2008 | 22 | 123-146
Article title

IT MOVED! THE 1989 SPRING STRIKES IN POLAND (Ruszylo - strajki wiosna 1988 roku w Polsce)

Title variants
Languages of publication
In spring 1988, strikes unexpectedly erupted in several factories in Poland, caused by a substantial increase in the prices of the food staples in February of that year. The wave of strikes began at the end of April with a strike of the urban transportation workers in Bydgoszcz, which lasted over ten hours. On the next day, a strike at the Lenin Steelworks in Nowa Huta erupted. The workers not only demanded a pay rise but also the re-employment of those who had been fired because of their activity in the 'Solidarnosc' trade union. Despite the mediation of the Episcopate's emissaries, who attempted to arrange direct talks between the management of the Steelworks and the strikers, the protest was deceitfully and brutally broken up by the militia, the ZOMO riot dispersal troops and the Security Service on the night of 4th to 5th May. In the meantime, a two-day strike at the Stalowa Wola Steelworks began where, for the first time since martial law had been promulgated, several thousand employees demanded that the authorities recognise 'Solidarnosc'. In early May, the Lenin Shipyard in Gdansk became another focus of action, with Lech Walesa, the union's leader, taking part in the strike there. The banner cry of 'there's no freedom without Solidarnosc' resounded there again. Enormous pressure was being exerted on the strikers at the Shipyard; almost every night, the ZOMO riot dispersal troops carried out dummy storming on the premises. As a result of a total stalemate in negotiations with the management, the only face-saving solution to the situation was a collective walk-out of the strikers from the Shipyard without signing any agreements with the directors. What was peculiar to the spring wave of strikes was that it was the youngest generation of workers who took part in them, who had no experience of August 1980. The fact that young workers had become active and that they had understood the importance of the legalisation of 'Solidarnosc' meant that the underground Union had gained a new generation; a generational 'changing of the watch' had proceeded in its ranks. While the strikers failed to compel the authorities to accept any of their political demands, the authorities were hugely surprised by the recurrence of the demand for the re-legalisation of 'Solidarnosc' and an end to the official trade unions' monopoly. The spring strikes in both steelworks and in the shipyard did not result in a repeat of August 1980. Nevertheless it was the largest wave of strikes in six years.
  • Paulina Codogni, Instytut StudiĆ³w Politycznych PAN, ul. Polna 18/20, 00-625 Warszawa, Poland
Document Type
Publication order reference
CEJSH db identifier
YADDA identifier
JavaScript is turned off in your web browser. Turn it on to take full advantage of this site, then refresh the page.