An overview of the solidarity movement in poland

Some 17, workers seized control of the Lenin Shipyard in Gdansk to protest, among other things, a recent rise in food prices. Their leader, Lech Walesa, had narrowly avoided arrest by secret police that morning, and had managed to scale the shipyard gate and join the workers inside. Soon, workers in 20 other area factories joined the strike in solidarity. Those were rights accorded under conventions by the International Labor Organization, of which Poland was a signatory.

An overview of the solidarity movement in poland

The Solidarity movement received international attention, spreading anti-communist ideas and inspiring political action throughout the rest of the Communist Bloc, and its An overview of the solidarity movement in poland in the eventual fall of communism in Central and Eastern Europe cannot be understated or dismissed.

Rather, the emergence of Solidarity as a political force in Poland was spurred by governmental and economic difficulties that had continued to deepen over the course of an entire decade. In July ofthe Polish government - facing economic crisis - was again forced to raise the price of goods while curbing the growth of wages.

The dismissal of Walentynowicz - a popular crane-operator and activist, combined with the previous firing of Lech Walesa - an outspoken electrician, galvanised the workers into taking action. On August 16th, several other strike committees joined the Gdansk shipyard workers and the following day 21 demands of the unified strike committee were put forward.

These demands went far beyond the scope of local concern, calling for the legal formation of independent trade unions, an end to media censorship, the right to strike, new rights for the Church, the freeing of political prisoners, and improvements in the national health system.

On August 18th, the Szczecin shipyard joined the Gdansk shipyard in protest, igniting a wave of strikes along the Polish coast.

Within days, most of Poland was affected by factory shutdowns, with more and more unions forming and joining the Gdansk-based federation on a daily basis.

With the situation in Gdansk gaining international support and media coverage, the Gdansk shipyard workers were able to hold out longer than many of their compatriots.

This agreement, known as the Gdansk Agreement, became recognised as the first step in dismantling Soviet power. With the country behind them, Solidarity slowly transformed from a trade union to a full-on revolutionary movement, using strikes and other acts of protest to force change in government policies.

The movement was careful, however, never to use violence, for fear of encouraging and validating harsh reprimands from the government. After 27 Solidarity members in Bydgoszcz were assaulted by the state police during a state-initiated National Council meeting on March 19th, news spread throughout the underground press and nation-wide strike was planned.

This action, involving over half a million people, brought Poland to a standstill and was the largest strike in the history of the Eastern Bloc. The government was forced to promise an investigate into the Bydgoszcz beatings and allow the story to be released to the international press.

After the Gdansk Agreement, Moscow stepped up pressure on its Polish government, which continued to lose its control over Polish society.

On December 13th,Juruzelski delivered, declaring martial law and arresting some 5, Solidarity members in the middle of the night, Walesa and other Gdansk leaders among them. Censorship was expanded and police filled the streets. Hundreds of strikes taking place throughout the country were put down harshly by riot police, including several deaths during demonstrations in Gdansk and at the Wujek Coal Mine.

By the end of strikes had ceased and Solidarity seemed crippled. In October ofSolidarity was delegalized and banned. The Polish people were bowed, but not broken Upon the arrest of the Solidarity leadership, more underground structures began to form, including Solidarity Radio and over underground publications.

No other movement in the world was supported by such a wide gamut: US President Ronald Reagan imposed sanctions on Poland, which would eventually force the government to soften its policies. And the Polish people still supported what remained of the movement, demonstrating through masses held by priests such as Jerzy Popieluszko, who would himself later become a martyr of the cause.

By November ofWalesa was released from prison; however, less than a month later, the government carried out an attack upon the movement, arresting 10, activists. On July 22,martial law was lifted, yet many restrictions on civil liberties and political life remained, as well as food rationing which would continue until the late 80s.

When Mikhail Gorbachev assumed control over the Soviet Union inhe was forced to initiate a series of reforms due to the worsening economic situation across the entire Eastern Bloc. These reforms included political and social reforms which led to a shift in policy in many Soviet satellites, including Poland, and led to the happy release of hundreds of political prisoners connected with Solidarity.

However, Solidarity members continued to be the objects of persecution and discrimination. Finally on August 26, the government announced it was ready to negotiate with Solidarity and met with Walesa, who incredulously agreed to call an end to the strikes.

In preparation for an official negotiating conference with the government, a hundred-member committee was formed within Solidarity, composed of many sections, each of which was responsible for presenting specific demands to the government at the forthcoming talks.

On April 17,Solidarity was again legalised and the party was allowed to field candidates in upcoming elections. With its members immediately jumping to 1. Despite aggression and propaganda from the ruling party, extremely limited resources and pre-election polls that promised a communist victory, Solidarity managed to push forward a campaign that surprised everyone, including themselves.

The party won every contested seat in the Sejm and 99 of Senatorial seats: As agreed beforehand, Wojciech Jaruzelski was elected president, however the communist candidate for prime minister now failed to rally enough support to form a government and the Sejm elected Solidarity representative Tadeusz Mazowiecki as Prime Minister of Poland.

Mazowiecki became the first non-communist prime minister in Poland since and the first anywhere in Eastern Europe for 40 years. Under Mazowiecki a Solidarity-led government was formed, and only Jaruzelski remained of the old regime.

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An overview of the solidarity movement in poland

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