Solidarity With Solidarity: Western European Trade Unions and the Polish Crisis, 1980-1982 | Wilson Center

Solidarity With Solidarity: Western European Trade Unions and the Polish Crisis, 1980-1982

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The Polish crisis in the early 1980s provoked a great deal of reaction in the West. Not only governments, but social movements were also touched by the establishment of the Independent Trade Union Solidarnosc in the summer of 1980, the proclamation of martial law in December 1981, and Solidarnosc's underground activity in the subsequent years. In many countries, campaigns were set up in order to spread information, raise funds, and provide the Polish opposition with humanitarian relief and technical assistance. Labor movements especially stepped into the limelight. A number of Western European unions were concerned about the new international tension following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the new hard-line policy of the U.S. and saw Solidarnosc as a political instrument of clerical and neo-conservative cold warriors.

On March 11, 2011 Idesbald Goddeeris will discuss his latest book entitled Solidarity with Solidarity: Western European Trade Unions and the Polish Crisis, 1980-1982 which analyzes reaction to Solidarnosc in nine Western European countries and within the international trade union confederations. Goddeeris argues that Western solidarity with Solidarnosc was highly determined by its instrumental value within the national context. Trade unions openly sided with Solidarnosc when they had an interest in doing so, namely when Solidarnosc could strengthen their own program or position. Goddeeris also reveals that reaction in allegedly reluctant countries was massive, albeit discreet, pragmatic, and humanitarian, rather than vocal, emotional, and political.

Joining Goddeeris on the panel is Gregory Domber, assistant professor of history in the Department of History at the University of North Florida, and Piotr Kosicki, Centennial fellow and ABD in the Department of History at Princeton University.

Idesbald Goddeeris is an assistant professor at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium where he teaches courses on East European and imperial history. Goddeeris main fields of interest include Polish exiles, East-West contact and the Solidarnosc movement. Goddeeris has recently published in the Journal of Cold War Studies, Vingtième siècle, Labour History Review, and Pamiec i Sprawiedliwosc. Goddeeris holds an MA in Slavic Studies and an MA and Ph.D. in history.

Gregory Domber is assistant professor of history at the University of North Florida. Domber's research focuses on American and European mechanisms for effecting democratic change under authoritarian regimes. Formerly, Domber was a Hewlett fellow at The Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law (CDDRL) at Stanford University where he continued his research on international influences on Poland's transformation during the 1980s, focusing further work on the role played by non-governmental actors, particularly labor unions, émigré groups, humanitarian organizations, and American business interests. Domber received his A.B in History and Philosophy from Lafayette College and holds a Ph.D. in history from The George Washington University. Domber's dissertation, Supporting the Revolution: America, Democracy, and the End of the Cold War in Poland, 1981-1989, was awarded the Betty M. Unterberger Prize.

Piotr H. Kosicki is a Centennial Fellow and ABD in the Department of History at Princeton University and a lecturer at the Institut d'Études politiques de Paris. Kosicki has published academic articles and book chapters in five languages, and he is currently finishing a Ph.D. dissertation entitled Catholic, Socialist, European: the Transnational Story of Lay Activism in Europe, 1905-1980. Kosicki is also co-editor of the forthcoming volume The Global 1989: International and Transnational Connections in a Revolutionary World.


  • Idesbald Goddeeris

    Assistant Professor, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
  • Gregory Domber

    Assistant Professor of History, Department of History, University of North Florida
  • Piotr H. Kosicki

    Title VIII Short-term East European Studies Scholar
    Assistant Professor, Department of History, University of Maryland, College Park