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Definition: solidarity from Merriam-Webster's Collegiate(R) Dictionary

(1841) : unity (as of a group or class) that produces or is based on community of interests, objectives, and standards

Summary Article: Solidarity
from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

National confederation of independent trade unions in Poland, formed under the leadership of Lech Wałȩsa September 1980. An illegal organization from 1981 to 1989, it then headed a coalition government following elections that year. Divisions soon emerged in the leadership and in 1990 its political wing began to fragment (Wałȩsa resigned as chair in December of that year). In the September 1993 elections Solidarity gained less than 5% of the popular vote but, in September 1997, under the leadership of Marian Krzaklewski, Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) won 34% of the vote and led the subsequent coalition government with Jerzy Buzek as prime minister. However, it then lost the 2001 elections and has since exerted little political influence.

Solidarity emerged from a summer of industrial disputes caused by the Polish government's attempts to raise food prices. The strikers created a trade-union movement independent of the Communist Party, and protracted negotiations with the government led to recognition of Solidarity in exchange for an acceptance of the leading role of the Communist Party in Poland. Continuing unrest and divisions in Solidarity's leadership led to the declaration of martial law in December 1981; the union was banned and its leaders were arrested. Wałȩsa was released December 1982, and Solidarity continued to function as an underground organization. It was legalized again April 1989 following a further wave of strikes under its direction and round-table talks with the government. In the elections of June 1989 it won almost every seat open to it, and became the senior partner in a ‘grand coalition’ government formed September 1989 with Tadeusz Mazowiecki as prime minister. In December 1990, after a damaging break with Mazowiecki, Wałȩsa became Poland's president. Wałȩsa left the confederation December 1990, and by mid-1991 Solidarity found itself opposing some of its former leader's economic policies and with diminished national influence. A new political arm, founded in 1996 as Solidarity Electoral Action, emerged as the largest grouping in parliament following elections in 1997 and formed a coalition government, but lost the next elections in 2001.

Solidarity's achievements inspired the successful ‘people power’ movements in other Eastern European countries during 1989, as well as the formation of more independent labour unions in the USSR.

© RM, 2018. All rights reserved.

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