Niezależny Samorządny Związek Zawodowy 'Solidarność' Independent Self-governing Trade Union 'Solidarity'
Solidarity or Independent Self-Governing Trade Union "Solidarity" was the first autonomous trade union and mass organization in the Soviet bloc since communist takeovers in the 1940s. It came into existence in Poland as a result of workers' strikes that rocked the country in the summer of 1980. Of crucial importance was the strike in the Lenin Shipyard in Gdańsk led Lech Wałęsa which spread to other industrial centers in the Baltic region leading to the creation of the Interfactory Strike Committee. Following the August accords between strikers and the party regime in August 1980, the alliance of striking enterprises evolved into Solidarity trade union in September 1980. Other long terms origins of Solidarity include the 1970s workers' protests in the Baltic Coast, the birth of the democratic opposition and, especially, of the Committee of Workers' Defence in 1976 and the Free Trade Unions in 1978, and the mass mobilization of Polish citizens during the visit of Pope John Paul II in 1979. An umbrella, largely decentralized organization, Solidarity united members of different political persuasions, professions, and social backgrounds. Solidarity's 'self-limiting revolution' oscillated around attempts to democratize and liberalize the communist system, expand the pockets of autonomous and civil soviety, and introduce self-governing institutions and mechanisms that could limit the party rule. At the peak of its popularity, Solidarity reached the membership of between 9 and 10 million people in the country with the population of 35 million. During the 16 months of its legal existence, Solidarity launched the wave of unprecedented social activism amidst the uneasy relationship of with the party state and under the constant threat of the Soviet military intervention. In December 1981, the authoritarian regime of General Wojciech Jaruzelski, who at that time was the party leader, head of the government and chief commander of the Polish army, imposed martial law in the country, banned Soldiarity and other independent associations, detained thousands of its members, and crashed social protests using brutal force. Solidarity continued its struggle underground organizing peaceful resistance, launching strikes, and running independent social networks and publishing. In 1989, it concluded the roundtable talks with the party regime, which led to the re-legalization of Solidarity and partly free elections in June 1989. The party's electoral defeat led to the creation of Tadeusz Mazowiecki's cabinet, the first non-communist government in Eastern Europe since communist takeovers in August 1989. Solidarity's contribution to the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe was truly decisive. The organization split into numerous rival political factions in 1990. It continues as Poland's largest trade union.
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