Published in 20th-century / Contemporary History, Features, Issue 6 (November/December 2013), Volume 21

48The massive industrial unrest in Poland in August 1980, centred on the famous strike in the Gdańsk shipyard, had led to the creation of Solidarność, the first independent trade union in the Soviet bloc. Led by the charismatic Lech Wałęsa, the union had expanded rapidly, to a point where, by late 1980, it could count on many millions of members. Alongside the powerful Roman Catholic Church, Solidarność represented a potentially lethal threat to the ‘leading role’ of the Communist Party in Poland, with the threat that this ‘Polish disease’ might spread to other states in the eastern bloc.


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