Poland The Military and Society
Sources: The Library of Congress Country Studies; CIA World Factbook
The declaration of martial law in 1981 and the repression in the years that followed greatly harmed the image of the military in Polish society and within the military itself. Until that time, the Polish People's Army had consciously maintained an apolitical posture that was bolstered by its abstention from action against mass demonstrations in Polish cities in 1956 and 1970. At the same time, however, PZPR membership was strongly encouraged among military personnel and was practically a prerequisite for advancement to the senior officer grades. Party membership among military officers increased from about 50 percent in the mid-1950s to about 85 percent by 1980. Almost all senior officers were party members.
In the year 1981, however, the military became identified fully with the communist state for the first time when General Wojciech Jaruzelski became party leader and president. Throughout the 1980s, the army was viewed with distrust and antagonism. With the fall of the Jaruzelski government in early 1989, the Polish military began an active campaign to separate itself from all political parties, to work with the former opposition leaders, and to "humanize" its image. In early 1990, Jaruzelski's announcement of his resignation from the PZPR precipitated the mass return of party cards by Polish officers, and at the last PZPR congress in 1990 the military delegation sat apart. Such symbolic acts were stimulated by the political reality that the military's symbiotic relationship with the PZPR had ended and that the military had no relationship whatever with Solidarity, the now-dominant political force that had enormous public support. And public support acquired a direct strategic value for planners in the post-Warsaw Pact world. In 1992 Professor Kazimierz Nózko of the National Defense Academy stated that the new Polish defense system must be based on "the stable foundation of psychological and patriotic preparation of all society and the armed forces to repel aggression determinedly."
In 1990 officials of the ministries of national defense and internal affairs approached officials of the Roman Catholic Church with proposals to upgrade and increase chaplain positions in the military and security forces. In 1991 the Field Ordinariate was reestablished as the church's arm to minister to the armed services. A field bishop was appointed for the first time since World War II. Between 1989 and mid-1992, the number of military chaplains had risen from twenty-nine to sixty-two.
Participation of military personnel in religious services, long discouraged under the communist regimes, increased dramatically in 1990 and became an important element of the campaign by the Ministry of National Defense to refurbish the military's image. To reinforce the patriotic image of the armed forces, the military establishment revived historical traditions such as appointing officers by a sword stroke and playing the fife and drum at the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
All political organizations were banned from the military in 1989, and military personnel were forbidden from participation in political parties or trade unions during their term of active duty. Depolitization of the Polish military proceeded rapidly in the early 1990s, and outward manifestations of loyalty to the military in society increased accordingly. One survey showed that 80 percent of Poles had a positive view of the military as early as 1991, and a 1992 survey showed that the military had surpassed the Roman Catholic Church as the most trusted institution in Poland. Some experts believed that such results were premature and unrealistic, however, contending that the memory of the military's role in martial law would linger in Polish society, and that attitudes among career military personnel remaining from the Warsaw Pact era would lag behind organizational reform.
In 1990 the government called in army transport equipment and personnel during a rail workers' strike in Pomerania to prevent a collapse of the national transport system. Comparisons were made between that military intervention and the role of the military in suppressing the demonstrations of 1981. However, Deputy Minister of National Defense Onyszkiewicz, whose role in Solidarity gave him public credibility, cited this application of the military as an example of a justifiable, nonpolitical use of military assets to serve society in a national emergency, without the use of force toward strikers--in contrast to the repressive activities of the martial law period. In mid-1992 Walesa's power struggle with the Ministry of National Defense again aroused public fears that the military would be used to reach political goals. Again Onyszkiewicz, now acting minister of national defense, reassured Poles that competing political factions would use instruments of civilian government to resolve their differences.
A controversial issue after 1989 was the status of communist civilian officials and military officers who had been responsible for quashing civilian uprisings and labor strikes. Many individuals who had served during that era remained in command positions in 1992. According to a 1991 survey by the antiestablishment reformist Viritim officers' group, 40 percent of officers had "conservative" views, 45 percent were "indifferent" to reform, and only 5 percent were willing to speak openly for institutional reform. A second activist group, the illegal Association of Junior Officers for Promoting Change in the Army, sought purges of officers whose military policies did not conform to their philosophy. Their attempt to undermine the authority of the Ministry of National Defense became part of the ongoing public dispute between Walesa and the ministry over control of military policy making (see Evolution and Restructuring , this ch.).
The Polish public was not reluctant to express opinions on the military. Because of public pressure, Jaruzelski himself was called to testify about the killing of striking coal miners in 1981. Czeslaw Kiszczak, who had been minister of internal affairs in 1981, was scheduled for indictment in the fall of 1992 for issuing orders to shoot strikers. Some Poles demanded the largescale trial of former communist authorities, but by mid-1992 none had gone to jail. Especially controversial was the case of Colonel Ryszard Kuklinski, a Jaruzelski aide who defected in 1981 and revealed Warsaw Pact military secrets to the United States. Some Poles demanded that Kuklinski be pardoned; others, including many military personnel, felt that because he had betrayed Poland as well as the Jaruzelski regime, Kuklinski should remain in exile or return to serve the sentence given him in absentia.
Data as of October 1992
NOTE: The information regarding Poland on this page is re-published from The Library of Congress Country Studies and the CIA World Factbook. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Poland The Military and Society information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Poland The Military and Society should be addressed to the Library of Congress and the CIA.