While Walesa was the face of the movement, he benefited from a great deal of support from other leaders, including women whose leadership has gone largely unnoticed. Though some, like Anna Walentynowicz, were among the top leaders of Solidarity, others played a vital role as community leaders.
Some women took on dangerous missions because of their ability to evade internal security forces, who always suspected men of carrying out dissident activities. It is no coincidence that many of these female leaders eventually earned powerful positions in free Poland for which they fought so courageously. His visits to Poland and speeches around the country attracted and motivated millions of Poles. In fact, British scholar Timothy Garton Ash and others have argued that movements like Solidarity could not have come to fruition without the inspiration and support provided by the Polish pontiff.
Without Solidarity, no Gorbachev. Without Gorbachev, no fall of Communism. The Orange Alternative's founder Waldemar Fydrych, the Major, was known for his eccentric personality, which was reflected in his artistic works as both a writer and painter. His aesthetic vision shaped the approach the Orange Alternative adopted in its opposition to the pro-Soviet regime.
The Graphics of Solidarity
The Major offered a wide array of citizens an alternative, low-risk way to oppose the Communist regime, through the use of absurd and nonsensical symbols. Above all else, the group's paintings of dwarves became a symbol of democratic subversion in Poland during the period of martial law that began in December Under Soviet influence, the Communist government arrested, imprisoned, and occasionally executed opposition leaders without due process.
Following the initial success of Solidarity, General Wojciech Jaruzelski of Poland declared a "state of war" and suspended the Constitution in a bid to crush the movement, arresting tens of thousands of Solidarity activists in coordinated police raids between and Lech Walesa faced great adversity as the leader of Solidarity; he was jailed for a year and remained under constant surveillance by the secret police until In , he did not travel to receive his Nobel Peace Prize, partly out of fear he might not be allowed to return, and partly in solidarity with those who remained in prison: "Could my friends who are imprisoned or paid for the defense of Solidarity with the loss of their jobs accompany me on this day?
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If not, then it means that the day has not come for me yet to celebrate the awards, even such splendid ones. The lack of an independent press and the government's lack of tolerance for dissent posed obvious challenges for the Polish opposition. Solidarity, however, found a way around these restrictions. Through negotiations with the Communist regime, Solidarity was able to gain an exemption from government censorship for its internal union publications.
In essence, a publication could be widely distributed under law if it was stamped "For intra-trade-union use only. Human dignity was a central value for all parts of Poland's anti-Communist struggle. The daily suffering of Poles, particularly the lack of affordable food, was effectively linked to the absence of freedom by Solidarity, the Pope, and the Orange Alternative.
History of CISPES
Solidarity's messaging in reflected this basic value: "History has taught us that there is no bread without freedom. At the core of their message, Solidarity called for mass mobilization efforts on behalf of the Polish people. The movement was able to expand beyond its original base of workers to build a movement reflective of its name — one that united many segments of society. It spread from industrial to agricultural workers with the formation of Rural Solidarity, and it was even able to build bridges with the Polish intelligentsia, despite its labor roots.
The Pope supported the opposition movement in Poland via his position as the head of the Catholic Church, encouraging Polish loyalty to the Catholic Church rather than to the Communist state. Whether his audience was the Polish people or the international political community, the Pope's message emphasized the values of freedom and liberty, providing moral support to the opposition movement in Poland.
A landmark moment was the Pope's visit; John Paul II had hoped that by visiting Poland, he could rouse the spirits of his Polish compatriots in opposition to the Communist regime. Despite a prediction by the regime that only dozens of Poles would show up for the Pope's visit, millions came to greet him, embarrassing the Communist regime. Pope John Paul II mobilized Polish citizens who were eager to embrace their country's faith, tradition, and historical origins, rather than rejecting them as Communism dictated.
The Orange Alternative amassed popular support through humor and by embarrassing the ruling authorities with slogans like "Citizen, help the militia, beat yourself up. Some claim that its choice of the color orange represented a middle ground between the Communist left, represented by the color red, and the Church on the ideological right, represented by the color yellow. Regardless of the different approaches used, bringing down the Communist regime in Poland required mass public participation.
Pope John Paul II was able to galvanize millions of Poles by promoting and projecting an image of a strong, free Poland. As the leader of a global religious movement, the Pope was able to utilize his political power by reaching out to governments who supported an independent Poland, such as the United Kingdom. Lech Walesa's meeting with the Pope and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's meeting with 5, Solidarity leaders in Gdansk, during which she proclaimed, "Nothing can stop you! Solidarity adopted a doctrine of non-violence, which enhanced its populist image and allowed for mass participation.
Thus, it organized a wave of strikes throughout the country that would paralyze the government and pressure them to make concessions.
On March 27, , for instance, a nation-wide strike protesting the beatings of 27 Solidarity members mobilized over half a million people, bringing the entire country to a standstill. It was the largest strike in Poland's history under the Soviet Union, forcing the government to promise an investigation into the beatings. The Orange Alternative generated excitement within the opposition through its unusual outreach methods. In addition to the peaceful but subversive tactics of graffiti art, the Orange Alternative organized public gatherings that were referred to benignly as "happenings.
In this way, the movement's leaders sought to add a degree of levity to the opposition movement, breaking from the monotony of protests and creating more lighthearted and humorous events for participants.
Czeslaw Kiszczak met privately with Lech Walesa, pleading with him to put an end to the general strikes occurring throughout the country. After completing his side of the bargain, Walesa began a long series of negotiations with Poland's head of state, Gen. Jaruzelski, over the political status of Solidarity. After four months of grueling debate, Walesa won Gen. Jaruzelski's support in accepting the return of Solidarity, which was officially announced after a Communist Central Committee meeting on January Soon after the ban on Solidarity was lifted, Walesa again sat down with Communist Party leaders to start the Round Table Negotiations, a series of talks between the opposition movement and the government in February The Round Table negotiations, a government effort to defuse the social unrest, led to a major success for the opposition in the form of the Round Table Agreement of As the leader of the delegation of opposition leaders, Walesa helped pass the agreement, which legalized independent trade unions, introduced the position of the presidency as a Polish political institution, and created a bicameral legislature.
In addition to the restructuring of Poland's government branches, the agreement called for parliamentary elections, which brought a landslide victory for Walesa and his Solidarity Party. Walesa became the first democratically elected president of Poland in , ending more than four decades of Communism.
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Ash, Timothy Garton. Birnbaum, Norman. Poland's Journey to Democracy. Donavan, Jeffery. Misztal, Bronislaw. O'Toole, Fintan. Puddington, Arch. International solidarity formed a vocal contingent. During the nine-month strike, hundreds of thousands of Salvadorans repeatedly took to the streets in defense of national healthcare. We took over the Salvadoran consulates.
History of Solidarity - Wikipedia
We accompanied the people of El Salvador in their marches, and brought strike organizers on tour throughout the US. When they were successful in stopping the privatization, we rejoiced in their victories. Our many years accompanying the Salvadoran revolutionary movement had proven to us that with a clarity of vision, the correct analysis of conditions, a coordinated cross-border strategy, program that can easily be carried out throughout the country, and most importantly, a commitment to revolutionary change, the people can win.
The partnership between CISPES and the Salvadoran labor unions, campesino federations and popular movement organizations that continue to take to the streets to defend their self-determination is as urgent — and strategic - as ever.
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A New Era in El Salvador — and for CISPES Since the historic presidential victory of the FMLN in , some of the dreams that fueled the revolutionary struggle in the and s — education and health care for all, dignified work, democratic participation and freedom — have started to take shape. Through unprecedented levels of investment in public services, the FMLN government is making significant advances towards universal health care and education and re-building the productive fabric of the country that was decimated through neoliberal policies, especially for family farmers.
Recognizing the need for international support for these promising experiments, and taking our cues from the historic contributions of the Nicaragua and Cuba solidarity movements, CISPES renewed its commitment to building people-to-people ties through delegations, including bringing the first international brigade to accompany the Ministry of Education National Literacy Program. In addition to providing much-needed material support and accompaniment, CISPES brigades raise awareness in the US about the transformation taking place in El Salvador and help ensure that solidarity will be at the ready for the inevitable attacks.
As the US government and the ruling elites expand their economic war against the poor of the Americas, and increase militarization to guarantee corporate interests, solidarity work is as timely as ever. A movement for global economic justice is in search of just what CISPES can offer: an analytical framework, a cross-border solidarity strategy, and - most importantly - the people of El Salvador as an inspiring example. Today, Salvadorans, led by the FMLN, are creating an alternative vision of society while attempting to back the harsh economic policies devised in Washington.
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