Despatches: Shipyard that launched a mutiny

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The Independent Online
The trigger for Solidarity was a rash of price increases in July 1980. Strikes were declared in Warsaw and there were stoppages across the country.

The focal point was Gdansk's Lenin shipyard. The party leader, Edward Gierek, tried to contain the revolt but the strikers and their leader, Lech Walesa, would not be bought off. Soon strike committees were emerging across the country and Solidarity was born.

From November 1980 to March 1981 a party-union truce held, partly out of fear of a Soviet invasion. But the anti-Communism of the first Solidarity congress in September 1981 made the new prime minister and defence minister, Wojciech Jaruzelski, determined to crush it.

In December he imposed martial law, Walesa was detained and Solidarity outlawed. But it was not broken and led strikes in 1986 and 1987.

As Gorbachev's reforms reduced the threat of an invasion, a new government in 1989 opened talks with Solidarity, which, re-legalised, won 99 per cent of the free seats in parliament. Jaruzelski endorsed Tadeusz Mazowiecki, the first non-Communist Prime Minister since the war. Solidarity had triumphed. -Marcus Tanner

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