Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Kremlin hard pressed by protracted Polish struggle

First Published: Unity, Vol. 4, No. 3, February 20-March 5, 1981.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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With preparations for the upcoming Soviet Party Congress underway, the Kremlin is confronting some difficult choices about how to play its hand against the Polish people. Thousands of reservists among the Soviet troops, poised on the Polish border, are soon scheduled to return home.

Yet even under the guns of Soviet troops, the struggle of the Polish workers for democracy and better conditions has continued. Strikes in several provinces have forced the recognition of corrupt local officials. With more strikes threatened by the independent trade union Solidarity, the Polish Supreme Court granted farmers the right to organize into associations on February 10. While the decision fell short of recognizing the farmers union, Rural Solidarity, farmers and Solidarity leaders accepted the decision as a temporary draw and made it clear the struggle will continue.

This steady pressure has prompted another upheaval in the Polish government, with Defense Minister Wojciech Jarvzelski taking over as Prime Minister from Josef Pinkowski.

The question of when and if the Soviet Union will move to squash the Polish movement is on the minds of people around the world.

Why the Soviet bear is growling

Poland’s strategic location in the Warsaw Pact is one of the key reasons that the Kremlin is hard pressed to restore Soviet-style law and order in that country. Major transportation and communication lines crisscross Poland, connecting the Soviet Union to the western flank of the Warsaw Pact in East Germany. Moscow has repeatedly issued sharp warnings directed at any Polish strike activity which threatens these vital lines.

The unrest also threatens the Polish government’s reputation as one of Moscow’s staunchest supporters, most recently shown by its loud defense of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The United Workers Party (UWP) of Poland has long been a mainstay of the alliance of revisionist parties that is dominated by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

Having poured soldiers and armaments into Eastern Europe in its drive for military dominance over the whole continent, the Soviets are on guard that the unrest in Poland could spill over into other Eastern bloc countries. The Kremlin is bristling over any weaknesses in its European war machine.


Since the Soviets first massed troops near the Polish border to defend their control of Poland, it has become increasingly clear that suppressing the popular forces will require huge amounts of military manpower and materials. This constitutes a constraint on a direct Soviet military invasion at this time.

While aware of the threat of the Soviets and the seriousness of the situation, the Polish workers have not been easily intimidated and cannot be easily put down. Furthermore, the Polish Army, which the Polish government found unreliable in suppressing the 1970 and 1976 Polish uprisings, may fail to be a dependable ally for Soviet troops in fighting the Polish workers.

Equally questionable is the amount of support that could be mustered from the ranks of the United Workers Party. Out of its three million members, 1.7 million are members of Solidarity. Numerous shake-ups in the leadership have failed to shore up the party apparatus, and a February 8-9 UWP Central Committee meeting in Warsaw has brought further changes in the UWP hierarchy.

Soviet troops marching into Europe could also widen the rift appearing between Moscow and some of the Western European revisionist parties. These parties have been an important vehicle for the spread of Soviet influence in Western Europe by popularizing Moscow’s view! and supporting Soviet international policy. Of the 31 parties called to a Soviet-initiated meeting of “fraternal” parties last April, only 20 actively participated, with a number of the declining parties voicing opposition to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Several of these parties have renewed relations with the Communist Party of China over the last year.

A protracted military campaign against the Polish people would be costly for the Soviets at a time when the Kremlin is primarily concerned with consolidating its position in Central Asia and the Mideast. Seizing control of this region to obtain a stranglehold on oil supplies to the U.S., Europe and Japan is at the heart of the Soviet strategy for global domination. The Soviets already have 100,000 troops and large amounts of expensive tanks and military equipment bogged down in Afghanistan, where Afghan patriotic guerrillas are carrying out a protracted people’s war.

Recent Soviet initiatives to gain recognition of the Moscow-installed Karmal regime, coupled with placement of troops along Pakistan’s border, have forced Pakistan to indicate willingness to enter discussions on Afghanistan, excluding the Afghan rebels. Any flagrant Soviet aggression in Poland would damage these Soviet efforts to consolidate control of Afghanistan. It would also hurt Soviet attempts to get the U.S. to lift its grain embargo imposed after the Afghanistan invasion.

Committing troops in Poland would also curtail Soviet ability to make military moves against Iran and would shatter the friendly image the Soviets are trying to project to penetrate into Iranian affairs in the wake of the hostage settlement.

If Soviet tanks roll over the Polish border, Moscow would also face a massive outcry from countries around the world and would risk touching off a major world conflict.

Thus there are some constraints on the Soviet Union, though the possibility of a direct military invasion of Poland still exists. It is all the more important for the countries and people of the world to unite with the Polish people’s struggle, remain alert to the Soviet threat and continue to support the Afghan resistance to Soviet aggression in that part of the world.