Polish Solidarity Movement


Solidarity, Polish independent trade union federation formed in Sept., 1980. Led by Lech Wałęsa, it grew rapidly in size and political power and soon posed a threat to Poland's Communist government by its sponsorship of labor strikes and other forms of public protest. Rural Solidarity, a Polish farmers' union, was recognized in May, 1981. By the middle of 1981, Solidarity had an estimated 9 million members. Although it was able to block government initiatives, it had no means of attaining governmental power. On Dec. 13, 1981, the new party leader Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, with Moscow's support, launched a crackdown by declaring martial law, suspending Solidarity, and imprisoning most of its leaders. By the end of 1982, the Solidarity movement had died down enough for Wałęsa to be released from prison and for martial law to be lifted.

During the mid-1980s, Solidarity persisted as an underground organization supported by the Catholic Church, and by the late 1980s it was again a major force in Poland. The union succeeded in frustrating Jaruzelski's attempts at reform, and nationwide strikes in 1988 led to the first governmental attempts to open a dialogue with Solidarity. On Apr. 5, 1989, Solidarity and the government signed an agreement legalizing Solidarity and allowing it to campaign for the upcoming elections. In limited free elections that followed, candidates supported by the union won a resounding victory. By the end of August a Solidarity-led coalition government was formed. In Dec., 1990, Wałęsa was elected president and resigned his union post; he failed to win reelection in 1995. Solidarity has since placed greater emphasis on traditional trade union matters, but the political bloc Solidarity Electoral Action, an outgrowth of the union founded in 1996, governed Poland from 1997 to 2001. Solidarity currently has 722,000 members.

See T. G Ash, The Polish Revolution: Solidarity, 1980–1982 (1984).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Polish Solidarity Movement: Selected full-text books and articles

The Polish Solidarity Movement: Revolution, Democracy and Natural Rights
Arista Maria Cirtautas.
Routledge, 1997
Solidarity and the Politics of Anti-Politics: Opposition and Reform in Poland since 1968
David Ost.
Temple University Press, 1990
Solidarity and Contention: Networks of Polish Opposition
Maryjane Osa.
University of Minnesota Press, 2003
We All Fought for Freedom: Women in Poland's Solidarity Movement
Kristi S. Long.
Westview Press, 1996
The Solidarity Revolution in Poland, 1980-1981
Bloom, Jack M.
The Oral History Review, Vol. 33, No. 1, Spring 2006
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Repression and Resistance in Communist Europe
J. C. Sharman.
Routledge Curzon, 2003
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 5 "Poland and Solidarity"
Class Struggle in Classless Poland
Stanislaw Starski.
South End Press, 1982
Librarian’s tip: Part III "Solidarity and Polish Society"
Polish Politics and Society
Frances Millard.
Routledge, 1999
Librarian’s tip: "The Governments of Solidarity" begins on p. 15
Transition to Democracy in Poland
Lee, Hongsub.
East European Quarterly, Vol. 35, No. 1, Spring 2001
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