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Democracy in Poland


Prior to 1980 Poland was ruled by the Polish United Workers’ Party. This was one of the Communist parties. In a Communist Country people could not choose their leader freely. They could neither speak freely against their leader.

Those who spoke against the leader were put in prison. The government of the Soviet Union (USSR), a vast and powerful communist state controlled the government in Poland.

The workers of the Lenin Shipyard in Gdansk went on strike.

Let us look at the events that led to the strike

  • Lenin Shipyard was owned by the Government and Strikes were illegal.
  • A women crane operator was dismissed from service in an unjust manner.
  • The worker went on Strike demanding her reinstatement.
  • Lech Walesa who had earlier worked in the shipyard as an electrician and he was dismissed from service because he demanded a higher pay. He joined a strike.
  • Lech Walesa merged as a leader of the striking workers.
  • The Demands of the workers
    • The workers wanted the right to form independent trade unions as Independent Trade Unions were not allowed in Poland
    • They demanded the release of political prisoners and
    • They wanted to end the censorship of the press.

    The movement became popular and the Government was forced to signed a 21-point agreement with Walesa at the end.

    • The strike was called off.
    • The Government recognized the workers’ right to form independent trade unions.
    • Independent Trade Unions were granted the right to strike.
    • A new trade union called Solidarity was formed.
    • For the first time an Independent Trade Union was formed in a Communist State.

    The Government grew anxious and imposed martial law in 1981. Thousands of Solidarity members were put in prison. Freedom to:

    1. Organize.
    2. Protest.
    3. Express opinions were taken away.

    This led to fresh strikes. But this time.

    1. The Government of Poland was weak

    2. Support from the Soviet Union was uncertain and

    3. The economy was in decline

    Walesa had another round of negotiations, which resulted in an agreement for free elections in April, 1999. In October, 1990, Poland had its first presidential elections where more than one party contested. Walesa was elected as the President of Poland.


    Two Features of Democracy

    A comparison of the democracies of Chile and Poland.

    Democracy in Chile

    Democracy in Poland

    The democratic Government of Allende was replaced by a non democratic military Government of Pinochet followed by restoration of democracy. From a non-democratic government to that of a democratic government.
    It was ruled by a military dictator. Poland was ruled by a Political Party.

    The Similarity between the two Governments were:

    • The people could not choose or change their rulers,
    • There was no real freedom to express one’s opinions,
    • They could not form political associations and
    • They could not organize protests and political actions.

    The three Democratic Governments were:

    I. Allende’s Chile.

    II. Walesa’s Poland.

    III. Michelle’s Chile.

    1. Allende preferred government control on all big industries and the economy.
    2. Walesa wanted the market to be free of government interference.
    3. Michelle stands was neutral.

    However, The Governments were elected by the people and not by the army, unselected leaders or by some external power. The people enjoyed some basic political freedoms. Thus we can define democracy as:

    "Democracy is a form of government that allows people to choose their rulers."

    In a democracy only leaders elected by people ruled the country.

    The citizens:

    (i) Freedom to express their views

    (ii) Freedom to organise

    (iii) Freedom to protest

    Democracy expanded throughout the world in twentieth century.
    Democracy did not spread evenly to all parts of the world.
    It was first established in some regions and then ,it spread to other regions.

    While a majority of countries are democratic today, there are still large parts of the world that are not democratic.

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