Radical Trade Unions in Poland: The Meanings and Mechanisms of Union Radicalisation in a Post-Socialist Capitalism
This chapter explores the cases of the emergence of radical unions in Poland and the recent trend toward radicalisation in larger trade union confederations in the second decade after the collapse of state socialism in 1989. Poland is an example of a post-socialist country with relatively strong traditions of radical worker mobilisation. The best-known contemporary example of radical grass roots Polish union was the Independent Self-governing Trade Union ‘Solidarity’ (Niezależny Samorządny Związek Zawodowy ‘Solidarność, NSZZ ‘Solidarność’), which in 1980 became the first independent trade union in the communist bloc. This grass roots worker organisation was broken by the martial law introduced by communist authorities on 13 December 1981, involving widespread persecution. Although the union re-emerged underground soon after and was again legalised in 1989, the radical wing of NSZZ Solidarnosc seemed to have been conquered and marginalised. In the process of economic and political changes at the beginning of the 1990s, the re-born NSZZ Solidarność assumed the role of overseer of market reforms which were considered an antidote against communist legacies and a vehicle for the country’s modernisation (Ost, 2005). The formerly official union confederation, the All-Poland Alliance of Trade Unions (Ogólnopolskie Porozumienie Związków Zawodowych, OPZZ), was locked in its legacy of a state-dependent trade union and began to quickly lose its ground in privatised enterprises. As the result of hostile economic conditions and union inertia, trade union density ← 209 | 210 → fell from around 38 per cent in...
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