Current status of Solidarity (2001-May 2002); reports of members who were punished for participating in anti-government activities (1980-1990); treatment of their current and former members (2001-May 2002) [POL38937.E]

The official name of Solidarnosc (Solidarity) is the Independent and Self-Governing Trade Union Solidarnosc (NSZZ Solidarnosc) (Solidarnosc n.d.).

For information on Solidarity's legal status, leadership, structure, statute, activities and membership, please see its Website at

There is a reference to several spin-offs from Solidarity including Solidarity '80, August '80 and Christian Trade Union Solidarity (Popieluszko) (Country Reports 1997 30 Jan. 1998). Solidarity '80, a faction of Solidarity which opposed Lech Walesa's leadership, was built on the basis of the principles of Solidarity's 1980 statute (Country Reports 1990 Feb. 1991, 1240). The authorities reportedly refused to register it because its statute failed to recognize the provision on strikes of the 1982 law on trade unions (ibid.). In particular, this law provided for strict restrictions on strikes and serious legal punishments for strikers (ibid.). However, in September 1991, the Warsaw provincial court recognized the registration of Solidarity '80 (Country Reports 1991 Feb. 1992, 1204). Its membership is estimated at 250,000 (Country Reports 2001 4 Mar. 2002). There is also a reference to the farmers' Solidarity (RFE/RL 4 Apr. 2002).

Following is an overview of Solidarity's involvement in politics since 1990:

The centre-right multi-party AWS [Akcja Wyborcza Solidarnosc, Solidarity Electoral Action] is descended indirectly from the Solidarity independent trade union movement responsible for accelerating the demise of European communism in the 1980s under the leadership of Lech Walesa. Having been disowned by Walesa after his election as President in 1990, the Solidarity political wing had played a minor role in the early 1990s, failing to win Sejm [one of the two components of the Parliament (Country Reports 2001 4 Mar. 2002)] representation in 1993. Following Walesa's narrow failure to secure re-election in 1995, a Solidarity congress in June 1996 resolved to form the AWS as a broad alliance to challenge the incumbent government dominated by the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD). Chaired by Solidarity leader Marian Krzaklewski, the new grouping attracted some 35 existing formations to its banner, notably the Christian National Union (ZChN), the Centre Alliance (PC), the Conservative Peasant Party (SKL), the Christian Democratic Labour Party (ChDSP) and the Christian Democratic Party (PChD).
Attracting substantial rural support, the AWS led the polling in the September 1997 parliamentary elections, winning 201 of the 460 lower house seats with 33.8% of the vote, well ahead of the SLD. It therefore formed a coalition government with the liberal Freedom Union (UW) under the premiership of Jerzy Buzek, while Krzaklewski became chairman of the AWS parliamentary group. At the end of 1997 about half of the AWS deputies formed the AWS Social Movement (AWS-RS), also under Krzaklewski's chairmanship, in a move to create a unitary party; the other half, however, preferred to remain affiliated to AWS component parties. In September 1998 Krzaklewski was re-elected leader of the Solidarity trade union at a congress which resolved that senior union and party posts could not be held by the same person. Accordingly, Krzaklewski was succeeded by Buzek as AWS-RS chairman in January 1999, although he remained chairman of the AWS parliamentary group.
Growing tensions in the coalition government culminated in the withdrawal of the UW in June 2000, leaving Buzek as head of a minority AWS government with eroding parliamentary and popular support. In the October 2000 presidential elections Krzaklewski came a poor third with only 15.6% of the vote, the SLD candidate being elected outright in the first round. In a bid to revive centre-right fortunes in advance of the forthcoming parliamentary elections, Buzek in January 2001, as chairman of the AWS-RS, took over the leadership of the overall AWS from Krzaklewski, who had been under further attack since his presidential election defeat. However, Buzek's efforts to create a more cohesive AWS bloc were rebuffed by the SKL (which in March 2001 withdrew from the AWS and aligned itself with the new Citizens' Platform), while the PC component mostly joined the new Law and Justice grouping. In May 2001, morevover, the Solidarity trade union federation formally withdrew from the AWS bloc.
In considerable disarray, what remained of the AWS adopted the suffix "of the Right" for the September 2001 parliamentary elections, only to experience widely forecast decimation. The grouping obtained only 5.6% of the vote and so failed to win any lower house seats, while in the simultaneous upper house elections it retained slender representation only by forming part of the five-party Senate 2001 Bloc, which won 16 seats.
The AWS is an associate member of the European People's Party (Political Parties of the World 2002, 381-382).

Following are reports on Solidarity's legal status, Solidarity members or supporters who were punished for participating in anti-government activities and amnesties granted by the government to political prisoners between 1980 and 1990.


On October 26 the prosecutor general's office announced the indictment of six regional Solidarity leaders from Chelm for disseminating posters which "insulted, derided and humiliated the government and the political system of the Polish People's Republic" (Country Reports 1981 Feb. 1982, 837).
[Since 13 December 1981 when the authorities initiated martial law,] security forces are carrying out a harsh punitive effort against members and sympathizers of Solidarity. The government has admitted to the forcible detention of over 6,000 persons suspected of hostility towards the regime, including most of the national leadership of Solidarity. At least 2,000 people have been arrested as a result of martial law. Unofficial estimates of detentions are much higher. Formal charges have been pressed against only a few detainees (ibid., 848).


In that month [October 1982], the Government passed a law delegalizing existing labor unions, including Solidarity, and organized new labor unions, largely under government control, to replace them (Country Reports 1983 Feb. 1984, 1066).


A partial amnesty declared when martial law was formally ended in July 1983, valid, with extensions, until the end of 1983, led to release of certain categories of prisoners serving sentences of less than three years while halving the prison terms of those sentenced for more than three years. In addition, those not arrested or convicted of crimes committed during martial law were made exempt from punishment if they came forward and confessed their crimes. Amnesty is revoked, however, if a person granted amnesty commits a deliberate offense before December 31, 1985, similar to the one for which he received a prison sentence. According to the Minister of Justice, amnesty "benefited" 3,068 political offenders and about 11,000 people sentenced for other types of crimes (ibid., 1062).


Under the terms of a government amnesty enacted on 22 July 1984, seven Solidarity leaders were reportedly released after spending more than two and a half years in detention without trial (Country Reports 1984 Feb. 1985, 1058-1059).


The trial of opposition activists Bogdan Lis, Adam Michnik, and Wladyslaw Frasyniuk during May and June in Gdansk was widely criticized for the "political" nature of the charges, for the conduct of the trial, and for the verdict. All three were arrested in a private meeting in Gdansk on February 13 at which the Government alleged that a token 15-minute strike in protest against price rises was being discussed. The charges against them were fomenting public unrest and participating in the activities of an illegal association (Solidarity's underground Temporary Coordinating Commission). The trial was closed to journalists, outside observers, and the general public. The court reportedly often prevented the defendants from addressing the charges against them and, on occasion, ordered them removed from the court for protesting violations of their rights or improper judicial procedure. The verdict, sentencing the defendants to terms of 2-1/2, 3, and 3-1/2 years was widely deplored (Country Reports 1985 Feb. 1986, 1056).
... In February [1986], the Supreme Court upheld the convictions of three noted Solidarity activists, Adam Michnik, Bogdan Lis, and Wladyslaw Frasyniuk, on charges of "membership in an illegal organization" and "fomenting public unrest," although it reduced the sentences of Michnik and Lis. Frasyniuk's remained unchanged at 3 1/2 years. All three were released under the September 11 decision" (Country Reports 1986 Feb. 1987, 995).


In July the Sejm passed a law providing conditional clemency for political prisoners, and on September 11 the Government followed up by releasing all political prisoners accused or convicted of crimes "against the State or public order." This decision did not affect those convicted of treason, economic sabotage, espionage, or terrorism ... (ibid., 992).
In October 1986, the Sejm passed legislation that allows certain crimes against the public order (political offenses) to be treated as misdemeanors subject to a maximum penalty of a $250 fine and/or 3 months' deprivation of liberty meted out by misdemeanor courts. The new legislation gives the authorities the option of handling certain crimes either as misdemeanors or as felonies depending on the perceived seriousness of the offense (ibid., 995).


By the end of 1987, about 800 persons charged with political offenses such as displaying Solidarity emblems or possessing illegal publications have had to pay fines of up to 50,000 zlotys (about $200 or twice the average monthly salary) (Country Reports 1987 Feb. 1988, 988).


Following agreements reached between the Communist authorities and the Walesa-led opposition, the Solidarity trade union was legalized (Country Reports 1989 Feb. 1990, 1209).

No references to the treatment of Solidarity's current and former members by the authorities since January 2001 could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2001. 4 March 2002. "Poland." Washington, DC: US Department of State. [Accessed 30 Apr. 2002]

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1997. 30 January 1998. "Poland." Washington, DC: US Department of State. [Accessed 8 May 2002]

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1991. February 1992. "Poland." Washington, DC: US Department of State.

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1990. February 1991. "Poland." Washington, DC: US Department of State.

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1989. February 1990. "Poland." Washington, DC: US Department of State.

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1987. February 1988. "Poland." Washington, DC: US Department of State.

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1986. February 1987. "Poland." Washington, DC: US Department of State.

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1985. February 1986. "Poland." Washington, DC: US Department of State.

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1984. February 1985. "Poland." Washington, DC: US Department of State.

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1983. February 1984. "Poland." Washington, DC: US Department of State.

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1981. February 1982. "Poland." Washington, DC: US Department of State.

Political Parties of the World. 2002. "Poland." 5th Edition. Edited by Alan J. Day. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale Group.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) Newsline [Prague]. 4 April 2002. Vol. 6, No. 63, Part II. "Solidarity Ready For Protests, Polish Farmers Threaten Border Blockades." (

Solidarnosc [Warsaw]. n.d. "What is the NSZZ Solidarnosc?" [Accessed 10 May 2002]

Additional Sources Consulted

IRB Databases

Unsuccessful attempts to contact a professor with the European and Russian Studies Institute of Carleton University.

Internet sites including:

Freedom House

The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights [Warsaw]

Human Rights Watch

The International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) [Prague]

UK Immigration and Nationality Directorate Country Assessments

The Warsaw Voice