Poland 40 years ago: martial law against change

Poland commemorates today the imposition of martial law by the country's last communist leader, General Wojciech Jaruzelski, on 13 December 1981, in a bid to end the demonstrations by the Solidarność democracy movement. While some national commentators recall the repercussions of the decision, others compare the situation in Poland today to that of 40 years ago.

Open/close all quotes
Tygodnik Powszechny (PL) /

French solidarity helped thousands of Poles

In Tygodnik Powszechny, a former member of the support committee for the Poles in France recalls the solidarity shown by the French:

“Martial law took many of our compatriots abroad by surprise and forced them to stay there. ... In France, the imposition of martial law in Poland triggered a huge wave of solidarity. Thanks to financial donations from many French people, institutions and associations as well as from Pope John Paul II and the Pallottine Order, the Committee was able to work with ever greater commitment. In ten years more than 30,000 Poles received help.”

Gazeta Wyborcza (PL) /


Gazeta Wyborcza sees parallels with today's situation:

“In Poland a new martial law is being stealthily introduced, passed off as the establishment of true democracy. The Law and Justice Party (PiS) harasses its opponents, sends the security forces and public prosecutor's office after them and stirs up hate campaigns against them. Yes, there are no political prisoners. But this is not because Jarosław Kaczyński is such a 'benevolent ruler'. The PiS is simply still too weak to send people to prison. For example, it still hasn't been able to take control of the courts.”