Nonviolent struggle against the authoritarian communist government in Poland began soon after the communists stole parliamentary elections in 1946. However, it took over three decades of civil resistance—waged over time with varying tactics and degrees of intensity—for Polish society to begin organizing and consolidating itself in a broad coalition of social forces that climaxed in the establishment of the Solidarność (“Solidarity”) as an organization and a movement in August 1980. Solidarity, with its roots in trade unionism shook and delegitimized the communist regime by exposing its ideological but false claims of being a free “workers’ state”. This popular movement created independent political space where alternative institutions, activities, and discourses could develop and flourish. Solidarity always pursued its political objectives with a high degree of nonviolent discipline as well as self-imposed limitations. Both of these elements played a crucial role in a national compromise and peaceful transfer of power in 1989. This negotiated transition ushered Poland onto the path of a successful democratization that also carried important hallmarks of its civil resistance legacy.
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