Solidarity (Polish trade union) This article needs to be updated
. Please update this article to reflect recent events or newly available information. (November 2020)
The 1989 round table talks
between the government and the Solidarity-led opposition produced agreement for the 1989 legislative elections
, the country's first pluralistic election since 1947. By the end of August, a Solidarity-led coalition government was formed and in December 1990, Wałęsa was elected President of Poland
Following Poland's transition to liberal capitalism in the 1990s and the extensive privatisation of state assets, Solidarity's membership declined significantly; by 2010, 30 years after being founded, the union had lost more than 90% of its original membership.
In the 1970s Poland's government raised food prices while wages were stagnant. This and other stresses led to protests in 1976
and a subsequent government crackdown on dissent. The KOR
, the ROPCIO
and other groups began to form underground networks to monitor and oppose the government's behaviour. Labour unions formed an important part of this network.
In 1979, the Polish economy shrank for the first time since World War II, by 2 percent. Foreign debt reached around $18 billion by 1980.
was fired from the Gdańsk Shipyard
on 7 August 1980, five months before she was due to retire, for participation in the illegal trade union. This management decision enraged the workers of the shipyard, who staged a strike action on 14 August defending Anna Walentynowicz and demanding her return. She and Alina Pienkowska
transformed a strike over bread and butter issues into a solidarity strike in sympathy with strikes on other establishments.
Solidarity emerged on 31 August 1980 at the Gdańsk Shipyard when the communist government of Poland signed the agreement allowing for its existence
. On 17 September 1980, over twenty Inter-factory Founding Committees of free trade unions merged at the congress into one national organisation NSZZ Solidarity.
It officially registered on 10 November 1980.
Support from America and the West
In the year leading up to martial law, Reagan Administration policies
supported the Solidarity movement, waging a public relations campaign to deter what the Carter administration
had seen as "an imminent move by large Soviet military forces into Poland."
Michael Reisman from Yale Law School named operations in Poland as one of the covert regime change actions of the CIA during the Cold War
Colonel Ryszard Kukliński
, a senior officer on the Polish General Staff, was secretly sending reports to CIA officer David Forden
The Central Intelligence Agency
(CIA) transferred around $2 million yearly in cash to Solidarity, for a total of $10 million over five years. There were no direct links between the CIA and Solidarność, and all money was channeled through third parties.
CIA officers were barred from meeting Solidarity leaders, and the CIA's contacts with Solidarność activists were weaker than those of the AFL-CIO
, which raised $300,000 from its members, which were used to provide material and cash directly to Solidarity, with no control of Solidarity's use of it. The U.S. Congress authorized the National Endowment for Democracy
to promote democracy, and the NED allocated $10 million to Solidarity.
The Polish government enacted martial law
in December 1981, however, Solidarity was not alerted. Potential explanations for this vary; some believe that the CIA was caught off guard, while others suggest that American policy-makers viewed an internal crackdown as preferable to an "inevitable Soviet intervention."
CIA support for Solidarity included money, equipment and training, which was coordinated by Special Operations. Henry Hyde
, U.S. House intelligence committee member, stated that the USA provided "supplies and technical assistance in terms of clandestine newspapers, broadcasting, propaganda, money, organizational help and advice".
Initial funds for covert actions by CIA were $2 million, but soon after authorization were increased and by 1985 the CIA successfully infiltrated Poland.
Relations with the Catholic Church
30th anniversary mural
depicting the murdered priest Jerzy Popiełuszko
who publicly supported Solidarity during the 1980s
In 2017, Solidarity backed a proposal to implement blue laws
to prohibit Sunday shopping
, a move supported by Polish bishops.
A 2018 new Polish law banning almost all trade on Sundays has taken effect, with large supermarkets and most other retailers closed for the first time since liberal shopping laws were introduced in the 1990s. The Law and Justice
party passed the legislation with the support of Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki
Secular philosophical underpinnings
Although Leszek Kołakowski
's works were officially banned in Poland, and he lived outside the country from the late 1960s, the philosopher's ideas nonetheless exerted an influence on the Solidarity movement. Underground copies
of his books and essays shaped the opinions of the Polish intellectual opposition. His 1971 essay Theses on Hope and Hopelessness
, which suggested that self-organised social groups could gradually expand the spheres of civil society in a totalitarian state, helped inspire the dissident movements of the 1970s that led to the creation of Solidarity and provided a philosophical underpinning for the movement.
Kołakowski later described Solidarity as "perhaps closest to the working class revolution" that Karl Marx
had predicted in the mid-1800s. Ironically, Solidarity featured many elements contrary to socialism as conceived by Marx: "[workers organised] against the exploiters, that is to say, the state. And this solitary example of a working class revolution (if even this may be counted) was directed against a socialist state, and carried out under the sign of the cross, with the blessing of the Pope."
The logo of Solidarność
painted on an overturned Soviet era T-55
Students in Scotland collect signatures for a petition in support of Solidarity in 1981
Solidarity, ETUC Demonstration—Budapest 2011
Solidarity's influence led to the intensification and spread of anti-communist ideals and movements throughout the countries of the Eastern Bloc, weakening their communist governments. As a result of the Round Table Agreement
between the Polish government and the Solidarity-led opposition, elections were held in Poland on 4 June 1989, in which the opposition was allowed to field candidates against the Communist Party—the first free elections in any Soviet bloc country. A new upper chamber (the Senate) was created in the Polish parliament and all of its 100 seats were contestable in the election, as well as one-third of the seats in the more important lower chamber (the Sejm). Solidarity won 99 of the 100 Senate seats and all 161 contestable seats in the Sejm—a victory that also triggered a chain reaction across the Soviet Union's satellite states, leading to almost entirely peaceful anti-communist revolutions
and Eastern Europe
known as the Revolutions of 1989
or Wiosna Obywatelów
), which ended in the overthrow of each Moscow-imposed regime, and ultimately to the dissolution of the Soviet Union
in the early 1990s.
Given the union's support from many western governments, relations with trade unions in capitalist countries could be complicated. For example, during the UK miners' strike
of 1984–85, Wałęsa said that "The miners should fight, but with common sense—not with destruction" and said of Margaret Thatcher "With such a wise and brave woman, Britain will find a solution to the strike." However, David Jastrzębski, the president of Upper Silesia Solidarity, voiced his support of the striking miners: "Neither the British government's mounted police charges nor its truncheon blows, any more than the Polish junta's tanks or rifle fire, can break our common will to struggle for a better future for the working class."
This was despite the fact that Arthur Scargill
, president of the British National Union of Mineworkers
had been highly critical of Solidarity, condemning it as an "anti-socialist organization which desires the overthrow of a socialist state".
In a 2011 essay "The Jacobin Spirit" in the American magazine Jacobin
, philosopher Slavoj Žižek
called Solidarność' one of the "free spaces at a distance from state power" that used "defensive violence" to protect itself from state control. The notion of "defensive violence" runs in the vein of ideas postulated by Alain Badiou
The union was officially founded on 17 September 1980,
the union's supreme powers were vested in a legislative body
, the Convention of Delegates
). The executive
branch was the National Coordinating Commission
(Krajowa Komisja Porozumiewawcza
), later renamed the National Commission (Komisja Krajowa
). The Union had a regional structure, comprising 38 regions (region
) and two districts (okręg
). At its highest, the Union had over 10 million members, which became the largest union membership in the world. During the communist era the 38 regional delegates were arrested and jailed when martial law came into effect on 13 December 1981 under General Wojciech Jaruzelski
. After a one-year prison term the high-ranking members of the union were offered one way trips
to any country accepting them (including Canada, the United States, and nations in the Middle East).
In 2010, Solidarity had more than 400,000 members.
National Commission of Independent Self-Governing Trade Union is located in Gdańsk
and is composed of Delegates from Regional General Congresses.
- Gdańsk, based in Gdańsk,
- Warmia-Masuria, based in Olsztyn,
- Elbląg, based in Elbląg,
- Lower Silesia, based in Wrocław,
- Pila, based in Piła,
- Western Pomerania, based in Szczecin,
- Land of Łódź, based in Łódź,
- Częstochowa, based in Częstochowa,
- Land of Sandomierz, based in Stalowa Wola,
- Płock-Kutno, based in Płock,
- Lesser Poland, based in Kraków,
- Opole Silesia, based in Opole,
- Seashore, based in Koszalin,
- Słupsk, based in Słupsk,
- Zielona Góra, based in Zielona Góra,
- Podbeskidzie, based in Bielsko-Biała,
- Konin, based in Konin,
- Southern Greater Poland, based in Kalisz,
- Podlachia, based in Białystok,
- Piotrków, based in Piotrków Trybunalski,
- Cuiavia and Dobrzyń Land, based in Włocławek,
- Carpathia, based in Krosno,
- Land of Rzeszów, based in Rzeszów,
- Toruń, based in Toruń,
- Silesia-Zaglebie, based in Katowice,
- Land of Radom, based in Radom,
- Greater Poland, based in Poznań,
- Gorzów, based in Gorzów Wielkopolski,
- Holy Cross, based in Kielce,
- Middle-East, based in Lublin,
- Bydgoszcz, based in Bydgoszcz,
- Jelenia Góra, based in Jelenia Góra,
- Leszno, based in Leszno,
- Chełm, based in Chełm,
- Przemyśl-Jarosław, based in Przemyśl,
- Mazovia, based in Warsaw,
- Copper Basin, based in Legnica.
Network of key factories
The network of Solidarity branches of the key factories of Poland was created on 14 April 1981 in Gdańsk. It was made of representatives of seventeen factories; each stood for the most important factory of every voivodeship of the pre-1975 Poland
. However, there were two exceptions. There was no representative of the Koszalin Voivodeship
, and the Katowice Voivodeship
was represented by two factories:
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has original text related to this article:
- Official website
- Presentation on The Solidarity Phenomenon
- FAES The Polish trade Union Solidarity and the European idea of freedom
- Solidarity 25th Anniversary Press Center
Who is Anna Walentynowicz?, a documentary film about Solidarity
- Katherine Kenning collection of Joanna Wojciechowicz papers, MSS 8081 at L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Brigham Young University. Contains materials about Wojciechowicz's participation in the Solidarity movement.
- International Conference 'From Solidarity to Freedom'
- Advice for East German propagandists on how to deal with the Solidarity movement
- The Birth of Solidarity on BBC
- Solidarity, Freedom and Economical Crisis in Poland, 1980–81
- Solidarność collection at the Libertarian Communist library
- Solidarność from Gdańsk to Military Repression by Colin Barker and Kara Weber (1982)
- Arch Puddington, How American Unions Helps Solidarity Win
- Motion for a resolution, the European Parliament on the 25th anniversary of Solidarity and its message for Europe
- Solidarity Lost, by Daniel Singer
- (in Polish) Solidarity Center Foundation – Fundacja Centrum Solidarności
- A Simple Way to Learn an Old Song A radio programme about the song "Mury", the anthem of Solidarność. In Russian with English transcript
- The Solidarity Movement: Anti-Communist, Or Most Communist Thing Ever? on Culture.pl
Last edited on 12 May 2021, at 21:22
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