Better living with Solidarnosc

Freedom to strike, freedom of the press, amnesty for political prisoners, wage increase, lower retirement age, paid maternity leave, free Saturdays – what didn’t they put on their program. The 21 ‘Gdansk Demands’ put forward to the Warsaw government by Solidarnosc in August 1980 were much like the list of demands of a social-democratic party out of the 19th century.

By signing the Gdansk Treaty, which opposition leader Walesa signed in 1980, the first state-independent labor union in a state-capitalist country had been permitted. Vice president Mieczyslaw Jagielskis’ signature put next to Walesas name however, proved to be of no worth for the time being. The conceded freedoms of the Gdansk Treaty were left unrealized and the economical situation in Poland escalated furthermore.

Then came the 13th of December 1981. General Jaruzelski declared martial law and Solidarnosc was banned, the union went underground.

In the political climate of the Gorbatschow era, a new round of communication began.The most important political actors sat down at the table and negotiated the historical compromise, which was to lead to the so-called revolution. After the first elections in 1989 Solidarnosc came out as winner, in December 1990 Walesa won the presidential elections. The hard-liners of state-communism proved to be right. To acknowledge Solidarnosc as a political power did mean the end of the Peoples Republic of Poland. Although Solidarnosc never called for the privatization of the means of production during the eighties, the strived-for civil pluralism was only to be had on the basis of privatized ownership.

The result of Soldidarnosc’s victory: the upheaval, that was brought about by the majority of the workers, led the majority of the workers in a poverty that was unknown to them for over 50 years.

On the Gdansk Lenin-dockyard, where the Proletariat once slaved for the socialist project, soon luxury-condominiums will arise. A characteristic image: between sauntering boulevards and noble housing, the Solidarnosc will get a museum. Which will not be of much use to the former workers of the legendary dockyard. Only 3000 of once 20000 employees are still kept on by the dockyard. They head to Gdynia, ships are still being built there.

They now live there under worse conditions than those against which Solidarnosc once fought. Increase of wages, pension at 55, free Saturdays, all have turned into nostalgic dreams. Instead, in the foreseeable future, the Gdansk Lenin-dockyard, center of the strike-activists in 1980, meeting point for the first congress of an independent union, is to be rebuilt as an entertainment and culture-park.

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