Polish officials mark historic communist government concessions

Adam Warżawa/PAP

The Polish president, prime minister and ruling party leader on Tuesday commemorated the 41st anniversary of historic agreements between the then communist government and striking workers that paved the way to the ultimate collapse of communism.

Sealed on August 31, 1980, the August Agreements that contained the famous '21 postulates' for more freedoms in the communist-dominated political system were an accord between the rising Solidarity Union and Poland's communist authorities.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, who attended a special meeting of the Solidarity board in Gdansk, said that the milestones that led to the emergence of the Solidarity trade union, the first independent trade union in the communist bloc, were made possible through the effort of generations of workers, educated people, students and farmers.

"These 21 postulates were carved not in stone, but first of all in our hearts," Morawiecki said.

The postulates included the legalisation of independent trade unions, ensuring freedom of speech, releasing political prisoners, removing party privileges for managerial staff and introducing a five-day working week.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of the ruling coalition United Right, said in a letter to the participants in the meeting that he and his late brother had been part of the Solidarity movement in the 1980s.

He wrote that his twin brother, President Lech Kaczynski, who died in the Smolensk air disaster in 2010, "until his last days was faithful to the ethos and legacy of Solidarity."

"Today the United Right camp continues, under changed circumstances, his policy of Poland based on solidarity."

President Andrzej Duda paid tribute to the striking workers of August 1980 at a ceremony in the former Warsaw Steelworks, which was among more than 700 Polish plants that joined the protest action, demanding "the rights of workers and the basic fulfilment of international obligations by the former state, the Polish People's Republic."

Duda said the 1980 events made it possible to defeat communists in the first partially-free parliamentary elections of 1989 and to carry out the ultimate transformation from the communist system to a democratic state.