The Paradox of Solidarity from a Thirty Years Perspective

HomeArticlesThe Paradox of Solidarity from a Thirty Years Perspective

After thirty years since it first came to existence, the Solidarity movement is not only a recognized symbol of the Cold War’s end, but it is also constitutive part of the Polish political system. The movement’s history went through remarkable evolution and became a source of inspiration for peaceful resistance against the communist regimes throughout Eastern Europe and tyrannies all over the world.

After the end of the communism in Poland and the subsequent collapse of communism in the Eastern bloc, the Solidarity movement produced mainstream political parties in Poland. Until today, it remains a source of inspiration and provides political legitimacy to every political leader. It seems that in Poland, there is no political activist who, while searching for arguments strengthening his or her position, is not emphasizing former membership in the Solidarity movement (only those politicians with ties to the Polish United Workers Party – the Polska Zjednoczona Partia Robotnicza or PZPR – are not claiming Solidarity origin in their political careers). Of course, bearing in mind the massive support for the movement during the eighties, there is no doubt that those people were involved in the movement in one way or another.[1] Remarkable is the fact that despite the considerable change in the popular support for the offspring of Solidarity during the last decade of the twentieth century, politicians still refer to the idealist aura surrounding the movement.

It is remarkable that thirty years later I write about Solidarity in the midst of a unique presidential election campaign. Today, two days after the end of the first round it is clear that there will be a second one in which the leaders of the two parties with Solidarity roots will confront each other in a decisive battle for the highest office. Although, this election campaign is in the shadow of the tragic loss of the Polish president Lech Kaczynski and the debate is moderate in tones, a remarkable slogan appeared. Albeit this slogan is of secondary importance, I find it a remarkable milestone of the Solidarity lifeline. The slogan, offered by one of the two political parties that made it to the second round, concerned the need for change in the pattern of political behavior in Poland: a call to “end the Polish-Polish war.”

The sole understanding of the slogan requires long analysis of the Polish political system. Although, it is not the main aim of this introduction to deliberate on the political meanders of the political system, it is important to provide at least a brief explanation of the slogan. The concept of the Polish-Polish war stems from the aggressiveness and brutality that was (and still is) inseparable part of the Polish political life for the last twenty years. In this particular aspect there is nothing unique in comparison to the political confrontation between the political parties at a national level in other democratic states. The extraordinary fact is that this slogan is based on the theoretical presumption of the existence of two confronting political powers, which at least until the changing rhetoric of this political campaign were assuming only confrontation. The slogan aims to search for replacing this trend and promote cooperation rather than conflict. Here comes the uniqueness of the slogan. It concerns two political parties (Law and Justice (Prawo i Sprawiedliwość or PiS) and Civic Platform (Platforma Obywatelska or PO) that claim the same political legitimization in the roots of the Solidarity movement. However, the virulence of the political confrontation between these two parties can sometimes be scary, even for people with an aggressive nature. This is why the slogan is a sort of political summary of the Solidarity history.

In order to understand the Polish political system today, it is not enough to simplify the dilemma as a conflict between two political parties. First, because the Polish political system is multiparty, there are additional important players. Second, because the leaders of PO and PiS are willing to expose the clash not only as political but also as ideological one. One of the side-effects of this political confrontation is the usurpation of the ideological arguments of other political parties. Thus, the ideological division in Poland became something completely irrelevant since conservative party (Law and Justice) can claim strong state involvement in the social sphere and the so-called liberal party (Civic Platform) can easily cooperate with the Socialist Party (Sojusz Lweicy Democratycznej or SLD) on matters of free market approach, for example. In other words, the ultimate end (which is receiving the biggest possible popular support) justifies the means (that is a departure of most, if not all, ideological objectives in the political discourse).

It needs to be emphasized that the current political situation is a consequence of the political transformation through which Poland underwent in the course of the last thirty years. While preparing for writing this introduction, I decided to search on Google for a question, which popped up in my mind. The question was what happened with Solidarity. I was surprised to see that Google provided me not only with editorials, papers, blogs comments and news, but also with songs and comments from intellectuals, church representatives, and the youth. Therefore, it seems obvious that this is a question concerning not only the political scientists and politicians in Poland, but it is also an issue of more general social importance.

This introduction does not pretend to cumulate and take into consideration all the various aspects of the Solidarity movement’s evaluation after thirty years. Furthermore, it is not attempting even to create a substantial list of positive and negative arguments concerning the movement. It will rather review certain opinions, attempt to segregate the main attitudes towards the movement, and address some of the most visible aspects movement’s legacy. But first, there is a need to address the question what is Solidarity?

What is Solidarity

In the social sciences words play extremely important role. On one hand, words try to describe reality as accurately as possible; on the other hand, words are used to create ambiguity and uncertainty. This applies also to the meaning of Solidarity.

First, it is of crucial importance to set up a Solidarity lifeline, which will provide the basis for a more clear analysis. In 2001 Antoni Dudek divided Solidarity’s history into three periods. Although, this division is based mainly on the political aspect and thus it is not encompassing of all the features of the Solidarity discourse, it is worth recalling it since it is based on logically coherent scholar observations.

The First Solidarity can be called the one that operated until 1989. Its distinctive features were the strongest in human resources and finances as the underground Solidarity concentrated around Lech Wałęsa and the Provisional Coordination Committee (Tymczasowa Komisja Koordynacyjna or TKK).

The Second Solidarity (1989-1993) was partially recovered due to the Round Table talks and the first semi-free elections of June 4, 1989 in a hybrid union-committee’s form. It subsequently disintegrated quickly and abruptly.

The Third Solidarity (1996-present) is connected with the appearance of the Solidarity Electoral Action (Akcja Wyborcza Solidarność or AWS) and the rivalry between the activists of the political parties established in the early nineties and the union members, who became politicians after the 1997 parliamentary elections.[2]

The Third Solidarity requires additional explanation, since it disappointed Polish society (despite the important political reforms it introduced) to such an extent that it could not pass the 4% threshold during the 2001 parliamentary elections. After this, it returned to the union roots and subsequently started providing political support for one of the two political parties that emerged out of the Solidarity Electoral Action, namely the PiS. This trend became more and more visible since 2005 and today the union is commonly recognized (despite its leader’s Janusz Śniadek’s statements) as openly supportive for Law and Justice.

Each of the Solidarities relies on its own achievements. Pawel Śpiewak mentions three undisputable moments in Solidarity’s lifeline: the protests which led to the legalization of and the concessions made by the communist authorities in August of 1980, the martial law which again revealed the real picture of the communist regime, and the peaceful transformation of itself in 1989.[3]

A brief comparison of these two observations reveals the fact, that only in the case of the First and Second Solidarity, there are achievements, which does not require constant defense. Dariusz Gavin adds that August 1980 (the Solidarity strikes and the signature of the August agreements between Solidarity and the communist authorities) brought the association of the political action with action for common good. The conflict, discord and dispute were concepts outside the “Solidarity commonwealth.”[4] Thus, the myth of Solidarity generates solely positive connotations. However, it concerns the First and only to a certain extent, the Second Solidarity.

Definitions of Solidarity

A short review of a few publications on the question “what is Solidarity” proves that it is almost impossible to find one common understanding of the term. The most dominant opinion is that Solidarity was a movement.[5] Undoubtedly, the arguments for this approach stems from the massive support for it in the early eighties. In late August 1981, according to Wojciech Roszkowski, Solidarity membership declared approximately nine and a half million Poles.[6] Secondly, the movement was also recognizable through the wide social representation where physical workers and intellectuals were united by the same idea. Third, the spontaneous character of the activities in its early days needs to be emphasized. Finally, the concept of “Solidarity-like” forms of unionism spread throughout all spheres of the Polish society. These trivial remarks are important starting point in order to understand at least a few of the remaining attempts to depict “Solidarity.”

The second most popular way to describe Solidarity is through calling it a “labor union”. In fact Solidarity was (and still is) a trade union from a technical and administrative point of view. Furthermore, the Solidarity’s legacy produced more than one labor union, each of them claiming to be the continuance of the real Solidarity principles and the bearer of the true movement’s values. It is important to remember, that the registration of Solidarity as a trade union became the first and most important claim against the communist authorities.[7] However, the notion of “labor union” brought unique demands. Unlike the “western” notion of trade unionism, in the Polish case, the main aim was completely different, because the most distinctive element of the union was its supposed independence from the authorities. The request for the formation of such entity was an unexpected and unwanted precedent for the communist authorities. As Dariusz Gawin promptly pointed out “a new generation of workers appeared – thoughtful, intelligent and conscious of their place in the society – ready to exploit the fact that according to the ideological principles of the system, their class was supposed to play a leading role in the society.[8]

However, the existence of trade unions per se was not inconsistent with the communist propaganda. The communist led Labor Union Association was acting in accordance with the expectations of the political system and in case of workers conflict was supporting the communist authorities. But in the case of Solidarity, the movement used the slogans of the socialist rhetoric in order to establish an entity in complete opposition to the communist authorities. Therefore, it was difficult to explain to the majority of the population, why a trade union should be declared illegal. Furthermore, the fact that the main source of demand was the (blue-collar) representatives of the “working class,” which was the main pillar of communist propaganda, weakened the communist arguments.

It should not be forgotten that the process of workers mobilization started due to the deteriorating economic situation; and the direct reason for the protests in various parts of Poland (Lublin, Gdańsk, Szczecin and others) were the government decisions for increase of the meat prices. Although this typically economic factor became the primary source of popular dissatisfaction, it generated also the feeling of solidarity among workers from different plants and branches of the industry.

The uniqueness of the Solidarity as a trade union is exposed also in the membership content. The working class was supported by the intellectuals, thus creating broad representation of the society.[9] In fact, this was the practical realization of the socialist ideals, with the “tiny” difference, that its main demands were de facto turned against the “socialist” authorities.

Undoubtedly, Solidarity was a trade union, but while evaluating its trade unionist nature, the political restraints, social conditions, and economic environment need to be taken into consideration. The trade union shape was encompassing both, the relative margin of tolerance of the communist authorities and the main source of dissatisfaction, which were the blue-collar workers. Being independent from the authorities and at the same time using the socialist rhetoric, Solidarity constituted a competitive source of authority. Simultaneously, Solidarity was not representing only the blue-collar workers interests, but it was ready to challenge the authorities in order to improve the situation of the nation as a whole. Solidarity brought the notion of self-government which is not necessarily the essence of unionism.

Another important distinction of Solidarity is the non-ideological or multi-ideological outlook attitude of its roots. During the first National Congress of Delegates of Solidarity on September 26, 1981 the Solidarity program was accepted. According to the program, Solidarity was a multi-ideological organization, which main aim was the representation of workers and the protection of their rights, dignity and interests.[10] The widest possible ideological spectrum was possible because of the unacceptable reality in which, despite the differences concerning the ways of challenging the political system, the desire for change was stronger. In this way Solidarity liberal, conservative, national, Catholic, and Social Democrat attitudes could find a common ground. They were united by a common man’s philosophy of the blue-collar workers who was deprived of his or her ideological halo, and they were strengthened by practical and achievable claims such as clear procedures of higher management selection not based on party membership but on skills and competences. Along with them, claims of more general nature were included, like the establishment of workers self-governments, solving tensions between the communist authorities and the society through dialogue, clear division of competences of the state institutions, and the democratization of the public life.[11]

Another attempt to describe Solidarity was undertaken by Jadwiga Staniszkis who, in her published in the United States in a 1984 book entitled Poland’s Self-Limiting Revolution addressed Solidarity as a self-limiting revolution.[12] Undoubtedly, the word “revolution” required additional explanation, since the sole use of this term in the early eighties could have had dramatic consequences.  Such analysis was provided almost two decades later by Antoni Dudek who compared the former depiction with another attempt to describe the movement as “another national uprising.”[13] According to Dudek, the revolutionary nature of the movement was visible in the spontaneous nature of its developments, which could hardly be controlled even in a modest way. It also clearly identified itself with a proletarian identity and explicitly borrowed elements from the socialist ideology (in particular the egalitarianism and social utopia).[14] In addition to Dudek’s argumentation, it needs to be mentioned that such strong “leftist” attitude was also a consequence of the awareness that too radical departure from the communist rhetoric used by the authorities could have brought much more decisive repressions. Thus, the “leftist” arguments were not only pragmatic claims but also ideological shield against the communist authorities.

Solidarity as a part of the Polish uprising tradition refers to the romantic and simultaneously extremely sad history of Poland’s history from the late eighteenth century until the end of communism, during which several uprisings aiming country’s independence were conducted. Unfortunately, most of them produced little, if any, result.[15] If we were to accept revolution theory, from a thirty-years perspective, the “Solidarity uprising” deserves positive evaluation. The “revolutionary” attitude invokes the fact that a clear enemy existed, which fiercely defended the ancient regime. Solidarity was led by charismatic leader who was able to unite the masses. The national solidarism appeared to be the reference point for actions taken in the early eighties.[16] Antoni Dudek also quoted Jacek Kuroń’s opinion that the main aspiration of the Solidarity revolution was the destruction of the Polish United Workers Party monopoly in the field of organization (establishment of own horizontal structures), information (establishing alternative sources of information to the official communist propaganda) and decisions (taking into account Solidarity’s existence).[17] Dudek concludes that at the beginning Solidarity was more a revolutionary movement and later it became more a national uprising that was relatively bloodless.

Through the lenses of time such theory seems relevant. Based on the experience and the revolutionary changes which embraced the whole world, one can claim that Solidarity was a revolution. However, during the early eighties, a much more conciliatory approach was introduced and despite the various ideas that circulated among the Solidarity activists, it was the evolutionary approach that prevailed. Andrzej Paczkowski depicted Solidarity as a revolution, with the characteristic that it did not seek but resigned itself to use of force.

Another description of Solidarity perceives it as an “organization of Poles.” In this way the patriotic and nationalist attitude appeared. Despite the fact that this is definitely not a dominant way of perception, it requires certain attention since it illustrates the wide scope of ideas within the movement. The sole connotation was that those who were not members of Solidarity were not Poles. Furthermore, the “non-Poles” were traitors and deserved no respect. Thus, a more radical approach towards the communist authorities logically appeared. This line of thinking reached its zenith in the allegations which appeared already in 1980-1981 among the different fractions in the movement concerning the belonging to the group of “true Poles.”[18] Later, especially at the end of communism, this argument will become more acute and will contribute to the divisions within Solidarity that became the new political elites.

It conclusion it is worth citing also Ryszard Bugaj, who while analyzing the legacy of Solidarity in Rzeczpospolita, saw the essence of the movement in the “Round table talks” in 1989. “The Round table agreement reflected properly the dualistic nature of Solidarity: labor union and social movement. This was manifested in two features of the agreement: compromise in the matters of political matters and the consensus on the program of economic system’s reconstruction that was respectful of the workers’ interests.[19]

As one can see, there are numerous attempts to understand what Solidarity was (and still is). All these approaches include the objective historical development and the subjective memories of the participants. Furthermore, the usage of one, two, or even more descriptions simultaneously does not cause confusion. Instead it rather expresses the complexity of issues which Solidarity brought with its existence. The attempts to describe Solidarity include the highest ideals and the strongest disappointments, the vision of the future and the existing reality. Solidarity was a formula embracing many (if not all) different visions concerning the desire for change. It was also a formula of relative acceptation by the omnipotent authorities, at least for certain period of time.

Solidarity and the Transformation Period

After thirty years the question of Solidarity and its legacy still attracts a lot of attention and emotions. Probably the most visible (and in the same time somehow ironic) aspect of this emotion was the Polish initiative to advertise in Germany in 2009 on the eve of the twentieth anniversary of the Cold War’s end the Round Table talks of 1989 as the competitor to symbolize communism’s collapse. Somehow logically, for the Germans, the most important symbol is the collapse of the Berlin wall. This, however, is considered in Poland as diminishment and marginalization of Poland’s contribution to the collapse of the East bloc. Therefore, the Polish authorities decided to launch an advertising campaign in Berlin (with an enormous poster of the Round Table and the signature, “it started in Poland) placed at Unter den Linden Boulevard.

This small issue in fact expresses many attitudes present in the contemporary Polish society. Among them are the feeling of underestimated devotion around the world; the feeling of still inappropriate position in the world’s affairs; the necessity to convince the others in order to convince ourselves; the willingness to talk in one voice about events that have thousands versions; and last but not least, the willingness to strengthen the notion of Poland’s input in the European and world’s history.

Undoubtedly, the peaceful end of the communist regime reached after the Round Table talks in Warsaw from February to April 1989 is the most remarkable achievement of Solidarity. It is a symbol not only well-recognized all over the world but it also has become a pattern used subsequently in many places (not only in Eastern Europe) during transformation from one political system to another. It is the turning point in the Polish, Eastern European, and even worlds’ history. If we recall Paweł Śpiewak’s words concerning the three undisputable Solidarity events, why then, there is a need to advertise these undisputable moments in Solidarity’s history?[20] Is it in order to obtain the feeling that they are appropriately commemorated?

Undoubtedly, there is a long list of virtues and achievements that were accumulated in Solidarity. It was the strength of the activists, the determination of their actions, the conviction that the cause is righteous and the belief in a better future that led Solidarity to ultimately prevail. It was Solidarity, which for the first time in the communist bloc, managed to challenge the communist authorities and to force them to step back. It brought hope that the authorities are not omnipotent and required to respect individual’s rights. It was Solidarity that proved that the political system is not as strong the communist propaganda was proclaiming. Solidarity exposed the falsity and hypocrisy of the communist regime. It was Solidarity that revealed the weakness of the socialist economy. Again Solidarity openly criticized the flaws of the communist system and the corruption of party patronized nepotism. Solidarity in itself became the source of the most positive human values and generated the feeling of strength deeply hidden in each individual suppressed by the system. Why then Solidarity still raises so many tensions in the Polish society?

First, as it was already pointed out before, the movement consolidated enormous amount of differing and sometimes even conflicting ideas about how to communicate with the communists. The only uniting element was the existence of the communist apparatus, which was considered as the ultimate evil. Once the communists were defeated, there was no more unifying target among Solidarity members. It is worth mentioning that the process of movements’ partition was visible already during the first Congress in 1981; and it was not only a result of tactical and strategic differences, but also a consequence of the communist secret services[21].

Second, after the introduction of the martial law, the movement was severely weakened and almost all the leaders were interned. The governments’ policy of simultaneous intimidation and willingness for cooperation also divided the movement. Lech Wałęsa’s policy of creating new political leadership, while omitting some of the previous leaders and the underground structures of Solidarity further weakened the movement. Other leaders left the country and were unable to return. Thus during the period between 1987 and 1989, new political elites were created, with much a more unanimous and mature approach towards the communist authorities.[22] These elites not only conduct the negotiations around the Round Table, but they will later lead the country through the transformation. Those with Solidarity background, who will remain outside the new elites, will generate both the feeling of disappointment, frustration and marginalization. Nevertheless, their importance should not be underestimated. Since the early nineties these people will channel the popular disappointment from the transformation. The political elites of the late eighties will not remain monolithic. The 1990 “war on the top” between the then prime minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki and the president Lech Wałęsa created new divisions in the post-Solidarity elites, thus starting the transformation period political scene. A scene, which due to the constant modifications and lack of stable political parties, will additionally influence the feeling of insecurity and disappointment among the society. This brought a feeling of relativism and permissiveness, which Paweł Śpiewak calls “hunger for values.”[23]

Today, twenty years after the end of communism, the “war on the top” evolved. During the late nineties the clash between the Solidarity elites was called a “Cold Home War” and expressed in the radicalization of the media language and the relative weakness of the political institutions.[24] According to Cesary Michalski this war was dangerous, because it touched upon institutions and spheres, which determine the shape of contemporary liberalism and the language of the present-day Christianity.[25] As I have mentioned already at the beginning, this clash has transformed today in the “Polish-Polish war” between the liberal leftist wing of the Solidarity movement and the national-conservative opposition. The level of tension among the former members of Solidarity since the early nineties is best described by Dariusz Gawin, who states that “obviously, people of Solidarity are pushed towards each other by something strong enough, to be unable to break and simultaneously repels them something important enough, so that they are unable to restore the complete unity, the symbol of which for them is August 1980.”[26] In other words, how to advertise a symbol, when all the heroes are defamed?

Another political slogan expresses the frustration among the disappointed representatives of the post-Solidarity elites. The concept of building a new fourth republic (challenging the political mechanisms and principles of the recent third republic), was introduced as necessity to break with the unacceptable practices of the ruling elites after 1989. This radical idea was the proposed solution during the elections in 2005 in order to improve the political system. Again (illogically) the proponents of this new political transformation were the so-called “conservatives”, which in itself is controversial.[27]

Solidarity is considered to be the starting point of the Polish transformation. Thus, it generates not only the positives of the system change but also the negatives. As was mentioned, in the political sphere the transformation led to deep partition of the post-Solidarity elites, which were able to copy successfully the “western” democratic mechanisms, but unable to introduce the “western” habits of political culture. A brief analysis of the post-Solidarity elites will reveal the fact that for the last twenty years, the list of highest ranked politicians was (and still is) the same. What was changing were the names of the political parties represented by the same politicians. Therefore, the concept of political responsibility is considered (fortunately not always) as something less important. A good example is the comparison of post-elections behavior in Poland with other western countries. The well known practice is that after elections defeat the leader of a political party resigns for several prosaic reasons: firstly because he was unable to win the elections; secondly, because he was unable to convince the majority of voters to support his party; and thirdly, because the need for change in the party leadership is obvious. However, in Poland the leaders are either satisfied with the results (even when they lose) or instead of resigning, they dissolve the party and create a new one, which they lead again.[28]

The Polish political elites quickly forgot about the people’s daily problems. In the fight for power they drifted so far away that decency was forgotten. Those who left the politics did it only in exchange for lucrative positions in international organizations or as CEO’s of strong companies. Thus, the politics became a way not only “to make it for living,” but also to secure a decent living standard. This caused a natural social counter-reaction, which was a growing criticism of the political elites, elections marginalization, and constant distrust, which spread across the society.

Furthermore, the transformation process itself became a focal point for political criticism. The fact that Solidarity was unable to cover the whole political spectrum and had just enough space at the political scene for the former Polish United Workers Party to adjust to the new reality and organize its left side to be the heir of the Social Democracy of Republic of Poland (Socjaldemokracja Rzeczpospolitej Polski). As Antoni Dudek promptly observed “nobody wanted to be called “leftist.”[29] The partition of the Solidarity elites during the early nineties was a consequence of the particular leader’s political ambitions rather than the demand of the new political system.

In the economic sphere the transformation from planned to market economy led to drastic changes. The process of privatization went from a so-called “wild privatization” when companies were sold irrationally behind closed doors  through a much more wise, modest and clear process which was later introduced. The burden of the economic transformation was carried by the ordinary people. Thus, enormous differences in the living standard were created. This, according to Ryszard Bugaj, is the biggest fiasco of Solidarity. Among the voices of criticism concerning the last thirty years, often one can hear, that the today’s reality “is not what we were fighting for.” Undoubtedly, much more difficult question would be: what were you fighting for? The answers, which I have obtained through my students interviews with people involved in Solidarity refer to idealist and vague ideas such as liberty, prosperity and better life conditions. Although, there would be hardly a clear answer, it is obvious that the transformation reality caused dissatisfaction with the political elites. The strongest proof for that is the fact that during the last twenty years of democratic elections there was no political party to win reelection.

In the social sphere the inequalities led to pathologies and moral deprivation. Poland needs years before the rule of law become obeyed. Nevertheless, it would be unfair to blame Solidarity for this. The communist regime treated the law instrumentally and time is needed to reestablish the feeling of a predictable and fair state. Despite the flaws and mistakes, in general the rule of law is a fundament of the present day society.


This brief reflection on the reasons of dissatisfaction with Solidarity does not pretend to be exhaustive or complete. Nevertheless, it shows a certain trend which directly influences the question why we still need to promote Solidarity abroad. What we have today is the paradox of the necessity to advertise a self-advertising events and lack of possibility to unite the nation around a symbol, which once united the nation. In order to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of August 1980 in Gdansk, an exhibition was opened entitled “Solidarity is one.” It would be enough to allow all the individual visions of Solidarity to exist together instead of confronting them in the pursuit of the only truth. Just like in August 1980 it was possible that all the political ideas were united by one common goal.

The movement’s non-violence attitude together with the compromise led to the collapse of the communism. Even, if in 1980 few, if any believed in that, only nine years later this was a fact. Thus, the bravest dreams were satisfied, which doesn’t happen very often. Even if the evaluation of the situation from inside is depicted in more negative tones, it is because the people still retain the spirit of Solidarity and believe that the future can be better. From outside perspective the conclusions are much more promising. Poland is a member state of NATO, EU and a reliable partner in international relations. This is the legacy of the events that started thirty years ago.

Bearing in mind the above mentioned, the main reason for this volume becomes apparent. Taking into consideration all the doubts, emotions, dilemmas and myths on national level, which directly influence the perception of Solidarity, it is of utmost importance to confront our own myths with the external attitudes towards the developments of the early eighties. Thus, we as Poles will be able to recognize the truths and myths and hopefully this will be a small step towards a more unified perception of the glorious days of the First and Second Solidarity. When we are able to reach this point, we will find a Solidarity that still speaks to us and the world. When this occurs, advertisements will no longer be needed, since the story will be in itself convincing enough.



[1] The Solidarity Trade Union members were over 10,000,000.

[2] Dudek, Antoni. ”Solidarność w procesie formowania elity politycznej III Rzeczypospolitej.” In Solidarność Dwadzieścia Lat Później, Roman Bäcker, Antoni Dudek, Zdzisław Krasnodębski, Jacek Kurczewski, Marek Latoszek, Jerzy Mikułowski Pomorski, Mariusz Muskat, eds. (Wydawnictwo Arcana, Kraków, 2001), 120.

[3]Dziedzictwo, Paweł Śpiewak ”Solidarności.” In Dlaczego wyszło to nam inaczej? Czyli Polska i „Solidarność” widziana po latach, Tomasz Olko, ed. (Fundacja Gazet Podlaskiej im. Prof. Tadeusza Kłopotowskiego, Siedlce 2005), 11-14.

[4] Gawin, Dariusz. ”Solidarność – republikańska rewolucja Polaków.” In Dziedzictwo „Solidarności” po dzwudziestu latach, Dariusz Gawin, Lekcia Sierpnia, eds. (Wydawnictwo IFiS PAN, Warszawa 2002), 183.

[5]It is also acceptable to call Solidarity a movement, since it reflects the widest consensus what Solidarity was in the early eighties.

[6] Roszkowski, Wojciech. Najnowsza Historia Polski 1980 – 2006 (Świat Książki, Warszawa 2007), 39.

[7] Solidarity prepared 21 proposals which were negotiated with the communist authorities. The first one required that trade unions could be legally independent from the state. The subsequent proposals were concerned about the right to protest; the freedom of speech, press and publication; the rehabilitation of protesters from the previous protests in 1970 and 1976; the transmitting of information through the public media; wages increase that linked salaries to inflation; how to supply stores with goods and export only if a surplus existed; the introduction of clear professional criteria for professional advancement, etc.

[8]Gawin, Dariusz. ”Solidarność – republikańska rewolucja Polaków.”  In Dziedzictwo „Solidarności” po dzwudziestu latach, Dariusz Gawin, Lekcia Sierpnia, eds. (Wydawnictwo IFiS PAN, Warszawa 2002), 168. The quote itself is from Grażyna Pomian, Solidarność Polska, Instytut Literacki, Paryż, 1982, s. 76n.

[9] In the course of events Solidarity-affiliated unions were established among farmers, scientific institutions and academic centers.

[10] Roszkowski, W. op. cit., 24, 42.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Staniszkis, Jadwiga. Poland’s Self-Limiting Revolution (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1984).

[13] Dudek, Antoni. ”Rewolucja robotnicza i ruch narodowowyzwoleńczy.” In Dziedzictwo „Solidarności” po dzwudziestu latach, Dariusz Gawin, Lekcia Sierpnia, eds. (Wydawnictwo IFiS PAN, Warszawa 2002), 143.

[14] Ibid., 146.

[15] Of course, there are positive exemptions such as the Greater Poland Uprising of 1918-1919.

[16] Dudek, Antoni. ”Rewolucja robotnicza i ruch narodowowyzwoleńczy.” In Dziedzictwo „Solidarności” po dzwudziestu latach, Dariusz Gawin, Lekcia Sierpnia, eds. (Wydawnictwo IFiS PAN, Warszawa 2002), 150-51.

[17] Ibid., 145.

[18] Roszkowski, W. Op. cit., 41-42.

[19] Bugaj, Ryszard. ”Odrzucona spuścizna Solidarności.” In Rzeczpospolita, August 27, 2010, A15.

[20] Refer to footnote 3.

[21] For example ,the Secret Service operation “Sejmik” aimed at the confrontation of the Solidarity leaders Lech Wałęsa and Andrzej Gwiazda. Roszkowski, W.Op. cit., 40.

[22] Ibid., 89-90.

[23] Dziedzictwo, Paweł Śpiewak ”Solidarności.” In Dlaczego wyszło to nam inaczej? Czyli Polska i „Solidarność” widziana po latach, Tomasz Olko, ed. (Fundacja Gazet Podlaskiej im. Prof. Tadeusza Kłopotowskiego, Siedlce 2005), 11-14.

[24] Michalski, Cezary. ”Desolidaryzacja, czyli wspólnota jako przedmiot roszczeń.” In Dziedzictwo „Solidarności” po dzwudziestu latach, Dariusz Gawin, Lekcia Sierpnia, eds. (Wydawnictwo IFiS PAN, Warszawa 2002), 206..

[25] Ibid.

[26] Gawin, Dariusz. ”Solidarność – republikańska rewolucja Polaków.” In Dziedzictwo „Solidarności” po dzwudziestu latach, Dariusz Gawin, Lekcia Sierpnia, eds. (Wydawnictwo IFiS PAN, Warszawa 2002), 178.

[27] It is worth recalling that all the previous Polish Republics ceased to exist as a result of national military defeat. Furthermore, even today, every political party in Poland to a certain point is ready to propose an introduction of changes to the constitution or even a brand new constitution as a political panacea (although nobody guarantees that it is really going to work better).

[28] After an election defeat, the newest trend is to exclude lower rank party members which should create the feeling of change in the society.

[29] Dudek, Antoni. ”Solidarność w procesie formowania elity politycznej III Rzeczypospolitej.” In Solidarność Dwadzieścia Lat Później, Roman Bäcker, Antoni Dudek, Zdzisław Krasnodębski, Jacek Kurczewski, Marek Latoszek, Jerzy Mikułowski Pomorski, Mariusz Muskat, eds. (Wydawnictwo Arcana, Kraków, 2001), 122.


Also available are “Enemy Images, Evidence, and Cognitive Dissonance: The Cold War As Recalled by Michiganders”; “The American Perspective of the Cold War: The Southern Approach (North Carolina)”; “Soviet Perspective on the Cold War and American Foreign Policy“; “The Polish Perspective of American Foreign Policy: Selected Moments from The Cold War Era“; “The Netherlands During the Cold War: An Ambivalent Friendship and a Firm Enmity”; The Special Relationship: United States-Russia“; “The U.S. Foreign Policy Establishment’s Perception of Poland (1980-1981)“; “Soviet Attitudes Towards Poland’s Solidarity Movement“; and “After the Cold War: U.S.-Ukrainian Relations (1991-2000).”

This article was originally published with the same title in The Solidarity Movement and Perspectives on the Last Decade of the Cold War, Lee Trepanier, Spasimir Domaradzki, and Jaclyn Stanke, ed. (Andrzej Frycz Modrzewski Krakow University Press, 2010).

Spasimir Domaradski

Written by

Spasimir Domaradzki is an Associate Editor of VoegelinView and Lecturer on Politics and International Relations and chairs the Department of Government Studies at the Lazarski University in Poland. He is also an organizer for Security and Cooperation in Europe, election observer in Ukraine, and a member of Team Europe Poland with the Representation of the European Commission in Poland.