This is probably the most famous image circulated by Solidarity in the run-up to the June 4 elections. Gary Cooper, the actor who starred in the film “High Noon,” is shown with a Solidarity insignia on his badge and a ballot in hand. In addition to playfully appealing to the popularity of American Westerns—and the popularity of American in general—the “High Noon” theme hammered home….
The flier above, directed at voters in the town of Żoliborz, illustrates the complexity of the elections held on June 4, 1989. Looking at the sample ballots from left to right, Polish voters faced: 1) a “national list” for the Sejm (Lower House of parliament) made up of leading dignitaries running unopposed; 2) candidates for those seats in the Sejm that were reserved….
In the fall of 1988, Alfred Miodowicz, the head of the official union OPZZ (All-Poland Alliance of Trade Unions), challenged Lech Wałesa, the leader of the outlawed Solidarity trade union, to a televised debate. The offer signaled the growing willingness of many party leaders to compromise with opposition groups, but it was also a sign of the party’s continued self-confidence. Miodowicz, a….
In following letter, a Solidarity activist writes to Józef Cardinal Glemp, the head of the Roman Catholic church in Poland, to inform him of difficulties in setting up much-anticipated Round Table talks with the Communist regime. The correspondence provides some insight into the complicated relationship between Solidarity and the Catholic church. On the one hand, opposition leaders clearly saw….
A medieval historian by training, Bronisław Geremek had emerged by the 1980s as one of the Solidarity movement’s leading strategists. At the Round Table talks between Solidarity and the Communist leadership and in the critical months that followed, he was arguably Lech Wałęsa’s most influential advisor. In this interview, published in 1990, a young Solidarity-affiliated journalist asks….
Following World War II, Germany was divided into two countries, with West Germany (Federal Republic of Germany) becoming integrated into Western Europe and East Germany (German Democratic Republic) falling behind the Iron Curtain, with the Soviet Union in control. After the historic and spontaneous dismantling of the Berlin Wall in November 1989, East and West Germany were on the verge of….
Telephone Call from Chancellor Helmut Kohl of the Federal Republic of Germany to President George H. W. Bush
After the historic and spontaneous dismantling of the Berlin Wall in November 1989, East and West Germany were on the verge of reuniting. Helmut Kohl, the West German chancellor and later chancellor of the reunited Germany, and George H. W. Bush, president of the United States, engaged in ongoing conversations in the months leading up to reunification, which eventually took place on October 3,….
December 1989 proved to be a revolutionary month in Romania. Demonstrations erupted in the city of Timisoara in mid-December, spreading to other parts of Romania within just a few days and developing into a full-scale revolution, which eventually resulted in the execution of President Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife on December 25. Not surprisingly, Soviet officials exhibited concern about the….
Instructions of the Coordinating Center of the Civic Forum for the Local Forums with a Recommendation for Policy Toward the Communists
The name "Velvet Revolution" was an oxymoron: revolutions were traditionally violent overthrows wiping away the old regime in order to build a new society. The Communist Party followed this model in Eastern Europe, and opposition groups rejected it in 1989 with their strategy of non-violence. But could this strategy successfully remove power from a totalitarian regime? The problem emerged….
The Czechoslovak Communist Party faced some unpleasant realities on November 28. The previous day's general strike had seriously weakened its hand. That day's negotiations with opposition leader Civic Forum forced it to accept several devastating conditions, including the removal of its constitutionally-guaranteed domination of state and society. Party members had not yet resigned themselves to….
Civic Forum suffered from an ongoing identity crisis because the movement's origins conflicted with the demands of leading popular opposition to the state. The dissident intellectuals guiding its early formation had advocated the idea of self-limiting resistance; they didn't want Civic Forum to become a top-down political organization, but rather a free, open society of citizens. After great….
The Position of the Civic Forum and Public Against Violence Toward the Negotiations with Czechoslovak Prime Minister Ladislav Adamec
Civic Forum and Public Against Violence released this communique after their second round of negotiations with the government on November 28. The nationwide general strike had occurred the day before with resounding success; it was estimated that between one-half and three-fourths of the adult population participated in some fashion. This triumph gave the opposition a great deal of leverage in….
From the beginning, Civic Forum had to balance two objectives: leading popular protests and negotiating with the regime. In its first week, the Forum concentrated on mobilizing public support for the upcoming general strike. November 26 signified a turning point. That morning, Forum representatives appeared at the first formal round of negotiations with only their original four demands; they….
Speech by Premier Ladislav Adamec at an extraordinary session of the CPCz CC, stating his preference for a political solution to the crisis
Only days after November 17 a growing number of Czechoslovak communists were becoming convinced that the conservative leadership's hardliner approach to the growing public unrest was failing. This sea change in official opinion began to crystallize on November 24 at the extraordinary session of the Czechoslovak Communist Party's Central Committee, which foreshadowed the ascendancy of younger….
Several of the previous documents (for example doc. 492, 508 and 510) have dealt with the Czechoslovak Communist Party's attempts to control public opinion in the early days of the Velvet Revolution. The party's strategy for the first week or so consisted of isolating the opposition and using ideological arguments to convince the general public of the harmful consequences of the protesters'….
Teleprint from Jozef Lenart, Secretary of CC CPCz, to Regional Committees and Municipal Commitees in Prague and Bratislava
The battle for public opinion occupied both government and opposition at the beginning of the Velvet Revolution. In this November 23 communique, Central Committee member Jozef Lenart reported on the party's measures to sway the public against the opposition. His argument echoed the conservative leadership's refusal to compromise with the protesters, maintaining instead that local communists….
Anti-state demonstrations have traditionally taken place in the heart of Prague on Wenceslas Square. After the November 17 police crackdown, it was no accident that the Square became the central point for people to get information, meet others and, from November 21 on, to attend the daily "meetings" when opposition groups addressed citizens from the balcony of the Melantrich publishing house.….
Teleprint from the Presidium of the CC CPCz to the Secretaries of Regional Committees of the CPCz and CPS and the Party Municipal Committees in Prague and Bratislava
Czechoslovak communist leaders reacted to the first protests after November 17 with the same uncompromising attitude towards opposition they had held for twenty years. This November 21 Central Committee directive, calling on local communists to create a uniform front against the protests, illustrates some of the leadership's initial arguments and strategies. Denying that the public outcry….
Letter from the Civic Forum to US President George Bush and USSR General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev
On November 21, Civic Forum representatives addressed the throngs of demonstrators on Wenceslas Square for the first time; this public "meeting" would soon became a daily ritual. Afterwards, Forum members wrote this letter to the U.S. and Soviet leaders, speaking as the legitimate representatives of those "hundreds of thousands" on the Square. The letter concerns one of the touchiest subjects….
The Civic Forum's Position on the Negotiations of its Representatives with Prime Minister Ladislav Adamec
Civic Forum's original demands included "round-table" negotiations between itself and the government following the model used in Poland and Hungary. Unlike the party leadership in those countries, however, the Czechoslovak communists refused to open dialogue with the opposition until their hand was forced by the explosion of protest after November 17. Despite continued conservative resistance,….