Solidarity (Polish trade union)

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Solidarność
Solidarity (Polish trade union) (logo).png
Full name Independent Self-governing "Labour Union" Solidarity
Native name Niezależny Samorządny Związek Zawodowy "Solidarność"
Founded 31 August 1980
Members During the first wave almost 10 million; over 400,000[1]–680,000[2] (2010)
Country Poland
Affiliation ITUC, ETUC, TUAC
Key people Anna Walentynowicz, Lech Wałęsa, Piotr Duda
Office location Gdańsk, Poland
Website www.solidarnosc.org.pl
(In English)

Solidarity (Polish: Solidarność, pronounced [sɔliˈdarnɔɕt͡ɕ] ( ); full name: Independent Self-governing Trade Union "Solidarity"

Niezależny Samorządny Związek Zawodowy "Solidarność" [ɲezaˈlɛʐnɨ samɔˈʐɔndnɨ ˈzvjɔ̃zɛk zavɔˈdɔvɨ sɔliˈdarnɔɕt͡ɕ]) is a Polish trade union federation that emerged on 31 August 1980 at the Gdańsk Shipyard under the leadership of Lech Wałęsa. It was the first non-Communist Party-controlled 'trade union' in a Warsaw Pact country. Solidarity reached 9.5 million members before its September 1981 Congress (up to 10 million)[1][2] that constituted one third of the total working age population of Poland.[3] In its clandestine years, the United States provided significant financial support for Solidarity, estimated to be as much as 50 million US dollars.[4]

In the 1980s, Solidarity was a broad anti-bureaucratic social movement, using the methods of civil resistance to advance the causes of workers' rights and social change.[5] The government attempted to destroy the union during the period of martial law in the early 1980s and several years of political repression, but in the end it was forced to negotiate with the union.

The Round Table Talks between the government and the Solidarity-led opposition led to semi-free elections in 1989. By the end of August a Solidarity-led coalition government was formed and in December 1990 Wałęsa was elected President of Poland. Since then it has become a more traditional, liberal trade union. 30 years after emerging its membership dropped to between just over 400,000[1] and 680,000.[2]

History[edit]

Main article: History of Solidarity

In the 1970s Poland's government raised food prices while wages stagnated. This (and other stresses) led to the June 1976 protests and subsequent government crackdown on dissent. Groups like the KOR and ROPCIO began to form underground networks to monitor and oppose the government's abusive behavior. Labor unions formed an important part of this network.[6]

In 1979, the Polish economy shrank for the first time since World War II by 2 percent. The foreign debt reached around $18 billion by 1980.[7]

For participation in the illegal trade union, Anna Walentynowicz was fired from work at the Gdańsk Shipyard on August 7, 1980, 5 months before she was due to retire. This management decision enraged the workers of the Shipyard, who staged a strike action on August 14 defending Anna Walentynowicz and demanding her return. Anna Waletynowicz and Alina Pienkowska transformed a strike over bread and butter issues into a solidarity strike in sympathy with other striking establishments.

Solidarity emerged on 31 August 1980 in Gdańsk at the Lenin Shipyards when the communist government of Poland signed the agreement allowing for its existence. On 17 September 1980, over 20 Inter-factory Founding Committees of free trade unions merged at the congress into one national organization NSZZ Solidarity.[3] It officially registered on 10 November 1980.[8]

Lech Wałęsa and others formed a broad anti-Soviet social movement ranging from people associated with the Catholic Church[9] to members of the anti-Soviet Left. Solidarity advocated non-violence in its members' activities.[10][11] In September 1981 Solidarity's first national congress elected Lech Wałęsa as a president[8] and adopted a republican program, the "Self-governing Republic".[12] The government attempted to destroy the union with the martial law of 1981 and several years of repression, but in the end it had to start negotiating with the union.

In Poland, the Roundtable Talks between the government and Solidarity-led opposition led to semi-free elections in 1989. By the end of August a Solidarity-led coalition government was formed and in December Tadeusz Mazowiecki was elected Prime Minister. Since 1989 Solidarity has become a more traditional trade union, and had relatively little impact on the political scene of Poland in the early 1990s. A political arm founded in 1996 as Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) won the parliamentary election in 1997, but lost the following 2001 election. Currently, as a political party Solidarity has little influence on modern Polish politics.

Catholic social teaching[edit]

30-years of Solidarity mural in Ostrowiec Świętokrzyski (priest Jerzy Popiełuszko in foreground)

In Solicitudo Rei Socialis, a major document of Catholic Social Teaching, Pope John Paul II identifies the concept of solidarity with the poor and marginalized as a constitutive element of the Gospel and human participation in the common good. The Roman Catholic Church, under the leadership of Pope John Paul II, was a very powerful supporter of the union and was greatly responsible for its success. Lech Wałęsa, who himself publicly displayed Catholic piety, confirmed the Pope's influence, saying: The Holy Father, through his meetings, demonstrated how numerous we were. He told us not to be afraid.[13]

In addition, the priest Jerzy Popiełuszko, who regularly gave sermons to the striking workers, was eventually killed by the Communist regime for his association with Solidarity. Polish workers themselves were closely associated with the Church, which can be seen in the photographs taken during strikes in the 1980s. On the walls of several factories, portraits of the Virgin Mary or John Paul II were visible.

Influence abroad[edit]

The survival of Solidarity was an unprecedented event not only in Poland, a satellite state of the USSR ruled (in practice) by a one-party Communist regime, but the whole of the Eastern bloc. It meant a break in the hard-line stance of the communist Polish United Workers' Party, which had bloodily ended a 1970 protest with machine gun fire (killing dozens and injuring over 1,000), and the broader Soviet communist regime in the Eastern Bloc, which had quelled both the 1956 Hungarian Uprising and the 1968 Prague Spring with Soviet-led invasions.

Solidarity's influence led to the intensification and spread of anti-communist ideals and movements throughout the countries of the Eastern Bloc, weakening their communist governments. The 4 June 1989 elections in Poland where anti-communist candidates won a striking victory sparked off a succession of peaceful anti-communist revolutions in Central and Eastern Europe[9] known as the Revolutions of 1989 (Jesień Ludów). Solidarity's example was repeated in various ways by opposition groups throughout the Eastern Bloc, eventually leading to the Eastern Bloc's effective dismantling, and contributing to the dissolution of the Soviet Union, in the early 1990s.

Solidarity also voiced its support of trade unions in capitalist countries. During the UK miner's strike, President of Upper Silesia Solidarity David Jastrzebski voiced support of the striking miners. "Neither the British government’s mounted police charges nor its truncheon blows, any more than the Polish junta’s tanks or rifle fire, can break our common will to struggle for a better future for the working class."[14]

Solidarity Party has strongly inspired and influenced the protests of the Arab Spring as well as the Occupy movement.[citation needed] The leader, Lech Wałęsa has visited Tunisian protestors in Tunisia in 2011.

Solidarity, ETUC Demonstration - Budapest 2011

In late 2008, several democratic opposition groups in the Russian Federation formed a Solidarity movement.[15]

Secular philosophical underpinnings[edit]

Although Leszek Kołakowski's works were officially banned in Poland, underground copies of them influenced the opinions of the Polish intellectual opposition. His 1971 essay Theses on Hope and Hopelessness, which suggested that self-organized social groups could gradually expand the spheres of civil society in a totalitarian state, helped inspire the dissident movements of the 1970s that led to the creation of Solidarity and provided a philosophical underpinning for the movement.

Organization[edit]

Formed on 31 August 1980,[16] the union's supreme powers were vested in a legislative body, the Convention of Delegates (Zjazd Delegatów). The executive branch was the National Coordinating Commission (Krajowa Komisja Porozumiewawcza), later renamed the National Commission (Komisja Krajowa). The Union had a regional structure, comprising 38 regions (region) and two districts (okręg). At its highest, the Union had over 10 million members, which became the largest union membership in the world. During the communist era the 38 regional delegates were arrested and jailed when martial law came into effect on 13 December 1981 under General Wojciech Jaruzelski. After a one year prison term the high-ranking members of the union were offered one way trips to any country accepting them (including Canada, the United States, and nations in the Middle East).

Solidarity was organized as an industrial union, or more specifically according to the One Big Union principle, along the lines of the Industrial Workers of the World and the Spanish Confederación Nacional del Trabajo (workers in every trade were organized by region, rather than by craft).[17]

In 2010, Solidarity had more than 400,000 members.[1] National Commission of Independent Self-Governing Trade Union is located in Gdańsk and is composed of Delegates from Regional General Congresses.

Regional structure[edit]

Solidarity is divided into 37 regions, and the territorial structure to a large degree reflects the shape of Polish voivodeships, established in 1975 and annulled in 1998 (see: Administrative division of People's Republic of Poland). The regions are:

The network of key factories[edit]

The network of Solidarity branches of the key factories of Poland was created on 14 April 1981 in Gdańsk. It was made of representatives of seventeen factories; each stood for the most important factory of every voivodeship of the pre-1975 Poland (see: Administrative division of People's Republic of Poland). However, there were two exceptions. There was no representative of the Koszalin Voivodeship, and the Katowice Voivodeship was represented by two factories:

Voivodeship Represented by
Gdańsk Vladimir Lenin Shipyard in Gdańsk
Szczecin Szczecin Shipyard
Poznań H. Cegielski - Poznań S.A.
Bydgoszcz Rail Vehicles Repair Shop
Zielona Góra Rolling Stock and Steel Works Zastal in Zielona Góra
Katowice Wujek Coal Mine in Katowice and the Spare Parts Factory Zgoda in Świętochłowice,
Kraków Vladimir Lenin Steelworks in Nowa Huta
Wrocław Rail Carriage Factory Pafawag in Wrocław
Rzeszów Factory of Communication Equipment WSK in Rzeszów
Białystok Cotton Works Fasty in Białystok
Kielce Ball Bearings Factory Iskra in Kielce
Olsztyn Tire Company Stomil in Olsztyn
Lublin Factory of Communication Equipment PZL in Świdnik
Łódź Julian Marchlewski Cotton Works in Łódź
Warsaw Ursus Factory in Warsaw
Opole Malapanew Steelworks in Ozimek

Chairmen[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d (Polish) 30 lat po Sierpniu'80: "Solidarność zakładnikiem własnej historii" Retrieved on 7 June 2011
  2. ^ a b c (Polish) Duda za Śniadka? by Maciej Sandecki and Marek Wąs, Gazeta Wyborcza of 24 August 2010
  3. ^ a b (Polish) „Solidarność” a systemowe przekształcenia Europy Środkowo-Wschodniej Retrieved on 7 June 2011
  4. ^ Tony Judt (2005). Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945. The Penguin Press. p. 589. 
  5. ^ Aleksander Smolar, '"Self-limiting Revolution": Poland 1970-89', in Adam Roberts and Timothy Garton Ash (eds.), Civil Resistance and Power Politics: The Experience of Non-violent Action from Gandhi to the Present, Oxford University Press, 2009, ISBN 978-0-19-955201-6, pp. 127-43.
  6. ^ KOR: a history of the Workers’ Defense Committee in Poland, 1976-1981. Berkeley: University of California Press. 1985. ISBN 0-520-05243-9. 
  7. ^ From Solidarity to Martial Law: The Polish Crisis of 1980-1981 : A Documentary History by Andrzej Paczkowski, Malcolm Byrne. Central European University Press, Budapest 2007. p. xxix
  8. ^ a b (Polish) Solidarność, wielopłaszczyznowy ruch na rzecz demokratyzacji i głębokich reform ustrojowych PRL Retrieved on 7 June 2011
  9. ^ a b Steger, Manfred B (January 2004). Judging Nonviolence: The Dispute Between Realists and Idealists (ebook). Routledge (UK). p. 114. ISBN 0-415-93397-8. Retrieved 9 July 2006. 
  10. ^ Paul Wehr, Guy Burgess, Heidi Burgess, ed. (February 1993). Justice Without Violence (ebook). Lynne Rienner Publishers. p. 28. ISBN 1-55587-491-6. Retrieved 6 July 2006. 
  11. ^ Cavanaugh-O'Keefe, John (January 2001). Emmanuel, Solidarity: God's Act, Our Response (ebook). Xlibris Corporation. p. 68. ISBN 0-7388-3864-0. Retrieved 6 July 2006. 
  12. ^ Piotr Gliński, The Self-governing Republic in the Third Republic, "Polish Sociological Review", 2006, no.1
  13. ^ BBC World, Analysis: Solidarity's legacy
  14. ^ http://www.workersliberty.org/story/2009/10/08/workers-unite-east-and-west
  15. ^ Kasparov starts new Russian opposition movement. The Associated Press. 13 December 2008.
  16. ^ Guardian newspaper report Retrieved 22 June 2009
  17. ^ (Polish) Solidarność NSZZ in WIEM Encyklopedia. Last accessed on 10 October 2006

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]