Is one of many mottos of the strike in the Gdańsk Shipyard in August 1980. It touches on the essence of what the protesters were fighting for freedom. Freedom, understood as a natural, and therefore inalienable, right that every human being is entitled to if only because they are human. Freedom, referring to the levels of functioning as an entity and as a community. Freedom of thought, conscience, religion and the profession of faith, affiliation with organisations and political parties, professing opinions, access to Justice, to decent work and salaries, and to a life in a safe and independent country. Poles had to fight for this freedom many times in their history. The first great trial came with partitions.Constant uprisings against invaders, cultivating Polish culture, the Polish language and their Catholic religion allowed Polishness to be maintained in the conquered nation. It was therefore possible for the Polish state to return to the map of Europe in 1918. Sadly, 20 years later, Germany and USSR occupied the Polish land in a treacherous pact, initiating the bloodiest war in history the Second World War. Millions of Polish lives were lost but terror and constant fear did not paralyse the Poles, and did not make them submit passively to the aggressors. The freedom and independence of the country always took precedence for the Poles, and thus they made the greatest sacrifice the sacrifice of blood. The Warsaw Uprising the climax of our compatriots’ movements for independence constituted the bloodiest tribute. And although the Second World War ended less than one year later and the Poles formally came out on the victorious side, they didn’t really share in the win. As a result of negotiations and pacts between the USSR, Great Britain and the USA, Poland found itself in the Soviet sphere of influence, and the Russians introduced their rule into our country. Such a state of affairs lasted until 1989. Poles lived in poverty, substandard housing, and in fear of the security apparatus, which controlled all areas of life. Some openly opposed the Soviet order like the so called cursed soldiers who were living in the woods. These were partisans putting up an armed fight to restore a truly legitimate Polish Government. Workers were regularly expressing their objection to the bad conditions, low wages, and increasing prices. The authorities were brutal in dealing with the protesters, shooting at them, putting them in jail and torturing them. This is what happened in 1956 in Poznań, in 1970 on the coast, in 1976 in Ursus, Płock and Radom. All of these, as well as other less spectacular yet constantly repeating actions, such as the fight with the Catholic Church, including the imprisonment of the Primate of the Polish Catholic Church Stefan Wyszyński, the arrest of those who had the courage to criticise the Polish People’s Republic system, made internal resistance grow stronger in the Poles, Karol Wojtyła, a Pole, became pope John Paul II in October 1978. His pilgrimage to his Homeland in June 1979 and his words “Let your Spirit descend! And renew the face of the earth. The face of this land!” gave Poles hope and strength to regain independence.A powerful voice, the leader of 1.3 billion Catholics worldwide spoke out for Poland
he Polish People’s Republic (PRL) Government tried to control prices. From the 1950s, the retail prices of most of the commodities were determined by the authorities. In most cases, they had nothing to do with production costs or market demands. When the economy was on the edge of collapse in the 1970s, special, so-called commercial shops selling meat were introduced. They offered products unavailable elsewhere and the prices were usually twice as high as the official, authorised prices. These new Commercial rates were also supposed to apply to canteens and plant shops from 1 July 1980, leading to a price rise of 30%. This led directly to protests and strikes in the summer of 1980. But high prices were not the only problem. Queues to shops were a common sight in the PRL. People would queue for hours to get food, industrial and household products, not knowing if they would even be available when they reached the front of the queue.
July 1980 abounded in “unjustified breaks at work”. These were in fact strikes, but the people’s government tried not to use this term. In plants, mass meetings were being held on some shifts during breakfast breaks demanding the withdrawal of the price rises, demanding wage increases and improving work conditions. One- or a-few-day-long strikes were being organised in some plants. The managements of the protesting enterprises were quickly reaching agreements with the protesters, promising them wages higher by even PLN 2,000, which was then a significant amount, and also meeting their other demands. Workers soon realised that such activities provided an effective tool to achieve their goals and the protests quickly spread. July brought downtimes in 177 plants in total, with 81,000 participants. The greatest number of plants protesting were in the Lublin region. Protests still occurred in some plants in early August however their momentum slowed down enough for the First Secretary of the Polish United Workers' Party, Edward Gierek, to be able to go to Crimea on holidays.
Official newspapers published propaganda articles on the early execution of production plans, and the good condition of the economy, which, in truth, had to deal with temporary difficulties, but the party solved them with “care and commitment” – therefore, there were no reasons for “unjustified work interruptions”.
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