- Documents on Democracy
August 2005 marked the twenty-fifth anniversary of the "Polish August" of 1980, when workers' strikes at a Gdansk shipyard gave birth to the free trade union Solidarity, which played a key role in bringing down communism in Poland. Excerpted below are speeches given at an August 29 Warsaw event commemorating the anniversary by former Solidarity advisor and foreign minister Bronislaw Geremek and President Aleksander Kwašniewski.
The 25th anniversary observances of the August Accords and the birth of Solidarity are above all an act of commemorating the Polish road to freedom, of honoring those who gave their lives in the fight against the totalitarian system, those legions of Polish workers who had the courage to fight for their rights and the rights of their country, and those millions of people from all walks of life who made Solidarity a powerful social movement capable of opposing communism and the post-Yalta order in Europe. We need also call to mind all those people in Europe and the world over who greeted the Polish August of 1980 with joy and hope, and who then backed the new movement and assisted Polish society during the 500 days of Solidarity's independent activities, as well as later in the years of its underground existence.
This year's commemoration is also a time to remember the beginnings, when the dream of freedom and justice went hand in hand with the feeling of responsibility, when the heart and mind in tandem defined people's actions, and the evil of communism somehow spawned its very opposite. Czeslaw Milosz once said that the Poland of Solidarity seemed to confirm that sometimes the most beautiful flowers bloom at the edge of the precipice. Gathered around Lech Walêsa today are the people who created that movement, those who wrote about it, who informed the world about it, who in real time recorded its history and who analyzed its successes and failures. But our purpose is not to recall the [End Page 182] past with admiration or with bitterness—or with both—but to ponder the place of the phenomenon that was Solidarity in the history of Poland and of Europe. This means examining the sources and historical particularities of the Polish movement, its relation to the Helsinki human rights paradigm, its perception and influence in other Eastern bloc countries and, finally, inscribing it into Europe's shared memory. For in so doing does the chance arise of rescuing Solidarity from oblivion here in Poland, and maybe even of discerning its emblematic role in European awareness as a founding legend of our united Europe.
Twenty-five years ago people in the Gdansk shipyard were in solidarity. Out of their courage was born a movement of ten million people, which changed the course of history. Today I want to thank all those brave people. I believe that all Poles owe you their gratitude. Also those who were not in Solidarity then. Who did not understand that you were right. Who did not want to or could not support your cause. And even those who fought with you then. Since we all, I stress all, live in a free Poland. . . . As the president of the Republic of Poland I wish to dedicate words of admiration and respect to the great leader of the Polish August, Mr. Lech Walêsa. Twenty-five years ago I did not stand on the same side as you, but today I have no doubts that your vision of Poland led us in a good direction. And thanks to your courage, today we can build together the well-being of our homeland. . . .
On June 5–8, more than a dozen former heads of state and government, including Nicéphore Soglo (Benin), Jerry Rawlings (Ghana), Joaquim Chissano (Mozambique), Sam Nujoma (Namibia), and Kenneth Kaunda (Zambia), attended the African Statesmen Initiative symposium in Mali's capital of Bamako to discuss democratization in Africa. The meeting resulted in the "Bamako Declaration of the African Statesmen Initiative," which is excerpted below:
We, 15 former heads of state and government from across the African continent, have gathered in Bamako, Mali...