Primary Sources

Letter by Lech Walesa to the Council of State


By 1986, reforms associated with Mikhail Gorbachev in the Soviet Union had begun to affect political and economic life in Poland. Lech Wałesa, leader of the Polish trade union movement Solidarity, and a veteran organizer of illegal strikes and demonstrations, wrote to the Polish Council of State (the most powerful branch of government in the Republic of Poland) requesting the end of martial law, declared in 1981. He also demanded "union pluralism," the recognition by the Polish government of independent trade unions. He argued that both were vital to Poland's political and economic wellbeing. Walesa declared his mandate based on his democratic election as the chairman of Solidarity. At the same time, by promising to respect the existing constitution, he sought to reassure the Council of State that Solidarity did not plan its overthrow. Wałesa would later become the Poland's first post-socialist president.


Lech Wałesa to the Council of State, trans. Jan Chowaniec, 2 October 1986, Cold War International History Project, Virtual Archive, CWIHP (accessed May 14, 2008).

Primary Source—Excerpt

Acting on the basis of a mandate given to me in democratic elections at the First Congress of delegates of…"Solidarity" in 1981, as chairman of that Union…

—motivated by my concern about further economic development of our country and having in mind the concentration of all Poles around the task of economic reform as a task of particular importance, in the absence of which we are faced with economic regression and backwardness, particularly in relation to the developed countries;

—drawing conclusions from the attitude of millions of working people, who over the last four years didn't find a place for themselves in the present trade unions, remained faithful to the ideals of "Solidarity" and wished to get involved together with them in active work for the good of the Motherland within the framework of a socio- trade union organization, which they could recognize as their own;

I am calling on the Council of State to take measures, which—consistent with binding legislation—would enable the realization of the principle of union pluralism, finally putting an end to the martial law legislation which constrains the development of trade unionism.

At the same time—for the sake of social peace and the need to concentrate all social forces on [the task of] getting out of the crisis—I declare readiness to respect the constitutional order… True, the provisions of this law are far from our expectations, but they nevertheless create possibilities of working and respecting the principles of the freedom of trade unions and union pluralism, and only temporary regulations are blocking the realization of those principles. It is high time to put an end to those temporary regulations and to lead to the normalization of social relations in the area of trade unionism.

How to Cite this Source

Lech Walesa, "Letter by Lech Walesa to the Council of State," Making the History of 1989, Item #76, (accessed October 28 2021, 9:40 am).

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