Poland’s New Ambitions
Two decades after Solidarity’s triumph, Poland is leveraging its geography and aid dollars to pay forward the support its struggling democratic movement received from abroad.
In 1980, a group of shipyard workers made a daring stand in the Polish city of Gdansk, establishing an independent workers’ union in a so- called workers’ state run by a tiny elite. Fervor for the union spread rapidly. Within a year, more than 10 million Poles—80 percent of the work force—joined Solidarity or one of its branches. The trade union evolved into a political movement, using strikes and protests to force concessions—on freedom of speech, the right to strike, and the right to travel—from the country’s communist regime. Poland became an island of unrest in the heart of the Soviet bloc. In December 1981, under heavy Soviet pressure, the Polish government, led by Wojciech Jaruzelski, declared a state of martial law. Soldiers and tanks claimed the streets, and thousands of Solidarity leaders were jailed. Strikes were brutally crushed by riot police, and the trade union was banned.
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Andrew Curry is a freelance journalist based in Berlin. He studied at the University of Warsaw’s Institute of International Relations in 1997.more from this author >>