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Poland
1984 - 1988
Negotiations and the big debate
In the mid-1980s a certain lethargy set into Polish society. Small steps taken by each side failed to produce real changes in day-to-day life.

In the West, however, hopes for Solidarity and the end of the Communist monopoly were buoyed. In October, Lech Walesa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. In 1984, more than 35,000 political prisoners were released on the 40th anniversary of the People's Republic. The remainder were released in 1986.

Inside Poland, economic problems continued. General Jaruzelski's reforms were haphazard and, in many cases, futile. They called for market mechanisms but retained central planning. They paid lip service to self-management but continued to hand power to Communist directors.

In 1988, strikes intervened. In February, the government increased food prices by 40%. By May, there were widespread strikes. In August, a second wave of strikes forced the government to accept that that after nearly seven years of stonewalling, it was time to negotiate with Solidarity. That view was further entrenched in November 1988 when Lech Walesa defeated Communist leader Alfred Miodowicz in a televised debate. The event proved to party members and the public that Solidarity was not a destructive force but key to the emergence of a democratic Poland.

Bronislaw Geremek
Lech Walesa
General Jaruzelski