March ’68 was above all a massive and spontaneous of rebellion, of the first generation of young people who had grown up in the People’s Republic of Poland. Back then, they often discovered for the first time that the communist system was based on organized lies. Their opposition, however, was frequently intertwined with other aspects that were often difficult to clearly interpret. Probably this ambiguity (in comparison with other ‘Polish months’) was one of the main reasons for the rapid collapse of the March movement.
Repressions were the second significant factor. Hundreds of people found themselves in jails, many groups of students were called up for military service, and several thousand were expelled from universities. The purge which encompassed the intellectual community contributed to the weakening of Polish education, especially, but not only, in the field of the humanities. Through censorship, the authorities tried to condemn many leading writers and artists to oblivion.
The anti-Semitic campaign, and the later involvement in the intervention in Czechoslovakia, caused significant damage in the international arena. PRL, for most outside observers, simply Poland, had disgraced itself and many cultural, social and economic contacts were severed. To some extent, this negative image of Poland, shaped in 1968 has lasted to this day, though Polish citizens were generally not to blame.
From today’s perspective the most important legacy of March ’68 seems to be the fact that a new generation had appeared on the scene, one that had to grow up in a hurry and discover the true nature of the system first-hand. Often starting from very different ideological positions, the participants of the March events were to later play an important role in all subsequent opposition movements to the People’s Republic of Poland.