Poles now sympathetic to General Jaruzelski's decision to crack down on Solidarity

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As the twentieth anniversary of the end of communism in Poland approaches, polls estimate that around 44% of Poles have come to approve of his move against the Solidarity movement while only 32% are critical. The general himself invariably claims that his decision was motivated by fear that the Soviet Union would invade Poland - thus crushing far more than Solidarity. His critics argue that Moscow wouldn't have invaded and have Soviet documents to back their case. The Russians, relieved that that this is one event they can shift responsibility for, are not saying much.

Meanwhile ex-general Jaruzelski and the surviving members of his leadership are on trial in a Warsaw court. They are accused of organising an armed conspiracy against the Polish nation. The case has been brought by the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN), a state organisation responsible for prosecuting Nazi and Soviet crimes.

It is highly debatable whether the martial-law decision in 1981 is a matter for a criminal court at all. This is, in truth, a political trial. But the fact that it was brought at all reflects a shift in the debate on Poland's recent past brought about by the rightwing Prawo i Sprawiedliwosc (Law & Justice / PiS) party, which came to power in September 2005 and was voted out in October 2007 in a wave of revulsion at its authoritarian and nationalistic policies. Before the PiS fell it managed to reverse the hitherto dominant view that the key event of the 1980s in Poland was the peaceful handover of power in 1989 by General Jaruzelski and his communists to Solidarity. The advent of PiS brought to the fore a set of historians too young to remember the communist times, who see the key date of this period in terms of Jaruzelski's 1981 clampdown.

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