The Warsaw Voice » Polish Voice » Monthly - August 2, 2010
The Polish Voice: Special Issue
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Historic Message
On Sept. 8, 1981, the Solidarity trade union, meeting at its First National Congress in Gdańsk-Oliwa, approved The Message to the Working People of Eastern Europe. This brief document called on trade unionists from countries of the Soviet bloc to fight together for the freedom of association. The text was written by Bogusław Śliwa (1944-1989), a lawyer and active oppositionist who was later interned under martial law. Forced by the communist authorities to leave Poland, he died an émigré in Sweden.

The message ran as follows:
“We, the delegates to the First Congress of the Solidarity Independent Self-Governing Trade Union gathered in Gdańsk send words of greeting and support to the workers of Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, the German Democratic Republic, Romania, Hungary and all the peoples of the Soviet Union.

As the first independent trade union in our postwar history, we are deeply aware of our common fate. We assure you that regardless of the lies being spread in your countries, we are a genuine, 10-million-strong organization of workers established as a result of workers’ strikes. Our goal is to fight for an improved standard of living for all working people. We support those of you who have decided to take the difficult road of fighting for a free trade-union movement. We believe that soon your representatives and ours will be able to meet to exchange their trade-union experiences.”

The publication of the Message caused a backlash from Poland’s communist authorities and equally violent criticism from Soviet officials.

In a statement by the Politburo of the Polish United Workers’ Party (PZPR), the Polish communist party, the document was described as “an act of insane provocation aimed at Poland’s allies.”

Leonid Brezhnev, first secretary of the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party, reportedly said upon reading the text that it was “a dangerous and provocative document.”

The Soviet Politburo’s official statement read, “We expect the leaders of the PZPR and the government of the People’s Republic of Poland to immediately take decisive and radical steps to cut short this malicious anti-Soviet propaganda and actions hostile towards the Soviet Union.”