Lech Wałęsa ‘considered introducing martial law’ in 1992

Lech Wałęsa, who was President in 1992, has gone on record stating that had the Jan Olszewski government not been removed by Parliament in 1992 he would have had to introduce martial law.

The day after Saturday’s funeral of Jan Olszewski, Polish PM in the years 1991-1992 and former lawyer for Solidarity, Lech Wałęsa has taken to social media with his objections to the deceased premier. He has claimed that had the Olszewski government not been recalled by Parliament on 4 June 1992 there would have been “a need to introduce martial law”.

Mr Wałęsa has argued that by opening the security files of the former communist security police, Mr Olszewski’s government was “paralysing the country” and that this move “destroyed state structures”. He felt that the country was near “civil war” as a result of the actions of the “incompetent” Olszewski administration.

What happened back in 1992 was that Parliament passed a resolution calling on the government to open the files of the former communist secret police. Antoni Macierewicz, then the Minister of the Interior, carried out the resolution of Parliament by sending to members of Parliament lists of public officials who were registered as informers of the communist secret police in their files.

That action caused a storm because of the high profile names that appeared on the list. They included the Speaker of Parliament and President Lech Wałęsa. Once the list was published a number of parties came together and, cajoled by President Wałęsa, put down a no confidence motion in the government.

The no confidence motion was carried by a coalition of liberals, nationalists (KPN), the post-communist Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) and the Polish People’s Party (PSL). The Olszewski government was backed by Jarosław Kaczyński’s party, the Christian Nationalists and Solidarity trade union and rural Solidarity deputies.

The bringing down of the Olszewski government divided Polish post-Solidarity parties. A new government emerged led by two liberal parties, Christian nationalists and democrats. It collapsed a year later as a result of another no confidence vote. A general election followed in which all post-Solidarity parties suffered heavy losses and power was claimed by a majority coalition of the post-communist left and the Polish People’s Party (PSL).

Mr Wałęsa’s claims have overtones of General Jaruzelski’s arguments about why martial law was introduced by the communist authorities in 1981. Mr Jaruzelski said that it was to prevent civil war breaking out between the Solidarity opposition and the communist party.

Mr Olszewski himself had been accused of attempting a coup with the publication of the lists of informers and agents of the communist security police. Mr Wałęsa’s remarks point to something rather different being planned. Since it was President Wałęsa who had control of the military according to the constitution, it was he who had the ability to launch a coup rather than premier Olszewski.

Three years later, during the life-time of the coalition between the post-communist left and the Polish People’s Party, President Wałęsa threatened a dissolution of Parliament, though there had been no resignation of the government and no-confidence vote. Such a move would have been unconstitutional, just as introducing martial law would have been as unconstitutional in 1992 as it was back in 1981 in General Jaruzelski’s day.

Today Mr Wałęsa is a strong critic of the present Law and Justice government whom the former President accuses of breaching the constitution. He has regularly called for mass demonstrations against the present government and for sanctions to be imposed on his country by the European Union.