Our guest author today is Eric Chenoweth, co-director of the Institute for Democracy in Eastern Europe. In 2011, the Republic of Poland awarded him with the Commander Cross of the Order of Merit, one of its highest civilian honors, for his contributions to Poland’s democratic transformation and role in providing support to Solidarity Underground during Martial Law.
In the West, Poland’s Solidarity trade union remains a symbol of the triumph of workers, united in defense of their fundamental rights, against the might of communist dictatorship.
Its remarkable rise in 1980 after nationwide strikes, its nearly ten-year struggle for freedom after the government tried to crush it using martial law, and its 1989 electoral victory that led to the collapse of communism throughout the region — all of this has become the stuff of historical legend. The story of Solidarity after 1989, however, is less well known. It is the story of how free trade unionism was nearly destroyed by extreme “free market” policies carried out in the name of democratic reform.