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Solidarity (Polish Solidarnosc.ogg) is a Polish trade union federation founded in September 1980, originally led by Lech Wałęsa. In the 1980s, it gathered a broad anti-communist social movement ranging from people associated with the Roman Catholic Church down to members of the anti-communist left. The union was backed by a group of intellectual dissidents (KOR), and it was based on the rules of nonviolence.
It meant a break in the hard-line stance of the Party which in another protest in 1970 had ended in bloodshed with dozens of people killed by machine gun fire and over 1,000 injured. In 1968, the Prague Spring was crushed by the Soviet Army tanks in the streets of the capital of Czechoslovakia.
The factors contributed to the initial success of the Solidarity in particular and dissident movement in general in the 1980s were deepening internal crisis of Soviet-style socialism due to degradation of morale, worsening economic conditions and the impending defeat in the Cold War. (See Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and Collapse of the Soviet Union)
The ideas of the Solidarity movement spread like wildfire throughout Poland; more and more new unions were formed and joined the federation. The program, although concerned with trade union matters, was universally regarded as the first step towards dismantling the Party monopoly.
"The Rural Solidarity", a union of farmers, was created in May 1981. By the end of 1981, Solidarity had nine million members. Using strikes and other industrial action, the union sought to block government initiatives. On December 13, 1981, the government leader Wojciech Jaruzelski started a crack-down on Solidarity, declaring martial law, suspending the union, and temporarily imprisoning most of its leaders. Poland then banned Solidarity on October 8, 1982. Martial Law was formally lifted in July, 1983, though many heightened controls on civil liberties and political life, as well as food rationing, remained in place through the mid- to late 1980s.
Throughout the mid-1980s, Solidarity persisted solely as an underground organization, supported by the Church and the CIA. But by the late 1980s, Solidarity was sufficiently strong to frustrate Jaruzelski's attempts at reform, and nationwide strikes in 1988 forced the government to open a dialogue with Solidarity.
In April 1989, Solidarity was legalised and allowed to participate in the upcoming elections. In these limited elections union candidates won a striking victory which sparked off a succession of peaceful anti-communist counterrevolutions in Central and Eastern Europe starting on June 4. By the end of August a Solidarity-led coalition government was formed and in December Wałęsa was elected president, resigning from his post in Solidarity.
Since then, the organization has become a more traditional trade union, but a political arm was founded in 1996 as Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS - now having a negligible political significance). Solidarity currently has around 1.5 million members.
- Advice for East German propagandists on how to deal with the Solidarity movement
- Force More Powerful
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