When Reality Fails: Science Fiction
and the Fall of Communism in
Jerzy Kociatkiewicz and Monika Kostera
When martial law was enforced on 13 December 1981 in Poland, after the Solidarity rebellion that lasted for almost one-and-a-half years, it felt like all hope was being buried forever. The system, once again, proved that it was invincible. The massive popular movement, which had reached 10 million members at its peak, was shattered during the following years; the leaders were, once again, imprisoned, censorship tightened anew, and the people subjected to a new wave of unbearably self-righteous propaganda. Its main rhetorical style was named panswinism by Michal Glowinski (1992): ‘we are all swine no one is honest, Party people are swine, but so are the heroes of the Solidarity rebellion. There is no hope.’ Communism was here to stay and most people tended to believe that it was permanent; some voiced the belief that it might perhaps end in 100 years.
And then, in 1989, state TV started to show glimpses of a remarkable event: the so-called ‘round-table talks’. Representatives of the opposition and Party officials met and discussed possible scenarios for the future. Suddenly, people all over Poland could see famous dissidents: Adam Michnik, Jacek Kuron and other, up to now, totally ‘forbidden’ faces. On 4 June 1989, the first free elections since World War II were held. The Solidarity candidates celebrated a remarkable victory, gaining more mandates than the limited quotas of the elections deal assigned them. Soon thereafter, a Polish actress and member of the opposition, Joanna Szczepkowska, declared on the state TV: ‘On the 4th of June 1989, communism ended in Poland.’ A lot of other extraordinary events followed: the Berlin Wall fell, more and more countries of the former communist block declared the return of democracy. We were