Twenty four years ago today, the reactionary forces of Soviet-style Communism declared martial law in an effort to snuff out the liberation movement of Poland’s Solidarity trade union. Founded the previous August with a series of industrial strikes that would have made Marx proud, Solidarity was close to overthrowing the Polish Communist government peacefully. In fact, I remember days later it being repored that at an upcoming session of the Communist Party’s handpicked parliament, the Party was likely to lose a series of important votes. So rotten to the core was Polish Communism that it was about to collapse from within, and only a military coup could halt it–temporarily, as it turned out.
In June, 1989, the Polish authorities held an election that they thought they had carefully rigged. Solidarity swept all the seats open for electoral competition, and Communism quickly unravelled throughout eastern Europe.
Some details on the martial-law declaration are here, including an overview of the ways in which the declaration itself violated even the Communists’ own legal strictures.
Soviet History has some background on the Solidarity movement.