Solidarność 40 years on: a controversial legacy

Solidarność, the first independent trade union in a Warsaw Pact country, was approved in Poland 40 years ago, paving the way for the overthrow of communism in Europe. Its leader and former Polish president Lech Wałęsa is a thorn in the side of today's PiS government whose anti-liberal course he has repeatedly criticised. Forty years on, Poland is at odds about whether Wałęsa is a hero or a communist collaborator.

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Rzeczpospolita (PL) /

Solidarność cannot be co-opted

Rzeczpospolita is annoyed by the tone of the debate in Poland on the anniversary of the Solidarność movement:

“While the world is rediscovering Solidarność, the Poles are busy arguing about whose description of August 1980 corresponds to the reality and who betrayed the movement's ideals. ... They forget that Solidarność was internally fragmented in the 1980s: it brought together national-Catholics, Freemasons, Social Democrats and members of the Communist Party. Unlike the communist system, its cohesion was based on its members' diversity.”

LRT (LT) /

A unique desire for consensus

Today's Poland lacks a key characteristic which the Solidarność movement possessed, Donatas Puslys of the Vilnius Institute for Policy writes in Lrt:

“Solidarność understood that no matter how big the changes, you have to share the state with those who operated the former regime. That's why the movement sought a path of consensus rather than confrontation. ... That's how the round table which led Poland to its first semi-free election was created. ... Solidarność epitomised the idea that democracy is based on a culture of consensus. And exactly that is in danger in today's Poland, because various radicals want to revise past decisions and shape justice to their own liking. However, that won't lead to more solidarity but to polarisation and enormous challenges for democracy.”