My project is about Solidarity, the independent trade union that revolutionised the way the communist government of Poland governed Poland and the working people. Last summer, I had the opportunity to travel to Poland, and Gdańsk, the birthplace of Solidarity. I chose this topic because it is something that does not get much publicity or acknowledgement in the United States of America, but Solidarity, or Solidarność in Polish, revolutionised the country and influenced the world.
For my research I had read various articles from 1980; articles and papers that reflected back on the event; and the Solidarity and the Gdańsk website. I read the articles and papers and took notices for reference. I also looked for some quotes from people such as Lech Wałęsa from 1980 around the time of the strike.
I chose to do an exhibit because I thought it would best display the information that my project contains.
Solidarity is the independent trade union that was set up in Gdańsk, Poland during a time of economic struggles due to the oppression of the Communist government in Poland. Solidarity succeeded in improving the rights of Polish workers, such as employment, compensation, workplace and health & safety conditions, influencing economic and social policies, the protection and promotion of culture and education, and the overall improvement of the human rights of the workers. What made Solidarity so revolutionary was that this was the first time any group of people had successfully changed the way the strict and oppressive communist government of Poland governed. The creation and success of the Solidarity Movement is what led to the downfall of the communist government in Poland. Solidarity was also the influencing factor in reforming the Polish government. Together, with the people of Poland, Solidarity paved the way for other post-Soviet countries to become independent from their Soviet communist rule.Bibliography:
„Count on Me” - „Solidarity” Poster. Digital image. Solidarity. Ministry of Foreign Affairs. „Count on Me” - „Solidarity” Poster. Digital image. Solidarity. Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Web. <http://www.solidarity.gov.pl/?document=63>.
As a part of their campaign, Solidarity created various posters promoting their cause. This poster is of two hands grasping each others wrists as if to show that they support each other and that they are there for one another. At the top of the poster is the text „Licz na mnie,” which translates into english to „Count on me.” The posters were used to visually promote the feeling that Solidarity was there for the workers and were trying to improve the working conditions and living quality for them as well as ending the communist rule.
"Europe's Revolution 20 Years on." BBC News. British Broadcasting Corporation, 2 Nov. 2009. Web. 5 Mar. 2012. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7879687.stm>.
The Solidarity movement triggered the end of the cold war and the communist rule in Eastern Europe in Poland and Eastern Europe. The relationship between the United States and Poland has been strengthened because of the pro-democracy Solidarity Movement. Solidarity also influenced other countries to revolt and take back their country from the communist government’s rule. Followed by Solidarity’s victory in the Polish election, many other countries began to reform their government. The struggle between Solidarity and the Polish communist government lasted for a decade. But in the end, it really was Poland and the Solidarity movement that lead to the first non-communist government in Eastern Europe.
Górka, W. Anna Walentynowicz, Activist of Free Trade Unions, among Workers. 1980. Photograph. Solidarity, Gdańsk. Solidarity. Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Web. <http://www.solidarity.gov.pl/?document=63>.
In the photograph, Anna Walentynowicz is talking to a group of Polish shipyard workers and other civilians. Anna Walentynowicz was the very dedicated shipyard worker who got fired just a few days before she was due to retire. She played an active role in the start of Solidarity. The strike was sparked by the shipyard workers’ outrage over the firing of Walentynowicz. Walentynowicz became a main speaker and advocate for the workers because she had worked so hard for the shipyard and for the defense of the workers. This photograph shows the passion that Walentynowicz had in the concerns for the workers and the interest that others had in hearing her words.
Karta. Gdańsk Memorial Unveiling Ceremony. December 1970. Digital image.Solidarity. Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Web. <http://www.solidarity.gov.pl/gallery/gazeta/23/MSWiA%20198-15-113.jpg>.
This picture shows the unveiling of the Monument for the Fallen Shipyard Workers. The monument was erected as apart of the Gdańsk Agreement to pay tribute and honour the 42 workers who had died in the 1970 December strike. The monument is composed up of three large steel crosses with an anchor crucified to the top of each. At the unveiling of the monument, people packed in the surrounding area to see the monument located outside of gate 2 of the Lenin Shipyard. In the photograph, you can see that people were standing on top of buildings, fences, anything that would get them a better vantage point of the monument.
Kulish, Nicholas. "Poland Leads Wave of Communist-Era Reckoning." New York Times. New York Times, 20 Feb. 2012. Web. 5 Mar. 2012. <http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/21/world/europe/poland-leads-wave-of-communist-era-reckoning-in-europe.html?pagewanted=1&ref=poland>.
The Polish Court is now cracking down on the Communist Leaders and declaring them a part of a criminal group because of their martial law in December 1981. Other Countries that were formerly under the Iron First are taking similar action. Looking at the current situation in the Arab Nations has motivated Poland and other Eastern European countries to look back when the communists still held power. "Poland is wrestling with its past." The Communist government were oppressive and torturous to those under their rule.
Lewandowski, G. V-for-victory Sign Was One of Many Symbols of “Solidarity” (. Digital image. Solidarity. Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Web. <http://www.solidarity.gov.pl/gallery/gazeta/40/OK_053.jpg>.
This poster shows the V-for-victory sign, which was one of the symbols of Solidarity for their great success over their first year in existence. This poster was created a year after Solidarity was formed. At this time, people were reflecting back on Solidarity and it’s progress. As the first independent and self-governing trade union of Poland, it was great feat for the workers and people of Poland in overcoming the communist rule. Solidarity had achieved a lot of great things in their first year, and had already become a very influential factor in the workers unions of other countries and the rule of the Eastern European communist countries.
"Poland." New York Times. New York Times, 05 Mar. 2012. Web. 05 Mar. 2012. <http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/international/countriesandterritories/poland/index.html?scp=2>.
Poland was the only post-Soviet country to come out of Soviet rule and not go into economic recession. On October 2011, Donald Tusk triumphed over conservative Jarosław Kaczynski in the Polish elections. Tusk is the new pro-European Union prime minister, who is in support of many contemporary concerns such as gay rights, abortion, and some drug legalisation. Because Poland is apart of the EU, it has embedded itself in Europe economics and politics. However, Poland does not use the Euro, which is considered a Euro-Soviet Bloc trait. Poland is trying to continue to independently raise above their previous oppressors, Russia and Germany.
McIntire, Suzanne, and William E. Burns. "The Value of Human Solidarity." Speeches in world history. New York: Facts on File, 2009. 502-505. Print.
“I belong to a nation which over the past centuries has experienced many hardships and reverse. The world reacted with silence or with mere sympathy when Polish frontiers were crossed by invading armies…” (Lech Wałęsa). “In July and August of 1980 a wave of strikes swept throughout Poland. The issue at stake was then something much bigger than only material conditions of existence.” (Lech walęsa). “In the brief history of those eventful years, the Gdańsk Agreement stands out as a great charter of the rights of the working people which nothing can ever destroy.” (Lech Wałęsa). “Our union—the Solidarity— has grown into a powerful movement for social and moral liberation. The people, freed from the bondage of fear and apathy, called for reforms and improvements. We fought a difficult struggle for out existence. That was and still is a great opportunity for the whole country. I think that it marked also the road to be taken by authorities, if they thought of a state governed in cooperation and participation of all citizens.
Michalak, T. Strike in the Lenin Shipyard in Gdańsk. 1980. Photograph. Solidarity, Gdańsk. Solidarity. Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Web. <http://www.solidarity.gov.pl/?document=79>.
The picture is an aerial view on the shipyard in Gdańsk, where the strike started on August 14th, 1980. In the picture, you can see a mass of people gathering around the entrance of the shipyard. The crowd of people is composed up of both shipyard workers and other citizens who just came out to show their support for the shipyard workers in their strike. The people are crowded around the fence and entrance to the shipyard as well as a cross, located in the middle of the courtyard. The photograph really shows the amount of support the shipyard workers had from their community and fellow Polish citizens.
Poster Commemorating the Unveiling in Gdańsk of the Memorial to Killed Shipyard Workers. Digital image. Solidarity. Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Web. <http://www.solidarity.gov.pl/gallery/gazeta/23/plakat.jpg>.
This poster is promoting the unveiling of the Monument for the Fallen Shipyard Workers, honouring the workers who were killed in the strike in 1970. The 1970 strike was violent; 42 people were killed when the security services fired on the workers’ revolting. As apart of the demands of the workers who when on strike in 1980, a monument honouring those who died was to be erected. The poster is of the monument and on the left of it is the word „Grudzień,” which in Polish, means December, which is when the 1970 strike happened. The monument is composed up of three crosses, each with a anchor on the top, to symbolise the shipyard workers.
Składanowski, S./Karta. Lech Wałęsa, Triumphantly Carried Shoulder-high after the Signing of the First Point of the Agreement. Digital image. Solidarity. Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Web. <http://www.solidarity.gov.pl/gallery/gazeta/17/7-3,%20MSZ.JPG>.
Lech Wałęsa is held up on the shoulders of Solidarity supporters in celebration of victory after the signing of the agreement. This was a great accomplishment for the Solidarity Trade Union because it was their first break through in the communist bloc of Poland. Behind Lech Wałęsa are crowds of supporters and even people looking out of their windows; this shows the wide spread support that Solidarity had amassed. The first signing of the agreement was something that all Polish citizens in support of Solidarity celebrated, especially the workers of the Lenin Shipyard and other surrounding Shipyards.
“Solidarity” Poster Using the Colours of the National Flag. Digital image. Solidarity. Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Web. <http://www.solidarity.gov.pl/gallery/gazeta/19/AOPL_000178.JPG>.
After the signing of the Gdańsk Agreement, posters such as this one were used to promote Solidarity and celebrate their victory. This poster used the colours of the Polish flag, and tie it into a knot as if to illustrate the new found unity of the workers at the Shipyard and the people of Poland. After the agreement had been signed, Solidarity’s main goal was gaining more support and organising itself to become very successful. Posters were used as an advertisement for their campaign, reaching more people than going from person to person.
Tagliabue, John. "Thousands at Gdansk Shipyard Join Polish Strike - New York Times."The New York Times. The New York Times, 3 May 1988. Web. 14 Feb. 2012. <http://www.nytimes.com/1988/05/03/world/thousands-at-gdansk-shipyard-join-polish-strike.html?pagewanted=all>.
Strikes continued after 1980, demanding higher pay and legalisation of the Solidarity trade union. The government retained regional Solidarity leaders. “A strike wave is covering the country. They are not just local conflicts. They are across Poland because the cause is the economic crisis and lack of convincing reform policies that would offer prospects for the future,” (Lech Wałęsa). Crowds would gather around the shipyards and striking workers and leave flowers to show their support. Police would push the crowds back and away from the striking workers. The strikes were centred around more equal and fair treatment and higher pay as well as their trade union being more acknowledged.
Trybek, Z./Karta. Signature of the Agreement between the Interfactory Strike Committee and the Government Delegation. Digital image. Solidarity. Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Web. <http://www.solidarity.gov.pl/gallery/gazeta/18/p-31-1-02,%20Trybek.JPG>.
The workers’ representatives and government commission meet together to sign the Gdańsk Agreement. The Gdańsk Agreement ended the strike and agreed to the demands of the workers, allowing the establishment of self governing trade unions. Lech Wałęsa can be seen signing the Gdańsk agreement with an oversized plastic pen, bearing the face of the pope, Pope Jan Paweł II. The workers’ representatives, MKS, met with Mieczysław Jagielski, who at the time was surviving as prime minister for the communist government. The Gdańsk Agreement was Solidarity’s big breakthrough. Unlike the strike in 1970, which ended in violence, the Gdańsk Agreement was what ended the 1980 strike in peace.
Alex. "1970-71: Uprising in Poland." Libcom.org. Libcom, 31 Oct. 2008. Web. 10 Jan. 2012. <http://libcom.org/history/1970-71-uprising-poland>.
December strikes in 1970, when thousands of shipyard workers in Gdańsk marched into the city in protest of the increased prices on basic consumer goods. Their goal was to reach the local regional office of the Polish United Workers’ Party (PZPR). The protesters were met by police and engaged in fighting. The three port cities of Poland were placed under telecommunications block by the government. By the end of December, most of the shipyards in the main port cities had gone on strike. At the end of January, a more democratic strike committee was formed and an agreement was formed. This uprising was the first time the Polish workers had demanded a change and won. It paved the way for the strikes that changed Poland forever.
Blazejowska, Justyna. "Solidarity 1980-2010." Free Poland. Free Poland, 04 Oct. 2011. Web. 05 Mar. 2012. <http://freepl.info/9-solidarity-1980-2010>.
More strikes continued but Solidarity stood as a mediator for the workers, reducing the amount of strikes but getting the workers their demands. Solidarity became politically involved giving them more power while slowly taking away the power of the communist leaders. Lech Wałęsa was put into power but resigned on December 12, 1990. The Union got about 5% of the support in the elections in 1990, which gave them 27 deputy seats. But the little votes for Solidarity throughout various elections were considered a failure for the Union. But in 1997, Solidarity received 33% of the votes. Then the Union left the political scene, but they had reformed the political scene completely.
Donovan, Jeffrey. "Poland: Solidarity -- The Trade Union That Changed The World."Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty. RFE/RL, 24 Aug. 2005. Web. 13 Jan. 2012. <http://www.rferl.org/content/article/1060898.html>.
The strike that began on the 14th of August 1980 changed both Poland and the world. 17,000 workers went on strike at the Lenin Shipyard in Gdańsk in protest of the rising food prices among other things. This was the first time that the Communist government had given into the demands of the workers. In September of 1980, the Independent Self-Governing Trade Union Solidarity (NSZZ) was formed. After a year, nearly a quarter of Poland ad joined the trade union. Solidarity was the first breakthrough in the Communist block of Poland. Leader of the shipyard strikes was Lech Wałęsa, who had nearly been arrested by the secret police the morning of the strike, but succeeded in climbing over the shipyard gate and join the rest of the workers.
Moberg, Beata. Solidarity. University of St. Francis - Joliet, Il. Web. 16 Feb. 2012. <http://www.stfrancis.edu/content/ba/ghkickul/stuwebs/btopics/works/Solidarity.html>.
Trade union was formed during the economic and social struggles in communist Poland. Workers of the Lenin Shipyard in Gdańśk started the wave of strikes on August 14th. The demand was more freedom from the communist management of the shipyards. Their request was for an increased pay, fair treatment, free trade union, and uncensored media. The strikers got a mass of support from the other citizens around the area and the church. On August 31st Mieczyslaw Jagielski and Lech Wałęsa signed the Gdańsk Agreement. This was a great breakthrough in the communist government and party. Solidarność became a nationwide organisation that revolutionised the communist involvement in industry. This was a big deal because the communist government did not tolerate loss of authority. Together the workers overthrew communism in Poland, and it all started on August 14th with the shipyard strike in Gdańsk.
"NSZZ Solidarność History in Dates." NSZZ Solidarność History in Dates. Multimedia Productions. Web. 05 Mar. 2012. <http://www.solidarnosc.org.pl/en/history-in-dates.html>.
The Solidarity movement has continued to make progress and provide more rights for the workers. They had managed to increase minimum wage up to 40% in 2006. The continue to set up campaigns in support of the workers in Poland and workers all across the world. They have trade union representatives from the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia; all countries that were formally under the Iron Fist. While they have taken a few steps away from directly being apart of the political scene, they are still have a great influence on it and often meet with parliamentary representatives.
"NSZZ Solidarność Objectives." NSZZ Solidarność Objectives. Multimedia Productions. Web. 05 Mar. 2012. <http://www.solidarnosc.org.pl/en/objectives.html>.
The object of Solidarity continues to be the guarantee of workers rights as in all areas, fight unemployment, improve vocational qualifications, protect the interests of the workers and their families, maintain and mediate for a proper management, influence economic and social polices, promote democracy, foster patriotic attitude, help those with special needs and care, strengthen family life, cooperate and collaborate with other international organisations, protect culture and education, advocate for environmental protection, as well as represent the workers. Solidarity will achieve this by continuing to represent their members before their employers, the government and other institutions, monitoring the workplace, provide legal counselling, union training, and just being there for the workers and attend to their needs.
NSZZ Solidarność. Multimedia Productions. Web. 10 Jan. 2012. <
On July 1st 1980, the government introduced commercial prices on food and other everyday objects, provoking the workers to protest. August 14th 1980, the Gdańsk shipyard goes on strike, soon after inspiring other shipyards in the region and country to go on strike as well. Main demands were the reinstatement of Anna Walentynowicz and the erection of a monument for the fallen shipyard workers killed in the December revolt in 1970. On September 13th, the agreement for a free and independent trade union is ratified. Supreme courts and committees begin to adopt and acknowledge “Solidarność.” In December the monument for the Fallen Shipyard was erected outside the Gdańsk shipyard.
Siegelbaum, Lewis. "1980: Solidarity in Poland." Seventeen Moments in Soviet History. Soviet History. Web. 14 Jan. 2012. <http://soviethistory.org/index.php?page=subject&SubjectID=1980solidarity&Year=1980>.
The formation of the Polish trade union, Solidarity, in 1980, disturbed Soviet Authorities. It was considered a embarrassment for the Marxist-Leninists to be confronted by the workers with such widespread support. The start of Solidarity was the Lenin Shipyard, which was the same shipyard whose workers went on strike in 1970 over raised food prices. There were many other protests over raised food and commercial goods prices and unfair treatment between 1970 and 1980. On the 3rd of September 1980, the Politburo came up six “theses.” Solidarity was characterised as an “anti-socialist opposition” which caused for of a threat to the communist government. In December 1981, there was a declaration of martial law, where the Soviet leadership extended economic assistance.
"The Story of the Solidarity Movement." Solidarity Gdansk Poland. Gdansk Life. Web. 22 Feb. 2012. <http://www.gdansk-life.com/poland/solidarity>.
Solidarity was established in September 1980 at the Gdańsk shipyards. It was an independent labour union that was the catalyst in the transformation from communism to democracy in Poland. In 1980, Poland was suffering from an economic crisis, which forced the rise in price of goods and curbing the growth of wages. The firing of Anna Walentynowicz, as well as the previous firing of Lech Wałęsa sparked the shipyard strike at the Lenin Shipyard. The strike started on the 14th of August. On the 16th, many other strike committees joined the strikes. By the 18th the Szczecin shipyard joined the strike, which began a wave of more strikes along the coast of Poland. Solidarity was the first independent labour union in the Soviet Bloc.
"1980: Shipyard Poles Strike for Their Rights." BBC News. British Broadcasting Corporation. Web. 16 Feb. 2012. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/august/14/newsid_2802000/2802553.stm>.
Shipyard workers in Gdańsk stage strike over the dismissal of Anna Walentynowicz. The strike was apart of the growing campaign to improve the economic situation for the workers and gain political freedom. Around 16,000 workers succeeded in getting Walentynowicz reinstated and a compromise for more accurate media coverage, and the right to form their own representative bodies instead of using official trade unions. In the 1970 riot, the workers succeeded in getting the Communist Party leader, Wladyslaw Gomulka out of office. They also got the authorities to allow the construction of the Monument for the fallen shipyard workers. The workers also got a 40% pay rise.