The Fight for Freedom: Solidarity’s 21 Demands

The Museum of Solidarity’s 21 Demands

The plywood boards scrawled with 21 demands on the wall of a Gdansk shipyard strike in 1980 are now part of a museum that celebrates Solidarity, an independent Polish trade union and social movement that four decades ago started an avalanche of dissent that eventually swept away Communism.

Solidarity was a broad anti-Soviet social movement with a variety of political views. Its leaders, led by electrician Lech Walesa, supported negotiations with the authorities but a faction that wanted an anti-communist revolution was also present.

Freedom of assembly

Freedom of assembly is a core democratic principle. It allows citizens to meet and organize without interference from the government. However, this right can be limited in cases of public safety and security. For example, a high court decision found that the city of Richmond could restrict access to certain neighborhoods to prevent drug trafficking and violence.

During the struggle with the communist regime, Solidarity never lost sight of one of its main principles: nonviolence. Despite harsh government attacks, Solidarity remained a peaceful movement, and Walesa emphasized that the union was fighting for something, not against something.

In the 21 demands of MKS, Walesa called for a number of basic workplace rights, including maternity leave and full medical service for workers. The list also included larger demands, such as the establishment of independent trade unions. The demands helped lead to the Gdansk Agreement and the formation of Solidarity, a social movement that became the symbol of a European peace revolution.

Freedom of speech

Freedom of speech is a fundamental right that all humans deserve. While some ideas may be harmful, it is wrong to punish those who express them. Government officials who try to restrict speech should be prosecuted. Freedom of speech is more than a set of words; it’s a way to live according to your beliefs.

Although there are exceptions, the Supreme Court has ruled that the First Amendment prohibits Congress from restricting freedom of speech. This means that people can speak freely in public places, such as sidewalks and parks. However, private companies, such as social media platforms and businesses, can restrict speech if it violates their terms of service or negatively impacts their business.

Solidarity was a broad anti-authoritarian social movement that promoted workers’ rights and political change. Its success led to the collapse of the Soviet Bloc in 1989. Despite its many challenges, Solidarity always adhered to its core principles of nonviolence and democracy.

Legalization of trade unions

Despite the government’s attempt to destroy it, Solidarity grew to become more than just a trade union; it was also a political movement with 10 million members. In their negotiations with the communist government, its leaders raised not only economic issues, but questions of the rule of law and human rights.

The movement was bolstered by financial support from American trade unions and moral support from the pope. The outlawed union also received a major boost in 1988, when Jaruzelski hosted Britain’s “Iron Lady,” Margaret Thatcher. She urged Poland’s depressed workers that their only hope for salvation was to forge a practical plan to freedom.

The opening postulate of the 21 demands called for the establishment of free trade unions. Other postulates demanded that the state respect constitutional rights and freedoms, release political prisoners, abolish communist-party privileges, and take measures to improve the country’s economy. These demands led to the Gdansk Agreement and the birth of Solidarity.

Abolition of repressive measures

Solidarity activists used peaceful protests-strikes and mass rallies-to achieve their aims. Lech Walesa, the former shipyard electrician who took the famous leap over the fence to lead the August 1980 shipyard strike in Gdansk, demanded labour law reforms, respect for human rights and higher wages.

The movement got a major morale boost in November 1988 when Poland’s outlawed prime minister Jaruzelski hosted Britain’s Margaret Thatcher, who urged the workers to continue their struggle for freedom.

Repressive measures include both political repression that is unchecked by formal legal mechanisms and administrative repression, which is based on formally-established legal powers but often amounts to legal sanction of atrocities such as those witnessed in apartheid South Africa and Nazi Germany. The demands of Solidarity 21 call on governments to abolish both forms of repression. The campaign also calls on countries to support the development of free and independent media, which can play a crucial role in exposing corruption, injustice and other wrongdoing.

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