Workers against Stalinism - Poland 1980-81

Submitted by Anon on 5 March, 2006 - 12:28

Events in East Germany in 1953, Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968 showed the anti-working class character of Stalinism. But, more
importantly, it demonstrated workers' ability to oppose Stalinism. In Hungary in 1956, workers set up factory councils and district-based revolutionary councils to maintain the general strike.

Another example of the working class fighting Stalinism was the events in Poland in 1980-81. Poland became a Stalinist state in 1945 like the rest of Eastern Europe after Russian armies drove out the Nazis. Polish workers stood against bureaucracy in 1956 and 1970, in the face of bloody repression.

In August 1980 Polish workers shook Stalinist rule to its foundations. First, 17,000 shipyard workers at Gdansk went on strike for free trade unions, increased wages and the reinstatement of victimised rep Anna Walentynowicz. Within 48 hours 30,000 workers from surrounding factories were out.

Workers established an inter-factory committee to co-ordinate the strike. They were joined by steelworkers and miners who also formed committees. Strikes spread to other cities such as Szczecin. Within a fortnight over 400 factories were out, involving hundreds of thousands of workers.

In October a general strike of six million workers took place. The independent trade union Solidarnosc, previously banned by the Stalinist government, came to the fore. Solidarnosc spread into rural areas as well. Within a year Solidarnosc had 10 million members and the MKS had a thousand delegates from major workplaces across Poland. Solidarnosc was outlawed again in December 1981 when martial law was imposed. Its leaders, fearing Russian tanks, did not directly challenge the bureaucracy. But their struggle fatally weakened the Stalinist system across Eastern Europe, which fell within a decade.

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