1980 was the last year of Edward Gierek's reign. The economic situation of the People's
Republic of Poland continued to deteriorate. Subsequent price rises caused a wave of strikes,
which broke out on July 1, 1980. The authorities, usually meeting these demands, only
temporarily calmed the situation down. On August 14, 1980, at the Gdańsk Lenin Shipyard,
the occupational strike began, headed by Free Trade Unions activist Lech Wałęsa. The next
day, in a gesture of solidarity with the Gdańsk shipyard workers, new factories began to strike
all over Poland.
On August 30 and 31 and September 3, the representatives of the authorities signed
agreements with the representatives of the striking factories, on the basis of which the
Solidarity Trade Union was established on September 17. It was the largest organization
independent from the communist authorities, not only in the history of the People's Republic
of Poland but also in the history of the entire so-called Eastern Bloc.
"Solidarity" was not a classic trade union. It was not only workers but also intellectuals,
journalists and economists who applied for it. Its structure was similar to that of a political
party (division by regions, not by industry key). Over time, the relationship, together with
satellite organisations, evolved into a social and independence-oriented movement, absorbing
or shaded by the democratic opposition to which it had belonged. At the end of 1980, it could
already boast of having about 9 million members. Some members of the Polish United
Workers' Party (PZPR) joined the "Solidarity" ranks, and the party itself began to create so-
called horizontal structures, which opposed the current democratic centralism.
The atmosphere in Poland was tense. Dragging the line between "Solidarity", whose strength
was enormous public support and the threat of triggering a wave of paralysing strikes, and the
Central Committee of the PZPR, which did not fully know how to restore the status quo ante,
forced further compromises that were inconvenient for the party.
Moscow demanded decisive action from Warsaw in the fight against the "counter-revolution"
but at the same time repeatedly asserted that an intervention similar to that of 1968 in
Czechoslovakia was not an option. The Polish communists had to deal with Solidarity on their
Preparations for the final trial of the union began. On October 18, 1981, General Wojciech
Jaruzelski, Prime Minister and Minister of National Defence, was appointed the First
Secretary of the Central Committee of the Polish United Workers' Party. By that time the
economic situation of the People's Republic of Poland was already dramatic, and the Polish
society was tired. The authorities held "Solidarity" responsible for the situation.