B: The Shipyard

Gdańsk Shipyard was founded in 1945 as a state-owned company, on sites of the former German shipyards, Schichau-Werft and Danziger Werft. During the time of the People’s Repulic of Poland it was known as the Lenin Shipyard.

Solidarity was founded in Gdańsk in September 1980 at the Lenin Shipyard, where Lech Wałęsa and others formed a broad anti-Soviet social movement ranging from people associated with the Catholic Church to members of the anti-Soviet Left. Solidarity advocated non-violence in its members’ activities. In September 1981 Solidarity’s first national congress elected Lech Wałęsa as a president and adopted a republican program, the “Self-governing Republic”. The government attempted to destroy the union with the martial law of 1981 and several years of repression, but in the end it had to start negotiating with the union.

In Poland, the Roundtable Talks between the government and Solidarity-led opposition led to semi-free elections in 1989. By the end of August a Solidarity-led coalition government was formed and in December Tadeusz Mazowiecki was elected Prime Minister. Since 1989 Solidarity has become a more traditional trade union, and had relatively little impact on the political scene of Poland in the early 1990s. A political arm founded in 1996 as Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) won the parliamentary election in 1997, but lost the following 2001 election. Currently, as a political party Solidarity has little influence on modern Polish politics.

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