This volume pulls together documentation on the Polish crisis of 1980–1981 from a variety of archives in both East and West. The months between August 1980 when the Solidarity trade union was founded and December 1981 when Polish authorities declared martial law and crushed the nationwide opposition movement that had grown up around the union represent a pivotal moment in modern Polish and world history. Of all the populations of the Warsaw Pact member-states, Poles had always posed the greatest potential challenge to communist rule. Riots and unrest in Poznań in 1956, in Gdańsk in 1970, and in Radom in 1976 were part of a pattern of public resistance which culminated in the creation of the first independent trade union in the communist camp. The 1980– 1981 period, in turn, prepared the ground for the collapse of the Soviet-dominated system in Poland.
The documents in this volume describe the events of that critical period from a variety of national and political perspectives. Transcripts of Soviet and Polish Politburo meetings, that were never intended to be made public, give a detailed picture of the goals, motivations and deliberations of the leaders of these countries at which contemporary Westerners could only guess. Records of Warsaw Pact gatherings, notes of bilateral sessions and reports to the political and military leadership of the communist camp provide additional pieces to the puzzle of what Moscow and its allies had in mind. Orders and plans for martial law highlight the level of preparation and efficiency of the crackdown. The collection includes materials from Solidarity, too. Notes and statements from top-level union meetings refilect the organization's internal dynamics and the mix of priorities of its diverse membership, while speeches by Pope John Paul II and Stefan Cardinal Wyszyński indicate the attitudes of another powerful political force, the Polish Catholic Church. From the United States' point of view, a variety of materials are included in the collection. Memoranda to the president, notes of National Security Council and other high-level interagency meetings, CIA alert memoranda, intelligence reports and State Department cables spell out American and allied efforts to predict Warsaw Pact behavior, to find ways to avert a Soviet invasion and finally to exact a cost for the crackdown when it finally came. Of particular note are three once-highly classified messages to the CIA from Col. Ryszard Kukliński, who served on the Polish General Staff and for years (until he fed the country ahead of arrest in November 1981) was one of the United States' most prized undercover sources inside the Warsaw Pact.
The volume thus represents the most varied and detailed compilation of original documentation from virtually every important national archival source on the Solidarity crisis that is available in any language.