Poland imposes martial law “to avoid anarchy” – Archives, 1981 | Poland


Poland imposes martial law “to avoid anarchy”

By Hella Pick
December 14, 1981

Poland was locked under martial law last night, as the country’s leader, General Jaruzelski, made one last desperate bet to avert a “catastrophe”.

Mr. Lech Walesa, the moderate leader of the independent trade union Solidarity, was taken from Gdansk to Warsaw for talks with party officials, while hundreds of other militant union leaders were interned across the country. Apparently, General Jaruzelski wants to use his emergency powers to force the moderates of the Polish Communist Party and Solidarity to rally to the flag of national unity.

Government spokesman Jerzy Urban told a press conference in Warsaw that “Walesa is neither arrested nor interned. He is treated with all the respect due to him.

But there was no independent contact with Mr Walesa last night nor any specific information on his fate. East German news agency ADN reported it among those interned, but then asked subscribers to remove the reference to Mr Walesa. Senior US sources said their best information was that he was under house arrest.

The official insistence that all was well with M. the union was aimed at its liquidation. The answer to this will be tested as factories across Poland reopen this morning.

Yesterday, the winter cold Poland, soothed by the shock, remained relatively calm. Largely isolated from the outside world, with communications cut and borders sealed, the information that was released suggests that there was little resistance as party militias rather than army units were used to swoop down on attacks. dozens of Solidarity offices across the country, arresting many union activists. A thousand Poles from various political groups have been interned, the government spokesman revealed.

General Jaruzelski did everything possible to plead for calm and reassure the country that “this was not a military coup”. Warning that Poland is “on the brink”, the emotional terms of [his] The announcement of martial law before dawn reflected his awareness of having pushed the country on a razor’s edge.

But it could also plunge the country into civil war, sparking international repercussions that have prompted NATO countries, and presumably the Kremlin as well, to activate crisis management teams to monitor events.

There was no sign, however, that Warsaw Pact troops had been put on alert, and the Kremlin’s initial reaction was to focus on disseminating a factual account of events in Poland. The only comment from Moscow Radio in the hours following the declaration of a state of emergency in Poland was to explain that the action was taken in response to “the anarchy the country faces. “And to” the extremist actions of the leaders of Solidarity who try to country. “

General Jaruzelski himself made the announcement in a 20-minute speech broadcast first at 5 a.m. and then repeated hourly until 9 a.m. The speech came after troops carrying automatic rifles took up positions in central Warsaw – and presumably in other major cities in Poland.
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The day the head of Poland ruled her heart

By Michael Simmons
December 14, 1981

The day before the declaration of a state of emergency in Poland, a lone soldier – a boy of around 20 – stood nervously at the top of Warsaw’s main street, Marszalkowska, aiming his Soviet-made submachine gun . Another soldier of the same age, inexplicably armed only with a notepad, stood beside him, as if to offer him moral support. If this was a sign of martial law to come, it was the only one seen in the center of town.

A few yards away, at the government-run Metropole Hotel, two Solidarity flags fluttered above the main entrance – a pop of color on a gray winter day. It’s a safe bet that nine out of ten people waiting in the snow at the nearby tram stop were happier to see the flags than to see the military. When asked, however, whether they thought the military or internal security forces might intervene soon, the answer, just as certainly, would be: “Yes – and sooner rather than later.” “

General Jaruzelski’s dramatic coup surprised few Poles. Their weariness after more than 500 days of strikes and on-off tensions left little room for surprise. In chatting with them last week, as they waited in the pathetic queues you see in almost every part of the frozen country, they were saying something should give way. Today, their judgment will probably be that “the general” had little choice.

The view of many of them will be that although martial law may be seen as an act of desperation and a failure to reach the urgent understanding with Solidarity, there may still be very thin strands of hope. . Perhaps, they could just say – albeit very cynically – to themselves, now there might be some kind of understanding.

On the other hand, standing a few days earlier in front of the firefighter cadet training school on the outskirts of Zoliborz, among the crowd of thousands of people who were grudgingly offering their support to the strikers inside, it was clear where the sympathies of the public were to be found. Cigarettes, food and flowers were distributed through the gates to strikers who could reach them. For the security services, there was no sympathy, only abuse. If those now tasked with enforcing martial law receive the same treatment, it won’t be long before spirits unravel and fighting breaks out.
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Western protest “is weak”

December 17, 1981

BRUSSELS: A spokesperson for Solidarity yesterday accused Western governments of having reacted half-heartedly to the state of emergency in Poland.

Stefan Trzcinski, speaking on behalf of the Warsaw branch of the Free Trade Union, told a press conference here that the West should have protested much more vigorously against the actions of Polish military leaders. “The position taken so far by Western governments is timid and incorrect,” he said. “These methods will not produce stability or peace in Poland. “

Mr Trzeinski, who was visiting the headquarters of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICETU), left Poland over the weekend, just before the government announced its crackdown. “Acquired rights cannot be taken away arbitrarily… it cannot happen in the heart of Europe”. he said. “There are going to be problems in the years to come. “

Meanwhile in Moscow, Pravda said martial law in Poland gives the country a chance to solve its problems. The newspaper also renewed the Soviet attacks on the United States, saying Secretary of State Haig was threatening the Polish leadership.

Mr Trzeinski said any aid sent to Poland would strengthen the military regime. Mr. Trzecinski described the contingency plans that Solidarity had drawn up for a possible crisis of this type. Wells had been drilled in large factories in the event of water cuts, food stocks had been built up and alternative energy supplies had been secretly organized. But he insisted that the Solidarity plans had been purely defensive. He rejected the government’s claim that the union had plotted to take power.

Red alert on Poland

Hella Pick describes fears – both east and west – for global security following Poland’s military crackdown
December 16, 1981

First the NATO Council, and now the EEC Foreign Ministers, issued statements on Poland that seek to express an air of calm understatement. Yes, there is a worrying situation, they say, but it is up to the Poles themselves to deal with it – that is, not to touch the Soviet Union. Western statements also underline that the crisis is to be resolved by the Poles “without recourse to force”.

In turn, the Kremlin has told the West to stay away from Polish affairs – and attempted to suggest in the same breath that it is reasonably relaxed about the state of emergency in Poland and confident. that General Jaruzelski has a “positive” program to pull the country through.

But under the stiff upper lip and mutual warnings against direct involvement, there is the deepest concern – both east and west – that Poland could plunge the world into its deepest crisis since. the Cuban missile episode of 1982. The situation in Poland is so fragile and unpredictable that no one can even begin to guess whether General Jaruzelski can rally the Polish people. Outside observers, and even diplomats in Warsaw who always have open lines of communication, can only guess at the extent of the resistance. Few people doubt that the country is still in its period of “funny war”.
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