309. Editorial Note
The revolution in Poland began in August 1980 when approximately 16,000 workers at the Lenin shipyards in Gdansk went on strike. [Page 911] The strike quickly spread and ultimately led to a breakdown in the Polish economy. As a result, the Polish Communist government gave in to strikers’ demand for trade unions that were independent from the government. These trade unions joined together to form the Solidarity movement.
President Jimmy Carter reflected upon these events, which occurred during his last months in office, in his memoirs: “Early in December, not quite a year after Soviet troops had invaded Afghanistan, we became convinced that their military forces were preparing to move into Poland. The Polish trade unions had formed the political front ‘Solidarity,’ and with broad backing among the people and with support from the church, they were building strength and wresting concessions from the government leaders. There seemed no way that the Polish officials could control this movement toward freedom, which appeared completely incompatible with their regimented system of government.” Carter continued, “We were monitoring Soviet military preparations very closely. Fifteen or twenty divisions were ready to move; for the first time, Czech and Soviet forces were conducting night exercises together. The Soviets were surveying invasion routes, had set up an elaborate communications system throughout Poland, were conducting intensive photo reconnaissance flights out of Czechoslovakia and East Germany, and were holding their military forces in a high state of readiness.” (Keeping Faith, page 584)