Democratic thinking

Articles on democracy in the independent online media

August 27, 2005

Poland’s journey to democracy

Twenty-five years ago, the workers of the shipyards at Gdansk, Poland, went on strike. A few years earlier, in the same city, the police of the Communist regime had murdered strikers on the streets. This time, the workers locked themselves into the yards – and dispatched emissaries throughout Poland to ask for support. Their leader, a devout Catholic electrician with nine children and a record of stubborn opposition to the government, was Lech Walesa – who at once became an international media star. Support came, in the form of demonstrations and strikes throughout the country.

Sixteen months later, in December of 1981, the regime struck back. The army under General Jaruzelski proclaimed martial law, arrested Walesa and the other Solidarity leaders, including many writers and teachers, and literally turned off the nation’s phones.


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