Page last updated at 13:33 GMT, Friday, 20 March 2009

6 Feb: Solidarity enters talks


Poland's government opens talks with the banned trade union, Solidarity


On 6 February, the Polish government of General Wojciech Jaruzelski began talks on broad political and economic change in Poland with Solidarity, the free trade union movement it had banned in 1981.

A combination of strikes, chronic consumer shortages and price rises, had convinced the government that it couldn't solve the country's problems without Solidarity.

In exchange for Solidarity's help, the government offered it a chance to share parliamentary power. It was a decision that was to have far-reaching consequences.

Within months, General Jaruzelski's government was gone. By the end of 1990, Solidarity leader Lech Walesa had been voted in as Poland's president.

Solidarity had begun life in 1980 with official approval, but the honeymoon had not lasted long. The union, backed by millions of workers, had soon launched wildcat strikes to challenge one-party rule. With Moscow's encouragement, the Polish government arrested its leaders and declared Martial Law.

The movement went underground and the authorities regained the upper-hand until the late 1980s when Poland's pressing economic situation led to further civil unrest.

With Moscow under the new leadership of Mikhail Gorbachev, a new mood prevailed. Inviting Solidarity to take part in round table talks and surrendering some of its monopoly on power was seen by a desperate General Jaruzelski as a way to secure the party's future.

Print Sponsor

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2017 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific