Solidarity

Solidarity

The formation of the independent trade union ' Solidarity' was in response to the actions of the Communist government in raising prices for basic goods. The emblem (above) is arguably one of the most recognisable symbols of a political movement in recent times.

Poland became a communist state as a result of agreements reached at the Yalta Conference. By the mid 1960's, Poland was experiencing increasing economic and political difficulties. The government had secured a large loan from the West and the resulting economic boom led to a rise in living standards and expectations. This began to falter in 1973 because of the oil crisis.

Pope John Paul II

Opposition to the Communist regime was strengthened by the election a Pole, Karol Wojtyla as Pope John Paul II in 1978. He was as source of immense pride to the Polish people and he refused to accept that Soviet rule would last forever.

The Catholic Church supported Solidarity. In June 1979, he made his first visit to Poland as Pope. Half a million people heard him speak in Warsaw and overnight he became the most important person in Poland. Pope John Paul did not call for rebellion but he encouraged the Polish people to create an 'alternative' Poland of social institutions independent of the government so that when the next crisis arose the nation could present a united front.

By 1980, the Polish government was trapped by economic and political pressures. The imposed increased cost of basic foodstuffs led to rebellion.

A wave of strikes began and in early August reached the Lenin shipyards in Gdansk. This strike was led by an electrician - Lech Walesa. In 1981, the government attempted to defeat and destroy the union by imposing martial laws but after several years it had to start negotiating with the union. In 1989, talks between the government and the Solidarity led opposition led to semi free elections. By the end of August that yeas a Solidarity led coalition government was formed and in December Lech Walesa was elected President of Poland.

Since then Solidarity has become a more traditional trade union and has little influence in modern politics.