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Book Chapter

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Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc


The Solidarity trade union formed in the shipyards of Gdansk after a summer of strikes called by factory workers in response to price increases on food. At the end of August 1980, the men who had replaced Edward Gierek's elite signed an accord with the striking representatives of what came to be called Solidarity to provide increased benefits, and the right to have a free and independent trade union, to strike, and to have media that reported information more freely.

It rapidly became a national movement that forced the Communist government to make many concessions. In the next fifteen months, while the government treated this first independent trade union in a communist country as legal, other citizens' organizations formed, the media discussed political and economic ideas that had long been censored, and the government gave in on more and more political issues.

Then, on December 13, 1981, in response to increasing pressure from the rest of the Communist Bloc to stop the transformation and a failing economy, the Communist regime declared martial law, "a state of war," and interned hundreds of Solidarity and intellectual leaders as well as the leaders of the former Communist government.

For the next three years, the government struggled to find a balance between repression and co-optation that would allow them to reclaim real power. Once they declared the state of war over, they were never in a position to really manage popular demands again.

Chapter of

Poland's Permanent Revolution: People Vs. Elites, 1956 to the Present


Jane L. Curry
Luba Fajfer


Copyright © 1995. Reproduced by permission of Rowman & Littlefield. All rights reserved. Please contact the publisher for permission to copy, distribute or reprint.



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