Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, the Polish premier and Army chief who was today named Communist Party first secretary, is the first career soldier to be appointed to the key party leadership position.
Jaruzelski's personal reputation for high integrity was confirmed by the elections to the Central Committee during the extraordinary Communist Party congress in August. He collected 1,615 out of a possible 1,965 votes -- far more than any other prominent party politician.
The reason for his success then lay in the fact that, as a military officer, he was not associated with any particular party faction. It was this quality of general acceptability, rather than political skill or proven statesmanship, that led to his election.
Jaruzelski was born on July 6, 1923, to a landowning family in eastern Poland. The region was overrun by the Soviet Union during World War II, and Jaruzelski joined the procommunist Polish Army that formed on Soviet territory.
Following the war, he worked his way up through the Army, becoming the youngest general in Poland in 1956, at the age of 33. He was appointed deputy defense minister in 1962 and defense minister six years later.
Like other senior Army officers, Jaruzelski's political attitudes were affected by the trauma of December 1970, when the Army helped quell food riots along the Baltic Coast. Six years later, when new riots flared over increased food prices, Jaruzelski is widely believed to have informed the party leadership, "Polish soldiers will not fire on Polish workers."
He took a similar attitude in August 1980, when strikes against economic mismanagement and political repression spread throughout Poland. It was partly thanks to his backing that Stanislaw Kania was elected party leader on the night of Sept. 5-6, 1980, following the ouster of Edward Gierek.
During his eight months as premier, a position he still holds, Jaruzelski has veered between conciliation and confrontation with the Solidarity trade union movement. His initial hopes for a dialogue were opposed by both hard-liners in the government apparatus and radicals in the union who wanted to force more concessions out of the authorities.
Jaruzelski's more recent speeches have been a combination of exhortation to overcome the economic crisis through increased production and harder work and complaints that his orders are not being carried out.