Communism is a system of society in, which the major resources and means of production are owned by the community rather than by individuals. In theory, communist societies provide for equal sharing of all work, according to ability, and all benefits, according to need. From 1945 to 1975 the number of countries under Communist rule increased greatly, partly because of the way the victorious powers in World War II divided the world among them, and partly because the revolutionary Communist movements gained strength in various parts of the Third World (Meyer).
Rapid political changes in Eastern Europe, the USSR, and elsewhere between 1989 and 1991 dramatically reduced the number of Communist regimes. The Communist government that remained paid allegiance to Marx and Lenin, but differ from each other not only is size and industrial development but also in their understanding of doctrine, in their arms, and in their style of rule (Meyer).
The greatest challenge to communist rule in Eastern Europe has come from Poland. It is true that since the communist rule, Poland has not yet been invaded by Soviet troops as Hungary and Czechoslovakia were. There were many attempts to take complete domination over Poland, but every time it happened Polish people were rejecting it, even if it meant creating the use of violence by the government (Brown 158). In June of 1976, the prime minister of Poland whose name was Gierek, was trying to raise the prices on basic foodstuffs. The increase of prices was necessary because the government was spending more on food subsidies than ever before, and the disproportion between the money in circulation and the consumer goods available had grown. The action to increase the prices was one of the worst moves performed by Gierek. Right after the unexpected 60 percent price increase, immediate strikes started to take place throughout the country. Because of the strikes the increase has been eliminated (Brown 180). For the next four years, Gierek's regime attempted unsuccessfully to maintain itself in power against growing pressures coming from both the workers and intellectuals. Even that Poland's economic situation continued to deteriorate and despite indications that the country was facing an imminent crisis, no attempt was made to introduce the long overdue economic reforms or to deal with other political and social issues that gave rise to the movement. When on July 1, 1980, another increase in food prices was announced by Gierek's government, there was no surprise that many movements followed. Polish workers in different parts of the country reacted angrily to this event and many of them started protesting. Government knowing the situation from the past encounters was trying to settle an agreement by providing workers with higher wages to compensate for the price rise. On thing that government wasn't clearly expecting, was the continuation of strikes from one part of the country to another. In August of the same year, the strike wave reached the Baltic port city of Gdansk, in which ten years earlier workers protested against Gomulka's regime (Rakowska 57-58).
August 14, 1980, was the day when the strike began in the Gdansk Lenin Shipyard. At that time Solidarity had only three founding members and several dozen sympathizers. The whole foundation of Solidarity was the workplace and many frustrated workers who were seeking a better tomorrow. As the time passed by, more and more people started to support and join the Solidarity Movement. The strike at the Gdansk Shipyard was the start of demanding changes, and more involvement from people and organizations around the entire country (Laba 99).
Seeing a good start at the Gdansk Shipyard, more companies all over Poland started to form interfactory strike committees, in order to force the government to improve the situation. On August 16, 1980, interfactory committees were formed in Szczecin, Wroclaw, Bydgoszcz, Walbrzych and Upper Silesia, which gave start to quicker approval of 21 demands asked by workers from Gdansk Shipyard. The goal of the movement was to create a national structure of Solidarity to speak about everyone's rights at once. On September 17, a national group was created, which brought the movement on step closer to the negotiation process with the government ( Laba 104-105).
The special meeting of all the committee on September 22, 1980, decided to vote for accepting the statute of the independent, self-administered trade union "Solidarity."
One year after founding of Solidarity program Weber stated about its existence:
Our trade union arose from the needs of the population of our country, from its suffering and its disappointments, from its hopes and aspiration.
Our union is the product of the revolts of Polish society after three decades of the suppression of human and civil rights, of political discrimination and economic exploitation. It is a protest against the existing system of sovereign exploitation. We demanded not only better living conditions, though life was wretched and work hard often useless. History taught us there is no bread without freedom. We are much concerned with justice, democracy, truth, legality, human dignity, freedom of thought, with the restoration of the whole society democratically on all of its citizenry levels. (30)
Signing the Gdansk agreement between the striking workers and the Polish government, was a first official step toward better treatment of the workers and legalizing the existence of The Free Trade Union that was Solidarity. Demands that were from government were suiting everybody's interest, even though that they originated in Gdansk. Being able to come so far wouldn't be possible without involvement from others, Gdansk Shipyard wasn't able to do it all by themselves. Strong and influential help from smaller inner-company committees, kept everything moving forward (MacShane 53-54).
The Solidarity movement was a great one, but it needed people in order to make the right decisions and go toward the right direction. One of those very important people was named Lech Walesa. He was born September 29th, 1943, in the small village of Popow between Warsaw and Gdansk. He was fourth child in a poor family struggling under the Nazi occupation. Two years after he was born, his father died and Lech was having hard time growing up in a Poland devastated by the war. He saw other countries trying to divide Poland in a half or completely trying to take it off the map. At the age of fourteen, he entered a two-years technical school in order to become an electrician. In 1959, he began his career as electrician working in a close-by repair shop. A few years later in search of better working conditions, he moved to Gdansk where he got a job in the shipyard. By moving to Gdansk he got away from a tiny village of Polish peasants and started to a live in the more societal influencing city (MacShane 24-25).
Walesa can be described as very quiet, but at the same time a person who really knows how to get along with everyone. In the seventies he was looked at as a person who lived kind of a loner life style. At the meetings of the activists who were the ones to form a Free Trade Union of the Coast, he would sit quietly in the back of the room and listen to their discussions and arguments. He was a person who really didn't like to impose his personality and become well known. When in the late seventies few of the main leaders from the solidarity were taken down by the government, it was his turn to lead the workers. Even though Walesa wasn't the great outspoken person, he had some great characteristics. One of those was his common language with the workers. As being one of them, he knew how to talk to them to gain support and understanding. His great knowledge about this situation made him a person who really knew what is the best for the workers and the country they live in (MacShane 26-27).
For his involments and constant creating of strikes around the entire country, he was arrested. Even that the great leader wasn't there, Solidarity still continued to create a problem for the government. As Walesa said himself:
I am not the one who makes all the important decisions, in fact I really don't want people to view me that way. I think decisions that are made come from the hearts of Polish society united together to fight back. We can't look at this sudden fight against bad as one man's achievements, we need to take a deeper look, and realize that it is what we all want to happen. I am just one more person like you, who seeks the stop of all this turmoil (MacShane 28-29).
Second, but as much important person as Lech Walesa was Karol Wojtyla. At the time he was still Archbishop of Krakow, but in 1978, he was elected pope. After death of John Paul I in October of 1978, the College of Cardinals elected Wojtyla as first non-Italian pope in 455 years. The election of the pope from Poland meant the cultural and institutional power of Roman Catholic Church was now tied with Polish nation. Shortly after being elected, John Paul II visited the Poland in June of 1979 to help his nation stand up and fight. His visit provided a new cultural foundation for national self-identification, and the organizational experience for mobilizing it (Kennedy 43).
Two of Poland's top writers wrote about the symbolic significance of the Pope's visit to Poland. First author Mr. Szczypiorski had following reactions and feelings about the visit:
In this dismal country of hypocrisy, cant and disregard for human dignity, the Pope's words harmonished with the thoughts of every Pole. He called for dignity, respect for man, truth, justice, law and tolerance. He clearly indicated those responsible for Poland's decline. He personified the potential greatness, the hopes and aspiration of the whole nation. (qtd. in Kennedy 43)
The second author Mr. Brandys wrote those words to describe Pope's visit:
The Pope expressed the thoughts of those great crowds of Poles, the thoughts and memories that had been falsified; he spoke to them out of his own experience and expressed their own much-abused truth. Their best truth, I would say. These are dark years; this is an age of evil prophets. Using the words of a good prophet, the Pope gave access to what is brightest in ...