Banned trade union wins round-table discussion with Polish Govt.
February 6th: The banned Polish trade union Solidarity, after years of struggles, strikes, and government oppression, found itself sitting in on round-table negotiations opposite the Communist Polish Government, led by General Wojciech Jaruzelski. These negotiations would finally allow Solidarity the opportunity to share parliamentary power. For the movement, it was the culmination of a decade-long struggle for workers' rights, economic openness, and personal freedom.
Solidarity emerged in 1980 as an independent trade union approved by the government, The movement, led by Lech Walesa, gained millions of followers, including workers, intellectuals and students. They launched massive, nationwide strikes which crippled the country and challenged the government.
In 1981, the government moved to crush the movement. It declared Solidarity illegal and implemented martial law. Leaders of the movement were round up and arrested. Solidarity would be forced to spend the next several years underground.
By the late 1980s, however, a failing economy, rising prices, and consumer shortages left the government besieged and Solidarity would once again emerge as a powerful force, one that the government could do little to stop.
It became clear to General Jaruzelski's government that the only way to solve the problems facing the nation was to work with Solidarity. If Solidarity would work with the government, they would be allowed to stand for parliamentary election.
For Jaruzelski, it was a desperate gamble to stay in power. One that would ultimately be futile.
Months later, Jaruzelski's government was gone, and Lech Walesa stood as the President of a new, democratic Poland.