Solidarność, the Polish Solidarity Movement, a labor union founded on September 17, 1980 at the Lenin Shipyard in Gdansk. The movement, led by Lech Wałęsa, was the first trade union in a Soviet Union block state. The union reached 9.5 million members, representing one third of the total working age population of Poland. Solidarność was a broad anti-bureaucratic civil resistance movement to advance the causes of workers’ rights and social change.
After years of Polish citizens suffering under an oppressive government based in economically fruitless policy, the underground trade union was developing. Anna Walentynowicz, a worker at the Lenin Shipyard in Gdańsk, was fired on August 7, 1980, 5 moths before her retirement date, for her participation in the illegal union. On August 14, a large scale strike at the shipyard began, demanding Walentynowicz’s return. The strike transformed into a symbol of anti-communist unity. On November 10, 1980, Solidarność became an officially registered group.
The communist government sought to destroy the union by imposing martial law, which lasted from December, 1981 until July 1983. The Pope John Paul II, and the USA provided significant financial support as well as supplies and technical assistance.
The Reagan administration supported the Polish Solidarity Movement and waged a public relations campaign. Colonel Ryszard Kukliński, a senior officer on the Polish General Staff secretly sent reports to the CIA. The CIA transferred $10 million over five years in addition to clandestine newspapers, broadcasting, propaganda, money, organizational help and advice.
The round table talks, from February 6, to April 5, 1989, between the government and Solidarity-led opposition set the ground work to a semi-free election in 1989. In December 1990, Wałęsa was elected President of Poland, signifying the end of communism in Poland.