Solidarity 1980-89

Soldarity for Cold WAR

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  • Created by: Terrie
  • Created on: 07-06-12 19:22

Polish Background

-National feeling – Poles wanted country to be free to make own policies –

-The Catholic Church: very strong in Poland – 80% Catholic. Church wanted freedom to preach as it wished and run its own schools

-1978 – Polish cardinal elected Pope; Pope John Paul II – inspired poles and caused surge in polish nationalist and anti-gov feeling + church became even stronger focus of opposition for gov

-Living standards: Poles wanted end to shortages of food and fuel and the high prices

-Freedom of expression: Poles, backed by church wanted a free press and right to discuss issues openly

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-Late 1970’s Polish economy hit crisis ; high prices and fuel and food shortages –Gov no idea how to solve problems

-July 1980: Gov announces increase in price of meat. Strikes followed

-Aug 1980: Workers at Gdansk shipyard, led by Lech Walesa put forward 21 demands to gov, including:

1)free trade unions and the right to strike/ more freedom

2) improved standards of living

3) relaxation of censorship

4) improved wages and working conditions

5) Broadcasting of RC services

= SOLIDARITY = first free trade union in Eastern Europe

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The agreements

30TH Aug: Gov agreed to all 21 demands; the right to strike/ form independent trade unions/ more discussion of Gov policy/ relaxation of censorship/ improved wages and working conditions

-Workers agreed to accept the leading role of the Communist Gov in Poland and the Socialist economic system, as well as polands links with the USSR and other East Europe Communist countries

October: Solidarity officially recognized by Gov

Why did Com Gov agree to Solidarities demands?

-needed workers to go back to work as industry was important to already failing economy

-com gov didn’t see as huge threats

-walesa was a clever and careful negociator

-com’s hoped solidarity would break up

-solidarity had strong support from RC church – wouldn’t challenge such a strong force

-Solidarity was popular with West – didn’t want to look bad in Western media

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Why Important?

-Showed that a well-organized non-violent mass movement could force even a Communist Government backed by the USSR to help and agree with the people

-Showed that the Communist Gov was incapable of solving Poland’s economic problems and had lost the confidence of the people- 30% of the Communist party joined solidarity due to lack of faith

-The USSR could not use force due to troops in Afghanistan whilst the USA threatened to sell nuclear weapons to China if did

-Solidarity caught the imagination of people in the West that neither Hungary or Czechoslovakia had

-Walesa regularly in Western Media/ Solidarity logos bought in Capitalist world – supported democratic movement

Jan 1981: Membership of Solidarity at peak of 9.4 million – more than 1/3 of workers in Poland

-Solidarity became increasingly defiant – movement began to challenge communism – threatens agreement with Gov by demanding free elections - Moscow watched in growing alarm

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The Role of Walesa

The Role of Walesa

-responsible for co-ordinating activities of various union movements

-symbolized for the poles and outside world the struggle for greater freedom in Poland

-courageous and pungnacious leader -

- his role brought his national and international recognistion – 1983 awarded Nobel Peace Prize 

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Dec 1981:USSR backs appointment of new Polish army commander General Jaruzelski – under increased pressure

-his refusal to grant solidarity’s demands led to a breakdown in negociations with him and Walesa

 -> declares martial law in Poland (rule by Army) + strict censorship and control over media

Soviet leader Brezhnev ordered Red Army tanks on borders of Poland on ‘training exercises’

Walesa and around 150,000 Solidarity members arrested

1982: Solidarity declared illegal but releases Walesa

What was learnt?

-The only thing that kept the Communists in power was force or the threat of military force; there was no support for it.

-Any claims by the Com gov that it represented the majority of the people were false


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Solidarity continued as ‘underground organization’

1982-1989 -Pope John Paul and Ronald Reagan work together to ‘keep solidarity alive’  - provide focus of opposition to the Government – Communist party saw church as enemy but could not defeat it due to Pope John Paul II – together; the church and solidarity had more support than Communist party –90% of people supported

-Western organizations provided money and supported popular Walesa (received Nobel Prize in 1983) and Solidarity received other equipment including transmitters, computers and advice with how to deal with the Polsh Gov and USSR from priests and spies

-At the same US and Western countries held economic sanctions against Poland

-Solidarity wise enough not to threaten Russia and worked hard not to provoke Moscow

-Both solidarity and Gov supported Gorbachev’s reforms; union had wanted these reforms for years/ gov anxious to show they supported gorbachev because they wanted to hold onto power

1986: Radio Solidarity – break from censorship/freedom of speech

1988: Solidarity organised boycott of Polish elections

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Solidarity triumphs

-Even after solidarity banned, in reality Gov  still had to co-exist with it

-There were more strikes in protest at Poland’s poor economic record. Workers demanded Solidarity should be made legal again.

-April 1989: Gov agreed after talks with Walesa – Solidarity would be made legal again and workers had right to srike. Gov also agreed to hold free elections: first free elections in any com country

1989 – Solidarity wins free elections – 99% seats- Communists do badly

-Leaders of Solidarity refuse to join Communist Gov / form coalition with other opposition parties

-Jaruzelski forced to appoint non-Communist prime minister

-In return for solidarity’s help in solving the country’s problems, Jaruzelski agrees to legalize Solidarity, increase press freedom and hold elections while reserving majority of seats for Communists

-Walesa is elected as first Non-Communist President of Poland in free elections by a landslide

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thanks :)

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