Poland History: The Role of Solidarność

After a long series of strikes that began in the Lenin construction sites in Gdansk, the revolt resulted (September 1980) in the birth of Solidarność, the first independent trade union of the communist bloc: the Catholic worker L. Wałesa took over. Almost at the same time, Gierek ousted, the leadership of the party and the country passed for a short time into the hands of the moderate S. Kania. But the intransigence of Solidarność’s extremist wing and the progressive marginalization of the POUP from Polish society opened a phase of ungovernability, made more acute by Moscow’s now explicit hostility to the “new course”. On December 13, 1981, General W. Jaruzelski,, former head of the government and of the POUP, assumed full powers through a military junta and crushed all forms of opposition with a state of siege. The formal dissolution of Solidarność followed, whose leaders were interned or reduced to hiding. Only in 1983 was a process of “normalization” started, with the lifting of the state of war and the granting of an amnesty (July 1984) which released about 600 political prisoners. In November 1985 Jaruzelski was elected head of state by the new Parliament (Sejm) and replaced at the head of the government by Z. Messner. In 1986 a second amnesty granted freedom to most of the politicians still detained, while diplomatic relations with the West were strengthened, as evidenced also by the admission of Poland to the International Monetary Fund according to mcat-test-centers. The high level of foreign debt placed the profound economic crisis the country went through at the center of the political debate, urging further austerity measures and the introduction of certain economic and political reforms. The economic austerity plan, developed by the government and submitted to a referendum (November 1987), was rejected by the electoral body and initiated a series of agitations culminating in the great wave of strikes (August 1988) that led to Messner’s resignation. He was succeeded by M. Rakowski, which started negotiations with all the opposition forces (February 1989). With the conversion of the POUP to “socialist parliamentary democracy”, this negotiation ended with the legal recognition of Solidarność, as an autonomous trade union, in exchange for its support for the government’s austerity program, as well as with the granting of free elections for two fifths of parliamentary seats. The political elections of June 1989 marked a clear affirmation of the opposition; initially rejected the proposal to undertake government commitments, Solidarność substantially contributed to the election of Jaruzelski to the presidency of the Republic (July 19), confirming the opening of a new course in national politics. The new government, the result of a compromise between the opposing sides, T. Mazowiecki, former adviser to Walesa. In the following months the constitutional principle of the leading role of the POUP was abolished, which in June 1990 abandoned the status of “communist” by splitting into two parties. The treaty on maintaining the Oder-Neisse border was ratified with Germany and Jaruzelski resigned early (September 1990), between November and December the presidential elections took place, which ended after a ballot with the affirmation of Walesa, which he entrusted to Jan K. Bieleki the leadership of a new government. In addition to economic policy issues, 1991 was dominated by the disputes between the head of state and the Sejm on institutional issues, as well as by the October policy campaign, from which emerged a very fragmented Parliament, that only after a certain labor was able to express a government coalition led by Jan Olszewski. The protest against the measure for the price increase of January 1992, the lack of approval by the Sejm on institutional issues, as well as from the October policy campaign, from which emerged a very fragmented Parliament, which only after a certain difficulty was able to express a government coalition led by Jan Olszewski. The protest against the measure for the price increase of January 1992, the lack of approval by the Sejm of the economic plan, the great Solidarity demonstration against unemployment and the high cost of living led once again (June 1992) to a government crisis, which seemed to be resolved with the appointment of Hanna Suchocka, leader of the Democratic Union, as head of a government of coalition. In May 1993, yet another crisis paved the way for early elections which resulted in the victory of the former Communists of the Alliance for the Democratic Left (SLD) and their allies of the Peasant Party (PSL). Solidarność was unable to overcome the 5% barrier while remaining outside the Sejm and Walesa was therefore forced to appoint Waldemar Pawlack, a member of the Peasants’ Party, premier, which gave birth to a PSL-SLD coalition government. The presidential elections of November 1995 saw the Walesa’s defeat and the victory of the candidate of the former communists, A. Kwaśniewski.. In the parliamentary elections of September 1997, the coalition Solidarity Electoral Action, formed by the Catholic right gathered around the old trade union and from the liberals of the Democratic Union, he triumphed and obtained the leadership of the government, which was assumed by Jerzy Buzek.

Poland History