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441 INESSA S. YAZHBOROVSKAYA THE ROAD TO MARTIAL LAW, 1980–1981 THE EVENTS OF 1980–81 were a manifestation of another socioeconomic and political conflict in the history of the People’s Republic of Poland (PRL). The turmoil arose from the failure of the Polish United Workers’ Party (PZPR), led by Edward Gierek, first secretary of the PZPR Central Committee (CC) to modernize the country’s economy using major loans from the West and to acquire new technology. The turmoil escalated into a crisis of “real socialism.” The so-called downward period of the “long waves” of the Kondratieff cycle in the global market of the 1970s, when the world economy was in a recession, contributed to the deepening of the crisis that destroyed the system of incentives for economic growth, hindered scientific and technological progress, increased the failure of Poland’s command economy in coping with the challenges of the day, and doomed the country to collapse. The crisis froze political progress and impaired communication with the public authorities, which gave rise to increasingly acute clashes and conflicts, accompanied by mass worker demonstrations. In the early 1980s, the sociopolitical conflict was supported by Solidarity, a multimillion-strong protest movement that identified itself as an “independent labor union.” In July 1980, several brief strikes in Lublin to protest rising prices of meat and meat products remained outside the concern of Soviet leadership, which had not yet perceived them as a symptom of the festering mass protest movement . The wake-up call came suddenly on 15 August 1980, when Gierek, who had been vacationing in Crimea, returned to Warsaw. On the previous day there had been a strike at the Gdańsk shipyard, which employed sixteen thousand people. The growing mass strikes on the Baltic coast and the appearance of pockets of self-organized workers and cells of independent labor unions quickly escalated the political conflict. Information received in Moscow showed spreading “antisocialist” sentiments. There were growing economic hardships and decreasing standards of living caused by the alienation 442 INESSA S. YAZHBOROVSKAYA of the party’s leadership and the entire party from the people, bureaucratization of the leadership and their unrestrained greed, and the party’s rejection of democratization and free-market reforms. After 20 August, CPSU secretary general Leonid Brezhnev sent a letter to Gierek expressing the Soviet leadership’s concern regarding the events unfolding in Poland. In accordance with Brezhnev’s notion, which Western politicians called the Brezhnev Doctrine or the “doctrine of limited sovereignty ” and which was based on the experience of Czechoslovakia’s “Prague Spring,” the Kremlin was guided by the following idea: “When the internal and external forces hostile to socialism are trying to turn the developments in some socialist country toward the restoration of a capitalist system, there is a threat to socialism in this country, a threat to the socialist community as a whole; and therefore, it has become a problem for the people of this country and a common concern for all socialist countries as well.” The adoption of this doctrine, proclaimed in November 1968 at the Fifth PZPR Congress, was an important factor in maintaining unity in the socialist community. Under this doctrine, the Soviet Union embraced the right to intervene, using military force if necessary, in the internal affairs of the Warsaw Pact (WP) allies in order to reverse these events. The Soviet foreign policy doctrine was based on the assumption that it was the duty of the Soviet Union to engage in actions of varying intensity “on the basis of proletarian internationalism,” including the suppression of “antisocialist ” and “anti-Soviet” actions through the WP’s military apparatus. At the same time, that doctrine also embraced peaceful coexistence, noninterference in the internal affairs of other countries, and peaceful settlement of international disputes. Consequently, the incongruity between these principles deepened the “root of conflict between the class and state approach.” The events in Poland were perceived by the Soviet leadership as a threat to the existence of socialism, the “socialist commonwealth,” the strength of the Warsaw Pact, and stability in Europe. The largest country in Central and Eastern Europe, with the second-largest army in the WP, Poland held a leading geopolitical position in the “socialist commonwealth” and had special political and strategic-military importance. Vital communications channels passed through Poland, connecting Moscow with the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany; it was the bridge between the Soviet Union and the German Democratic Republic (GDR). Soviet nuclear weapons were deployed in Poland...


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