Martial Law in Poland

Wojciech Jaruzelski, Announcement of Martial Law in Poland and TASS Reaction. December 13-14, 1981


Original Source: Warsaw Radio, 13 December 1981; and TASS, 14 December 1981.

Jaruzelski Speech (13 December)

Citizens of the Polish People’s Republic. I turn to you today as a soldier and as the head of the Polish Government. I turn to you in matters of supreme importance. Our country has found itself at the edge of an abyss. The achievements of many generations, the house erected from Polish ashes, is being ruined. The structures of the state are ceasing to function. New blows are being struck every day at the dying economy. Our living conditions are imposing on people an increasingly greater burden. Lines of painful division are running through every work enterprise and through many Polish homes. The atmosphere of endless conflicts, of misunderstandings and of hatred is sowing psychological devastation and injuring the traditions of tolerance. Strikes, strike readiness and protest actions have become the norm. Even school children are being dragged into it.

Yesterday evening many public buildings were occupied. Exhortations for a physical settling of accounts with the “Reds,” with people who hold different views, are being made. Acts of terrorism, of threats, of mob trials and also of direct coercion abound. The wave of impudent crimes, of assaults and break-ins is sweeping the country. Fortunes amounting to millions are being accrued by economic underground sharks and are growing. Chaos and demoralization have assumed the proportions of a disaster.

The nation has come to the end of its psychological endurance. Many people are beginning to despair. Now it is not days but hours that separate us from a national catastrophe. Honesty compels one to ask the question: Did things have to come to this?

In assuming the office of chairman of the Council of Ministers, I believed that we could lift ourselves up. Have we thus done everything to stop the spiral of the crisis? History will assess our activities. There have been errors, and we are drawing conclusions from them. Above all, however, the past months have been a busy time for the government, a time of wrestling with enormous difficulties.

Unfortunately, however, the national economy has been turned into an arena for political struggle. A deliberate torpedoing of government activities has brought about a situation in which results are not commensurate with the work put in with our efforts. We cannot be said to lack good will, moderation and patience. Sometimes there has been, perhaps, even too much of it….

The self-preservation instinct of the nation must be heard. Adventurists must have their hands tied before they push the homeland into the abyss of fratricide.

Citizens. Great is the burden of responsibility that falls on me at this dramatic moment in Polish history. It is my duty to take this responsibility. Poland’s future is at stake-the future for which my generation fought and for which it gave the best years of its life.

I announce that today a Military Council of National Salvation has been established. Today at midnight, the Council of State, in accordance with the Constitution, introduced martial law throughout the country. I want everyone to understand the motives and the aims of our action. We are not striving for a military coup, for a military dictatorship. The nation has enough strength, enough wisdom to develop an efficient democratic system of socialist rule. In such a system the Armed Forces will be able to remain where they belong-in the barracks. No Polish problem can, in the long run, be solved through force. The Military Council for National Salvation is not replacing constitutional organs of power. Its sole task is the protection of legal order in the country and the creation of executive guarantees that will make it possible to restore order and discipline. This is the last path we can take to initiate the extrication of the country from the crisis, to save the country from disintegration….

In this difficult moment I address myself to our socialist allies and friends. We greatly value their trust and constant aid. The Polish-Soviet alliance is, and will remain, the cornerstone of the Polish raison d’etat, the guarantee of the inviolability of our borders.

Poland is, and will remain, a lasting link in the Warsaw Pact, an unfailing member of the socialist community of nations….

TASS Response (14 December)

Events of great importance have taken place in the Polish People’s Republic. In accordance with the provisions of the Constitution the Council of State of the Polish People’s Republic has introduced martial law throughout the country and a Martial Council for National Redemption has been established with W. Jaruzelski at the head.

The head of the Martial Council for National Redemption stated that the measures taken are designed to create conditions for taking Poland out of a crisis situation, to protect legality and to restore public order.

All these steps taken in Poland, are of course, its internal affair. A different interpretation of these events, made by certain circles in the West, can only be regarded as an attempt to interfere in affairs which lie within the competence of the Poles only.

It is no secret to anyone that the enemies of socialism in Poland, aiming to overthrow the existing social system and deliberately deepening the crisis in the country and disorganizing its economy, have jeopardized the independence of the Polish People’s Republic.

These forces strove by all means to undermine the fraternal friendship between the Polish and Soviet peoples, friendship which shaped up in the joint struggle against fascism and which received all-round development in the course of the subsequent decades. By putting forward an anti-socialist, counter-revolutionary program they created by their actions a direct threat to the fulfillment by Poland of its allied commitments under the Warsaw Pact, which directly affected the interests of security of all states, parties to this treaty. It is no accident that the enemies of independent socialist Poland inside the country have the support of certain external circles in the West.

TASS is authorized to state that the Soviet leadership, all the Soviet people closely follow the events in Poland and around it. They have received with a feeling of satisfaction W. Jaruzelski’s statement that the Polish-Soviet alliance has been and remains the cornerstone of Polish state interest, a guarantee of the inviolability of the Polish frontiers and that Poland has been and remains an unbreakable part of the Warsaw Pact, a member of the socialist community of states.

The Soviet people wish the fraternal Polish people success in solving the difficult problems before their country, problems of historical importance for the destinies of the Polish state, to reliably ensure the further development of the Polish People’s Republic along the path of socialism and peace.

Source: Foreign Broadcast Information Service, Daily Report (14 December 1981), F2-F9, excerpts.

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