Since 13 December 1981 there has already passed time measured in history with the life of one generation. For the young generation brought up in the Third Republic of Poland it is a far history at the end of the time of Polish People’s Republic. But when we are looking at the signs more thoroughly, which were left by the martial law, it is worth realizing that it had an essential influence on our modern history , especially on our road to freedom and its image after 1989

The martial law was mainly the victory of power logics over the dialogue logics. In August 1980 the communists signed social agreements and nearly unanimously they began preparations to implement the variant of force. Forced to capitulate by the strike wave and a wisely-organized protest, they were not going to agree on the perspective of permanent inclusion of a mass independent social movement with its subjective aspirations into the political system, which they considered as a deadly threat for the fundaments of the existing order, especially the monopoly of the uncontrolled authority. From this perspective the martial law was inevitable despite the illusions of solidarity groups. The communists proved that they were not a credible partner who would keep undertaken commitments.

Causes and results

The martial law dramatically showed the dependence of the country from USSR for which Solidarity movement was a ‘counter-revolution’ which had to be destroyed at any cost. In the person of gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski Moscow found a convenient tool to realize its own interests. Therefore the Polish army was led against its own nation. What is more, the general was making attempts in Moscow to gain a guarantee of military help before 13 December, in case it was not able to stifle the expected opposition with its own force. The martial law was to defend the communists’ authority with the militia truncheons against the will of the definite majority of the nation. It was a war pursued in the name of interests of the narrow disgraced group of people and in the interests of a foreign powerful country for which maintaining the authority by this group was a condition of the control over Poland. And today we have a problem with defence of our sovereignty endangered by the outer forces. And today there are groups which willingly refer to politicians from other countries or other EU institutions in order to settle our inner disputes at the cost of restricting our subjectivity.

The marital law definitely influenced our road to freedom in the second half of the 80s of the last century. Well, when the policy of power initiated by gen. Jaruzelski failed on 13 December, as it had not solved any essential problems in the country but made them more serious which predicted mass protests at the end of the decade, the communists used the weakening and divisions in the solidarity camp in order to plan and carry out a strategic operation which was guarantee them a mild landing. They created the so-called constructive construction with which they made a political contract at the time of the Round Table. It assured them to maintain a controlling packet of the authority, that is, keeping control over decisive means at the cost of returning of a new Solidarity movement to the stage and its rationed participation in governments and, first of all, laying responsibility onto it for the complete collapse of the country. Although this contract opened a road to slow changes but also made them slower through: making free, really democratic parliamentary and presidential elections slower as well as making staff continuity in nearly all spheres of political life slower in the next decade, marginalizing the anti-Round Table opposition, the lack of lustration, de-communization and important social changes, for example, re-privatization. The philosophy of the lack of settlements was confirmed by the presidency of gen. Jaruzelski - elected not by the nation but the contracted Seym – with burning acts of the Polish Unions of Labour Party and the Security Services and fraternization of some solidarity elites with communists and impunity of murderers and law-makers. It was why in other countries democratic changes were taking place more quickly than in Poland. It was why gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski and gen. Czesław Kiszczak were feted by a big group of the Round Table elites for the next years as architects of the Polish democracy. It was why the former communist activists received pensions higher than the ones of ordinary people for the next decades. That is why today we have a problem with the truth about the past, for example, about the role of communist agents, about the real procedure and the significance of the Round Table, or, for example, about the Disavowed Soldiers. Even today we feel the results of granting property rights to the nomenclature, that is, taking over a lot of the national property by the groups of the former owners of the Polish People’s Republic or the lack of the re-privatization act which is returning today in the form of gigantic scandals in the capital city.

Stifled hopes

The martial law was a very serious attack on the Solidarity movement. It broke its unity, deepened divisions which, had led to the breach of democracy rules in the Union before the Round Table, under arbitrary decisions made by people related to Lech Wałęsa. Hence, a big part of the solidarity camp did not take part in talks with the communists, and later it was marginalized by the Round Table agreement. The new Solidarity movement, reactivated in 1989, was not the same as it was in 1980, and never rebuilt its authority in the society.

The war pursued by the junta of Jaruzelski to the nation in a brutally way, stifled all hopes of millions of Poles and a great social energy which was started only during contract elections. In this way the martial law contributed to deporting hundred thousands of people from the country, especially the young ones, so needed in Poland. Those losses are beyond all kinds of value today. The victims of the martial law and also the ones from the second half of the 80s and even in 1989! (death of three priests) do not allow us to agree with the statement that the architects of the Round Table gave us sovereignty and democracy and our revolution had a peace proceeding. This is still our duty as we paid a high price for freedom. One day we will have to realize what we have done with it….

Finally, the martial law showed us how much the Church shares the fate of the nation. Besides that it ran a lot of charity works, helped the interned and their families, was an island of freedom for the victims of violence. Thanks to pilgrimages of John Paul II in 1983 and 1987, it also gave a lot of support to the Solidarity movement in difficult years after the martial law. The most beautiful fruit of the service to the nation was the sacrifice of bl. Fr. Jerzy Popiełuszko, whose spiritual testament, based on the evangelical truth, courage, freedom and the good winning over the evil, is relevant particularly today.


„Niedziela” 50/2016

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: