From Solidarity to Martial Law
The Polish Crisis of 1980–1981
Publication Year: 2007
Published by: Central European University Press
Series title page
Table of Contents
Foreword: From Romanticism to Realism: Our Struggle in the Years 1980–1982
It is difficult to consider the year 1980 in Poland and its consequences for the world without referring to the past of this Polish nation, exhausted by communism. After all, that year did not occur in a void. We experienced earlier outbursts that were stifled in a bloody manner by the authorities. I had December 1970 strongly etched in my heart and memory. I prayed after those events that I would be given a chance once more to fight the battle. I already understood then that one had to use different methods. It was not enough to go out into the streets and...
Editors’ Preface and Acknowledgments
This volume pulls together documentation on the Polish crisis of 1980–1981 from a variety of archives in both East and West. The months between August 1980 when the Solidarity trade union was founded and December 1981 when Polish authorities declared martial law and crushed the nationwide opposition movement that had grown up around the union represent a pivotal moment in modern Polish and world history. Of all the populations of the Warsaw Pact member-states, Poles had always posed the greatest potential challenge to...
Acronyms and Abbreviations
Chronology of Events
“The Polish Crisis: Internal and International Dimensions”
When Poland’s rulers suddenly raised meat prices nationwide on July 1, 1980, no-one expected that the decision would touch off a chain reaction that would undermine the foundations of the Polish communist system by the end of the decade. Yet, this is exactly what happened, and although historians disagree as to what (or who) played the decisive role in ultimately toppling communism, there is no question that what is often described as the “Polish crisis of 1980–1981” made a significant contribution. In fact, the Polish crisis did not finally end until...
Part One: The Birth of Solidarity
Document No. 1: Protocol No. 13 of PUWP CC Politburo Meeting, July 18, 1980
The first strikes of the summer of 1980 broke out on July 1, 1980. From the start, events unfolded at a pace that the government proved unable to contain. No sooner was one work stoppage resolved than another would begin. On July 11, a more serious general strike began in Lublin, a city on the strategic rail line between East Germany and the Soviet Union. The action, which continued for several days, posed a direct threat to Warsaw Pact communications, and finally prompted the PUWP CC Politburo, at this session, to focus more intently on the spread of labor unrest.
Document No. 2: Extract from Protocol No. 210 of CPSU CC Politburo Meeting, August 25, 1980
Although brief, this document records a significant moment––the creation of the special Politburo commission to investigate the outbreak of unrest in Poland. Named after its head, ideology secretary Mikhail Suslov, the commission became the focal point for the Soviet leadership in formulating its understanding of the nature of the Polish events and in considering how to respond...
Document No. 3: Cardinal Wyszyński’s Sermon at Jasna Góra Following the Outbreak of Strikes, with Reactions, August 26–28, 1980
In an important speech on August 26, Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński, the highly influential primate of Poland, acknowledged the workers’ general discontent but did not support strikes as an appropriate course of action. Wyszyński, along with many of his generation, feared that unrest could develop into a broader uprising along the lines of the Warsaw insurrection of 1944 or the crises of 1956 and 1970, which might provoke violent suppression by the authorities. This kind of statement bolstered the Church’s standing among the party leadership as a restraining force, and exerted...
Document No. 4: Protocol of PUWP CC Politburo Meeting, August 27, 1980
By this time, the PUWP Politburo had begun meeting almost daily. During the session recorded here, it was not yet clear whether the authorities would decide to use force against the strikers. All possibilities were discussed, and the debate was characterized by considerable candor. Although the option of force was always in the background, the focus of this meeting was on how to use propaganda to convince the population of the need to avoid a catastrophe. On at least this one point—the fear...
Document No. 5: CPSU CC Politburo Commission Order to Enhance Readiness of Military Units for Possible Use in Poland, August 28, 1980
Within days of the establishment of the Suslov Commission (see Document No. 2), the Soviet Politburo, as this Top Secret memorandum testifies, had already taken steps to prepare a contingent of Red Army forces for use in Poland, should the need arise. Such was the level of Moscow’s alarm at this stage of the unfolding crisis. Other documentation and memoirs substantiate the conclusion that the Soviets undertook broad military planning in order to be prepared for an intervention, even though no such action ever took place. Shortly after these orders were implemented, the affected divisions returned to their previous readiness state, but future activities...
Document No. 6: The Szczecin Agreement, August 30, 1980
Within days of occupying the Gdańsk and Szczecin shipyards, workers at both locations began compiling sets of demands to present to the authorities. Two weeks of negotiations followed with no assurance that the authorities would refrain from the use of force, to which they had resorted during previous labor outbreaks. In fact, the Polish party leadership was at a loss as to how to resolve the situation. They sent high-level negotiators to both locales but at the same time hard-liners pressed for a crackdown. Party First Secretary Edward Gierek and others at first believed that the strikes were the work of pockets of radicals but eventually recognized that they represented...
Document No. 7: The Gdańsk Agreement, August 31, 1980
A true landmark in post-war Eastern Europe, the Gdańsk agreement established the legal right of workers to form unions independent of the communist party, to conduct strikes without fear of reprisals, to speak out publicly on national issues and to produce their own publications. The workers’ delegation made compromises, to be sure, including acknowledging the “leading role” of the party, disavowing intentions to act as a political party, and agreeing not to “impair the existing system of international alliances”—that is, the Warsaw Pact. But the accord directly undercut party...
Document No. 8: President Carter’s Letter to Allies on Poland, September 1, 1980
Developments in Poland had been a concern for American officials since the first signs of unrest in Lublin in mid-July. Tension levels jumped a month later with the Gdańsk shipyard strike, and remained high even after the signing of the August agreements between labor groups and the government, which while signaling at least a temporary truce inside Poland, also raised the chances that Moscow might react to the implicit weakening of regime authority with the use of force. President Jimmy Carter’s August 27 letter to European allies spells out these concerns and attempts to produce a unified response in the event of a Soviet military move.
Document No. 9: CPSU CC Politburo Report on Topics for Discussion with the Polish Leadership, September 3, 1980
This document is a catalogue of Moscow’s main concerns over Poland. Addressed to Brezhnev and three other senior Politburo members (Andropov, Gromyko and Rakhmanin) for their approval, the report contains a listing of urgent measures for the Polish leadership to take in the wake of the agreements at Gdańsk and Szczecin reached just days before. The Soviets understand the need to go on the defensive, but also make clear here that it is now time to take control and restore the authority of the communist party—a theme that would be replayed relentlessly over the coming months. Three days later, a PUWP plenum replaced Party leader Edward Gierek with Stanisław Kania.
Document No. 10: Special Coordination Committee, Summary of Conclusions, “Meeting on Poland,” with Attachment, September 23, 1980
By late September 1980, signs of a possible Soviet invasion of Poland were becoming more ominous for Washington. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski consequently began convening meetings of the Special Coordination Committee (SCC), made up of the president’s most senior advisers on international affairs, to decide what to do. Four days before the session recorded below, CIA Director Stansfield Turner had prepared an “Alert” memorandum for the president declaring that in his view the Soviet leadership was preparing for a possible military move into Poland, although he believed Moscow was currently divided on how to act, and would...
Part Two: Fraternal Assistance
Document No. 11: Transcript of Bulgarian (BCP CC) Politburo Meeting, October 21, 1980
The Polish crisis raised alarms among the leaders of the other countries of the Soviet bloc who worried about the corrosive effects on socialism generally, and more specifically in their own countries. At this Politburo meeting, Bulgaria’s leaders discuss what they see as the causes of the crisis and whether it is likely to infect their population. Couched in jargon, much of their analysis centers around the inadequate state of communist education and standards in Poland. Various leadership failures are noted as well as the problem of interference by the forces of imperialism...
Document No. 12: Solidarity National Coordinating Commission Statement on Union Registration, October 24, 1980
This statement by Solidarity’s National Coordinating Commission followed a Warsaw court ruling to delay registration of the union. The authorities, ever indecisive about how to handle Solidarity, tried to postpone a decision by creating barriers such as refusing to legalize the organization, and insisting that the union accept the authority of existing institutions such as the party (see next document). For many within the country’s leadership the easiest decision was to try to dissolve Solidarity and take on a number of smaller unions instead. The NCC did nothing to make the party’s conundrum any easier, remaining firm in its demands and calling for a...
Document No. 13: Protocol of PUWP CC Secretariat Meeting, October 25, 1980
This wide-ranging discussion by the CC Secretariat reflects the leadership’s escalating concerns about the deteriorating position of the party, and the untenable state of the economy. The meeting took place against the background of a court ruling the previous day to delay Solidarity’s legal registration because its charter made no reference to the leading role of the party or to guarantees not to threaten Poland’s international alliances. Solidarity refused to make any changes and threatened a general strike if the registration process was not swiftly completed (see previous document). Within the Secretariat, there was general agreement that the party’s...
Document No. 14: Transcript of Bulgarian (BCP CC) Politburo Meeting, October 25, 1980
Poland’s “fraternal allies” in the Warsaw Pact reacted with varying degrees of concern to the August strikes and their aftermath. Bulgaria’s Todor Zhivkov, traditionally a close adherent to the Soviet line, was not as vocal as some of his fellow leaders but clearly took a hard-line stance toward the crisis. At the heart of the Bulgarian leader’s concerns is the possible spread of popular disaffection to other member-states of the bloc, with potentially far-reaching consequences. Although these discussions frequently blame Western interference for such crises, several interesting and candid points are raised below about the mass scale of the internal opposition in Poland and the restraining role being played by Western countries.
Document No. 15: Transcript of CPSU CC Politburo Meeting, October 29, 1980
Throughout the crisis, the Polish and Soviet leaderships were in regular communication, occasionally including face-to-face meetings. This Soviet Politburo session focused on preparations for such a meeting on October 30 with party leader Kania and Prime Minister Józef Pińkowski. Several important points are raised here that appear continuously throughout this period. Brezhnev and others discuss the prospect of declaring martial law to restore order, seemingly unclear only as to the timing of the decision. Defense Minister Dmitri Ustinov, one of the members of the Politburo’s commission on Poland, declares that Soviet forces are in full combat
Document No. 16: Transcript of CPSU CC Politburo Meeting, October 31, 1980
As a follow-on to the previous document, this record of a Soviet Politburo session recaps a meeting the day before between Soviet leaders and Poland’s Kania and Pińkowski. Brezhnev and his colleagues are pleased with most of the results of the meeting, which aimed at stressing the danger of the situation facing Poland while simultaneously boosting the Poles’ confidence in their ability to deal with it. But other issues clearly raised concerns. For one, Kania underscored how heavily Poland depended on the West for economic aid. For another, he left the clear impression that while the Poles apparently had a plan for cracking down, if need be, they were nowhere near ready to implement the operation—as Brezhnev pointed out.
Document No. 17: Letter from Leonid Brezhnev to Erich Honecker, November 4, 1980
Following discussions with the Polish leadership and within the Soviet Politburo (see Document Nos. 15 and 16), the Kremlin decided it was vital to provide Poland with extra economic aid to help address one of the underlying problems facing the communist regime there. Moscow fully understood that this would cause hardships for the other satellite states that would have to give up some of their share of Soviet assistance in order to help Poland. That awareness is apparent in this personal appeal from Brezhnev to East German leader Erich Honecker to agree to a substantial...
Document No. 18: Letter from Erich Honecker to Leonid Brezhnev, November 26, 1980
For weeks, East German concern had been building that events in Poland could spill across their shared border unless extreme action was taken to stem the crisis. In late November, SED leader Erich Honecker made the case to Brezhnev for an urgent meeting of Warsaw Pact party leaders to confront Poland’s Stanisław Kania. Honecker was already on record saying to Kania’s hard-line colleague, Stefan Olszowski, that bloodshed, while a last resort, was sometimes called for. In this letter to Brezhnev, Honecker pleads that to delay would mean the death of socialist Poland. The Soviet leader accedes to the entreaty and a momentous meeting eventually takes place on December 5 (see Document No. 22).
Document No. 19: Report of the Czechoslovak Army Chief of Staff to the Minister of National Defense, December 3, 1980
With the partial opening of the archives of Poland’s neighbors following the collapse of the Warsaw Pact, it has become possible to view events through the eyes of their leaders, at least to a degree, and to understand developments in more detail in cases where Polish or Soviet sources are lacking. Although records of top-level Czechoslovak party discussions of the Polish crisis were apparently destroyed, numerous important files still exist, including this summary of a Warsaw Pact exercise planned for early December 1980 which generated serious alarm in the West because it was believed to be a pretext for a Soviet-led invasion of Poland...
Document No. 20: CIA Alert Memorandum, “Poland,” December 3, 1980
By early December, Warsaw Pact forces were mobilizing at various locations near the Polish border (see Document No. 19). As this Alert Memorandum indicates, U.S. intelligence was fully aware of this activity, finding it “highly unusual or unprecedented for this time of year.” Washington’s information came principally from satellite imagery and a prized HUMINT (human intelligence) source inside the Polish General Staff, Col. Ryszard Kukliński (see Document No. 21).
Document No. 21: Message from Ryszard Kukliński on Impending Warsaw Pact Invasion, December 4, 1980
One of the most remarkable stories of the Polish crisis is that of Ryszard Kukliński, a colonel on the Polish General Staff and an extraordinarily valuable informant for the CIA. For more than a decade, he passed thousands of pages of highly classified data on Soviet and Warsaw Pact military systems, plans and intentions to the United States.15 During the Solidarity crisis, as part of a small circle of planners for martial law, he was able to provide remarkable access to Polish and Soviet preparations for a crackdown. As below, he often signed his notes with the code name Jack Strong. This particular communication, in which he warns of a possible Soviet-led invasion...
Document No. 22: Minutes of Warsaw Pact Leadership Meeting in Moscow, December 5, 1980
December 1980 represented one of the peaks of the Polish crisis, a time when Soviet intervention seemed most likely to occur. Senior American officials who had access to the intelligence from Polish Col. Ryszard Kukliński were especially alarmed because his information about military action being initiated on December 8 was so precise (see Document No. 21). Signs of heavy military preparations detected by satellites lent further weight to these suspicions. In fact, the participants at this landmark meeting of Warsaw Pact Party leaders in Moscow made no such decision. Despite...
Document No. 23: Minutes of U.S. Special Coordination Committee Meeting, December 7, 1980
Two days after the critical Warsaw Pact leadership meeting, President Carter and his aides remained in doubt about Soviet intentions regarding Poland. According to CIA source Ryszard Kukliński, an intervention was set to take place the following day, but at the NSC meeting summarized below, the president indicated that it was unclear whether this would in fact happen. Still, the administration intended to take measures to try to forestall any such possibility. These included certain low-profile military moves, a range of political and economic actions and a major attempt—including another presidential message to allies, the text of which is included here—to persuade the Western allies to join forces in the enterprise.
Document No. 24: CIA Situation Report, “Poland,” December 8, 1980
After a feverish weekend of attempts to determine whether an invasion of Poland was imminent, the CIA, as reported in this document, was prepared only to say that the Warsaw Pact, primarily consisting of Soviet forces, was “ready for military intervention.” Agency analysts admitted that “we are not able to predict when the combat forces will begin moving into Poland.” Part of the problem was the presence of heavy cloud cover over Poland which obstructed the view of U.S. spy satellites. By the date of this document, of course, Soviet-led forces were already scheduled to have entered Poland, according to martial law planner Ryszard Kukliński. But the leaders of the Warsaw Pact had already decided to postpone any military action for the time being (see Document No. 22).
Document No. 25: Transcript of CPSU CC Politburo Meeting, December 11, 1980
Following the December 5 Warsaw Pact leadership meeting, the Soviet Politburo was upbeat about the prospects for Poland. As indicated in this transcript, the Kremlin was impressed by Kania’s presentation at the earlier meeting and the general expectation was that he would take to heart the advice offered to him by the other alliance leaders. Tellingly, in his summary, Mikhail Suslov mentions the speeches of several Soviet bloc leaders but omits any mention of the calls by Erich Honecker and Todor Zhivkov for imminent military action. At the Politburo session below, the effusive praise heaped on Brezhnev was characteristic of this period when the aging leader was in a poor state of health and often ceded practical authority to various of his colleagues.
Part Three: From Crisis to Crisis
Document No. 26: Protocol of Meeting of Leading Aktiv Members of Ministry of Internal Affairs, January 5, 1981
This protocol excerpt reproduces comments Kania made to a meeting of the leading aktiv of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. It provides a good summary of the latest wave of preparations for a crackdown that got underway after the December 5, 1980, Warsaw Pact meeting in Moscow. After winning a temporary reprieve from outside intervention at that session, Kania uses this gathering to transmit political instructions to SB agents in various areas. He minces no words about the seriousness of the “threat” facing the country, although he indicates that violent crackdowns are not the answer—because of both the domestic and international repercussions. The most important lesson from his standpoint is to be well prepared, which...
Document No. 27: CPSU CC Instructions to the Soviet Ambassador Concerning Lech Wałęsa Visit to Italy, January 14, 1981
In mid-January 1981, Solidarity leader Lech Wałęsa made a highly publicized visit to Italy that included an audience with the pope and meetings with Italian labor organizations. The Soviets understood the tremendous opportunity the trip presented for Solidarity to generate even broader global support for its cause, particularly in Western Europe, where the Soviets were engaged in their own efforts to score propaganda points on the eve of Ronald Reagan’s inauguration as president of the United States. These two documents represent the Kremlin’s effort to try to limit Solidarity’s reach and undercut the public relations value of the visit. It clearly irked the Kremlin that Wałęsa was even allowed to travel abroad. In the Soviet Union and most other...
Document No. 28: PUWP CC Report on Leonid Zamyatin’s Visit to Katowice, January 16, 1981
Beginning in early 1981, a steady stream of Soviet delegations visited Poland representing different institutions: the CPSU CC, the military and the KGB, among others. Of course, the most important were the visits by high officials, such as Leonid Zamyatin, the head of the CC’s Department of International Information and a member of the so-called Suslov Commission on the Polish crisis. This meeting took place in Katowice, one of the centers of the PUWP hard line and home to Politburo member Andrzej Żabiński. These sessions were a kind of reconnaissance mission for...
Document No. 29: Transcript of CPSU CC Politburo Meeting, January 22, 1981
In the previous document, Polish party officials give a detailed account of the volley of criticisms leveled at them by Leonid Zamyatin, head of the CPSU CC International Information Department during his January 13–20 visit to Poland. In the transcript below, the Soviet Politburo discusses Zamyatin’s conclusions about the situation in Poland. He notes that there is still a degree of unity among the leadership and that the party is making serious attempts to come to grips with the variety of problems facing the country. On the other hand, he affirms that Solidarity has a membership of several million and that they represent “a major force.” The PUWP, he adds...
Document No. 30: Supplement No. 1 to PUWP CC Politburo Protocol No. 657 Analyzing the Intentions of Solidarity, January 26, 1981
This paper, submitted by a CC department for use in a Politburo discussion of Solidarity’s likely future activities, is interesting for two main reasons. First, it fills a gap in the historical record since there is nothing from the Solidarity side in this time period to indicate what the union’s leadership was planning to do. Second, far from being a bland, bureaucratic analysis of the situation, it offers an interesting insight into the ideological slant of the Polish leadership.
Document No. 31: National Intelligence Estimate (NIE 12.6–81), “Poland’s Prospects over the Next Six Months,” January 27, 1981
Since the 1950s, National Intelligence Estimates (NIEs) have been considered the most authoritative judgments of the U.S. intelligence community on a given national security issue. NIEs cover major developments in important areas of the world, identifying significant trends, assessing such factors as the capabilities and vulnerabilities of foreign nations, and attempting to forecast their implications. This particular estimate represents the consensus view on the prospects for Poland during the first half of 1981. In hindsight, it is remarkably accurate. It is also measured in tone, which contrasts notably with the level of concern that prevailed in the Reagan administration during this period...
Document No. 32: Solidarity National Coordinating Commission, “Statement on the Current Social and Political Situation,” circa February 1981
Throughout the crisis, the regime and Solidarity battled for the hearts and minds of the population. The Polish authorities, in part responding to Moscow’s incessant demands, mounted regular propaganda campaigns designed to blame opposition “extremists” for the country’s economic woes and looming political chaos. In this public statement, Solidarity fires back at the most recent spate of charges that the union is not only causing economic hardship but is trying to undermine the power of the state to govern and to protect Poland’s international interests. With studied reasonableness, the document argues that the state is at fault because of a history of wasteful...
Document No. 33: Supplement No. 2 to PUWP CC Politburo Protocol No. 69, February 6, 1981
The minister of trade unions, Stanisław Ciosek, prepared this document after semisecret talks with a group of Solidarity advisers at the beginning of February. It is a fairly objective record of conversation, lacking the aggressive, ideological tone of so many other internal party and state records. The most important issue being confronted at this time was the status of Rural Solidarity, which would become the next factor in the destabilization of the system.
Document No. 34: Memorandum of Conversation between Erich Honecker and Fidel Castro, February 28, 1981
Among Warsaw Pact leaders, East Germany’s Erich Honecker maintained the most hard-line stance toward the Polish crisis out of concern for its implications for communist authority in his own country. In this one-on-one session with Fidel Castro, he offers an “unvarnished” account of the Polish situation. He raises inter alia the subject of East German assistance to Poland, which includes both economic aid and intelligence information. He also gives a clear idea of the variety of ways Poland’s allies sought to apply pressure on Kania during the crisis. Castro, whose overriding interest is in guaranteeing Warsaw Pact support in the face of U.S. military threats...
Document No. 35: Transcript of CPSU CC Politburo Meeting, March 12, 1981
Three months after the climactic December 5 Warsaw Pact leadership meeting in Moscow, it had become clear that Kania was not following through on his pledge to eliminate the threat to communist rule in Poland. Of all the alliance leaders, the GDR’s Erich Honecker was perhaps the most upset about the lack of action, as indicated in this brief description of a conversation he had with Leonid Brezhnev. The Soviet leader commiserates with Honecker but points to the positive development of having Jaruzelski in charge of the government—an assessment he would eventually revise entirely.
Document No. 36: Polish Ministry of Internal Affairs Duty Report on Preparations for Martial Law, March 16, 1981
As this document indicates, even before the Bydgoszcz crisis the Polish authorities had already completed many of the most important preparations for martial law. The question they faced now was a political one—whether actually to institute a crackdown. When the regime eventually acted in December 1981, they followed a number of the guidelines and proposals laid down at this time.
Document No. 37: Protocol No. 82 from PUWP CC Politburo Meeting, March 25, 1981
At this crucial time, just days after the Bydgoszcz crisis, the Soviets are once more pressing the Polish authorities to introduce martial law. But Kania, as always, is indecisive. Despite Moscow’s demands, Kania and his fellow moderates are more concerned that the popular reaction to the Bydgoszcz assaults was much sharper than expected. Among other steps, Solidarity called for a four-hour warning strike to take place on March 27 and a general strike on the 31st. The authorities are further taken aback that so much of the party base has joined Solidarity. At this Politburo session, the leadership again rejects Soviet insistence that the PUWP now has a pretext for...
Document No. 38: Transcript of CPSU CC Politburo Meeting, March 26, 1981
Poland’s worsening economic condition was a constant source of worry for the Kremlin. Previous crises in Poland in 1956 and 1970 also had their source in economic troubles. The situation was particularly intractable because the socialist camp was already stretched thin and found itself severely limited in its ability to bail Poland out (see, for example, Document No. 17). The only other evident solution was to acquiesce to aid from the West, which would inevitably increase Poland’s dependence on the capitalist world—a conclusion supported by analyses prepared in the West. Included in the discussion below is some useful basic economic data.
Part Four: Search for a "Polish Solution"
Document No. 39: Transcript of CPSU CC Politburo Meeting, April 2, 1981
Soviet frustrations with the Polish leadership bubble to the surface in this record of an important Politburo discussion. Brezhnev relates a March 30 conversation with Kania in which he tells the Polish premier that his colleagues at the recent Polish Ninth CC Plenum were not only right to be critical of Kania and his Politburo allies, they should have “taken a cudgel to you. Then perhaps you would understand.” The group then discusses and agrees with a Polish request to have Andropov and Ustinov meet with Kania and Jaruzelski at Brest, on the Soviet–Polish border (see Document No. 43). At this stage, Kremlin concerns are still very much on the increase over...
Document No. 40: CIA Alert Memorandum, “Poland,” April 3, 1981
For the second week in a row, the CIA warns that a Soviet invasion may come within a matter of days. Without providing evidence, the authors of this Alert Memorandum state bluntly: “We believe that the Soviet leaders have been convinced by the evident impotence of the Polish party and government that military intervention is necessary.” They point to a number of preparations that Moscow has made—although those details have been blacked out in the document—and conclude that an invasion would now be feasible, but the basis for asserting that the Kremlin had decided that an invasion is “necessary” is not spelled out.
Document No. 41: East German Report of Discussion with Marshal Viktor Kulikov, April 7, 1981
Warsaw Pact Commander-in-Chief Viktor Kulikov acted as one of the main Soviet points of contact with the Polish leadership during 1980–1981. He visited Poland many times and held innumerable meetings with political and military officials alike, overseeing general military planning and a possible intervention, as well as applying sustained pressure on Kania and Jaruzelski to crush the “counter-revolution.” Kulikov had strong opinions about the crisis and about the many personalities he confronted in Poland. In confidential conversations such as this with his East German counterparts he felt comparatively free to discuss his views...
Document No. 42: Brezhnev’s Speech to CPCz CC Politburo, April 7, 1981
Leonid Brezhnev’s visit to Prague on the occasion of the XVI Congress of the Czechoslovak communist party came as a surprise to virtually every outside observer. No other Warsaw Pact leaders were expected to attend, and the elderly Brezhnev had not addressed a foreign party congress since 1975. Naturally, his presence prompted widespread speculation about his reasons for being there, which may have included a desire to remind the Poles of the outcome of the Prague Spring of 1968, the last major socio-political outbreak in the Eastern bloc. Although he referred to those events explicitly in his public remarks to the Congress, his main emphasis was...
Document No. 43: Transcript of CPSU CC Politburo Meeting, April 9, 1981
On April 4–5, Soviet leaders Yurii Andropov and Dmitrii Ustinov held a secret meeting with Kania and Jaruzelski in a railroad car near the Polish–Soviet border. According to Soviet Gen. Anatolii Gribkov, who accompanied the two Poles to the aircraft that would take them to the rendezvous, Jaruzelski particularly was in a state of alarm, believing that he might be abducted to the Soviet Union as Dubček had been in 1968, but with the possibility that he might never return to Poland. This was not Moscow’s intention, however, and the meeting took place as planned...
Document No. 44: Transcript of CPSU CC Politburo Meeting, April 16, 1981
After the extremely tense meeting at Brest (see Document No. 43), where the strain on Jaruzelski in particular was strongly in evidence, the Soviets decided to lighten their approach somewhat. At this Politburo discussion, Brezhnev advocates maintaining pressure but not pushing the Poles to a point where they “build up their nervousness” and “lose heart.” Evincing some frustration at the difficulty in finding a solution to the crisis, Brezhnev appears to gently chide the Commission on Poland for not yet producing a set of promised proposals. In calling for a strategic look at the issue, he implicitly acknowledges the possibility that resolving the situation will be a long-term proposition...
Document No. 45: Extract from Protocol No. 7 from CPSU CC Politburo Meeting, April 23, 1981
Moscow’s inability to hammer out a solution on Poland continues to be evident in this Politburo discussion. One week after Brezhnev called for a more strategic, or long-term, approach, the Commission on Poland apparently finally came up with a set of proposals that are the subject of this session. The analysis of Poland’s internal situation shows several things. The Kremlin understood that Solidarity was not a monolithic institution and that Wałęsa was a relative moderate among its leadership. Their fear at this stage was that extremists would take over the movement and force matters to a head. In a similar way, they worried that pro-Solidarity members of the...
Document No. 46: Message from Ryszard Kukliński to CIA, April 26, 1981
Usually, Polish Col. Ryszard Kukliński’s secret messages to the CIA during the Polish events were filled with hard intelligence on military preparations or the intentions of senior Soviet and Polish officials (see for example Document No. 21 from December 4, 1980). At times, however, he was quite emotional, as in this communication in which he describes feelings of dismay about Poland’s situation that have percolated up the ranks of the Polish General Staff. Implicit in the bitter remark by a general (whose name has been deleted from the source document) that “the Americans sold us out to the Russians” is the noteworthy point that many Poles—even in...
Document No. 47: Transcript of CPSU CC Politburo Meeting, April 30, 1981
After another high-level Soviet visit to Warsaw, the Kremlin leadership meets to discuss the results, and finds more reason for worry. Although Mikhail Suslov sounds a self-congratulatory note about the utility of these bilateral meetings, the Poles continue to make what Moscow views as intolerable concessions to the opposition. High on their list of concerns during this period is the “horizontal movement” within the PUWP which aimed at promoting more democratic procedures at all levels without interference from the central authorities. As CPSU ideology chief, Suslov was particularly upset at this stark departure from Leninist doctrine, as indicated below. For...
Document No. 48: Informational Memorandum from the L’vov District Secretary to the CPUkr Central Committee, May 7, 1981
A major source of worry within the socialist camp throughout the crisis, as with similar periods in Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968, was the prospect of the unrest in Poland spilling over into neighboring countries (see also Document No. 61). This was certainly on the minds of local officials in Ukraine, then a Soviet republic. In this report to the republic-level Central Committee, the head of the L’vov party district passes on the comments of a Polish security official who is dissatisfied with the shape of events in his own country. The decision to elevate this conversation to the CC, from where it could well have been sent to Moscow, is a sign of how seriously the threat from Solidarity was taken by regional authorities...
Document No. 49: Memorandum of Meeting between Leonid Brezhnev, Erich Honecker,Gustáv Husák et al, in Moscow, May 16, 1981
This richly detailed record presents at length the arguments of the key proponents among the Warsaw Pact leadership for replacing Poland’s Stanisław Kania and Wojciech Jaruzelski. East Germany’s Erich Honecker, along with Czechoslovakia’s Gustáv Husák, took the unusual step of asking their Soviet counterparts to meet to discuss the crisis. Although Brezhnev begins with a sharp critique of the situation in Poland, neither he nor his colleagues at the session, some of whom are members of the Politburo’s Commission on Poland, are ready to take such drastic action, in part because they do not agree with Honecker and Husák that the hard-liners they favor...
Document No. 50: CPSU CC Letter to the PUWP CC, June 5, 1981
After months of mounting frustration at their inability to get through to Kania and Jaruzelski, the Kremlin decided to raise the stakes by presenting this formal communication to the entire Polish leadership. Its effect was amplified by recollections of a similar letter to the Czechoslovak leadership in July 1968 just before the Sovietled invasion. In its sweeping portrayal of the dangers facing the PUWP and Poland itself, the letter points to the particular threat posed by the upcoming Polish party congress which Moscow fears will be used by “forces hostile to socialism” to undercut the party and reduce Soviet influence. Whether the Kremlin passed discreet...
Document No. 51: Transcript of PUWP CC Politburo Meeting during Break in CC Session, June 10, 1981
This brief Politburo session takes place during a break in a larger Central Committee meeting, at which hard-liners were attempting to remove both Kania and Jaruzelski on the strength of the recent CPSU CC letter (see the previous document). Addressing the Politburo, Kania places himself at the disposal of his colleagues in a gesture aimed at preserving leadership unity—and no doubt his own position. At the time, the so-called horizontalist movement had gained strength and appeared to be in a position to split the party. The discussion that ensued is notable for its candor. In the end, most of the members circled together and rejected Moscow’s apparent...
Document No. 52: Memorandum from Ronald I. Spiers to the Secretary of State, “Polish Resistance to Soviet Intervention,” June 15, 1981
Publication of the June 5 Soviet letter was yet another cause for alarm in Washington that Moscow might be close to an invasion of Poland. In this context, the question naturally arose how the Poles would respond. The State Department’s intelligence unit, the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), offered this fascinating take. Virtually all Poles would resist such a move, this memo states, except those who were loyal to the Soviets or wanted above all to prevent bloodshed. But the analysis then leaps to the conclusion that the leadership could therefore be expected to join the population in resisting with military force. Apparently, INR based its assessment in part on the outcome of the June 9–10 plenum in Warsaw, which demonstrated surprising...
Document No. 53: Transcript of CPSU CC Politburo Meeting on Brezhnev–Kania Conversation, June 18, 1981
Brezhnev’s mounting exasperation with Kania comes across clearly in this report from the Soviet leader to the Politburo.28 Brezhnev admits that he avoided speaking with Kania for several days but finally could no longer put him off. It did not take long for him to lose patience with Kania’s descriptions of his attempts to parry the opposition, and he proceeded to lecture the Pole repeatedly on the need for more decisive action. If he failed to move swiftly, Brezhnev warned, “you will destroy… the Party itself.” After each point, Kania’s response was essentially the same, to agree completely and promise to do better.
Document No. 54:CIA National Intelligence Daily, “USSR–Poland: Polish Military Attitudes,” June 20, 1981
This CIA appraisal discusses one of the crucial questions relating to a possible invasion of Poland: the reaction of the Polish military. Previous crises in Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968 had proven the unreliability and even hostility of local armies. Kania and Jaruzelski both told Warsaw Pact Commander Kulikov that they did not trust the army in particular (see Document No. 41). Polish plans for martial law thus deliberately placed most of the responsibility for securing the country in the hands of the MSW rather than the Polish army. On another topic, relying on sources in the Polish intelligentsia, this report provides a scenario in which...
Document No. 55: Information on Andrei Gromyko’s Talks with the PUWP Leadership, July 3–5, 1981
In this report to the Warsaw Pact allies, the Soviet leadership details Foreign Minister Gromyko’s talks with Kania and Jaruzelski on the eve of the important Extraordinary Ninth Congress. Although they point out that the meeting “will appear as a friendly official visit,” it was yet another stern lecture on the need to hold firm against the “counter-revolution.” In addition to generalities, to which the Poles dutifully nod agreement, Gromyko adds specific instructions for how the plenum’s elections to the party leadership should play out. He insists that no “revenge” be taken against anyone...
Document No. 56: Report to HSWP CC Politburo with Verbatim Transcript of July 21 Telephone Conversation between Kania and Brezhnev, July 22, 1981
This apparently verbatim transcript of a Brezhnev–Kania telephone call shortly after the PUWP’s Extraordinary Ninth Congress was delivered to Hungarian leader János Kádár by a Soviet representative in Budapest. Kádár was about to travel to the Soviet Union to meet Brezhnev, where Poland was certain to be a major topic of discussion. Brezhnev opens the call by congratulating Kania on his reelection as first secretary of the party. It is an ironic moment given that the Kremlin had probably tried to have Kania ousted at the June 9–10 plenum. Kania, naturally, plays along. In more moderate tones than in previous communications (see, for example...
Document No. 57: Notes of Solidarity National Coordinating Commission Conference in Gdańsk, July 24, 1981
In the period after the Ninth PUWP Congress, the Solidarity leadership continued to face fundamental questions about what direction the union should take and what means it should use to achieve its goals. These revealing notes of the first day of debates at the conference describe some of the issues being discussed, such as whether to support self-government in the factories, and, even more importantly, whether to press for Polish national sovereignty or remain a member of the Warsaw Pact. While PUWP critics often accused the party of having no strategic vision, the same might have been said about Solidarity’s leadership in these uncertain times. These notes also convey an interesting suggestion of the dynamics of NCC debates.
Document No. 58: Record of Brezhnev–Honecker Meeting in the Crimea, August 3, 1981
In the wake of the troublesome Ninth PUWP Congress, Brezhnev and his Kremlin colleagues felt a certain amount of relief that the “rightist forces” did not make more dramatic inroads into the Polish party hierarchy. The loss of some hard-liners such as Tadeusz Grabski was substantially offset by other changes in the top ranks of the PUWP. Still, there was major cause for concern in the socialist camp, as this conversation with the GDR’s Erich Honecker makes abundantly clear. Brezhnev tries to put a positive spin on developments but generally agrees with Honecker’s conclusions that the party emerged considerably weaker from the congress. It is possible that...
Document No. 59: PUWP CC Assessment of Public Attitudes toward Solidarity, August 17, 1981
This document records an attempt by the PUWP Central Committee to assess Solidarity’s position, forecast the union’s actions in the coming weeks, and propose steps to counteract them. It is useful partly as evidence of how the party tended to view the crisis. The description of the current state of affairs is substantially accurate but is typical in its tendency to see things through an ideological prism.
Document No. 60: Information on Brezhnev Meeting with Kania and Jaruzelski on August 14, 1981, August 22, 1981
After the PUWP’s Extraordinary Ninth Congress in July, the Kremlin held out slim hopes once more that Kania and Jaruzelski would take advantage of their political momentum and move firmly against Solidarity and its allies. One month later, a clearly incensed Brezhnev berates the two Poles for their “complacency” and warns them that it may already be “too late” to save socialism in Poland. In blunt language, he calls for “extreme” actions to suit the circumstances, and proceeds to lay out a series of specific examples, even as he insists that the ultimate decision on what to do is up to the Poles themselves.
Document No. 61: Transcript of CPSU CC Politburo Meeting, September 10, 1981
Two days before this Soviet Politburo meeting, the first Solidarity national congress issued a message of support to workers throughout the socialist bloc, along with a similar communication to Poles around the world proclaiming their status as not just a labor union but a nationwide civic movement. Reaction by communist authorities was sharp. Jaruzelski likened the actions of the congress to “a declaration of war.” Even Western governments feared the union had gone too far in inciting the powers- that-be. Brezhnev’s response, which is almost as harsh as Jaruzelski’s, appears below. The general tenor inside the Kremlin is notably angrier than at many earlier...
Document No. 62: Protocol No. 002/81 of Meeting of the Homeland Defense Committee, September 13, 1981
The Homeland Defense Committee (KOK) was established in 1959, linking the military, security services and the state economic apparatus to provide coordination for planning the national defense. The chairman of the committee was the prime minister, the members included the deputy prime minister for planning and the economy, the ministers of foreign affairs, defense and internal affairs, the chief of the General Staff and a representative of the PUWP CC Secretariat. This was the only state institution authorized to provide input into plans for martial law. No other institution, not even the Politburo or the Council of Ministers, was formally apprised of the state of preparations. At this important meeting, the military and MSW finally announced...
Document No. 63: CPSU CC Communication to the PUWP CC, “Intensifying Anti-Soviet Feelings in Poland,” September 14, 1981
The idea to send this protest note to the Polish party originated at the Soviet Politburo’s September 10 meeting (Document No. 61). Hoping to duplicate the impact of the influential June 5 letter (Document No. 50), the Kremlin gave vent to growing indignation at signs of anti-Sovietism in the country which the note alleges is approaching the level of “hysteria.” Using specific examples such as Solidarity’s appeal to East European workers and the desecration of Soviet war memorials, and adopting an anxious tone reminiscent of Moscow’s attitude towards Hungary in 1956, the note stops short of explicit threats but makes it clear that the limits of Moscow’s toleration are close at hand.
Document No. 64: Information on Brezhnev–Kania Telephone Conversation, September 15, 1981
The day after receiving Moscow’s protest note over the course of events in Poland (see previous document), Kania called Brezhnev to discuss it. This record of the conversation includes only the Soviet side but it is useful for illuminating Brezhnev’s state of mind. The aging leader barely restrains his anger, responding to Kania’s initial remarks with the dismissive statement, “It seems to me that you are still in the grip of an illusion.” “[Solidarity’s] preparations for the seizure of power are being carried out in practice, including the military sphere,” he warns, likening union tactics to those used by fascists. He calls it “painful to talk about the raging anti-Sovietism that has engulfed Poland,” and asks rhetorically, “How can you reconcile...
Document No. 65: Message from Ryszard Kukliński to CIA, September 15, 1981
On September 13, two days before this secret message from CIA informant Ryszard Kukliński, the Homeland Defense Committee (KOK) held a key meeting to finalize plans for martial law and review the level of preparation of the security forces (see Document No. 62). It seemed once again that a crackdown was imminent and Kukliński duly notified U.S. intelligence, providing the additional specifics he had learned. Ironically, the message was initially delayed because he was forced to deliver it via dead drop after his CIA-supplied “Iskra” transmitter malfunctioned. He then unwittingly deposited the note (hidden inside an old glove covered in grease...
Document No. 66: Letter from HSWP CC Signed by Kádár to PUWP CC via ,September 17, 1981
As a sign of concern over the crisis emanating from other corners of Eastern Europe, Hungary’s communist leader, János Kádár, in the name of the party CC, presses Kania on the question of why the Poles have not yet resolved their situation. Kádár, a moderate particularly on the question of outside intervention, is worried about the relationship among the members of the Warsaw Pact. But his letter also shows that he is not acting entirely on his own initiative. The Soviets are clearly coordinating pressure on Warsaw from all sides. Only Romania chooses at this point not to follow Moscow’s lead.
Document No. 67: Excerpt from CPSU CC Politburo Meeting Regarding Brezhnev–Kania Conversation, September 17, 1981
As this brief report shows, Kania continues to provoke exasperation not only in Moscow but also among most of his erstwhile allies, who are incensed at his “intolerable liberalism” and favor subjecting him to “severe pressure.” For East German leader Honecker, only Kania’s resignation and replacement by hard-liner Stefan Olszowski will suffice. Brezhnev, who appears reluctant to impose unilateral decisions on the rest of Moscow’s partners, indicates that more information on the views of the other socialist leaders is needed before arriving at a conclusion.
Document No. 68: Report to the HSWP CC Politburo by the Hungarian Ambassador to Warsaw, September 18, 1981
The day after Hungarian leader János Kádár signed a letter to the Polish Central Committee (Document No. 66), Hungary’s ambassador to Warsaw delivered it to Kania. His lengthy report on the ensuing conversation is highly revealing of Kania’s attitude toward the crisis and how to resolve it. The ambassador’s description reveals a much more decisive and resourceful character than the irresolute and inept figure Moscow was increasingly disposed to see. Kania’s argument is straightforward: Poland’s problems arise from widespread social discontent that affects millions of Poles, not just a few counter-revolutionaries. To put down such a broadbased opposition would inevitably require force against the general population to an...
Document No. 69: PUWP CC, “Instructions on the More Important Activities of the Party, Organs of Power and State Administration,” September 18, 1981
This lengthy set of instructions sent initially to the PUWP CC Secretariat, but affecting both party and government, comprises a comprehensive offensive by the party aimed at stunting the activities of Solidarity and other opposition elements and promoting the country’s current leaders as the true champions of the Polish people. The directives cover all aspects of public life. On the political front, the party and government are to remove Solidarity members to the extent possible, particularly from key posts. In the economy, sanctions are to be imposed on anyone trying to impede economic performance, while the authorities take steps to improve deliveries of essential goods and reorganize the rationing system. The instructions envision a major...
Part Five: Final Preparations
Document No. 70: Czesław Kiszczak’s Notes for October 5 Politburo Meeting, October 4, 1981
These notes describe the state of the Ministry of Internal Affairs’ preparations for implementing martial law. Minister Czesław Kiszczak needed this information for a presentation to the Politburo on October 5. The notes show very clearly the extent of the measures prepared by all branches of the Ministry, including lists of writers and artists who could be enlisted for support after the introduction of martial law and the operation to take over Solidarity. Kiszczak may have thought that the political decision would have been made at the upcoming Politburo meeting, but it was postponed for another two months. An interesting aspect of this item is that it is a working document, not a formal memorandum, a rather rare archival find, especially after so many years.
Document No. 71: Notes of Brezhnev–Jaruzelski Telephone Conversation, October 19, 1981
At the Fourth PUWP plenum from October 16–18, a major leadership change took place as Kania stepped down as first secretary and Jaruzelski replaced him. In this telephone conversation, notable for the vast difference in the way the two leaders address each other, Brezhnev warmly congratulates the new Polish leader, who nevertheless admits to considerable reluctance in accepting the position. The Soviets had finally had enough of Kania’s reluctance to clamp down and believed that Jaruzelski was the best hope for getting the Polish leadership to act forcefully. In addition to his long record of loyalty to Moscow, Jaruzelski enjoyed a relatively high reputation in...
Document No. 72: Transcript of CPSU CC Politburo Meeting on Rusakov’s Trip to Eastern Europe, October 29, 1981
In this discussion, the Politburo mulls over the growing realization that Jaruzelski is proving to be just as passive as his predecessor. They decide that they may have to summon him to a meeting. Another growing problem is the need to provide economic help to Poland which is exacerbating shortages in other sectors. Konstantin Rusakov, a member of the Politburo Commission on Poland, offers a fascinating account of a recent visit to several Eastern European countries where each party leader has made clear his disappointment over Moscow’s decision to cut back on oil deliveries for the sake of Poland. The GDR’s Erich Honecker was especially outspoken, prompting a mix of reactions at this session. The Poles, meanwhile, have also been asking...
Document No. 73: Extract from Protocol No. 37 of CPSU CC Politburo Meeting, November 21, 1981
Jaruzelski’s election as party first secretary in October naturally gave rise to hopes in the Warsaw Pact that changes would finally occur in Poland. But once again the Kremlin came to the conclusion that the Polish leadership had no major measures under consideration. The following message to Jaruzelski, occasioned by his request for a meeting in Moscow, contains a list of Soviet concerns and more urgings for prompt action. The reasons for the Kremlin’s unease are familiar, but are sharpened here and there by developments such as Jaruzelski’s recent meeting with Archbishop Glemp and Lech Wałęsa, which Brezhnev conditionally approved but which raised further questions of political control. Despite the Soviets’ rekindled disappointment...
Document No. 74: Polish Ministry of Internal Affairs, “Supplement No. 2: Planned Activity of the Ministry of Internal Affairs,” November 25, 1981
This document was prepared less than three weeks before the declaration of martial law. It is a supplement to a larger study, “Assessment of the Present Situation in the Country as of November 25, 1981,” and deals specifically with measures the Ministry would take during a crackdown. After considering several possible scenarios, the document lists options for handling the opposition. Of most significance historically is Scenario 3 (see Document No. 36), one of several potential consequences of martial law. The very last sentence—“The assistance of Warsaw Pact forces is not ruled out”—is important for what it may reveal about Polish expectations in the event of violent popular resistance (see also Document No. 82).
Document No. 75: Memorandum from Alexander Haig to President Reagan, “U.S. Assistance Program for Poland, ” December 1, 1981
The Reagan administration was acutely aware of Poland’s dire economic circumstances and the importance of aid from the West. Just a week before this message to the president from the secretary of state, Washington had authorized a $30 million donation of basic foodstuffs to the people of Poland. Here, Haig states his belief that “our entire tradition and security interests dictate prompt action.” He proposes immediate additional aid worth $100 million and a longer-term multilateral program of up to $2.5 billion. The administration follows up with promises of aid but the imposition of martial law forces a reassessment of policy options. On December 23, Reagan institutes an economic embargo against Poland but exempts humanitarian...
Document No. 76: PUWP CC, “Excerpt from Motions at Meeting with CC Members on November 27, 1981,” December 2, 1981
In this document, members of the Central Committee, the party’s mid-level decisionmakers, present a list of proposals to the leadership. The options provide an interesting window into their thinking and priorities. In the 1970s and 1980s, the top party circles in Poland were far more moderate than the middle and lower levels, and this document duly reflects the position of the hard liners who believe, for example, that martial law should be introduced immediately. Point 16 is a curious one, showing a more self-interested side of the members of the Central Committee who, like members of parliament, argue that they should be eligible for certain “perks,” such as the ability to buy vodka and candy without coupons.
Document No. 77: Notes of Meeting of the Presidium of Solidarity’s National Coordinating Commission in Gdańsk, December 2, 1981
Although only a partial document, this record of an NCC Presidium meeting gives an important explanation for what transpired inside Solidarity just before martial law. Contrary to information provided by Jaruzelski and Kiszczak that the Union was preparing an attack against the authorities at this time, these notes show considerable hesitation and uncertainty on Solidarity’s part about how to proceed. While radicals in the organization were pressing for action, moderates were appealing for calm. It is clear that by now the authorities were gearing up for conflict, and sought to create a pretext for a crackdown by depicting Solidarity as aggressive and irresponsible.
Document No. 78: Solidarity NCC Presidium, “Position Taken by the Presidium of the National Coordinating Commission and Leaders of the NSZZ,” December 3, 1981
Solidarity’s NCC Presidium promulgated this important statement at the end of a dramatic session in Radom on December 3. Two days earlier, a large police force had stormed the Firefighters’ Academy in Warsaw where cadets had been on strike and arrested the entire group. The incident, although not bloody since the cadets’ decided not to resist, provoked anger among many Solidarity members. Partly as a result, the Radom meeting featured loud demands by some Presidium members for extreme responses. More moderate voices, such as Wałęsa, managed to delay full consideration of proposals such as setting up a provisional government, and the final statement of the session was relatively muted in tone. Still, the document contained...
Document No. 79: Report on the Committee of Ministers of Defense Meeting in Moscow, December 1–4, 1981
At this last Warsaw Pact meeting of its kind before martial law, disagreements surfaced among its members. Jaruzelski did not attend the session, sending his deputy minister, Florian Siwicki, instead. The Polish leader asked that the final communiqué include phrases describing the dangers of the situation in Poland, his purpose essentially being to frighten Polish society by showing that the Warsaw Pact supported his position and might be inclined to step in militarily. However, the Romanian representative declared that he could not agree to the additional language, while the Hungarian minister indicated he could only sign the communiqué if there were unanimity within the Pact. In the end, no final communiqué was issued.
Document No. 80: Protocol No. 18 of PUWP CC Politburo Meeting, December 5, 1981
During a long and extraordinary discussion, the Polish Politburo deliberates over the grim state of affairs in the country. Jaruzelski later describes the atmosphere as “funereal.” The population is viewed as largely against the current leadership, Solidarity is a “total movement,” which makes the situation worse than in previous landmark crises in 1956 and 1970, and the opposition is seen as poised to take over power—legally. The Politburo mostly still opposes a military solution but is forced to consider a variety of extreme measures including disbanding the PUWP. Ultimately, the leadership grants Jaruzelski the power to make the final decision on martial law...
Document No. 81: Transcript of CPSU CC Politburo Meeting, December 10, 1981
This crucial record, from just three days before the declaration of martial law, begins with the surprising comment by Brezhnev that the topic of Poland was not even on the Politburo’s agenda. Another interesting point about this document is that the substance of discussion at first is entirely about Poland’s economic needs, which were a critical issue underlying the entire crisis. Eventually, however, the talk turns to the political dimensions of the crisis and how the Soviet Union should respond. Moscow’s frustration with Jaruzelski’s vacillations remains high, even as the Polish leader appears to be on the verge of ordering the crackdown. Certainly their faith in his fortitude is as low as it has ever been. Here again, the question comes up as to...
Document No. 82: Notebook Entries of Lt. Gen. Viktor Anoshkin, December 11, 1981
The following notebook excerpt is one of the more important pieces of evidence to emerge in recent years concerning Jaruzelski’s desire for Soviet military assistance in connection with martial law.16 Lt. Gen. Viktor Anoshkin was adjutant to Marshal Kulikov during the crisis and accompanied him as a note-taker on his frequent visits to Poland, including on December 11, two days before martial law. The crucial page reproduced below recounts, according to Anoshkin, a conversation between Kulikov and Jaruzelski that day. (The notes reflect Kulikov’s recitation of the conversation to his adjutant.) Here, the Polish leader is depicted as trying, apparently somewhat excitedly, to establish whether Soviet military aid will be forthcoming. By Anoshkin’s...
Part Six: Crackdown
Document No. 83: Telegram to Directors of Voivode Police, circa December 12, 1981
With this document, provincial, or voivode, police authorities learned that preparations for martial law were underway. Among their instructions was to initiate operation “Ring III” which was purportedly aimed at rounding up criminals but in fact targeted Solidarity leaders for internment.
Document No. 84: Communication from Czesław Kiszczak to Florian Siwicki, December 12, 1981
This concise document is a formal request from Minister of Internal Affairs Kiszczak to Defense Minister Siwicki to have the military be prepared to cut off radio and telephone communications as a first step in implementing martial law.
Document No. 85: Protocol No. 19 of PUWP CC Politburo Meeting, December 13, 1981
The meeting described here was the Politburo’s first after the introduction of martial law. It begins with status reports by the heads of all key departments, after which a debate ensues over the next steps to take. One of the central problems at the time was what to do with the PUWP and how to strengthen it. Jaruzelski informs the group about his conversation with Brezhnev who congratulated him for finally acting. The Polish leader then gives instructions for what to do in the next phase, including what rationales to give to Western ambassadors for actions taken by the authorities. He highlights the importance of various propaganda steps to influence public opinion...
Document No. 86: Extract from Protocol No. 40 of CPSU CC Politburo Meeting, December 13, 1981
This document instructs Soviet ambassadors in several allied countries, from Berlin to Ulaanbaatar, to inform their host governments of Moscow’s positive reaction to the declaration of martial law. Romania is not included on the list, presumably because of its regular disagreements with the other members of the Warsaw Pact. The message notes approvingly that Jaruzelski kept the operation a closely-held secret. Apparently, the Soviets themselves did not know he was finally prepared to act until as late as the day before. Along with the positive—from the Kremlin’s viewpoint, at least—developments of December 13, however, the Soviets felt obliged to mention the reality that Moscow expected to provide economic aid to the Warsaw regime, which the rest of the alliance knew meant an added burden for all.
Document No. 87: Speech by Pope John Paul II Concerning Martial Law, December 13, 1981
The Vatican’s reaction to martial law was immediate but tempered. Anxious not to inflame the situation, the Pope kept his initial statement brief, stressing the need to avoid bloodshed and to do “everything possible… to peacefully build the future of the Homeland.”
Document No. 88: CIA National Intelligence Daily, “Poland: Test of Government’s Measures,” December 14, 1981
This brief update, prepared the day after martial law, is decidedly sketchy about the previous day’s events, which limits the authors in their ability to predict what will happen next. The assumption—accurate, as it turned out—is Solidarity and Polish workers will not submit to the crackdown without a battle. Despite communications black-outs, news soon filtered out of fighting in several cities as workers occupied factories and the union, including Wałęsa who was in custody, refused to negotiate with the regime. Unfortunately, excisions in the document veil additional details about what U.S. intelligence knew in the immediate aftermath of the regime’s actions.
Document No. 89: Memorandum from Lawrence Eagleburger to Secretary of State, “General Wojciech Jaruzelski,” December 16, 1981
The declaration of martial law on December 13 prompted new interest in Gen. Jaruzelski in the United States. He was almost universally considered highly intellectual, professional and incorruptible. Among many Poles he enjoyed a generally positive reputation. This biographic sketch supplied to Secretary of State Haig by the European Bureau of the State Department reflects those attributes. The document, which unfortunately is illegible in parts, goes on to describe Jaruzelski as being both a Polish patriot and a long-time communist, two seemingly contradictory traits given that the latter implied a strong loyalty to Moscow. In fact, this duality in Jaruzelski has...
Document No. 90: Appeal from Pope John Paul II to Wojciech Jaruzelski, December 18, 1981
A few days after his public statement on martial law (see Document No. 87), the Pope wrote personally to Jaruzelski repeating the substance of his earlier declaration. He appeals for an end to activities of the sort that have led to the bitter events in Poland and begs Jaruzelski to avoid further bloodshed. The Pontiff sends copies of the letter to Wałęsa, Glemp and Cardinal Macharski. In a postscript, he tells Jaruzelski that he will also inform the ambassadors to the Vatican of its contents. This includes the American ambassador, but not the Soviet envoy because Moscow has no representation at the Vatican.
Document No. 91: Protocol No. 16 of PUWP CC Secretariat Meeting, December 19, 1981
While the Politburo meeting on December 13 (Document No. 85) confined itself to reviewing initial reports and taking clean-up action following the implementation of martial law, this session of the Secretariat, held almost a week later, shows Poland’s rulers taking stock of the state of the country and plotting their next steps. The task was enormous, as these notes make clear, ranging from resuscitating the economy to re-engaging society, including dispirited party members. Of course, one of the most intractable problems, for which no answer was ever devised, was how to absorb Solidarity and its membership permanently into the communist framework.
Document No. 92: Hotline Communication from Leonid Brezhnev to Ronald Reagan Regarding Martial Law in Poland, December 25, 1981
Brezhnev’s letter is a reply to a message from Reagan of December 24, in which the U.S. president called the Soviets to task for their role in instigating the crackdown in Poland. Although some in the administration exaggerated Moscow’s part and there was a basic unawareness of the behind-the-scenes dynamics between the Soviets and the Polish authorities, the overall conclusion that Moscow had strongly favored suppressing the Polish opposition was of course accurate. Brezhnev’s attempts to label the United States as the offender therefore ring hollow, as do other remarks such as his objection to the implication that Soviet-led military exercises were designed...
Document No. 93: Report to HSWP CC Politburo on Hungarian Delegation’s Talks with Wojciech Jaruzelski, December 30, 1981
As part of the effort to rebuild after martial law, Jaruzelski asked Hungarian leader János Kádár to help by offering Hungary’s experiences following the 1956 Soviet-led invasion, which placed Kádár into power. Earlier in the fall, Polish party propagandists ordered the showing of a special documentary film on the so-called Hungarian counter-revolution which featured scenes of hangings of Hungarian security troops and damage wreaked upon Budapest during the fighting. The point of the special showing had been to raise concerns in the population about a possibly violent confrontation in Poland. Thus, the Hungarian “experience” was already on Jaruzelski’s mind. The discussions below with the Hungarians, as described by the leaders of...
Document No. 94: Transcript of CPSU CC Politburo Meeting, January 14, 1982
The following Politburo excerpt consists of two items. The first relates to a meeting of Politburo members with Polish Foreign Minister Czyrek, the second to a letter being drafted to Jaruzelski in response to his request for economic aid. Brezhnev notes that in assessing the situation in Poland one month after martial law, Jaruzelski says that the crackdown has “broken the back of the counter-revolution.” Now the time has come to look at the “strategic” picture—how to address the economy and the battle for the hearts and minds of the population, what he terms “a change in consciousness of the masses.” Brezhnev compares Poland’s situation with those of Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968. One major difference with the latter...
Document No. 95: Notes of Polish Ministry of Internal Affairs and Ministry of Defense Meeting on Implementation of Martial Law, January 15, 1982
The swiftness and efficiency of martial law proved that Polish security forces could be relied on to suppress their fellow Poles. (If Soviet forces had been involved, there is still a question how the Poles would have behaved.) This set of notes of a joint meeting of senior officials from the ministries of defense and internal affairs offers an intriguing inside look at how these key agencies saw their own performance. The speakers generally give themselves high marks for the level of preparation, implementation, coordination and commitment to the mission. At the same time, there is a realization of the need to be aware of the political dimensions of their task, i.e. the...