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Poland marks historic agreement of 1980

PR dla Zagranicy
Roberto Galea 31.08.2016 11:23
Wednesday marks the anniversary of the breakthrough August Agreement, signed 36 years ago on 31 August 1980 – an event that marked the beginning of the end for communism in Poland.
Boards with the 21 demands displayed by the entrance gate to the Lenin Shipyard in August 1980. Photo: Wikimedia CommonsBoards with the 21 demands displayed by the entrance gate to the Lenin Shipyard in August 1980. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Commemorations on Wednesday will include a ceremony at 2pm attended by Polish President Andrzej Duda in the building where the agreement was signed in 1980.

At 4pm Duda will lay flowers at the no. 2 gate of the Gdańsk Shipyard, and an hour later will attend a Catholic Mass at St. Bridget's Church in Gdańsk.

Also known as the Gdańsk Agreement, the breakthrough followed strikes at the shipyards in the northern Polish city, with former employee Lech Wałęsa at the helm.

By 24 August 1980, the communist government estimated that some 130,000 employees from 140 companies in Gdańsk and neighbouring Gdynia had joined the strike.

The authorities were compelled to act. Poland's communist leader Edward Gierek called for a peaceful solution to the conflict.

Negotiations ensued between the so-called Interfactory Strike Committee (MKS) and the government. Talks touched on such key themes as censorship restrictions, the release of political prisoners and allowing the Church to participate in radio and television programmes.

The first point in the famed 21-demands was key: “Acceptance of free trade unions that are independent of the party, and of enterprises, in accordance with convention No. 87 of the International Labor Organization concerning the right to form free trade unions.”

The agreement caused a brief eruption of freedom of expression in Poland, before the clampdown of December 1981, when the communist authorities declared martial law.

Nevertheless, the communist regime eventually fell due to efforts of Solidarity campaigners, culminating in the Round Table Agreement of spring 1989. (rg)

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