The Gdańsk negotiations of August 1980 were unique in history. For the first time, workers were accepted as equal partners to negotiations with a communist state. They led, moreover, to the granting of independent trade unions —the future Solidarity —the right to strike, and other concessions unknown within a Soviet-type system. These events were unprecedented, yet to describe them as ‘revolutionary’ seems not entirely appropriate, for two main reasons. In the first place, the strikers’ demands, though radical and far-reaching, were also limited: they did not seek to take power but to bring it within legal jurisdiction. Thus the rule of law and freedom of expression were called for, but not the abolition of censorship, political pluralism or change in Poland’s international alignment. In so restricting the scope of their demands, the strikers sensed with uncanny accuracy the boundary between what could and what could not be granted. Secondly, the strike was peaceful throughout. The occupation of the shipyard has a rich iconography, but flamboyant episodes from the past —when workers sallied forth to attack public and Party buildings —were absent. Instead, the strikers remained strictly within the workplace, knowing full well what might befall them if they ventured out onto the streets.
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