Poland: Behind the Crisis (1982) : A SETBACK FOR THE COUNTER-REVOLUTION


JANUARY 19, 1982

It should now be obvious, five weeks after the military takeover in Poland, that the imperialist bourgeoisie has suffered a major international defeat in its effort to provoke a counter-revolution.

The counter-revolution has been repulsed and an early comeback seems hardly possible at this time.

The bourgeoisie, particularly the U.S. ruling class, is severely disappointed and in a state of shock. Instead of celebrating the victory they had hoped for, they are in a state of mourning and have begun quarreling among themselves.

The bankers especially are conducting an acrimonious war among themselves on what to do with the extortionate debts they had foisted upon the Polish people.

For the first time since the institution of martial law, Poland has disappeared from the major headlines in the U.S. press and been relegated to the inside pages.

At the January 19, 1982 press conference, which was billed as an important one since it would mark a year of Reagan's tenure, there were as many as 15 questions addressed to Reagan. Only one was on Poland. The president's remarks could scarcely be regarded as eventful.


Although the ruling class is still reeling under the severity of the setback, they have not stopped scheming and plotting. They may be regrouping and taking stock of the situation. For the moment, however, they have stopped the hysterical headlines and wild speculation.

The lifting of censorship by the Polish authorities has made it impossible to fabricate and manufacture horror stories of torture, imprisonment, and the like. But the fact that the ruling class has pulled back in its hysteria does not necessarily mean that the White House and Pentagon have given up their adventure in Poland.

They have been severely inhibited by the failure of the imperialist allies to jump at the crack of the U.S. whip. Their most important ideological weapon -- red-baiting and anti-Sovietism -- has taken its toll in the working class and to a lesser extent among the oppressed peoples. But it is beginning to wane and may peter out after a period of time.

The counter-revolution in Poland, they had fancied, would succeed by the slow, gradual penetration of finance capital and the step-by-step takeover of the administrative economic and political organs of the state. These hopes have been shattered.


The Wall Street Journal, the mouthpiece of high finance and big business that poses as a stalwart champion of the working class in Poland, has attempted to sum up the situation from its own class point of view. Having more or less anticipated an easy victory, it feels most obliged to go over the events in a critical manner to find out just what went wrong.

"The popular wisdom in the West," the Journal says on January 19, 1982, "was always that it would take Soviet troops to crush the 10 million-strong Solidarity union. Certainly the Poles themselves wouldn't act against an organization which was essentially the expression of their own national will. ...

"The actuality has been quite different. Not only was it Polish soldiers and police who carried out the destruction of Solidarity, but they did it against only scattered and occasional resistance."

The Journal goes on to moan about "the movement that once sought nothing short of a reordering of Polish society" [the restoration of capitalism -- SM]. "One must wonder," asks the Journal, "why Poles didn't fight en masse for Solidarity? Why were Polish special police and soldiers willing to act against a movement that appeared to be so popular?"

In the first place, as the Journal well-nigh admits, it was not that popular. The Journal berates the Western capitalist press for reporting only "the euphoria surrounding the union's birth but was remiss in chronicling" later events.

"Solidarity," says the Journal, "had slowly changed from a glittering symbol of Polish hope to just another expression of Polish frustration." Why?


Solidarity had nothing to offer by way of real, genuine change in a progressive, working-class direction.

The constant and utterly irresponsible, uninterrupted calls for strike after strike without any rhyme or reason were aimed by the leaders at destabilizing and sabotaging the economy. It made inevitable a catastrophic decline in production and the availability of the most vital necessities.

Disillusionment and disenchantment were therefore inevitable despite the growing extremes to which the reactionary leadership was heading politically. There was a growing alienation of the rank and file from the reactionary Solidarity leadership.

The "glitter" came when millions of workers more or less spontaneously joined in the struggle for economic demands in the very early period. But the reactionary leadership which had wormed its way into the workers' movement captured it at a historic moment in the life of Poland and began to turn it in a pro-imperialist direction.

As the Journal puts it, "Without the obvious presence of Soviet soldiers in Poland there was little to unify the resistance. In other words the economic grievances of the workers, the dislocation of the economy, its destabilization, and sabotage -- those were not factors that could unify resistance.

The economic condition of the workers is what motivated them. What motivated the leadership was the constant projection of anti-Soviet chimeras. This is a complete dichotomy between the leaders and the led.

The leaders had in mind an anti-communist and anti-Soviet struggle with which they could confuse the masses. But they could not lead them into a direct struggle for power against the state.

Thus, without Soviet intervention they couldn't possibly evoke the much hoped for insurrection. The truth of the matter is that they couldn't even evoke a general strike -- not only against martial law but even earlier. A month earlier, the projection of a general strike, the leaders quickly learned, was met with dismay and discouragement in most industrial areas in Poland.

Destabilization of the economy and outright economic sabotage by Solidarity's leaders could not only fail to retain the "glitter," but failed to generate enthusiasm for it.


The bourgeoisie, who had been swallowing their own propaganda as the Journal here admits, had really begun to picture the situation in Poland in a sort of classical reversal of the October Russian Revolution, where the militarist Kornilov attempted with military rule to crush a revolutionary working class and peasantry.

By projecting this scene onto Poland (and changing what has to be changed to fit Polish circumstances) the bourgeoisie imagined that when the military announced martial law, Solidarity's call for a general strike within two days would come off with a bang. Millions would not only stop work but would come out into the streets in defiance of military orders.

The streets o Warsaw and Cracow and everywhere else would be filled with workers waving anti-government banners and slogans. The military and the police would then open fire and the workers would either overwhelm them or the military rank and file would join them, along with the officers, and fraternize with the workers.

Together they would storm the headquarters of the government and the Communist Party and reestablish a capitalist state.

All of this would happen with a joyous population fraternizing with the military which at last would demonstrate that they and Solidarity were all together.

But nothing like this happened, as the Wall Street Journal unhappily admits.

It was a fantasy. It was based on more than an illusion. It had its origins in a basic miscalculation of the class character of the Polish state even as it was rapidly having the ground torn from under it.


Why did the army take it upon itself to intervene?

Because the civil authorities, who were charged with governing and administering the workers state, were crumbling, disintegrating, and many in reality were secretly aiding and abetting the destabilization and sabotage of the economy and colluding with pro-imperialist elements.

The chaos and destabilization were not the products of an organic development growing out of the automatic processes of the economy, although the latter was badly managed and woefully inefficient.

Complete chaos would have eventually enveloped the entire country and made a complete takeover by the counterrevolution absolutely inevitable. It was therefore the duty and the obligation of the armed forces as one of the principal pillars of the workers' state in Poland to boldly intervene and repulse if not completely crush the counter-revolution.

It should be added that the army takeover was done in a wholly constitutional manner in accordance with the laws of the Polish Constitution. The civil authorities had granted all authority to the council of state, of which Jaruzelski was designated the head, and approved the imposition of martial law. He had previously been designated prime minister, chairman of the party, and defense minister.

It was not a coup but an assumption -- by voluntary consent of the civilian authorities -- of urgently needed authority to repulse the counter-revolution which the civil officialdom was both unwilling and incapable of dealing with. There is no contradiction whatever with a principled working-class approach in this problem.

The validity of an army takeover of an incompetent or disintegrating workers' government which cannot cope with the problems of counter-revolution flows out of historic necessity given the confluence of circumstances of the struggle between imperialism and the socialist countries as a whole.


The Soviet Union in its very early days, when it was led by Lenin, was obliged to dispatch its armed forces to crush the Kronstadt uprising which, incidentally, was led by ultra-leftist elements. This last fact did not at all militate against the uprising being characterized as a counter-revolutionary thrust which would have the effect of overthrowing the newly established Bolshevik government.

The armies of both the Soviet Union and China have played more than the role of defender of the workers' government from external aggression or counter-revolutionary insurrection. They have also served, and rather splendidly, as educators and organizers in the struggle to bring victory to the revolution and in socialist construction.

These attributes cannot be found in armies under the control of imperialist powers. Wherever and whenever the Polish Army, even in a modest and token way, recently assisted in, the distribution and allocation of food as well as organization in the countryside, it conducted itself with dignity, sensitivity, and firmness.


Of course, both capitalist and socialist armies have certain external characteristics that are common to both. They are based, however, on diametrically opposed classes. One protects the exploiters, which the imperialists invariably are, while the socialist army protects and defends the interests of the working class and the peasantry.

The fact that the workers have become disoriented, misled, and thrown into a state of total confusion and chaos while the civilian leaders are in disarray, is at least one factor among others which may alert the military to a possible need for a takeover. When the situation continues to rapidly deteriorate, and the civilian leaders conduct a relentless undercover war among themselves about issues not clear to the masses and not defined in class terms, and these leaders become more helpless every day, this only makes it more necessary for the military authorities, who are clear about the dangerous course of events, to take the appropriate measures necessary to save the progressive gains of socialist construction and to help in reconstructing the state itself.

On how many occasions has a bourgeois army leadership saved the neck of the bourgeoisie when it has become rent by severe contradictions and is under revolutionary pressure of the workers?

In modern imperialist France under Charles de Gaulle, its most outstanding military leader, the 1968 wave of general strikes augured well for the development of a genuinely revolutionary situation.

It was de Gaulle, in his role as military chieftain of the French imperialist bourgeoisie, who ostentatiously went to West Germany in a counter-revolutionary threat to bring the French military divisions stationed in Germany (and under fascist leadership) back to France to threaten a counter-revolutionary bloodbath. It was this fascist threat which forced the Communist Party and social democratic leaders to quickly capitulate.

The army reflects the class structure of society in general. And in Poland in particular, where conscription is universal, the rank and file is composed of workers and peasants, mostly peasants.

The officer corps itself is mostly drawn from the ranks of the workers, especially the younger ones. The older ones are veterans in the struggle against the Nazi invaders. It is, of course, no secret that the army leadership has been trained and equipped for many years by the Soviet Union. This the imperialist bourgeoisie well knew.

The imperialist bourgeoisie reckoned that by penetration and subversion they had won over many of the civil organs of state, or so they believed. And believing their own propaganda regarding the popularity of Solidarity, they hastened to conclude that the army rank and file and the leadership would side with the counter-revolution.


They therefore totally disregarded what one of their principal mentors and foreign commentators of an earlier age said during World War II. Walter Lippmann clearly foresaw why the army as a whole and especially its leadership would not side with or tolerate a counter-revolution: "There could be no future for a Poland governed or even influenced by those Poles who ... conceived themselves as the spearpoint of a hostile coalition against the Soviet Union."

There is no question that the Solidarity leadership was a rabidly anti-Soviet and pro-imperialist instrument. Under certain unfortunate circumstances, where a corrupt political leadership of the state and the party had neglected its socialist and working-class obligations, this pro-imperialist instrument captured a formidable section of the working class.

Yes, the army leadership, it can now be said, fully understood that there was no future for a truly independent Poland in becoming a spearpoint or a satellite for the imperialist West. That is a cardinal fact which could not but loom large in the calculations of the military leadership.

Intervention by the army is the last resort in periods of political crisis, both for a bourgeois state as well as a workers' state. Although the Polish economy had increasingly come under the thumb of the imperialist West and the political leadership of the workers was rapidly disintegrating, the one firm pillar of the state -- the armed forces -- remained loyal to the cause of socialism and against imperialist enslavement.

The bourgeoisie had miscalculated in the sense that they had equated the Polish Army with a bourgeois army under imperialist domination. That was a howling blunder.


However, the case might have been different had the imperialists been slowly penetrating the military in the way they usually do in Third World countries. There they immediately try to establish contacts and exchanges with the military and thereby establish an ongoing relationship with them until the imperialist intelligence forces completely penetrate the military forces of the newly independent Third World countries. They are therefore in an advantageous position to subvert the military and overturn the governments as they have done in Ghana, Chile, Indonesia, Pakistan, and many, many others.

From the point of view of imperialist economic penetration, Poland had achieved many of the characteristics of a neocolonialist regime under the aegis of imperialism. That's as far as it went.

But, winning over or influencing any sections of the armed forces leadership or rank and file seems to have failed, at any rate up until now. Therein lay the Achilles heel of imperialist intervention.

The bourgeois press boasted during Solidarity's heyday that Jaruzelski had refused in 1970 to send out the army to suppress the Gdansk workers. Gomulka, who was head of the Polish government at the time, then ordered the militia to do so, causing many deaths and casualties, which ultimately brought down his administration.

If Jaruzelski, as alleged in the capitalist press, refused to send out the army when asked at that period in time, he did so wisely. The struggle by the workers was at that stage still only of a purely economic character. A counter-revolutionary leadership had not yet captured the workers' movement in Gdansk or anywhere else. It had just barely reared its head and saw fertile soil for demagogic agitation in order to divert the struggle from economic into politically counter-revolutionary channels.


In 1970 it was purely an economic struggle and not a struggle directed against the socialist state. Even though there were as many as 70 fatalities at that time, the imperialist press, especially that of the U.S., scarcely took note of it.

There were none of the howls about police brutality, no demands were made on the Gomulka government, no one proposed sanctions, no one demanded punishment. There were editorial comments calculated to discredit socialist forms of government, but there was no attempt either to magnify or utilize the events in an overt, hostile manner against the Polish regime, as the capitalist press of the world is doing now when the casualties are far less, 14 at most, and this with martial law throughout the whole country.

The truth of the matter is that at that time the bourgeoisie had not yet seen the full value of directing its forces into the workers' movement as one of the principal levers of subversion against the Polish state.

After the ouster of Gomulka and during the succeeding administration of Gierek, the bourgeoisie confined itself to pressing for opening wide the gates of the Polish economy to imperialist finance capital, which it did with remarkable success and little opposition from any publicly known sources in Poland.

From all this it should be clear that any military intervention in 1970 would have been premature and would have discredited the armed forces in the eyes of the workers.


It is too soon to say that the counter-revolution has been decisively crushed. It has merely been repulsed, silenced, and to some extent repressed.

Now the important task before the Polish government is how soon it can, with the aid of its socialist allies, begin the work of reconstruction.

Will the imperialist West, which has such a big stake in the Polish economy in the form of a tremendous indebtedness at the present time, permit the Polish government to proceed, without interference, to socialist construction? Or will the imperialists having recovered from the shock and disappointment, slowly regroup their forces for the next phase of the struggle?

The struggle in Poland extends far beyond Poland itself. Poland is a link in the worldwide struggle of all the socialist countries and all the oppressed peoples against the plans for world domination by imperialism of which the U.S. is the principal proponent and promoter.

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