Hope For Freedom Was Stronger Than Communist Dictator 

The national Congress of democratically elected representatives of Solidarnosc labor unions in August 1981. It was a unique event of such kind in the country behind the Iron Curtain. (Archives)

Thirty-nine years ago Communist dictator with his military regime attempted to win over the people's dreams and desires for freedom. For nearly a decade he acted as if the neo-slavery system that he enforced would last forever. But the hope for freedom of the subjugated by him nation had won.

The heart of Europe. Gdansk, northern Poland. 7.00 a.m. Half a metre layer of snow cover streets. Cars are indistinguishable, almost buried by the nightly storm of white puffs. There is no power shortage so characteristic to the snow-storms. But telephones are cut off. Neighbours with fear whisper only one word: war. “I declare, that today the Military Council of National Salvation has been formed. Under the Constitution, the State Council has imposed martial law all over the country,” says somebody who since then would become a symbol of murdered hope. It is Sunday of December 13, 1981. 

General of the Army Wojciech Jaruzelski, in the military uniform, delivers an address in which not one word is truth. As in Orwell’s narrative, every name, and every notion bear opposite meaning. Instead of the Council of National Salvation, there is a brutal military junta that will give the order to shoot and kill unarmed students, miners, steel-workers, or shipyard-workers. Instead of preventing the country from falling under the military dictatorship, the junta subjects every citizen under such a system. 

The Jaruzelski’s junta-imposed Martial Law was the attack against Solidarnosc the independent labor unions focused not only on the labor conditions. Such an approach distinguished it from similar institutions in the West. Solidarnosc would emphasise the value and dignity of every human person. 

Solidarnosc would emphasise the value and dignity of every human person.

Half a year before the foundation of a new national labor union, at least seven hundred of thousands of workers in seven hundred and fifty companies with strikes took from the Communist Party control over the socialist economy and the country.

In five months, people had evolved into the sovereign, leading national force, a term usurped by the Communist Party. Solidarnosc was a school of democracy and freedom. Its founders wished to invent an interim-system that would help transform the Moscow-sponsored totalitarian socialism into a free economy. The Solidarnosc elected its leaders in the democratic vote on the lowest, organisational level of the working groups. The representatives of these groups, also elected democratically, formed Solidarnosc authorities at the companies. The companies’ representatives, elected democratically, were part of the Solidarnosc authorities at district, regions, and national level. The public open debate with a different point of view instructed how to search for wisdom. The compromise merged good options for Common Good.

Thanks to Solidarity people recovered their dignity and honour since everyone respected each other. Unlike within the Communist Party where workers clapped in the sign of the acclamation of the solutions imposed by the Central authorities and Moscow.

On December 13, 1981, the true intention of Jaruzelski and his military junta was to erase the legacy of Solidarnosc, the unique school of democracy behind the Iron Curtain. The Soviet general in a Polish uniform, as former US Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger accurately characterised him, had defended Marxism-Leninism, not anything else. 

The Communist regime arrested thousands of democratically elected Solidarnosc representatives and sentenced them to prison, punished some with forced labor, expelled thousands from the country. It destroyed publishing houses, closed cultural centres, and banned public meetings. It began spying on the religious leaders, namely priests murdering the most devoted to Solidarnosc.

The dictator with fear and lie tried to re-Communise the country
targeting the nation’s hope and morale.

With fear and lie, it tried to re-Communise the country targeting the nation’s hope and morale.

Regime’s police would open machine-gun fire against the unarmed people during the strikes and protests killing them and injuring hundreds. The military and civilian courts, fully loyal to Jaruzelski, unjustly sentenced the opposition and activists to prison and banned them from employment, leaving hundreds of families in poverty.

The parallel economy thrived. The networks of shops and services stocked up with any goods for those loyal to the Communist regime had attempted to demoralise the nation confronting stores with shelves filled up only with vodka and vinegar. 

The Communist dictator had not blown off the flame of hope for freedom kindled in the hearts and minds of hundreds of thousands by Solidarnosc but imprisoned it.

The regime tried to re-introduce socialist education at school. It had doctored history books, erased hundreds of artists from the curriculum, and exaggerated the achievements of Soviet scientists. But some children understood that there is a difference between official knowledge and accurate one. The workers humiliated with bare minimum wages chose honesty, rejecting an occasion of theft and corruption, without impunity, created by the regime. Hundreds of thousands turned their back to the alcohol, vodka, that was always available in the shop following the Communist Party program to destroy the morale. Gradually, thanks to local and international Christian initiatives, including the radio programs broadcasted from abroad, the smuggling of the Bible and literature, and the missionaries concealed as doctors, engineers, or teachers, the nation turned to the path of moral renewal.

After eight years of the night of slavery, the dawn of liberty had come,
the hope for freedom had defeated the Communist dictator.


After another eight years of the destructive rule of the Communist regime, a chance that the nation returns on a path to freedom appeared at the semi-democratic June 4, 1989 elections.

The regime had designed the controlled democratic vote with a limited number of seats to humiliate Solidarnosc.  But the Solidarnosc-supported candidates won all of 35 per cent of seats in Lower House, which the Communist Party selected.

It was indeed the dawn of liberty, the hope for freedom had defeated the Communist dictator.

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