After the plane crash that killed its president, Lech Kaczynski, and many of its other top military and civilian leaders, Poland is without established leadership. Sights are set now on the Polish people to reinstate their leadership against significant odds, as they have done in the past.
Poland is not usually associated with victory or independence. Though it has an extensive and diverse history, few events can be recalled as true victories for the country. Usually, we think of Poland as the one being bullied in Europe, tossed back and forth throughout history between the Western and Eastern parts of the continent.
Above all else, Poland’s ability to fling itself through non-violent means out of the grasps of communism and into a republic is worth significant recognition.
In 1980, Poland was on the verge of change. Being a communist nation as a Soviet satellite, Poland had an economy that was almost in total ruin. The communist government raised prices of many items, instilling anger among the populace. Rising from the tumultuous status of the country at that time was a non-communist trade union named “Solidarity”, lead by Lech Wal?sa. It had only one goal &- to demand less government regulation of market.
Solidarity is unique in that it opposed violent protest, and the union adhered to a strict policy of non-violence resistance. In 1981, Solidarity became the primary force opposing the established communist government. It spawned many independent unions and each demanded a change in the regulation of the Polish economy, and, ultimately, of the Polish government.
At its peak, Solidarity accrued about 10 million supporters, more than two-thirds of the country’s population. After years of bitter rivalry between Solidarity and the government, the two started talks. Negotiations led to the allowance of Solidarity to participate in national elections for government. The communist government expected to defeat Solidarity in the elections. Surprisingly, Solidarity won a number of seats and established the modern Republic of Poland.
The Solidarity movement and the establishment of a republic inspired other neighboring Soviet satellites to follow Poland in its footsteps toward a liberalized republic. It can be argued that if it weren’t for the Solidarity’s bold move against Poland’s communist establishment, modern European policies would have taken a different shape.
This piece of history, though unknown to most Americans, contributes to our comprehension of the free market. The populace of Poland was suppressed, and like all other populations suppressed by government throughout history, uprising ensued.
However, unlike most other uprisings against the government, the Polish people pursued non-violent means of changing policy. Compared to the French Revolution, the American Revolution and the Russian Revolution in 1917, the late 20th century revolution in Poland solidified itself among the other European giants &-&- the Polish people showed Europe and the world that change, no matter how idealistic it seems, could be achieved through negotiation. And even with Saturday’s tragedy, Poland will govern because of the will of its people.