The Story of the Solidarity Movement

Established in September of 1980 at the Gdansk shipyards, Solidarity was an independent labour union instrumental in the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union, and the primary catalyst that would transform Poland from a repressive communist satellite to the EU member democracy it is today. The Solidarity movement received international attention, spreading anti-communist ideas and inspiring political action throughout the rest of the Communist Bloc, and its influence in the eventual fall of communism in Central and Eastern Europe cannot be understated or dismissed.

Solidarity's cohesion and initial success, like that of other dissident movements, was not created overnight, nor the result of any specific event or grievance. 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. Poland's 'shortage economy' put stress on the lives of everyday people who were unable to purchase daily necessities, such as bread or toilet paper, and faced endless queues for which there was rarely a reward. In July of 1980, the Polish government - facing economic crisis - was again forced to raise the price of goods while curbing the growth of wages. This was essentially the "last straw" for much of Poland's labour force, with strikes spreading almost at once across the country, in spite of the absence of any organized network.

In Gdansk, at the then 'Lenin Shipyards', the shipyard workers were unified by the additional outrage of Anna Walentynowicz's firing. 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. A strike began on August 14th, led by Walesa, who gave voice to the workers' demands for the legalisation of independent labour unions, the raising of a monument to the 80 workers brutally murdered in a 1970 labour dispute in Gdansk, and the rehiring of both Walesa and Walentynowicz. Despite nation-wide censorship and the severance of all phone connections between Gdansk and the rest of the country, several underground presses succeeded in covering the story and spreading the shipyard workers' message throughout Poland and the Eastern Bloc. 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. The movement's news-sheet, Solidarnosc, began being printed on the shipyard printing press at a run of 30,000 copies.

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. Poland's Soviet government capitulated, sending a Governmental Commission to Gdansk, which on September 3rd signed an agreement ratifying many of the workers' demands. This agreement, known as the Gdansk Agreement, became recognised as the first step in dismantling Soviet power. Achieving the right to form labour unions independent of Communist Party control, and the right to strike, workers' concerns would now receive representation; common people were now able to introduce democratic changes into the communist political structure.

With an upsurge of momentum in the wake of their success, workers' representatives - with Walesa on the pulpit - formed a national labour union on September 17th and Solidarity ('Solidarnosc' in Polish) was born. The first independent labor union in the Soviet Bloc, Solidarity's existence was remarkable to people the world over who had previously thought such an organisation could never exist under communism. In Poland, millions of people hopeful for change rallied around the union and in the 500 days following the Gdansk Agreement, 10 million people - students, workers, intellectuals - joined Solidarnosc or one of its suborganisations (Independent Student Union, Craftsmen's Union, Farmer's Union, etc.). A quarter of the country's population bravely became members, including 80% of Poland's workforce, marking the only time in human history that such a percentage of a country's population voluntarily joined an organisation. 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.

As quickly as December 1980, the Monument to Fallen Shipyard Workers was erected, and the following month Walesa and other Solidarity delegates met with Pope John Paul II in Rome. 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. The Soviets put General Wojciech Jaruzelski in the driver's seat, expecting a crackdown on the Solidarity movement. On December 13th, 1981, Juruzelski delivered, declaring martial law and arresting some 5,000 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 1981 strikes had ceased and Solidarity seemed crippled. In October of 1982, Solidarity 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 500 underground publications. Solidarity managed to persevere throughout the mid-80s as an underground movement, garnering extensive international support which condemned Jaruzelski's actions. No other movement in the world was supported by such a wide gamut: Reagan, Thatcher, the Pope, Carrillo (head of communist Spain); NATO, Christians, Western communists, liberals, conservatives, and socialists - all voiced support for Solidarity's cause. US President Ronald Reagan imposed sanctions on Poland, which would eventually force the government to soften its policies. The CIA and Catholic Church provided funds, equipment and training to the Solidarity underground. 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 of 1982, Walesa was released from prison; however, less than a month later, the government carried out an attack upon the movement, arresting 10,000 activists. On July 22, 1983, 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. On October 5th, Lech Walesa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, despite the Polish government's attempts to defame him and their refusal to allow him to leave the country and accept the award.

When Mikhail Gorbachev assumed control over the Soviet Union in 1985, he 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. By 1988, Poland's economic situation was worse than ever due to foreign sanctions and the government's refusal to introduce more reforms. A new wave of strikes swept the country after food costs were increased by 40%. 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. This conference, which took place in Warsaw from February 6th to April 4th, 1989, came to be known as the 'Polish Roundtable Talks.' Though the members of Solidarity had no expectation of major changes, the Roundtable Talks would irreversibly alter the political landscape and Polish society.

On April 17, 1989, Solidarity was again legalised and the party was allowed to field candidates in upcoming elections. With its members immediately jumping to 1.5 million after legalisation, the party was restricted to fielding candidates for only 35% of the seats in the new Sejm. 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 100 Senatorial seats: the new 'Contract Sejm' as it was called would be dominated by Solidarity. 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 1945 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. Communism had collapsed in Poland and within months the famous Wall in Berlin would do the same.

The fall of communism in Poland thrust Solidarity into a role it was never prepared for, and in it's life as a political party it saw much infighting and a decline in popularity. Walesa decided to resign from his Solidarity post and announced his intent to run for president in the upcoming elections. In December 1990, Lech Walesa was elected president of Poland and became the first Polish president ever elected by popular vote. The 1990 elections in Poland, which scored astonishing victories for anti-communist candidates, set-off a string of peaceful anti-communist revolutions throughout Central and Eastern Europe which led to the fall of communism is these regions. In the Baltics people were joining hands in solidarity, and the cry for freedom could be heard in the Estonian Singing Revolution and its Lithuanian and Latvian counterparts. The example of Solidarity had emboldened the oppressed peoples of the entire Eastern Bloc to stand together and demand their independence. By Christmas of 1991, the USSR had ceased to exist, and all the former communist territories across Eurasia became sovereign entities once again.

Today Solidarity's role in Polish politics is limited and the organization has again reverted back toward the role of a more traditional trade union with a membership that currently exceeds 1.1 million. Summer 2005 marked the 25th anniversary of the historic Solidarity movement, remembering the hardships of its humble beginnings and celebrating the changes those hardships inspired across the continent.

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Judith from United Kingdom Reply Dec 8th, 2015

Thank you very much. This information proved to be very helpful for a History GCSE.

Aditi from Singapore Reply Nov 11th, 2014

This was unbelievably helpful for a history student! Thanks so much for writing it.

Iwona Blazewski from United States Reply Jun 19th, 2014

All people throughout the world are entitled to civil liberties and the commandments of God -- we should all be free!

Kelly from Mozambique Reply Apr 26th, 2014

OMG!!! Thank you, Thank you, Thank You!! This is amazing! :)

Slater from United States Reply Apr 25th, 2014

This helped me a lot with my 2 page report. Go Solidarnosc! :)

cinderella from United States Reply Apr 25th, 2014

This just goes to show that one man can and did make a difference to an entire nation of people and left a lasting impression for generations to follow.. This man is a legend!!

stevie from United States Reply Apr 25th, 2014

great article

sean from United States Reply Jun 4th, 2013

Great ,just as we remember it pope john paul, regan and walesa champions of freedom

Luke from Canada Reply Mar 27th, 2013

was really helpful for my project and helped me discover a little bit of my roots

Bobby from United Kingdom Reply Mar 14th, 2013

Just writing about this for my dissertation and its really helpful, is it possible to get the name of the person that wrote this article and the date it was released so that I can reference it please?

Editor from Poland Apr 26th, 2013

Hi Bobby. Thanks for this. We've been asked this a lot, so we will be adding the author information on all our pages very soon.

Phil from United Kingdom Reply Nov 26th, 2012

This just goes to show that one man can and did make a difference to an entire nation of people and left a lasting impression for generations to follow.. This man is a legend!!

girish bhat from India Reply Jul 7th, 2012

good fantastic......nicely written........:):)

ema from United States Reply Jun 26th, 2012

fantastic !.... it had helped me a lot in my project.

Jay Jay Punk from Finland Reply May 30th, 2012

Thanks to Solidarnosc, Keep on rocking in free Poland.

boi from China Reply Jan 13th, 2012

hahahahaha

rollie from United States Reply Dec 8th, 2011

i thought this was pretty helpful

Pravin Durgani from India Reply Jun 15th, 2011

He is the greatest man of Europe.............

Kate from Australia Reply May 22nd, 2011

I am from a Polish background, this site was very informative of the solidarity, it has helped with my Modern History essay as weel, thankyou so much!!

Max from United States Reply May 21st, 2011

This article provides very good information. We don't learn much about this movement in highschool so it's very enlghtening.

anoushka from Switzerland Reply Mar 31st, 2011

was cool helped a lot!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Rebekah from United States Reply Jan 27th, 2011

This article was very informative. My aunt was very active in this movement and was one of the individuals arrested. Until this article, I was not 100% sure what this was all about, but now I know.

Huma Rizwan from Pakistan Reply Oct 16th, 2010

I was living in Bulgaria at the time when Poland was having crisis and never fully understood what was going on or what the solidarity movement was.This article is quite enlightening and informative. Thank you

Marek from Poland Reply Sep 13th, 2010

All of us who live in Poland today or who have family there have a lot to thank the Solidarity movement for. In fact, all Poles should be incredibly proud of what they helped the Polish nation and other nations achieve.

a Pole who been there and at that time from United States Reply Jul 25th, 2010

solidarity would be crashed if Jaruzelski didnt force Martial Law in 1981. They hate him in Poland, but honestly, only God knows what would have happened, hadnt he acted at that time. The Russians would have had invaded and made Poland a Polestan - one of a Soviet's republics.

sam from United States Reply Jun 7th, 2010

actuallyy.. i didnt understand anyy of it

Sian from South Africa Reply May 20th, 2010

This article really helped me in putting the Solidarity Movement into perspective. I'm busy writing a paper that compares the activities of South African trade unions during apartheid to those of Solidarity. Truly inspiring! Thank you

WILL K BYRD from United States Reply May 12th, 2010

MODERN AMERICAN SOCIAKISM CAPITILISM RIGHT WING EXTREMEISM

BK from Germany Reply May 9th, 2010

We are an American family stationed in Germany. We homeschool our children and are blessed with the opportunity to travel throughout Europe to both see and experience history. We're taking our children to Gdansk for a long weekend very soon and so searched for relevant info to share with our kids. What a treasure to find this excellent article on Solidarity which will certainly enhance our visit to and memories of Gdansk. We will proudly share the story of courage and perseverance that changed Poland and the world!

Me myself and I from Ecuador Reply May 3rd, 2010

Nice, really nice, this helped me alot with my school work, thanks again... Keep moving forward!

Ola from United States Reply Apr 25th, 2010

I too am a proud Polish American but I must dissagree with the comment saying that Ronald Reagan was not a friend of Poland. He greatly supported the Solidarity Movement and deeply loved freedom. He actually went to Berlin a few times at the time of the Berlin Wall and supported the tearing down of the Wall. I learned much about the history of our country and of Poland and I for one know that Reagan was a great conservative and supporter of freedom. Under him our country lived best though after Carter it was hard to get out the debt he brought upon this land. Reagan brought us up as best he could and worked for our rights. He should be remembered not just as one of our country's best presidents but as a friend of freedom and the lands it resides.

Al from Albania Reply Mar 29th, 2010

Thanks guys, Interesting to find out some more about Solidarity times

history student from United Kingdom Reply Mar 28th, 2010

Does anyone know who the author of this piece is? Thank-you

Avtandil kasradze from Georgia Reply Mar 16th, 2010

Excellent article and excellent website. I am acquainted al lot of things via this website and this article is just wonderful!

Nicole from United States Reply Mar 9th, 2010

this makes me want to move to poland just to join the solidarity trade union. some day

Ed from United States Reply Feb 12th, 2010

Wonderful article. As a Polish American and a student of polish history, it makes my heart swell with pride. I have to disagree with one of the comments that Ronald Reagan was a "friend of Poland," however. The sanctions he imposed on Poland created terrible hardships on the people and actually made Solidarity's job harder. A movement like Solidarity scares American conservatives to death. If such a thing happened in the U.S. we would be able to throw off the corporate powers that currently infest and corrupt our own government. Reagan's worst nightmare.

pikachu from United States Reply Jan 21st, 2010

nice

Guy from United Kingdom Reply Nov 11th, 2009

Well written article. Clearly explained for persons new to these historic facts.

Rafal from United States Reply Nov 9th, 2009

My father was also a part of the solidarity movement until his arrest and eventual exile in December 1981 when Poland declared martial law and de-legalized Solidarity. I thank god that they treated the prisoners with dignity and did not mistreat them as was done by the Nazi's and Stalin. God bless you dad and the others you fought with to bring freedom and liberty to your countrymen. Long live Poland!

Lucia Cabalova from Slovak Republic Reply Nov 3rd, 2009

Really really good article. Because I am a student of Comparative European politics at CU, I have to write a research paper about situation around years 1963-1990, the events that influenced my country, Slovakia. I have decided to write about Solidarity and Pope John Paul II, but after this article, I will add also Lech Walesa who was THE MAN. He helped polish people to get more freedom than every before, his activity in Solidarity helped to end the Soviet domination. My country was also under the communistic regime and I always took care just about our state. But few weeks ago, I have started to think about other states like Poland, Ukraine and so on. This article helped me to understand the background of the Solidarity. Thank you

Bill from United States Reply Oct 11th, 2009

A wonderful history lesson. God Bless you all and remain free my friends! In spite of some of the recent things (e.g., taking away missile defenses), the American people stand by Poland. Solidarity!!!!

Niki from Australia Reply Oct 2nd, 2009

i am writing a fictional screenplay based presumption that the worlds secret agencies do whatever they want to the people to achieve their own agenda. The events of solidarity and those that lead to solidarity are the bassist of these agencies determination to keep their secrets a secret. this article has been a great help to me in my quest to be a writer. Thank you

Rolfe from United States Reply Sep 22nd, 2009

A very good article. Thank you. I would like to add that Poland has a unique and often tragic history. Having been located between Germany and Russia, it always chose to be different. It is a slavic country with a Roman Catholic religion. It's desire for democratic institutions set it apart from it's powerful neighbors. So many Poles came to Canada, Australia and especially the US 100 years ago, that it gave many families a relative or two that lived in freedom. These influences gave it's people enduring strength and a secret goal to be free. It's people never forgot their historic independence and sought to recreate it in modern times. It is so nice that out of Poland's struggles, and Lech Walesa's leadership was born the most important freedom movement in the 20th century.

Johan from Namibia Reply Sep 17th, 2009

The first time I heard of the Solidarity party was by watching a series of DVD's called the 'Commanding Heights'. It was the first time in my life that I found politics and economics interesting, moving and inspirational. The actions of the Solidarity party played a huge role in that. Thank you for the great site and information.

Iys-T from Monaco Reply Sep 15th, 2009

Established in September of 1980 at the Gdansk shipyards, Solidarity was an independent labour union instrumental in the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union, and the primary catalyst that would transform Poland from a repressive communist satellite to the EU member democracy it is today. The Solidarity movement received international attention, spreading anti-communist ideas and inspiring political action throughout the rest of the Communist Bloc, and its influence in the eventual fall of communism in Central and Eastern Europe cannot be understated or dismissed. Solidarity's cohesion and initial success, like that of other dissident movements, was not created overnight, nor the result of any specific event or grievance. 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. Poland's 'shortage economy' put stress on the lives of everyday people who were unable to purchase daily necessities, such as bread or toilet paper, and faced endless queues for which there was rarely a reward. In July of 1980, the Polish government - facing economic crisis - was again forced to raise the price of goods while curbing the growth of wages. This was essentially the "last straw" for much of Poland's labour force, with strikes spreading almost at once across the country, in spite of the absence of any organized network. In Gdansk, at the then 'Lenin Shipyards', the shipyard workers were unified by the additional outrage of Anna Walentynowicz's firing. 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. A strike began on August 14th, led by Walesa, who gave voice to the workers' demands for the legalisation of independent labour unions, the raising of a monument to the 80 workers brutally murdered in a 1970 labour dispute in Gdansk, and the rehiring of both Walesa and Walentynowicz. Despite nation-wide censorship and the severance of all phone connections between Gdansk and the rest of the country, several underground presses succeeded in covering the story and spreading the shipyard workers' message throughout Poland and the Eastern Bloc. 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. The movement's news-sheet, Solidarnosc, began being printed on the shipyard printing press at a run of 30,000 copies. 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. Poland's Soviet government capitulated, sending a Governmental Commission to Gdansk, which on September 3rd signed an agreement ratifying many of the workers' demands. This agreement, known as the Gdansk Agreement, became recognised as the first step in dismantling Soviet power. Achieving the right to form labour unions independent of Communist Party control, and the right to strike, workers' concerns would now receive representation; common people were now able to introduce democratic changes into the communist political structure. With an upsurge of momentum in the wake of their success, workers' representatives - with Walesa on the pulpit - formed a national labour union on September 17th and Solidarity ('Solidarnosc' in Polish) was born. The first independent labor union in the Soviet Bloc, Solidarity's existence was remarkable to people the world over who had previously thought such an organisation could never exist under communism. In Poland, millions of people hopeful for change rallied around the union and in the 500 days following the Gdansk Agreement, 10 million people - students, workers, intellectuals - joined Solidarnosc or one of its suborganisations (Independent Student Union, Craftsmen's Union, Farmer's Union, etc.). A quarter of the country's population bravely became members, including 80% of Poland's workforce, marking the only time in human history that such a percentage of a country's population voluntarily joined an organisation. 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. As quickly as December 1980, the Monument to Fallen Shipyard Workers was erected, and the following month Walesa and other Solidarity delegates met with Pope John Paul II in Rome. 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. The Soviets put General Wojciech Jaruzelski in the driver's seat, expecting a crackdown on the Solidarity movement. On December 13th, 1981, Juruzelski delivered, declaring martial law and arresting some 5,000 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 1981 strikes had ceased and Solidarity seemed crippled. In October of 1982, Solidarity 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 500 underground publications. Solidarity managed to persevere throughout the mid-80s as an underground movement, garnering extensive international support which condemned Jaruzelski's actions. No other movement in the world was supported by such a wide gamut: Reagan, Thatcher, the Pope, Carrillo (head of communist Spain); NATO, Christians, Western communists, liberals, conservatives, and socialists - all voiced support for Solidarity's cause. US President Ronald Reagan imposed sanctions on Poland, which would eventually force the government to soften its policies. The CIA and Catholic Church provided funds, equipment and training to the Solidarity underground. 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 of 1982, Walesa was released from prison; however, less than a month later, the government carried out an attack upon the movement, arresting 10,000 activists. On July 22, 1983, 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. On October 5th, Lech Walesa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, despite the Polish government's attempts to defame him and their refusal to allow him to leave the country and accept the award. When Mikhail Gorbachev assumed control over the Soviet Union in 1985, he 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. By 1988, Poland's economic situation was worse than ever due to foreign sanctions and the government's refusal to introduce more reforms. A new wave of strikes swept the country after food costs were increased by 40%. 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. This conference, which took place in Warsaw from February 6th to April 4th, 1989, came to be known as the 'Polish Roundtable Talks.' Though the members of Solidarity had no expectation of major changes, the Roundtable Talks would irreversibly alter the political landscape and Polish society. On April 17, 1989, Solidarity was again legalised and the party was allowed to field candidates in upcoming elections. With its members immediately jumping to 1.5 million after legalisation, the party was restricted to fielding candidates for only 35% of the seats in the new Sejm. 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 100 Senatorial seats: the new 'Contract Sejm' as it was called would be dominated by Solidarity. 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 1945 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. Communism had collapsed in Poland and within months the famous Wall in Berlin would do the same. The fall of communism in Poland thrust Solidarity into a role it was never prepared for, and in it's life as a political party it saw much infighting and a decline in popularity. Walesa decided to resign from his Solidarity post and announced his intent to run for president in the upcoming elections. In December 1990, Lech Walesa was elected president of Poland and became the first Polish president ever elected by popular vote. The 1990 elections in Poland, which scored astonishing victories for anti-communist candidates, set-off a string of peaceful anti-communist revolutions throughout Central and Eastern Europe which led to the fall of communism is these regions. In the Baltics people were joining hands in solidarity, and the cry for freedom could be heard in the Estonian Singing Revolution and its Lithuanian and Latvian counterparts. The example of Solidarity had emboldened the oppressed peoples of the entire Eastern Bloc to stand together and demand their independence. By Christmas of 1991, the USSR had ceased to exist, and all the former communist territories across Eurasia became sovereign entities once again. Today Solidarity's role in Polish politics is limited and the organization has again reverted back toward the role of a more traditional trade union with a membership that currently exceeds 1.1 million. Summer 2005 marked the 25th anniversary of the historic Solidarity movement, remembering the hardships of its humble beginnings and celebrating the changes those hardships inspired across the continent.

Kathryn from United States Reply Aug 22nd, 2009

Great summary. Ronald Reagan was truly a friend of Poland and of all who cried for freedom.

Bablu Bhattacharjee from Bangladesh Reply Aug 4th, 2009

What an informative article! Its really very helpful to me.

Simba from Zimbabwe Reply Jun 4th, 2009

A very good paper

ashley from United States Reply May 28th, 2009

i actually think that this information is really good and informs people on what thins movement was all about. eventhough it's somewhat confusing, thins makes me want to look into this topic more..

Rob from United States Reply May 23rd, 2009

I never fully understood the logistics of Solidarity when I was growing up as a young teen in 1980, but I knew it was a movement that stood bold in the face of Communism. Thanks for putting a real face to it.

Matthew from United States Reply Apr 28th, 2009

this was quite useful in my research for a project for the Cold War Museum

farhad from United States Reply Apr 19th, 2009

whats goin on in poland today and how is it connected to solidarity

Nick from United States Reply Mar 28th, 2009

I agree with Keith "Thanks for an AWESOME recap of Solidarity! Personally, I have referenced the topic since I am now dating a Polish citizen (a supporter of Solidarity!)and sought a better explanation of the movement. I've read a lot, and NOTHING has come close to the intricacy of your writing. Well done and many thanks!!"

Keith from United States Reply Feb 25th, 2009

Thanks for an AWESOME recap of Solidarity! Personally, I have referenced the topic since I am now dating a Polish citizen (a supporter of Solidarity!)and sought a better explanation of the movement. I've read a lot, and NOTHING has come close to the intricacy of your writing. Well done and many thanks!!

luke from Ukraine Reply Feb 17th, 2009

I never knew how powerful solidarity was. Many thanks, Go Polski!

Lutek from United States Reply Feb 3rd, 2009

thanks this helps with my history day project

Erik from Germany Reply Nov 16th, 2008

Freedom!

Cristovao Luiz Gardelin from Brazil Reply Nov 10th, 2008

Great!!!

Eryk Pietryga from United Kingdom Reply Oct 6th, 2008

Iam a second generation pole living in scotland my father settled here after w.w.2 he would tell us many stories of the hardships and mistreatment at the hands of the ruling communists but he always knew that someday his people would rise up and once again be free When pope john paul 2 was elected my father was elated and predicted that this was the begining of the end of his peoples oppression he monitored events with great exitement and anticipation sadly he died quite unexpedly before he could see his prediction come true but i am sure he is looking down and saying I told you so son. God bless you dad you were right. A Tribute to my dad Alfred Pietryga.

Paul Robertson from United Kingdom Reply Sep 30th, 2008

1980 was an historic time for Poland, We in Britain watched the workers at the shipyard in Gdansk fight communism with tears in our eyes. I will never forget seeing Lech hoisted onto the shoulders of his comrades. Such a powerful image that can bring down Governments and alter history. I for one am proud of the Polish people. Got to this page through David Gimour's excellent c.d Live in Gdansk.

Bart Pensinger from United States Reply Sep 21st, 2008

In 1979 I had the privilege of haveing dinner with Lech Walesa in Gdansk. I was there touring Polands Balic area with the AAU national Wresting Team. Mr. Walesa is a great man that freed millions from the oppression of the Soviet Bloc. Lech Walesa name should be mentioned in history with the likes of the USA President Abraham Lincoln, I loved Poland, and wish some day to return and wittiness all of the progress.

jimbers from Australia Reply Aug 31st, 2008

I am doin an asighnment on 'how people powere was victorious over comunism' and i have desided to do a section on poland because i fell this is a great example of people power and this story of the the courages people of poland really suports my topic thanx..

Izabel from United States Reply Jul 26th, 2008

This page has explaines so much. My father who passed away in 92, was a part of that Solidarity. My Father was put in prison, finally they released him however, we had to leave Poland. We were sent here with no right to ever return. My mother has told me stories in Polish but I didnt understand it quite like i do now. Thank you.

reni suwarso from Indonesia Reply Jul 6th, 2008

a brief, general but useful article. Solidarity movement is always inspiring, even for Indonesian who lives far from Poland.

TERRY from United States Reply Jun 13th, 2008

WE COULD USE A LITTLE SOLIDARITY HERE IN AMERICA TO FIGHT THE GREED!

jil from Australia Reply Jun 11th, 2008

Thanks for the info. I was aware of the history but after visiting the Gdansk shipyards last month it was great to read your article.

Christopher West from United States Reply Jun 7th, 2008

My parents are now gone. My father - Casimir Cieslinski- was born in Warsaw and he married Irena Lichaczewska. As displaced persons the Church helped them relocate to America where I was born. Polish is/was my first language, as I in Catholic schools to learn English, Latin and Spanish. I have worked all of my life to help develop an understanding in Polish American Culture and Knowledge. Two years in Peace Corps Bialystok, Poland and I met my wife. I was promised assistance by a Catholic university in Poland to help me complete my doctorate degree. But after I submitted to them my work they said they do not do that anymore. I am looking for a contact who will help me with my Polish degree validation. westchris1@aol.com

Jenny from United States Reply May 18th, 2008

Thanks. This help me out a lot.

Sandra from United States Reply May 1st, 2008

Thanks for such an interesting way of telling this story- now it fascinates me more!

pedro from United Kingdom Reply Apr 17th, 2008

great

chris from United States Reply Mar 26th, 2008

thanks for the article I am posting it at www.votestrike.com the revolution has come to America!

Mr. Fro from Switzerland Reply Nov 30th, 2007

This article is tight yo!!!1

Borat from Kazakhstan Reply Nov 12th, 2007

Is Nice!

OSAMA BIN LADEN from Pakistan Reply Oct 30th, 2007

ty sooo mush I needed a wepage like this for research project

Jake Kiefer from United States Reply Oct 30th, 2007

OMG THIS IS SO AMAZING. i am a sexy beast

Walesa himself from United States Reply Oct 1st, 2007

thankyou so much this is really helpful!

lena from United States Reply Aug 4th, 2007

This page was very informative. It has helped my assignment on Solidarity. I think Lech Walesa was a very strong man for standing up for what he believed in!

marl from Costa Rica Reply Aug 4th, 2007

This page was very informative! it has helped with my assignment. I liked it heaps! thanks = )

Sam from Australia Reply Jul 26th, 2007

Really helped with my assignment on Solidarity. Great source of info, a comprehensive retelling of these amazing chain of events.

Mihir, peter from United Kingdom Reply May 29th, 2007

This is a excellent source of info i got it from my friend Stefan

Stefan from United Kingdom Reply May 29th, 2007

I was researching this topic for my exhibition and it was a wonderful source of info! 11years..

snowball from United States Reply May 14th, 2007

I was researching this topic and i got most of my info from this site.

Mark from Australia Reply May 1st, 2007

I found this review very informative. I was a visitor to your town 3 years ago specifically to visit your museum for the Solidarity Movment. It was a moving event for me. The people of Poland are very proud and brave. I wish you all the best in the future. Also Gdansk is a very nice town I liked the history and the sights I saw. Thanks again

Eva Victoria Tame from United States Reply Apr 27th, 2007

Wysmienita prezentacja. Wiecej: http://www.tslpoland.org/solidarity.html http://www.tslpoland.org/walesa.html

stepan from United States Reply Apr 27th, 2007

WE ARE THE REPRESENTATIVES OF ARMENIAN SOLIDARITY PATY AND WE WOULD LIKE TO COOPERATE WITH YOU. PLEASE, LET AS KNOW. IF YOU ADREE< WE ARE EAGERLY WAITING !!!