Arguably the single most important event in the development of Solidarity between its emergence in September 1980 and the imposition of Martial Law in December 1981 was its first, and only, National Delegates Conference or congress. This was held in Gdańsk-Oliwa in two rounds between 5–10 September and 26 September to 7 October 1981. The proceedings extended much longer than the original plan, which was to have an initial round of three days to hear the KKP’s report and to discuss the Union’s new Statute. After a preparatory interval there was to have been a seven-day round to elect a new leadership, pass the Programme and set policy guidelines. In the event Solidarity’s almost 900 delegates spent eighteen days discussing their strategy and programme, arguing over organisational structures and procedures, electing new committees and leaders, passing almost four dozen resolutions and ratifying final drafts of key documents such as the Programme and Statute. Their debates provide the richest and most comprehensive source for an understanding of Solidarity’s complex and conflicting values, internal wrangles, organisational problems, social support, attitudes towards the communist system and the policies required to overcome the political and socio-economic crisis which erupted in Summer 1980. The spontaneous, and often disorganised, Solidarity Congress proceedings were the summation of what Solidarity represented and of what it might have become had it not been suppressed and driven underground. It was certainly the Constituent Assembly for Solidarity itself. It has also been regarded as the Foundation Convention for a future political order, the Self-Managing Republic. The debate over the lessons to be drawn from its strategy and failure has raged in Leftwing and workers’ movements. It provided values and additional material for the political counter-offensive of the American and European Right of the early 1980s.
KeywordsSugar Economic Crisis Europe Steam Schizophrenia
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