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June 20, 2008

Wikipedia: Solidarity

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Solidarity
Image:Solidarnosc.png
Independent Self-governing Trade Union “Solidarity”
Niezależny Samorządny Związek Zawodowy “Solidarność”
Founded September 1980
Members 1,185,000 (2006)[1]
Country Poland
Affiliation ITUC, ETUC, TUAC
Key people Janusz Śniadek, Lech Wałęsa
Office location Gdańsk, Poland
Website www.solidarnosc.org.pl
(In English)

Solidarity (Polish: IPA: [sɔli’darnɔɕt͡ɕ]; full name: Independent Self-governing Trade Union “Solidarity”Niezależny Samorządny Związek Zawodowy “Solidarność” IPA: [ɲeza’lɛʐnɨ samɔ’ʐɔndnɨ ‘zvjɔ̃zɛk zavɔ’dɔvɨ sɔli’darnɔɕt͡ɕ]) is a Polish trade union federation founded in September 1980 at the Gdańsk Shipyard, and originally led by Lech Wałęsa.

It was the first non-communist trade union in a communist country. In the 1980s it constituted a broad anti-communist social movement. The government attempted to destroy the union with the martial law of 1981 and several years of repressions, but in the end it had to start negotiating with the union. The Roundtable Talks between the weakened government and Solidarity-led opposition led to semi-free elections in 1989. By the end of August a Solidarity-led coalition government was formed and in December Wałęsa was elected President of Poland.

Since then it has become a more traditional trade union, and had relatively little impact on the political scene of Poland in the early 1990s. A political arm was founded in 1996 as Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) won the Polish parliamentary election, 1997, but lost the following Polish parliamentary election, 2001. Currently, Solidarity, or the remnants of it, has little political influence in modern Polish politics.

Contents

History

1980 strike at Gdańsk Shipyard, birthplace of Solidarity.

1980 strike at Gdańsk Shipyard, birthplace of Solidarity.

Main article: History of Solidarity

Solidarity began in September 1980 at the Lenin Shipyards, where Lech Wałęsa and others formed a broad anti-communist social movement ranging from people associated with the Catholic Church[2] to members of the anti-communist Left. Solidarity advocated nonviolence in its members’ activities.[3][4] The government attempted to destroy the union with the martial law of 1981 and several years of repressions, but in the end it had to start negotiating with the union.

In Poland, the Roundtable Talks between the weakened government and Solidarity-led opposition led to semi-free elections in 1989. By the end of August a Solidarity-led coalition government was formed and in December Wałęsa was elected prime minister. Since 1989 Solidarity has become a more traditional trade union, and had relatively little impact on the political scene of Poland in the early 1990s. A political arm founded in 1996 as Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) won the parliamentary election in 1997, but lost the following 2001 election. Currently Solidarity has little political influence in modern Polish politics.

Catholic social teaching

In Solicitudo Rei Socialis, a major document of Catholic Social Teaching, Pope John Paul II identifies the concept of solidarity with the poor and marginalized as a constitutive element of the Gospel and human participation in the common good. The Roman Catholic Church, under the leadership of Pope John Paul II, was a very powerful supporter of the union and was greatly responsible for its success.

Influence abroad

The survival of Solidarity was an unprecedented event not only in Poland, a satellite state of the USSR ruled (in practice) by a one-party Communist regime, but the whole of the Eastern bloc. It meant a break in the hard-line stance of the communist Polish United Workers’ Party, which had bloodily ended a 1970 protest with machine gun fire (killing dozens and injuring over 1,000), and the broader Soviet communist regime in the Eastern Bloc, which had quelled both the 1956 Hungarian Uprising and the 1968 Prague Spring with Soviet-led invasions.

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. The 1989 elections in Poland where anti-communist candidates won a striking victory sparked off a succession of peaceful anti-communist revolutions in Central and Eastern Europe[2] known as the Revolutions of 1989 (Jesień Ludów). Solidarity’s example was in various ways repeated by opposition groups throughout the Eastern Bloc, eventually leading to the Eastern Bloc’s effectual dismantling, and contributing to the collapse of the Soviet Union, in the early 1990s.

Organization

Gdańsk on 25th anniversary of Solidarity, summer 2005.

Gdańsk on 25th anniversary of Solidarity, summer 2005.

Formed in 1981, the union’s supreme powers were vested in a legislative body, the Convention of Delegates (Zjazd Delegatów). 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). During the communist era the 38 regional delegates were arrested and jailed when martial law came into effect 1983 under Jaruzelski. After a one year prison term the high-ranking members of the union were offered one way trips to any country accepting them (Canada, United States, South Africa, Germany, Switzerland).

Solidarity was organized as an industrial union along the lines of the Industrial Workers of the World and the Spanish Confederación Nacional del Trabajo (workers in every trade were organized by region, rather than by craft as is the practice in American trade unions).[5]

Currently, Solidarity has more than 1.1 million members. National Commission of Independent Self-Governing Trade Union is located in Gdańsk and is composed of Delegates from Regional General Congresses.

Chairmen

  • Lech Wałęsa 1980-1990
  • Marian Krzaklewski 1991-2002
  • Janusz Śniadek 2002-

Further reading

  • Garton Ash, Timothy (2002). The Polish Revolution: Solidarity. Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-09568-6.
  • Eringer, Robert (1982). Strike for Freedom: The Story of Lech Walesa and Polish Solidarity. Dodd Mead. ISBN 0-396-08065-0.
  • Kaminski, Marek M. (2004). Games Prisoners Play. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-11721-7.
  • Kenney, Patrick (2003). A Carnival of Revolution : Central Europe 1989. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-11627-X.
  • Kenney, Patrick (2006). The Burdens of Freedom. Zed Books Ltd.. ISBN 1-84277-662-2.
  • Osa, Maryjane (2003). Solidarity and Contention: Networks of Polish Opposition. University of Minnesota Press. ISBN 0-8166-3874-8.
  • Ost, David (2005). The Defeat Of Solidarity: Anger and Politics in Postcommunist Europe (ebook), Cornell University Press. ISBN 0-8014-4318-0.
  • Penn, Shana (2005). Solidarity’s Secret : The Women Who Defeated Communism in Poland. University of Michigan Press. ISBN 0-472-11385-2.
  • Perdue, William D. (1995). Paradox of Change: The Rise and Fall of Solidarity in the New Poland. Praeger/Greenwood. ISBN 0-275-95295-9.
  • Pope John Paul II, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, on Vatican website
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