To What Extent Was Solidarity To Blame

For The Breakdown Of Communism In Poland? Essay, Research Paper

On June 4th

1989, the trade union movement Solidarity won elections in Poland hands down.

The first minority communist government in a former satellite state was

formed.? The Round Table agreement had

dramatically backfired and the assumptions that the Party had the legitimacy,

the money and the organisational facilities to win a majority of seats had

proved to be false.? From this point

onwards, communism in Eastern Europe began to crumble.? The anti-communist feeling in Poland had

been released in the formation of the mass ?trade-union? called Solidarity, and

without Russian tanks to restore order the Party fell unceremoniously from power.

Solidarity is often credited with seizing the initiative and bringing about the

breakdown of communism not only in Poland but also in Eastern Europe as a

whole, but was this really the case. Solidarity

sprung from a rebellious shipyard in Gdansk.?

Gdansk had emerged as a bastion of communist resistance in December

1970, when, in response to the price hikes, workers had come out on strike and

were shot by riot police and troops.?

Many of the demands made by the workers in 1970 were replicated in 1980.

In response to further price rises, introduced in July 1980 by Polish Premier

Babuich, strikes broke out all over Poland.?

However, government officials had little problem dealing with the

individual uncoordinated strikes by offering pay increases.? Only in Lublin was there a coordinated

strike, and this strike acted as an inspiration for the Gdansk strike in

August.? Led by agitator Lech Walesa,

the Gdansk workers initially protesting over price rises began to demand free

trade unions and other political changes.?

Aided by Polish intellectuals, a compromise was reached known as the 21

points which essentially brought Solidarity into being.? The first free trade union had been formed. The

coordination of the strike in 1980 was the essential factor in its success and

in the emergence and survival of Solidarity. The government, terrified of mass

uprising and civil war was content to play for time by agreeing to the 21

points.? Furthermore, the Polish

government wished to avoid intervention by Moscow, and by reaching a reasonable

compromise, the party was temporarily able to put and end to the strikes. The

intellectuals had played a key role in developing the working class

consciousness of national interests, and by making reasonable demands on the

communist government.? However, as early

as 24th August 1980, Polish party leaders were already planning to

crush Solidarity.? The movement owed as

much to good fortune as to its own strength. As

Solidarity membership rose to exceed 10 million by mid-1981 it quickly became a

national movement.? It gained the support

of the vast majority of Poles, and self-government became the call of a nation,

oppressed for almost 50 years.?

Solidarity also began to make demands on the government to introduce

reforms in April 1981. These closely resembled those introduced by Gorbachev

later in Russia and ?Glasnost? in the media quickly became apparent.? However, Soviet troops began to amass on

Poland?s eastern frontier and pressure was exerted from Moscow on Polish

leaders to crush the movement. Although

Western leaders put pressure on Moscow not to intervene, they could not prevent

the threat of sanctions.? The loss of

oil and gas supplies would be disasterous for Poland.? Furthermore, the threat of a referendum on the Jaruzelski

government in December 1982 proved too much for the Soviet government.? At 6.00am on 13th December 1982,

martial law was announced. Solidarity was outlawed and driven underground.? This could

have meant the end for the Solidarity movement.? It had accomplished little in the way of improvements, in fact,

economic conditions had worsened between August 1980 and December 1982.? However, there were several key factors that

allowed Solidarity to survive to see its final triumph in 1989. Through the

appointment of a Polish Pope, and by gaining his support for their policies,

Solidarity had gained an element of legitimacy amongst the people.? On October 16th, 1978 Cardinal

Karol Wojtyla was elected Pope John Paul II.?

Hailed as a ?great son of Poland? by the communist government, he was to

play a vital role in the events of the next 10 years. The

predominance of the Catholic church in Poland gave a Polish Pope substantial

influence within the country.? A skilful

and determined leader, it was he that on his visit to Poland in June 1979 first

implanted the ideas that inspired the birth of Solidarity in August 1980.? About two million people heard his speech

made on the fields outside Krakow. He spoke of the people?s right ?to have God

in their lives? and the ?right to freedom.? His words of inspiration, regarded

as gospel truths by the many catholic believers in Poland were to act as an

inspiration to the Solidarity movement through the year spent underground.? His second visit to Poland in June 1983 was

perhaps even more pivotal in ensuring the survival of the solidarity movement.

The visit of the Pope no doubt contributed to the end of martial law that was

lifted in July.? The end of martial law

brought a new hope to the people of Poland and a resurgence in support for

Solidarity. Although Solidarity remained illegal until a later Papal visit in

June 1987, the end to martial law was seen by many as a positive step towards

freedom and people continued strive to achieve it. The later visit of June 1987

brought back Solidarity due to pressure put on the communist government by him,

his powerful influence in Poland could not be ignored by Jaruzelski?s

government.? In addition, the Pope

secretly supported the underground movement both through words of

encouragement, and his alliance with U.S. president Ronald Reagan brought

American aid to the Solidarity movement. However,

despite the aid of the USA in surviving the years in exile, the mass support

for Solidarity would never have survived were it not for the economic

conditions in Poland.? It was economic

conditions that played a major role in the formation of 1980.? Dissatisfaction at limited food stocks due

to failed harvests and inefficient transportation was well as hyper-inflation

led to dissatisfaction concerning living conditions and standards.? Although the Solidarity movement expressed a

deep satisfaction about the governmental system among a proportion of the

population, it could never have achieved mass support were it not for the

appalling living conditions of a large proportion of the population.? The whole movement could easily have been

suppressed if genuine economic reform had brought about improvement in living

standards. However,

the collapsing Polish economy was due to a fundemental flaw in the entire

communist system.? The command economy

had brought staggering inefficiency. The very exercise of telling people what

to do and how to do it had quelled all initiative of the management.? Furthermore, with no incentive to produce

goods or work more efficiently the economy of Poland had been slowly stagnating

over many years.? In addition, as the

USSR experienced increasing economic problems, Moscow began to drain the

resources of its satellite states in order to compensate for Russia?s own

problems, further worsening the economic difficulties of states such as Poland. It was the

economic? Was

Solidarity a product of communist oppression or of Polish rebellion?? ??????????????????????? How did Solidarity emerge? ??????????????????????? Why did it survive? ??????????????????????? Despite the

unquestionable significance of Solidarity in bringing about the breakdown of

communism not only in Poland but also in Eastern Europe, it was the refusal by

Gorbachev to crush the uprising by force that allowed Solidarity to

succeed.? Glasnost and Perestroika

provided the foundations for an independent Poland to emerge.? Gorbachev, unlike his predecessors, was not

prepared to roll in the tanks to enforce Soviet rule, instead he accepted

Poland?s autonomy and in doing so changed the world irrevocably. What effect did

Gorbachev?s policies of Glasnost and Perestroika have on the Solidarity movement

in Poland? What were Gorbachev?s policies of

Glasnost and Perestroika?Perestroika: meaning restructuring.? Gorbachev?s policy of Perestroika evolved as

the economic and political crises in Russia became more apparent.? It was not until 1987 that Gorbachev

realised the true state that Russia was in and Perestroika evolved in three

clear-cut stages accordingly.? These

three stages will hereafter be referred to as Perestroika Mark I, II, and IIIPerestroika Mark I:?

Initially introduced to restructure the Russian economy.? At this point, Gorbachev had no notion of

introducing a market economy, this first phase of perestroika simply entailed

restructuring the centrally planned economy.?

Gorbachev had realised that Russia was falling further and further behind

the west technologically.? He decided to

invest heavily in the machine-building industry in order to stimulate

technological progress.? While investing

considerably more, however, it was expected that living standards would rise

due to the fact that there would be more funds available for consumption ? a

contradiction in terms.? It also

attempted to devolve more responsibility to the management of the individual

enterprises to make decisions for themselves.?

This, however, was largely unsuccessful as the enterprises, used to

being told what to do, were almost unable to think for themselves, as it was an

alien concept to them. Furthermore, Perestroika Mark I failed to deal with two

major economical issues ? prices and ownership ? hence little progress was

made. Perestroika Mark II: Gorbachev had realised that Mark I was

failing.? He blamed this on the

resistance of the upper-level ideological and economic structures.? His reaction was an attempt to instigate

reform from the bottom upwards.? This

led to the introduction of Glasnost meaning openness, his philosophy being that

political change must be the precursor to economic change ? the economic crises

and subsequent events of 1989 – 1992 were to prove him wrong. The idea of

Glasnost was to give the people a voice to criticise the conservative nature of

the hierarchy and to bring about reform by this means.? Gorbachev was a brilliant short-term planner

and tactician and this often allowed his to out manoeuvre his opponents.? However, his long-term strategy was often

lacking.? In Perestroika Mark II,

Gorbachev refused to address the real issues of how economic reform was to come

about, he was extremely successful in instigating political reform without

suggesting an economic course, he was contented to watch as the Russian economy

sailed peacefully towards the iceberg.?

Had action been taken at this point, perhaps the Soviet Union may have

been saved. A President Gorbachev riding high on the crest of public opinion with

living standards rising and a market economy flourishing may have been more

difficult for the plotters to remove! Perestroika Mark III: This can be described as too little

too late.? Gorbachev at this stage was a

desperate man attempting to cling to power.?

He had now realised that the economic problems must be addressed and

commissioned a report by two economists, Yavlinsky and Shatalin.? Perhaps had Gorbachev acted upon this report

and introduced it immediately then things may have been different, however, he

dithered for months between the report, known as the 500 day plan, intended to

introduce a market economy, a state managed economy, and the ?third way? a slow

introduction of a market economy.?

Gorbachev took too long to make up his mind and paid the price.? Gorbachev refused to introduce the 500-day

plan as he was loathed to give up his power voluntarily. Under a state run

economy, he maintained control, but under a market economy, all control was

lost.? According to the prospect thesis,

once Gorbachev had gained complete power, he would not choose to give it up,

hence why the criticism to which he was subjected under Glasnost was not

welcomed ? he had lost some of his power over the people.Gorbachev?s main mistake was that he destroyed the old

system without putting a new one in to take its place.? His long-term plans were not only vague but

also altered considerably over time.? He

was not sure the direction in which he was taking the country.? Like an inquisitive child he pulled the

foundations from under the USSR without making plans for reconstruction in the

aftermath, and was then surprised when the whole system collapsed around his

ears. Poland and the Solidarity movement ??????????? Began 1980

? shipyard workers in Lenin shipyard, Gdansk initiated a strike protesting

about further price rises led by Lech Walesa.?

Walesa called for solidarity amongst the workers and this led to the

occupation of the shipyard.? Strike

committees called for independent unions. ??????????? Gierek, the

Polish communist party leader was willing to negotiate and offered concessions

and economic reform.? This led to the

setting up of solidarity as an independent trade union.? However, military manoeuvres along the

Polish borders prevented the government from conceding too much.


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