Primary Sources

Legalization versus Re-legalization of NSZZ "Solidarity"


Formed in September 1980 in Poland and recognized as a legal union by Communist officials in November, Solidarity was formally dissolved by Communist leaders on October 8, 1982, and forced to function illegally and underground. During the historic roundtable talks between Communist officials and leaders of the opposition that took place in February through April 1989, participants revisited the question of the legalization of Solidarity, a topic that was of utmost importance to Solidarity activists. In this document written in February 1989, at the time of the roundtable talks, to Solidarity leader Lech Walesa, a Solidarity activist (along with a group within Solidarity) exhibited his concerns about the discussions that were taking place behind closed doors. He feared that Solidarity representatives at the talks were compromising too much with party officials. This document demonstrates that tensions not only existed between Communist officials and Solidarity activists but also developed among the activists. It clearly points to the complexity of the events that unfolded in Poland over the course of the 1980s, and especially in 1989, showing that Solidarity, as a union, was not necessarily unified.


Jerry Kropiwnicki to Andrzej Stelmachowski, 25 February 1989, trans. Jan Chowaniec, Cold War International History Project, Documents and Papers, CWIHP (accessed May 14, 2008).

Primary Source—Excerpt

" A Statement on the "re-legalization" and [versus] "legalization" of the NSZZ "Solidarity" 1....Still controversial is the question of [the] relationship [of Solidarity] to the law of 8 October 1982, which Lech Walesa's advisers adopted as a basis for negotiations with the authorities of the People's Republic of Poland [PRL].

...The negotiators on behalf of Lech Walesa and KKW [National Executive Commission] adopted the position that:

...2. ...It remains controversial as to whether it [the union] is to be registered as a new Union, or restored as a legal entity existing continuously since 1980. It appears, based on the pronouncements of Mr. Tadeusz Mazowiecki [journalist and Solidarity activist] to the mass media, that the "social-solidarity side" at the "Roundtable" had assumed that it ought to be registered as a new union (so-called legalization). The Working Group of the National Commission is of the opinion that the indispensable condition of both a lasting understanding (or a lasting compromise) with the PRL authorities and the restoration of unity in "Solidarity" is [based on] the restoration of registration to the existing union (its "re-legalization").

2. The Working Group of the National Commission is of the opinion that "forming the Union anew" will come in conflict with social aspirations, and may even lead to a breakdown of the Union.

a) Many Union activists and members have experienced all sorts of repression— prison, arrest, physical violence (some lost their life), dismissal from a job, unemployment, monetary penalties, constraints in their professional career, all for their struggle in defense of the existing Union. For them it is inadmissible to [consider] giving away at the table all that they [had] defended and suffered for, and without even asking for their opinion....

d) Founding the Union as a "new one" will make it difficult or simply impossible to rehabilitate the members who were sentenced or to restore to work those who were dismissed for their defense of "Solidarity."...

3. "Legalization," that is a renewed formation of the Union (even on the basis of the previous Statute of 1981) would mean recognition that the NSZZ "Solidarity" was really disbanded on 8 October 1982....

4. The Working Group of the National Commission appeals: - to the "solidarity-social side" not to take decisions at the Roundtable, which are reserved for the statutory authorities of the NSZZ "Solidarity." - to the leaders and sympathizers of the Union not to give away at the table what thousands of Union activists and members did not give up during the martial law period and multiple repressions, - and in particular to Lech Walesa, Zbigniew Bujak,111 Wladyslaw Frasyniuk 112 and Antoni Tokarczuk 113 —as chairman of the KK 114 and members of [the] KK Presidium— not to be unfaithful to their oath of loyalty to the Statute of the NSZZ "Solidarity."

How to Cite this Source

Jerzy Kropiwnicki, "Legalization versus Re-legalization of NSZZ 'Solidarity.'" Making the History of 1989, #345.

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