Post-War Poland

Mikolajczyk, Stanislaw (b. 1903; d. 1966), leader of the Peasant Movement, founder of the Stronnictwo Ludowe (the Polish Peasant Party) and representative of the Polish Government-in-Exile during WW2, offered the only real opposition to the Sanacja regime established after Pilsudski's coup. He organised a political strike (15 August 1937) which called for a political amnesty and a liquidation of the Sanacja. The strike turned violent, 42 people were killed and about 1000 arrested; the events shook the régime badly. When Sikorski was killed at Gibraltar (1943), Mikolajczyk succeeded him as prime minister. Opposed to the Soviet annexation of East Galicia and the imposition of the "Curzon Line" frontier on a post-war Poland, Mikolajczyk was placed under great diplomatic pressure and warned by Churchill, "You are on the verge of annihilation. Unless you accept the frontier...the Russians will sweep through your country and your people will be liquidated." Mikolajczyk went to Moscow to discuss the situation with Stalin directly and watched helplessly as the Soviets set up the "Polish Liberation Committee", under Osobka-Morawski of the PPS (Polish Socialist Party), in Lublin on 22 July 1944 and the subsequent disaster of the Warsaw Uprising in August. The Uprising placed Mikolajczyk in a position where he had to plead for help instead of strengthening his bargaining position. He was pressurised, by the Allies, into accepting a compromise whereby Poland would gain land in the West as compensation for the territories lost in the East and, despite his misgivings, he agreed that he would come to Poland to head a provisional government made up mostly of the Lublin committee. Mikolajczyk was concerned that the establishment of the Polish border on the Oder-Neisse would cause problems with any post-war German government (as had the Polish Corridor after WW1) and tie Poland to the Soviet Union indefinitely. Any opposition became academic when the Western Powers confirmed Poland's eastern frontier at Yalta in February 1945 and at Potsdam in July. At Yalta and Potsdam Stalin had agreed to set up an interim government consisting of twenty-one members, sixteen of them sponsored by Stalin himself; Mikolajczyk would be deputy premier - the Allies agreed to this and withdrew their recognition of the Polish Government-in-exile. In the January Election of 1947, in a blatant disregard for the provisions agreed at Yalta and Potsdam and in elections declared to be irregular by foreign observers, the communist-led Democratic Bloc gained power; Bierut was elected President and Cyrankiewicz, Premier. In the Sejm, Mikolajczyk was condemned as a foreign agent. As the last remnants of the anti-communist underground were destroyed in the countryside, he was forced to flee for his life from Poland (October 1947).

The Party;

Bierut, Boleslaw (b. Rurach Jezuickich, nr. Lublin, 1892; d. Moscow, 1956), was actively involved in the affairs of the Polish working-class from an early age; by 1918, aged 26, he was already organising workers in Warsaw and Lublin and was an NKVD agent, studying at the Advanced Comintern Party School. He became a Comintern agent in Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia and Austria and was arrested in Poland (1935). He was a leader in the resistance during the Nazi occupation, becoming president of the Home National Council (KRN) formed by Wladyslaw Gomulka without consulting Moscow. The Soviets formed the Polski Komitet Wyzwolenia Narodowego (PKWN; Polish Committee of National Liberation), allegedly in July 1944 in Lublin but in reality created in Moscow to undermine Gomulka's KRN. The role of the Lublin Committee was to assist the Soviets in running the Polish territories liberated from the Germans. At the Potsdam Conference (17 July 1945) Bierut, leading the Polish delegation, agreed to the establishment of the Oder-Neisse line as Poland's post-War Western border. The Lublin Committee became the core around which was formed the Provisional Government of National Unity (1945 - 47), ostensibly a union of Polish democratic parties with representatives from the Polska Partia Robotnicza (PPR; Polish Workers' Party), Polska Partia Socjilistyczna (PPS; the Polish Socialist Party), the PSL; Polish Peasants' Party, and other minor parties intended to rule the country until free democratic elections could take place. Stanislaw Mikolajczyk was the only member of the London government to return to Poland. In reality the Provisional Government had been set up in order to create a breathing space during which the democratic opposition could be eliminated and a Communist State established. In the Summer of 1947 the PSL and Mikolajczyk became increasingly isolated and attacked as agents of reactionary forces; during the arrests that followed Mikolajczyk managed to escape. Bierut became Stalin's hand-picked man to become President of the Republic (1947 - 52) and was leader of the radical pro-Moscow group (consisting of Jakub Berman, and Hilary Minc) opposed to Gomulka. In June 1948 Gomulka was replaced as General-Secretary of the Polish Workers' Party (PPR) and on 26 July 1948 the first purges began as the PPR and PPS were cleansed of pro-Western elements. An era of full Stalinist dictatorship and headlong industrialisation began and in December the Polish Worker's Party and the Polish Socialist Party fused forming the Polish United Workers' Party (PZPR) and a single party state. In November 1949 Bierut and the Polish government were given the services of Marshall Rokossovsky by the USSR; he was appointed Minister of Defence and given a permanent place in the Politburo. A purge of the army was then carried out and compulsory National Service was introduced (February 1950). The March Labour Laws (1950) made absenteeism a crime and tied workers to their jobs, making them responsible to their managers, and the management directly responsible for fulfilling any quotas set by the government. On the 22 July 1952 a new constitution was introduced and Poland became officially known as Polska Rzeczpospolita Ludowa (the Polish People's Republic). In 1949 the Vatican had issued a decree against Communism which had put all Communist publications on the Index and forbade Catholics to cooperate with Communists, now, in 1952, the first arrests of bishops and priests began, culminating in the arrest of Cardinal Wyszynski (1954). In 1954, Colonel Jozef Swiatlo (b. 1905), deputy chief of the Tenth Department (set up to monitor the activities of Party members and the government on behalf of Moscow), defected and began to broadcast on Radio Free Europe, revealing the activities of the Urzad Bezpieczenstwa (UB; Polish security services). The scandal that followed these revelations, of the extent to which Moscow had control over everyday life, led to the dismissal of the head of the UB and the release of Gomulka from prison. In February 1956, with the situation changing in a post-Stalinist world, Bierut left Poland to attend the Twentieth Congress of the Soviet Communist Party in Moscow during which Khrushchev denounced Stalin. He died there, apparently by suicide. His replacement was Edward Ochab

Gomulka, Wladyslaw (b. Krosno, 1905; d. Warsaw, 1982). Trained in the USSR in the 1930s, where he saw collectivisation at first hand (and decided that it would not work in Poland), Gomulka was fortunate enough to be arrested by the Polish police (1938 - 39) and thus avoided the purge of his comrades (some 5,000 were killed) by the Soviets. He found himself in Soviet-occupied Lwow in 1940 and decided to take his chances at home, Krosno, in the General-Gouvernement. In Warsaw, Gomulka emerged as the First Secretary of the Polish Workers' Party (PPR) (1943). He formed the People's Army as an equivalent to the Armia Krajowa, and the Krajowa Rada Narodowa (KRN; National People's Council) - without Moscow's prior permission - in 1944. As a result, the Soviets formed the Polski Komitet Wyzwolenia Narodowego (PKWN; Polish Committee of National Liberation), allegedly in July 1944 in Lublin but in reality created in Moscow to undermine Gomulka's KRN. Gomulka was "invited" to Moscow to endorse the formation of the Polish Committee of National Liberation, which he did in August (although all documentation was back-dated to July). The role of the Lublin Committee was to assist the Soviets in running the Polish territories liberated from the Germans. The Lublin Committee then became the core around which was formed the Provisional Government of National Unity (1945 - 47), ostensibly a union of Polish democratic parties intended to rule the country until free democratic elections could take place but in reality set up in order to create a breathing space during which the democratic opposition could be eliminated and a Communist State established. Civil War broke out as non-Communist elements (the right-wing, anti-communist partisans of the Holy Cross Mountains, NZA; the National Armed Forces: former members of the AK opposed to a Communist take-over, WiN; the Association of Freedom and Independence, working mainly around Lublin and Bialystok: and UPA; the Ukrainian Insurrectionary Army) opposed the hard-handed tactics of the Soviet security forces, but all armed opposition was put down by 1947. The Polish Communists had to work in close partnership with the Soviets; neither could succeed in Poland without the support of the other and Gomulka played a very clever game in the middle ground between blind allegiance to Moscow and open rebellion. He found himself surrounded by NKVD appointments (Bierut, Berman and Minc) and slowly being eased out of office as Stalinism was imposed on Poland (1948 - 56). He was placed under house arrest for "nationalist deviation" and was replaced as Party General-Secretary by Bierut. He managed to stay on as Vice-President until 1949, and as a member of the Central Committee until 1951 when he was imprisoned (but there were never any show trials and executions as there had been in Hungary and Czechoslovakia). When Stalinism collapsed many prominent Stalinists were dismissed and there was a call for greater civil and political freedom; the Thaw. In June 1956 workers from the largest factory in Poland, the Cegielski locomotive factory (or ZISPO) in Poznan, angry at unfavourable changes in taxation, made demands for talks with the Prime Minister, Cyrankiewicz. When this was denied there was a series of escalating strikes and a protest march (28 June 1956) which was fired on when the authorities panicked. During the two days of violent protest that ensued, the Poznan riots (28 - 29 June), 53 were killed and 300 injured. Whilst the Soviets saw the riots as part of an imperialist plot to destroy Communism at a time of internal reconstruction (Khrushchev's de-Stalinization program in the USSR), the Polish government took a more realistic stance and declared that the rioting workers had been at least partly justified in their actions. The Soviets became further alarmed when, in September, the Politburo had begun to request the pull-out of all Soviet state security (KGB) advisers from Poland and because Gomulka, who had been released along with his colleagues, was on the verge of reclaiming his position as the PZPR (Polish United Workers' Party) leader. The Soviets feared that if Gomulka took control he would remove the most orthodox (and pro-Soviet) members of the Polish leadership and steer Poland along an independent course in foreign policy. On 19 October, as the 8th Plenum of the PZPR Central Committee was about to convene to elect Gomulka as party leader, Soviet forces stationed in Western Russia began to move towards Poland and others stationed near the German border began to move towards Warsaw. Marshal Rokossowski, the Deputy Prime Minister and the embodiment of the Soviet presence in Poland, ordered the Polish army to co-ordinate movements with these Soviet forces. Khrushchev now attempted to force the Polish government to reimpose strict ideological controls but was finally forced to agree to a compromise when loyal Polish troops took up strategic positions around Warsaw and it was suspected that weapons were being distributed to workers militia units. Khrushchev was reluctant to instigate a military solution that would be difficult to end. Gomulka was permitted to return to power and take Poland along its own road to Socialism whilst, in return, Gomulka called for stronger political and military ties with the Soviet Union and condemned those who were trying to steer Poland away from the Warsaw Pact. Rokossowski's behaviour during the crisis was now brought into question and when a new Politburo was set up he was not re-elected onto it. Shortly afterwards he was expelled by Gomulka (28 October 1956) on charges of attempting to stage a pro-Soviet coup. The deteriorating situation in Hungary was a strong incentive for Khrushchev to avoid further conflict with Poland. Unlike the unhappy outcome of the Hungarian Revolution a few weeks later, this Polish "revolution" was a relative success: Cardinal Wyszynski, imprisoned by Bierut, was released; Russian officers in the Polish army were dismissed and sent home; a quarter of a million Poles stranded in the Soviet Union were allowed to emigrate to Poland; commercial treaties were renegotiated on more favourable terms; and the Soviet Union had to pay for the upkeep of its own troops in Poland. Whilst Soviet puppets had been withdrawn from Poland there was still a powerful Stalinist group, known as the "Natolinists" (named after the Branicki palace where they met), within Poland who now attempted to divert any attention away from them by encouraging anti-Semitism; to blame the number of Jews who had prospered under Stalinism. There was also a concerted attempt to purge Piasecki and his ex-Fascist group. Gomulka's drive for self-sufficiency throughout the 60s, especially in agriculture, failed to produce a promised rise in living standards. Party bureaucracy increased and, after the fall of Khrushchev in 1964, censorship was strengthened. The Israeli victory over the Soviet-backed Arabs in 1967 was greeted with glee; "Our Jews have given the Soviet Arabs a drumming!" Anti-Russian feelings grew, especially in the universities, until, when the authorities banned a production of Mickiewicz's anti-Russian "Forefathers' Eve" in January, student riots broke out in Warsaw and Krakow. These were forcibly put down and a period of repression against Intellectuals and Jews ensued. Gomulka found his own position as leader was under threat from the repressive Nationalist "Partisan" faction, led by Mieczyslaw Moczar, but he was able to get Soviet backing by letting Polish armed forces take part in the Warsaw Pact repression of Dubcek's attempt to create a more liberal situation in Czechoslovakia. Terrified of incurring debts, Gomulka resisted imports, especially of grain and animal feed, thus two bad harvests (1969 and 1970) inevitably led to severe meat shortages. A sudden increase in the price of food in December 1970 led to riots in the Baltic cities; Gdansk, Gdynia and Szczecin, which were repressed with great bloodshed. The fighting spread to other cities on the coast and the whole area had to be sealed off by the army. On 19 December an emergency meeting of the Politburo replaced Gomulka (who had suffered a stroke) with Edward Gierek, who managed to calm down the situation by preventing the price rises and promising reforms. Gomulka died of cancer (1982).

Gierek, Edward (b. 1913; d. Cieszyn, 2001), First Secretary of the Polish Communist Party during the rise of Solidarity, went to France with his family in his youth and lived there for eleven years. At the age of 13 he began work as a miner and spent a great deal of his time in the ultra-Stalinist communist parties of France and Belgium. He was expelled from France for his political activities and went to Poland (1934), returning to Belgium in 1937. He was in the resistance during the war. Gierek returned to Poland in 1948 where he quickly role to positions of power. He became the first Party leader in the Soviet bloc who had never been trained in the Soviet Union. Gierek built up his reputation as a very able administrator and Party boss in Silesia, whilst maintaining some distance from other factions and intrigues in the Party. He was able to maintain in touch with the common people and understood that a gulf existed between the standard of living of working people in Poland and their counterparts in the West. He was appointed Director of the Heavy Industry Department (1954) and elevated to the Politburo (1956). After the crisis of December 1970, when food prices rose steeply during Christmas week and there were strikes and demonstrations against the Government - most notably in the shipyards of Gdansk, Gdynia and Szczecin, Gomulka was forced to resign and Gierek was elevated in his place. His policy was one of freezing prices, rapid industrialisation, and of creating an artificial rise in living standards thus attempting to create a sense of material prosperity based on Western imports and credits (a policy which was to bankrupt Poland). For a brief period, 1971 - 73, there was a sense of confidence and optimism; free discussion was encouraged, wages increased, the prices paid by the Government to peasants for food was raised, intellectuals were wooed and censorship eased. The Royal Castle in Warsaw was rebuilt. Gierek staked all on economic success and failed after a series of world and domestic crises (the oil crisis of 1974, deepening world recession). To ease the foreign debt Gierek was forced to increase the price of "luxury" consumer goods, and, in June 1976, food prices by an average of 60%. There were major demonstrations and violent strikes; the workers of the Ursus plant tore up railway tracks and seized the Paris - Moscow express, whilst the army had to man the deserted steelworks of Nowa Huta. Within days the action forced the cancellation of the price rises, but also - since coercion was the only way left - led to repression by the Citizens' Militia (ZOMO) and severe sentences. Opposition groups developed and grew in strength; KOR (the Worker's Defence Committee), led by Jacek Kuron and Adam Michnik. The economy "overheated" and led to a period of acute consumer shortages, especially meat, and a soaring foreign debt. In October 1978, Karol Wojtyla, Cardinal of Krakow, was elected Pope. The Polish sense of "destiny" began to surface. In June, 1979, Pope John Paul II visited Poland at a time when the economic crisis was deepening. Fresh price rises in July 1980 touched off nation-wide strikes. In August they reached the Lenin Shipyard, Gdansk, where Lech Walesa became leader. At the end of August the Gdansk Agreement created Solidarity as an independent, self-managing trade union. Gierek was replaced by Stanislaw Kania in September and expelled from the party for having failed to improve the living standards of the workers. In the period that followed the Party began to fall apart and on 13 December 1981 General Jaruzelski, prime minister, minister of defence and first secretary of PZPR, declared a state of martial law and suspended Solidarity - but nothing would ever be the same again.

Jaruzelski, Wojciech; (b. Kurow, 1923). Born into a wealthy land-owning family, Jaruzelski was deported to the Soviet Union in 1939 and worked as a forced labourer. In 1943 he joined Berling's Kosciuszko Infantry Division and was involved in the Eastern Campaign. He became the youngest general in the Polish Army when he was 33. In 1962 he was appointed Deputy Defence Minister and promoted to Defence Minister in 1968. In the circumstances that led to the the Gdansk Agreement and the creation of Solidarity in what was the first, authentic workers' revolution in Europe, ironically directed against the party of the proletariat, not many had foreseen the economic and political collapse that followed. The Party began to fall apart as its leadership became embroiled in in-fighting and there were struggles within Solidarity itself between those who wished to consolidate their position and those who wanted to go further. When at Solidarity's First National Congress (September 1981) more radical elements were able to get a motion passed offering sympathy and support to the downtrodden peoples of the Soviet Bloc, it was inevitable that something would be done. The Soviet Union was isolated because of its involvement in the war in Afghanistan, and economically dependent on the West, but it could not stand by and watch the very core of the Warsaw Pact tear itself away. On 9th February 1981, General Jaruzelski (commander-in-chief of the army) had been appointed prime minister and minister of defence in what may have been a first step towards a military coup or a pre-emptive strike to forestall Soviet invasion - or simply a response to Soviet demands - and on 18 October he replaced Stanislaw Kania as first secretary of PZPR, acquiring powers that were unprecedented in the Soviet Bloc. On 13 December 1981, Jaruzelski declared a "State of War", and martial law was imposed. In a complex and efficient operation, communications were cut and thousands were imprisoned as tanks patrolled the streets. Whilst there were some minor protests there was no general movement of revolt; by January 1982 the whole situation was under control. Some members of Solidarity were in hiding and carried on in opposition underground. Solidarity was dissolved by the courts (October 1982) and a year after its imposition, the "State of War" was suspended (December 1982). Gradually, as the country's political and economic life returned to normal, martial law was lifted (July 1983). On 19 October 1984 Jerzy Popieluszko, a Warsaw priest, was murdered by officers from the security services; Jaruzelski sanctioned their arrest and trial. By the summer of 1985, Jaruzelski began to appear in civilian clothes and shortly afterwards was elected president. From 1986 onwards, there was great discussion as to the way the country could develop (in the climate of Gorbachev's "glasnost" and "perestroika") which led, in 1988, to a referendum. As a result, Poland became the first Eastern-Bloc country to hold free elections which opened the way to the massive changes of 1989 and the return of democracy. Whilst Jaruzelski was narrowly appointed President by the Sejm in June 1989, Tadeusz Mazowiecki, Walesa's Solidarity colleague, became the first non-Communist Prime Minister since WW2. Jaruzelski relinquished his post in July 1990 and, in December 1990, Lech Walesa was sworn in as the first non-Communist Polish President since WW2. The role of General Jaruzelski in bringing about a free Poland will be debated for a long time until we know the historical facts; was he simply obeying his Moscow taskmasters or was he playing a subtle political game in order to preserve Poland's independence?

"...for the Soviets, to rule Poland was the key to the control of Eastern Europe. Poland's geostrategical importance... exceeds the fact that it lies on the way to Germany. Moscow needed to exert her rule over Poland because that also made it easier to control Czechoslovakia and Hungary and isolated non-Russian minorities in the Soviet Union from western influence... I was fully aware of the situation. I was subject to a continuous wave of... threats in which not only the Soviet voice was audible... Warsaw Pact army concentrations and movements around our borders had been going on for a considerable time... A no less threatening situation was caused by what was, in effect, an ultimatum announcing a drastic cut in the supplies of gas, crude oil and many other vitally important materials as of the 1st January 1982... No grand issues and dilemmas may be studied without their historical backgrounds in separation from the realities of a given moment. A historian seated in the tranquillity of archives and libraries can allow his thoughts to wander in various directions... he knows today what took place in the past. But a politician active at that time knew only what was happening at a given moment. And he also had to take into account that which could take place... A politician has to bear the weight of decisions whose effects are often enormous. And those decisions have to be taken. A controversial decision is better than no decision or waiving it, since it permits a situation to be brought under control while allowing it to be reined in with the possibility of correction."

Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, 105th Landon Lecture, Kansas State University, 11 March 1996

A New Hope;

Wojtyla, Karol (Pope John Paul II) (b. Wadowice,1920), the 264th Pontiff, is the first non-Italian Pontiff for 455 years, the first from a Communist country and the first Polish Pope. His mother died when he was small and he was brought up by his rather stern father. In 1938 Wojtyla entered the Jagiellonian University, Krakow, studying languages and modern Polish literature. He began to write poetry and joined a theatre group intending to follow a career in acting. With the Nazi occupation Wojtyla became an underground cultural resistance worker combating the German attempts to destroy Polish culture. He also began to attend underground classes in theology and began studying for the priesthood, under Cardinal Sapieha, in 1944 whilst in hiding in the Archbishop's residence in Krakow. Wojtyla was ordained on 1 November 1946, and carried on his studies in Rome and France. On returning in 1948 he was appointed parish priest in Niegowic, near Gdow. Wojtyla was transferred to the Kosciol Floriana (the Collegiate Church of St.Florian) in the Kleparz district of Krakow, which has been the University Collegiate since the 16th.century. He was vicar here between 1949-51. In 1954 he became a professor of social ethics at the Catholic University of Lublin and in 1958 was made a Bishop by Cardinal Wyszynski. In 1964 Wojtyla became Archbishop of Krakow and in 1967, a Cardinal. During the 60s he had to continually fight the Communist authorities for the right to build new churches and to maintain religious education. Cardinal Wojtyla played a prominent role in the work of the Second Vatican Council and made many strong contacts abroad. He was elected Pope on 16 October 1978 and the political revolution that shook Poland, and then the rest of Eastern Europe, dates from that time. The election of a Polish Pope was a source of great pride not only for the Poles but for all Slavs; when the Soviet leader and architect of Perestroika, Mikhail Gorbachev, and his wife Raisa visited the Pope in December 1989 he introduced John Paul II to her with the words "I should like to introduce His Holiness, who is the highest moral authority on earth, but he's also a Slav." He is the most widely-travelled Pope in history and he has taken his duties as Bishop of Rome much more conscientiously than many of his predecessors, visiting most of his parishes and playing an active role in his diocese. John Paul II's health suffered badly after an assassination attempt (13 May 1981) and in his later years he had Parkinson's disease. There have been many criticisms of his Papacy; that he was hypocritical in his condemnation of the Latin American Churches in their struggle against Capitalism (given his story of struggle in Poland) and of being a conservative hampering the Church in a time of great liberalisation and change - especially in the US. History will judge him but there can be no denial of the fact that he played an important role in creating moral stability, especially in his constant fight for the right of life, in times of flux and spiritual uncertainty.

Walesa, Lech (b. Popowo, 29 September 1943). When Lech Walesa climbed over the Lenin Shipyard fence in 1980 little did he know that he would set into motion a wave of political action that would finally free Eastern Europe from the grip of the Soviets. Walesa trained as an electrician and worked at the Lenin Shipyards,Gdansk. During the crisis of December 1970, when food prices rose steeply during Christmas week leading to strikes and demonstrations against the Government - most notably in the shipyards of Gdansk, Gdynia and Szczecin, and Gomulka was forced to resign to be replaced by Gierek; Walesa was a member of the 27-strong action committee at the shipyards. His activities as shop steward led to his dismissal in 1976. After Gierek's attempts to ease the foreign debt in 1976 failed, a 60% increase in food prices had to be cancelled because of a series of violent strikes. This, in turn, led to a backlash; there was greater repression by the Citizens' Militia (ZOMO) and severe sentences were imposed on "troublemakers". As a result, opposition groups, like KOR (Committee for the Defence of the Workers), were set up. The economy continued to "overheat" and there was a period of acute consumer shortages, especially meat, and a soaring foreign debt. Once again, price rises in July 1980 touched off nation-wide strikes. On 14 August 1980 Walesa climbed into the Lenin Shipyard, Gdansk, to became leader of a sit-in strike over the illegal dismissal of a fellow worker, Anna Walentynowicz. His experiences in the 1970 strikes and years of discussion with KOR and underground workers' cells, had led him to develop a strategy with defined goals. He demanded that representatives of the government come to the shipyards to listen to the demands of the workers and negotiate whilst skilful management of the International Press ensured that the whole process would be reported and recorded. The idea spread and an Inter-factory Strike Committee, advised by KOR, was set up in order to co-ordinate the activity. At the end of August the Gdansk Agreement (31 August 1980) created Solidarity as an independent, self-managing trade union with access to the media and civil rights. It was the first authentic workers' revolution in Europe, ironically directed against the party of the proletariat. The economic situation worsened and there were acute shortages, especially in medical supplies. Poland was saved from mass-starvation by the action of Poles all over the world, sending food and other supplies. The Party began to fall apart as its leadership became embroiled in in-fighting and its members left to join Solidarity. There were struggles within Solidarity itself between those who wished to consolidate their position and those who wanted to go further; it began to resemble the situation in 1863. Things came to a head at Solidarity's First National Congress (September 1981) - the first democratically elected Polish national assembly since WW2 - when Walesa and his moderates tried to limit discussions to matters concerning Solidarity and the Gdansk Agreement whilst more radical elements wanted to widen the debate to issues of principle. There was even a motion passed offering sympathy and support to the downtrodden peoples of the Soviet Bloc. Although the Soviet Union was isolated because of its involvement in the war in Afghanistan, and economically dependent on the West, it was inevitable that something would be done. On 13 December 1981, General Jaruzelski declared a state of martial law and suspended Solidarity. Walesa was detained but released and reinstated at the Gdansk shipyards in November 1982. Gradually, as the country's political and economic life returned to normal, martial law was lifted (July 1983). Walesa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize (October 1983); the award was attacked by the government press and Walesa did not go to accept it until 1990 for fear of being refused permission to return to Poland. From 1986 onwards, there was great discussion as to the way the country could develop which led, in 1988, to a referendum and fresh elections which opened the way to the massive changes of June 1989 when Solidarity won 99 per cent of the seats in the newly created Senate. Whilst Jaruzelski was narrowly appointed President by the Sejm in June 1989, Tadeusz Mazowiecki, Walesa's Solidarity colleague, became the first non-Communist Prime Minister since WW2. In December 1990, Lech Walesa was sworn in as the first non-Communist Polish President since WW2 (he was defeated in 1995). By now the map of Europe had been redrawn as Soviet supremacy ended. Walesa has been granted a number of honorary awards on top of the Nobel Prize including the Medal of Freedom (Philadelphia, US), the Award of the Free World (Norway), and the European Award of Human Rights. In November 1989 he became only the third person in history, after Lafayette and Churchill, to address a joint session of the United States Congress. In February 2002 he was chosen to represent Europe and carry the Olympic flag into the stadium during the opening ceremony at Salt lake City.