Scholar Interviews

What sources help us understand the strikes?


The first one is a leaflet that’s produced in the last week of August in 1988. The document is actually entitled A cappella because it’s a leaflet produced by a social movement called Freedom & Peace which was a mostly student movement involving campaigns against the draft, against certain aspects of military service, and against nuclear power, which was a particular problem in the Gdansk area, they were beginning to build a nuclear reactor there.

And in Gdansk, in particular, Freedom & Peace was dominated by anarchists who viewed Solidarity as not interesting at all. Solidarity to them was old people who were always bringing the church in, were always praying and going to confession and so on. And when the strike takes place, some of them decide that they need to help. These young student anarchists were quite skilled in underground publishing. They had a lot of experience in it and had really sort of changed the way underground publishing worked and decided that their talents were useful and so they essentially go to the strike and say here we are, we want to help you. And this leaflet that they produce, it’s sort of their call to their friends outside of the strike saying come and help, it’s not as bad as you think. Or it’s not the Solidarity that you think. We suggest you actually come and join us.

It’s a two-sided leaflet which is a mixture of drawings in a sort of a graffiti style. It’s actually kind of interesting, as if they’re reproducing graffiti so they’ll have text and then they add things in there. For example, upside down on the first page is a slogan that says “Gorbachev is a lackey of Moscow.” Or also a line says “we’ve been waiting for you so many years,” sort of echoes a song that was sort of an old Polish song.

They even have the Solidarity slogan, which traditionally is written with very recognizable letters, sort of jumbly and sort of forced together as if the letters of Solidarity are people marching and holding a flag. The “n” in Solidarity in Polish, sort of goes up and there’s a flag waving from it. And three of the letters have dots on them, the “I” and then there are two letters that have accents on them in Polish. So it looks like they’re people and so they’re rushing together.

They’ve changed it. There’s no flag on the end and instead, the “a” has a circle around it. And so Solidarity had been made an anarchist symbol. It’s as if they’re saying: hey, it’s okay, we’ve anarchized Solidarity. So come on along.

And so you’ve got this graffiti part of it and then there’s also text which is typed text and that’s where they sort of convey the message to their colleagues in their movement. The text begins like this: young citizen of this not-so-terrible country, opponent, artist, anarchist, crazy person, if at this moment you’re not as it happens drunk, stoned, or zoned out by pot or by the television or exhausted after love, listen to this. In the Gdansk shipyard and in a few other factories, there’s a strike going on. This should not be completely uninteresting to you because among those who are helping the strike are we, your beloved and always faithful, friends from the Freedom and Peace Movement. And then they go on to talk about the printing for the strike and then they connect it to their own issues.

On the back side of the leaflet they remind people of Freedom and Peace’s concerns. They say at this moment the following people are in prison for refusing military service and they list about 10 names. And then they list a few other political prisoners and say they should be freed. And then they go on to say: this is a demand which we can also advance by being part of the strike. So there’s a practical reason, too. It’s not just that it’s fun and we’re having a good time here, but we’re getting our own concerns in by being part of the strike.

How to Cite

Padraic Kenney, interview, "What sources help us understand the strikes?" Making the History of 1989, Item #589, (accessed September 25 2018, 5:50 am).