Free «Solidarity Movement in Poland in 1980-1981» Essay

Solidarity Movement in Poland in 1980-1981

Solidarity, a Polish non-governmental trade union, was founded in 1980 by Lech Walesa at Lenin Shipyards (Eringer, 29). Solidarity soon became the sole organization that carried out strikes in various parts of the country starting from Lublin, a coastal city (Staniszkis, 44). Being a part of the Soviet Bloc, it had communist government and because of this the labor force considered itself useless as they were not able to strike against the governmental acts. The causes of its creation largely depended upon the decade long economical crises. Poland was actively involved in the cold war and due to its weak economy had to rely on debts which were increasing all the time.

In 1980, Polish government in essence to its obligation toward debts increased the prices of food and other daily used items and decreased the wages of the labor workers. This started a string of unrest in 1980. As the population became frustrated some of the workers were sacked as well including Lech Walesa, an electrician, in 1976 and Anna Walentynowicz, a popular crane operator and an activist against the government polices in 1980 at Lenin Shipyards. This triggered a response from all the workers as they decided to boycott and gathered at Lenin Shipyards. Lech Walesa arrived at Lenin Shipyards on 14 August, 2008 and formed a strike committee. This committee required a free trade organization having no influence from the communist government and a platform where the workers can get together for their mutual benefits. This was the start of fall of communism in Poland and the demands of this kind were the first in whole of Soviet Bloc.

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The agenda of committee was designed in next few days. The word of mouth was used as an effective mode communication to spread the message which asked workers from all parts of the country to join it. Government was aware of these advancements and they used different means to limit the spreading of this movement. Soon telephone connections with the coastal cities were cut from the main Poland and transporters were banned to move to Lublin and other coastal areas where the movement was firing. The government also forced censorship and filtered out media to not include the news about this movement. However, different strike committees from different parts of the country started to gather at Lenin Shipyards and with mutual understanding between these committees, an agreement took place which allowed the formation of Inter-Enterprise Strike Committee on 16th August, 1980. Though this new committee was formed on the basis of worker rights including increase in wages and more job security, the 17th August performance of a priest Henryk Jankowski put forward much more demands from the government. The demands included the freeing of the political prisoners, relaxation in the food prices, free worker unions in different industries, insurance against the workers including a definite increase in the wages, the new ways to define the role of the church making it free to propel without any governmental influence, public rights of living freely, removing of the censorships both in media and newspapers and specific steps in the health insurance, soon this became the agenda of the movement which was fiercely increasing in popularity. A dissent group, Workers Defense Committee, also arrived at Lenin Shipyards to offer their services for negotiations with the government. This group was formed in 1976 in order to protect workers’ rights and helping out those who have been victimized by various means. A news sheet, Solidarno%u015B%u0107, was also started to be published in a press in Shipyards and more than 30,000 copies of it were sold daily which critically increased the popularity of Solidarity around the country. Jacek Kaczmarski also wrote a protest song against the government called Murry, meaning Walls, became the song of the movement.

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The movement soon became the hot issue in the Eastern Europe. Though its existence was only in Poland, many strike committees from different parts of Poland started to join the federation. Various Shipyards were soon closed in days and the coastal trade was halt with critically undermining the economic growth. Factory and mining workers also moved to the coastal areas for the boycott against the communist government policies. Within days more than 200 factories were closed and soon whole industrial area of Poland was affected.

The government took these matters seriously and then reached a formal agreement with the committee. The agreement is known as August Agreement that allowed the workers to strike. Though having a free labor union was still being negotiating, it was a good sign for the committee that their needs were now being represented clearly.

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With the success of the committee, Lech Walesa formed a nationwide labor union, Solidarity on 17th September, 1980 (Eringer, 18). This labor union was independent of the governmental policies and was a first of its kind in Eastern Bloc. Solidarity soon became a social movement under the leadership of Lech. He was able to gather people at one place and required government to fully change their policies. The main point was to establish the democratic mode of living where people have options and rights of free living. After the formation of Solidarity, some 10 million people joined this union voluntarily which constituted most of the population of Poland at that time (Kenney, 89). Independent Student Union was formed under Solidarity which was the platform for the students to follow guidelines and protest against government.

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Solidarity acknowledged that freedom was an essential part for the grooming of the society as observed in Tygodnik Solidarno%u015B%u0107, Solidarity newspaper in 1981, "History has taught us that there is no bread without freedom. What we had in mind was not only bread, butter and sausages, but also justice, democracy, truth, legality, human dignity, freedom of convictions, and the repair of the republic" (Ost, 58).

Solidarity started to organize protests and strikes in different parts of the country. The emphasis was to keep these strikes as peaceful as possible which include hunger strikes, sitting on roads, standing in front of the government buildings with play cards and banners etc. However, government was looking for instances that could allow them to use force. Soon during a protest some 27 members of Solidarity were beaten by police. This triggered a fierce response from the population as around 20 million of the population went on strike (Kenney, 67). This was nearly the whole population of Poland stating that the whole country had gathered at a perfect stance that they will not tolerate communist government and its policies. The government than promised to resolve the issue of the beating as soon as possible and the strike was ended. This is considered as one of the largest strikes in the history of Eastern Bloc. As the time passed, the government was unable to resolve many issues. They were unsure how to deal with Solidarity. What they didn’t want to do was to change the whole system as it would definitely mean that the monopoly of the government party will be finished if the demands of Solidarity are met (Osa, 54). With empty declarations and promises, the government had lost it popularity and in that time with economic crises at increase, they were unable to finalize the solution. Solidarity was highly supported by Ronald Reagan, US President, Pope and various other countries as they considered it to be the fight for rights and in the current scenario, Polish government was unable to ask for economic support from these countries because then they had to agree with the demands of Solidarity (Perdue, 88). The strikes of Solidarity were on a high during the end of 1981. Summer 1981 hunger demonstrations in Poland were the largest of those against the worsening economic situation of the country (Perdue, 76).

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Soviet Union wanted Poland to change its approach towards the whole movement with power in order to save the communist government. As the support from Soviet Union came, Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski was given the charge of the government who was very strict in his approach towards these movements. On 13th December, 1981, he order to crack down Solidarity and announced the martial law and banned all kinds of protests and strikes (Ost, 33). Many supporters of Solidarity were arrested and the censorship on the media and newspaper increased. Military took up the streets and curfews were obliged in various sensitive parts of the country including the coastal areas that started this whole movement. However, protests took place but this time army was able to suppress them through violence as people were directly fired. The killing and injuring of people allowed the international media to play its part and international government started to support Solidarity movement. The acts of government were being considered as the wrong use of power against the will of its citizens. The last strike of 1981 started on 14th December which included some 2000 workers who went into mines and lived hungrily, though they were being carried out by the army after being promised that they will not be prosecuted (Perdue, 110).

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Solidarity movement was soon banned in early 1982 as it lost its support during those years (Perdue, 185). However, the creation of events that it had triggered clearly determined what people wanted in Poland, a free democracy with freedom rights of living and speech. Later on CIA helped Solidarity movement to progress underground.

The Solidarity movement is seen as a cornerstone in the building of a democratic Poland. The protests and strikes were always there in the memories of the people which allowed them to come on streets whenever they were called upon later in the 1980s.

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