Sunday, April 02, 2006

General Jaruzelski

In 1980, a major crack appeared in the facade of Soviet-style communism when an independent labor union called Solidarity was established in Poland. Solidarity challenged from within the fiction that the states of Eastern Europe were workers' paradises.

As Solidarity's membership grew to over 10 million, the Polish government led by General Wojciech Jaruzelski decided to crack down. In December 1981, martial law was imposed and Solidarity's leaders were arrested.

Last week, Poland's Institute of National Remembrance, a body responsible for investigating human rights abuses under Nazi occupation and communist rule, filed charges against Jaruzelski for his actions in the period from March 27, 1981 to December 31, 1982.

As the Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko said, "Justice is like a train that is nearly always late."

[Update: There are several books on justice and reconciliation that deserve a mention here. The Healing of Nations: The Promise and Limits of Political Forgiveness by Mark Amstutz is an excellent scholarly study of what happens (or at least what should happen) in the aftermath of serious human rights abuses. Two journalistic treatments--one focused on Latin America and one focused on Eastern Europe--that are a bit dated but nonetheless quite helpful are Lawrence Wechsler's A Miracle, a Universe: Settling Accounts with Torturers and Tina Rosenberg's The Haunted Land: Facing Europe's Ghosts After Communism.]