Revolution and Change in Central and Eastern Europe: Political, Economic, and Social Challenges

By Minton F. Goldman | Go to book overview
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8
Poland

In the late 1940s, the Polish communists took power, entered a close alliance with Moscow, and introduced a Soviet-style socialist system. But Poland never totally conformed to the Soviet model. Large sectors of Polish society remained anticommunist. The Catholic Church successfully resisted attempts to suppress it and retained its integrity and autonomy. Also, Polish farmers never fully entered into the communist system of agricultural collectivization. Finally, an active dissident intelligentsia kept democratic ideas alive.1


The Fragility of Communist Rule

From the outset of communist rule in Poland, there were public protests against the Communist Party's political repression and inept economic management. The reluctance of Polish communist leaders to make systemic changes undermined their legitimacy--if they ever had any--and contributed to a progressive popular alienation that helped provoke the 1980 Solidarity crisis, the most serious display of popular hostility to communist rule since its beginning in the late 1940s.


1. The 1980 Solidarity Crisis

In August 1980, Lech Wałęesa, an electrical worker in the shipyards of the nortern Polish port of Gdańk, founded a new workers' union called Solidarity, which, unlike the official trade-union organization of shipworkers, was independent of the Communist Party. Solidarity struck against the shipyard management for higher pay, better living conditions, and increased popular influence over the working of the government.

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