Solidarity in Poland, 1980


The Solidarity movement in Poland began in 1970 at the shipyards in Gdansk in response to a sharp increase in food prices.  Workers responded by marching on the Polish Communist Party Headquarters and striking outside of it, ultimately setting it on fire.  This event sparked other movements in other port towns and cities, and spread even further throughout Poland as a result of the zero growth the Polish economy was experiencing.

A second attempt to increase food prices in 1976 led to an increase in sit downs and strikes, including the formation of the Workers’ Defense Committee.  Tensions began to reach a boiling point in Poland when a Polish cardinal was elected as a result of Pope John Paul II’s vocal support for the Polish working class.  The combination of international support and western economic aid to a failing Polish economy only required one more significant event.

That significant event that put the already defensive minded Communist party over the edge and lead to the formation of Solidarity in Poland was when the government announced that there would be a mandatory rise in the price of meat.  This declaration sparked increased support by workers for Solidarity, along with several face offs between the Polish Communist Party and Solidarity members. The Politburo urged the Polish Communist Party and other allied trade unions to mend ties with the working class by adjusting their economic policies which caused the Solidarity movement in the first place.

Despite the Soviets denying military intervention, to guarantee the put down of Solidarity in Poland, a solely Polish military operation, with the use of Marshal Law, took place where leaders of Solidarity were arrested, including the party’s leader Lech Walesa, and the organization had to go “underground” until it was able to reorganize membership and power around 1989.

Solidarity reappeared in Poland when the first anti-Communist candidate, Tadeusz Mazowiecki, was elected in 1989.  This was the first anti-Communist leader in the Eastern Bloc since Soviet occupation.  As one would imagine, this event of Solidarity in Poland would be seen as the basis for other anti-Communist revolts in Eastern and Central Asia, and ultimately prove to be one of the events that would ignite the fall of the Eastern Bloc, and eventually, the crumbling of the Soviet Union as a whole.

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