chapter  5
Poland and Solidarity
Pages 32

The Solidarity movement and the crisis that accompanied its birth, legalization, and outlawing by the martial law government have attracted a huge amount of scholarly attention, but so far have defied easy categorization. The massive peaceful societal mobilization that transformed a strike committee on Poland’s Baltic coast in a matter of months into a democratic organization with almost 10 million members and 40,000 full-time staff, despite the obstructionism of the political authorities, has few if any precedents. The wide-ranging debates on the nature of Solidarity, and its place in the sweep of Poland’s post-war history, as well as the fall of Communism and transition to democracy, are a mixed blessing. While the detailed empirical studies and sophisticated and diverse theoretical treatments available are a boon for those depending on the secondary literature for an understanding of this period, the very richness and scope of extant work means that many important and interesting questions and concerns must inevitably be skipped over. Empirically, the ‘legacies’ of earlier outbreaks of popular contention seem particularly important, given the repetition of certain issues and sequences, and thus exert a pull to analyse the pre-history of Solidarity in some detail.1