The Story of the Solidarity Movement

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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.

Comments

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Amy Jo Schwartz
United States

Excellent!! Maybe it's time the U.S. started its own solidarity movement. This country is getting out of control in my humble opinion. Maybe we could start our demands, or at least include in them to restart funding the EPA, begin taking climate change SERIOUSLY, as most other nations are, some serious retraining efforts made to the police in this country comma plan mr. Trump is trying to do away with, possible impeachment, and more. I fear this country is losing its upperhand and is on its way to becoming a NAZI regime. What is this talk about eliminating all public schools? How can our society tolerate such an idea? Impeachment would be nice, and get someone in charge who is not so concerned about keeping their constituents happy. The quest of a few for the almighty dollar is ruining this great country of ours comma in my humble opinion

Reply May 17th, 2017
Amy Jo Schwartz
United States

Excellent!!

Reply May 17th, 2017
Aidan
United States

Really awesome helped a lot

Reply Jan 11th, 2017
William H. Szych
United States

Great article. In June 1980, I arrived in Germany for a tour with a US tactical radar assigned to NATO. We were not allowed to travel to Poland on leave but could go to both West and East Berlin. Visiting the two Berlins erased any doubt why the Communist puppet governments that Stalin installed after WWII in Central and Eastern Europe were so repulsive. As a 63 year old Polish American I have been shocked over the last 10 years to learn the untold and unknown history of Poland. Once I started reading these new books and in English I became engrossed in learning more. As a result I started to blog about the issues at "We Will Speak Out" and published a comprehensive "WWII Poland Reading List" of 189 books. Six years ago, I also created and administer a 1,230 member Facebook group "The Way Back-Untold Stories of WWII Poland". The "way back" refers to the need to take the way back to the truth about Poland and Polish people which has been extremely distorted and ignored for far too long. For Polish Americans who want to know more about what happened in the land of their grandparents there is much available on line and in bigger libraries. Lastly, as mentioned in the article, the Polish Pope's visit to his homeland in 1979 was a key turning point in Polish history that inspired the people there to support Solidarity. I highly recommend the documentary "Nine Days That Changed The World".

Reply Aug 5th, 2016
Judith
United Kingdom

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

Reply Dec 8th, 2015
Aditi
Singapore

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

Reply Nov 11th, 2014
Iwona Blazewski
United States

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

Reply Jun 19th, 2014
Kelly
Mozambique

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

Reply Apr 26th, 2014
Slater
United States

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

Reply Apr 25th, 2014
cinderella
United States

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!!

Reply Apr 25th, 2014
stevie
United States

great article

Reply Apr 25th, 2014
sean
United States

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

Reply Jun 4th, 2013
Luke
Canada

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

Reply Mar 27th, 2013
Bobby
United Kingdom

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?

Reply Mar 14th, 2013
Editor
Poland

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.

Reply Apr 26th, 2013
Phil
United Kingdom

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!!

Reply Nov 26th, 2012
girish bhat
India

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

Reply Jul 7th, 2012
ema
United States

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

Reply Jun 26th, 2012
Jay Jay Punk
Finland

Thanks to Solidarnosc, Keep on rocking in free Poland.

Reply May 30th, 2012
boi
China

hahahahaha

Reply Jan 13th, 2012
rollie
United States

i thought this was pretty helpful

Reply Dec 8th, 2011
Pravin Durgani
India

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

Reply Jun 15th, 2011
Kate
Australia

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!!

Reply May 22nd, 2011
Max
United States

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

Reply May 21st, 2011
anoushka
Switzerland

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

Reply Mar 31st, 2011
Rebekah
United States

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.

Reply Jan 27th, 2011
Huma Rizwan
Pakistan

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

Reply Oct 16th, 2010
Marek
Poland

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.

Reply Sep 13th, 2010
a Pole who been there and at that time
United States

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.

Reply Jul 25th, 2010
sam
United States

actuallyy.. i didnt understand anyy of it

Reply Jun 7th, 2010
Sian
South Africa

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

Reply May 20th, 2010
WILL K BYRD
United States

MODERN AMERICAN SOCIAKISM CAPITILISM RIGHT WING EXTREMEISM

Reply May 12th, 2010
BK
Germany

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!

Reply May 9th, 2010
Me myself and I
Ecuador

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

Reply May 3rd, 2010
Ola
United States

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.

Reply Apr 25th, 2010
Al
Albania

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

Reply Mar 29th, 2010
history student
United Kingdom

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

Reply Mar 28th, 2010
Avtandil kasradze
Georgia

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

Reply Mar 16th, 2010
Nicole
United States

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

Reply Mar 9th, 2010
Ed
United States

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.

Reply Feb 12th, 2010
pikachu
United States

nice

Reply Jan 21st, 2010
Guy
United Kingdom

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

Reply Nov 11th, 2009
Rafal
United States

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!

Reply Nov 9th, 2009
Lucia Cabalova
Slovakia

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

Reply Nov 3rd, 2009
Bill
United States

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!!!!

Reply Oct 11th, 2009
Niki
Australia

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

Reply Oct 2nd, 2009
Rolfe
United States

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.

Reply Sep 22nd, 2009
Johan
Namibia

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.

Reply Sep 17th, 2009
Iys-T
Monaco

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.

Reply Sep 15th, 2009
Kathryn
United States

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

Reply Aug 22nd, 2009
Bablu Bhattacharjee
Bangladesh

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

Reply Aug 4th, 2009
Simba
Zimbabwe

A very good paper

Reply Jun 4th, 2009
ashley
United States

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..

Reply May 28th, 2009
Rob
United States

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.

Reply May 23rd, 2009
Matthew
United States

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

Reply Apr 28th, 2009
farhad
United States

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

Reply Apr 19th, 2009
Nick
United States

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!!"

Reply Mar 28th, 2009
Keith
United States

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!!

Reply Feb 25th, 2009
luke
Ukraine

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

Reply Feb 17th, 2009
Lutek
United States

thanks this helps with my history day project

Reply Feb 3rd, 2009
Erik
Germany

Freedom!

Reply Nov 16th, 2008
Cristovao Luiz Gardelin
Brazil

Great!!!

Reply Nov 10th, 2008
Eryk Pietryga
United Kingdom

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.

Reply Oct 6th, 2008
Paul Robertson
United Kingdom

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.

Reply Sep 30th, 2008
Bart Pensinger
United States

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.

Reply Sep 21st, 2008
jimbers
Australia

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..

Reply Aug 31st, 2008
Izabel
United States

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.

Reply Jul 26th, 2008
reni suwarso
Indonesia

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

Reply Jul 6th, 2008
TERRY
United States

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

Reply Jun 13th, 2008
jil
Australia

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.

Reply Jun 11th, 2008
Christopher West
United States

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

Reply Jun 7th, 2008
Jenny
United States

Thanks. This help me out a lot.

Reply May 18th, 2008
Sandra
United States

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

Reply May 1st, 2008
pedro
United Kingdom

great

Reply Apr 17th, 2008
chris
United States

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

Reply Mar 26th, 2008
Mr. Fro
Switzerland

This article is tight yo!!!1

Reply Nov 30th, 2007
Borat
Kazakhstan

Is Nice!

Reply Nov 12th, 2007
OSAMA BIN LADEN
Pakistan

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

Reply Oct 30th, 2007
Jake Kiefer
United States

OMG THIS IS SO AMAZING. i am a sexy beast

Reply Oct 30th, 2007
sean suleski
Poland

Your mom says otherwise amigo.

Reply Feb 17th, 2017
Walesa himself
United States

thankyou so much this is really helpful!

Reply Oct 1st, 2007
lena
United States

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!

Reply Aug 4th, 2007
marl
Costa Rica

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

Reply Aug 4th, 2007
Sam
Australia

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

Reply Jul 26th, 2007
Mihir, peter
United Kingdom

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

Reply May 29th, 2007
Stefan
United Kingdom

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

Reply May 29th, 2007
snowball
United States

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

Reply May 14th, 2007
Mark
Australia

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

Reply May 1st, 2007
Eva Victoria Tame
United States

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

Reply Apr 27th, 2007
stepan
United States

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 !!!

Reply Apr 27th, 2007