The President of Poland Andrzej Duda, a member of the Honorary Committee that supports Polish candidature to host the World Scout Jamboree in 2023, celebrated the Solidarity August Agreement and took part in the ceremony in Gdansk. It was the City of Freedom that sent a spark of liberty which spread in Poland and started peaceful political changes in other communist countries. Lech Wałęsa – leader of the Solidarity recived the Nobel Prize in 1983.
THE BIRTH OF SOLIDARNOŚĆ
‘We’re on strike!’, decided the workers of Gdańsk’s Lenin Shipyard on 14 August 1980. In doing so they paved the way for historic developments which were to change the face of Europe. The protest was led by a 36-year-old electrician, Lech Wałęsa. The crowds gathering in front of Gate No 2, plus the hundreds of workplaces around the country which joined the shipyard’s strike, constituted proof that through joint efforts one can change reality. The ensuing negotiations with the government, though difficult, were crowned with success – the communist authorities agreed to the establishing of independent trade unions. On 31 August the Gdańsk Agreement was signed. Solidarność’s time had come.
SOLIDARNOŚĆ AND HOPE
In 1980, on the basis of the August Agreements there came into being the communist world’s only independent mass social organisation – the Solidarność Independent Trade Union. Almost 10 million people joined the movement, making it truly representative of the nation. During the 16 months in which Solidarność openly fought for freedom, the process of building a civil society had begun.
On 13 December 1981 General Wojciech Jaruzelski – the prime minister and leader of the Communist Party – introduced martial law. Mass arrests were made, strikes and demonstrations were violently broken up and Solidarność was outlawed. The hopes raised by the events of August 1980 had led to nothing. Yet, the communists proved unable to break the spirit of freedom and resistance; Solidarity endured as an underground movement. Meanwhile, the authorities found themselves condemned to social and international isolation.
THE ROAD TO DEMOCRACY
Poland was immersed in a growing crisis. The underground opposition was, despite persecution, gaining in strength. Society continued to insist on its rights and on the reinstatement of Solidarność. The 1988 economic collapse and strikes forced the authorities into the Round Table Talks with the opposition. Solidarność was once again legalised. 4 June 1989 saw the holding of post-war Poland’s first ever partially free parliamentary elections. They were won by the opposition; Tadeusz Mazowiecki – a Solidarność nominee – became prime minister. Poland’s new government set about dismantling the communist system.
THE TRIUMPH OF FREEDOM
Poland’s bloodless revolution paved the way for the fall of the Berlin Wall, and also of the dictatorships in other countries of Central and Eastern Europe. The communists were losing power. The disintegration of the Soviet Union became one of the most significant events of the late 20th century. The building of a new political and economic order in Europe had begun.
Information from: www.ecs.gda.pl.
Photo: Stanisław Składanowski / archives of European Solidarity Centre