[Continued - part 2 of 3]
“The world was soon surprised to see a shaken Polish government, troubled by spreading strikes, making historic concessions, above all, by recognising Solidarity as an independent, self-governing trade union. Symbolically, regular broadcasting of the Catholic Mass on Sundays was also conceded. But disorder did not cease. With the winter, the atmosphere of crisis deepened. Threats were heard from Poland’s neighbours of possible intervention; 40 Soviet divisions were said to be ready in the GDR & on the Russian frontier. But the dog did not bark in the night; the Soviet army did not move & was not ordered by Brezhnev to do so, nor by his successors in the turbulent years which followed, likely as invasion sometimes seemed. It was the first sign of changes in thinking at Moscow which were the necessary premise of what was to follow in eastern Europe.
“In 1981, tension continued to rise. The economic situation worsened, but Wałęsa strove to avoid provocation. On 5 occasions the Russian commander of the Warsaw Pact forces came to Warsaw. On the last occasion, the Solidarity radicals broke away from Wałęsa’s control & called for a general strike if emergency powers were declared by the government. On 13 Dec, martial law was declared. There followed fierce repression (opposition may have cost hundreds of lives). But the Polish military’s action may also have helped to make Russian invasion unnecessary. Solidarity went underground, to begin 7 years of struggle, during which it became more & more evident that the military government could neither prevent further economic deterioration, nor enlist the support of the ‘real’ Poland, the society alienated under Communism, for the regime. A moral revolution was taking place. As one western observer put it, Poles began to behave ‘as if they lived in a free country’; clandestine organization & publication, strikes & demonstrations, & continuing ecclesiastical condemnation of the regime sustained what was at times an atmosphere of civil war.”
~ J. M. Roberts