 rather seem to be a description of the situation after suspending of martial law and lifting it in July 1983. „The achievements of may generations, the Polish house raised from ashes, are collapsing. Chaos and demoralisation have assumed disastrous proportions. The nation has reached the limits of mental endurance. Many people have been sized by despair.“36

4 Polish Way of Normalisation (1983 - 1989)

The normalisation of society 1956 and 1968 worked with the same patterns. At first with brute force the resistance was broken and in a second step an improved economic situation was created. The communist closed the peoples mouths with sausages as especially Kádárs goulash communism showed. After Jaruzelski quiet down his country he did not have coal, bread and other basic food enough. Rooting-out of opposition was done only half-hearted and Solidarity despite most of their leaders in jail was able to form a underground council in February 1982 and organising co-ordinated strikes since May 1982. Solidarity was much more radicalised compared to one year before.

The only possible partner for Jaruzelski at this time was the Church which kept its tight connections with Solidarity. He tolerated the Church and made guarantees for coexistence. This lessened the tensions but also manifested the existence of two Nations. Also the political repression was reduced, the media could work freer also freedom for artists , academics and scientists was introduced in an extent unknown in Poland before August 1980.37 This process was interrupted by the murder of Popieluszko in 1984, a priest working together with Solidarity, by security forces. The regime was forced to react, against the people of the security and Ministery of interior they strengthened in 1981. The governing group put their own system of violence in the dock. This did not lead to the hoped reconciliation with the masses, but was novum in the communist countries.38

Understanding that repressive power and breaking resistance by force rather strengthened the opposition, the government installed self-governed worker councils and established new trade unions, these were main demands of the Gdansk agreement. This weakened Solidarity because many activists joined them.39 Towards Solidarity the government was using a carrot and stick policy that was typical of Jaruzelski undeceive and inconsistent policy. In 1986 the Minister for Interior was offering a second general amnesty and said to be willing to talk to every one, were as at the same time opposition activists were confronted with mass intimidation by security forces. The taught them to give up their „quixotic“ activities against government and threatened them with imprisonment. In 1988 strikes spread over the country and the media were acknowledging legitimisation of strikers grievances, but also accusing the strike leaders for „terrorist activities“.40

The image and power of the Party was very low at this time and Jaruzelski needed new institutions for the legitimisation of his reign. To integrate wider range of social forces he founded PRON (Patriotic Movement for National Rebirth) and 1986 the Consultative Council to create dialogue with intellectuals and representatives of the Church. Jaruzelski tried set him self above these institutions, the government and the Party as a father figure. He wanted to supervise and protect the reform process but he failed because he was neither charismatic nor popular and he excluded Solidarity to take part. Although in this time he introduced institutions of a constitutional state unknown in other socialistic countries, like constitutional court, referendum and an ombudsman for civil rights.41 42

Although the government introduced freedom in mind, there was no sign for stabilisation in the country because the economy was still declining. Even the official media described the economic situation in 86 and for the next 5 years as black. The government tried to overcome the economic situation and began open discussions about reforms integrating all parts of the population. The reforms, a Polish „bigos-communism“ comparable with the Hungarian way, should lead to a decentralised „market socialism“ which were only supplement to the planned economy. The success of these corrections did not come, because the Nomenclature either blocked it or made personal use out of it, but were needed to implement it. The private entrepreneurs always were disadvantaged and unlikely to help the state also the stress in reforms was put on out-of-date heavy industry and not private agriculture. And the opposition distrusted these activities because they were always betrayed by changes and rather sabotaged it.43 44

The foreign policy of Jaruzelski was determined by trying to improve the relationship with the Western countries. His travels did not have the results he hoped for because all demands made by Poland were connected with the re-establishment of Solidarity. After 1984 the attention of the Western governments was drawn to the changes in the Soviet Union. Whereas Solidarity members already saw that there are changes to come in Moscow by the new Party leader Gorbachev and the relationship to the Soviet Union will be newly defined, Jaruzelski judged these changes very cautious.45 46

The policy of General Jaruzelski between 1982 and 1989 was dominated by to major goals. The first goal was to overcome the division in society, by integration other social forces in politics and take them into responsibility. Therefore he made far reaching political concessions. He did not dare to co-operate with Solidarity because he feared interference by the Soviet Union. This is the main reason his policy did have the hoped results. The second goal was to stabilise the Polish economy. The reforms decided 1986 did not have enough time to show positive results and were limited by there focus on heavy industry as well as being opposed by Nomenclature and opposition.

5 Round Table (1989 - 1990)

The Perestroika and Glasnost policy in the Soviet Union reached so far 1988 that Jaruzelski could take further steps in a Polish way of communism or even a way out of communism. In August 1988 the first formal discussion about the Round Table were made between Minister of Interior Kiszczak and Walesa. One month later Rakowski became Prime Minister. These Round Table talks were made to take Solidarity into responsibility for fighting the economic and political crisis. Therefore the Party was willing to give up its leading role step by step.

It took until February 1989 that the Round Table talks started, because Jaruzelski had to force the Party hard-liners to accept this dialogue. He had to threaten them with his and his most important Ministers47 resignation. Also the Solidarity movement was divided, if they should take part in these negotiations. The result of these two month talks were a detailed contract full with compromises. The most important part were half-free elections for the Sejm and the free elections for the re-established Senate. The surprising results of these elections, Solidarity won 99% of seats in Senate and 35% of seats in Sejm. This lead to the first non-communist Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki in June and to the election of General Jaruzelski as President. The other points of the Round Table negotiations were unimportant because the break down Berlin Wall and the Velvet Revolution in Hungary and Czechoslovakia showed the end of communist rule in Central Europe.

The most important political decision of President Jaruzelski was not to stop the process and to prevent that hard-liners could do so. This process which ended with his resignation and free elections of the President in December 1990. His well-considered idleness and his last speech as a President where he excused himself for imposing martial law in 1981 made him to the „hero of retreat“ as the German author H. M. Enzensberger put it.48

6 Conclusion

Retrospectively the policy of Wojciech Jaruzelski consisted mostly of reactions on events than on own active decisions. This can especially be seen in his reign before the martial law. Also in his reactions he was undeceive, he waited for the „eighth day of the week“49, that things change on their own, and he was without political visions. In end 1981 this led to his most crucial decision, imposing of martial law, because he was not able to find a political solution before.

His political decision and his policy seem to be the repetition of patterns, which were used without success by Polish politicians before.

- His asking workers for help to overcome the crisis reminds on the beginning of Gierek’s government 1970.
- His tolerance towards the Church, his policy of decentralisation and the creation of Workers Council can be found in Gomulka’s policy after the Polish October 1956.
- His use of force in the coup d’etat in 1981 and becoming a political leader above Party and government has some parallels with Pilsudski’s behaviour in 1926 and later.

It seems to be the irony of history that the policy of the Round Table, an agreement of national unity, his only important decision without model in Polish history, was speeding up the dismantling of his political system and his own reign. The Round Table government was in the end also a guarantee for political change without bloodshed and major econimic changes.

In the late 90s the majority of poles think Jaruzelski was a polish Patriot who protected Poland from a bigger catastrophe50.

7 Annex:

7.1 Bibliography

K. Brandys; Warschauer Tagebuch; 1996; Frankfurt/M.

N. Davies; Heart of Europe; 1986; Oxford

T. Garton Ash; The Polish Revolution; 1991; London

J. Holzer; Solidarity’s adventures in Wonderland; in Polish paradoxes; 1990; London

W. Jaruzelski; Jaruzelski Declares Martial Law; in From Stalinism to Pluralism; 1996; Oxford

A. Krzeminkski; Polen im 20. Jahrhundert; 1998; München

A. Michnik; Letter from Gdansk Prision; in From Stalinism to Pluralism; 1996; Oxford

E. Morawska; On Barriers to Pluralism in Pluralist Poland; in Slavik Review; 1988; Austin/Texas

7.2 Abriviations:

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten


1 Since December 1989 Poland was renamed to Repuclic of Poland

2 A. Krzeminkski; Polen im 20. Jahrhundert; 1998; München; p. 224

3 K. Brandys; Warschauer Tagebuch; 1996; Frankfurt/M.; p. 351

4 T. Garton Ash; The Polish Revolution; 1991; London; p. 151

5 N. Davies; Heart of Europe; ; 1986; Oxford; p. 21

6 Garton Ash; p. 104 - 105

7 Krzeminski; p. 157

8 Price rices 1970, 1976 and 1980 led to workers’ strikes and riots.

9 Brandys; p. 327

10 Garton Ash; p. 152 - 153

11 ibid.; p. 152

12 Garton Ash; p. 155

13 ibid.; p. 156-159

14 ibid.; p. 160

15 Brandys.; p. 327

16 J. Holzer; Solidarity’s adventures in Wonderland; in Polish paradoxes; 1990; London; p. 107

17 Garton Ash; p. 160

18 They were the driving power in the anti-Semitic campaign in 1968.

19 Krzeminski, p. 168

20 Holzer, p. 107 - 108

21 Although cencorship was part of everyday life there was no legal base for it. Therefore there was officially no cencorship.

22 Garton Ash; p. 220 -223

23 Brandys; p. 338

24 Holzer; p. 109

25 Garton Ash; p.273-275

26 W. Jaruzelski; Jaruzelski Declares Martial Law; in From Stalinism to Pluralism; 1996; Oxford; p. 215

27 Garton Ash; p. 275

28 ibid., p. 278

29 Krzminski; p. 169

30 E. Morawska; On Barriers to Pluralism in Pluralist Poland;in Slavik Review; 1988; Austin/Texas; p. 631

31 From 1982 to 1983 I remember German media showed Jaruzelski as the bad communist dictator wereas „the Sun of Carpats“ Ceausescu was wooed by Western governments for his independent foreign policy.

32 Garton, Ash; p. 313

33 ibid.; p. 170

34 Krzeminski; p. 169

35 Holzer; p. 110

36 Jaruzelski; p. 214

37 Holzer; p. 111

38 Krzeminski; p. 171

39 Holzer; p. 111

40 Garton Ash; p. 634 - 635

41 ibid; p. 111

42 Krzeminski; p.171-172

43 Morawaka; p. 631-632

44 Holzer; p. 110-111

45 Krzeminski; p. 171-172

46 A. Michnik; Letter from Gdansk Prision; in From Stalinism to Pluralism; 1996; Oxford; p. 227

47 These were Prime Minsiter Rakowski, Minister for Interior Kiszczak and Minister for Defence Siwicki

48 Krzeminski; p. 176 - 182

49 Title of a book written by M. Hlasko.

50 ibid.; p. 195

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Jaruzelski, General Wojciech - ,, A biography against contemporary development in Poland
Jagiellonian University in Krakow
History of Central Europe, 1945 -1995
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Jaruzelski, General, Wojciech, Poland, History, Central, Europe
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Robert Pernetta (Author), 2000, Jaruzelski, General Wojciech - ,, A biography against contemporary development in Poland, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/95058


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