Scholar Interviews

Padraic Kenney: What led to the Round Table Talks?


There’s a first wave of strikes in April/May of 1988. A somewhat unexpected wave of strikes in part because they were provoked by younger workers who were not connected to Solidarity, who were not even in Solidarity in 1980-81, but who are sort of moved by the same kinds of things as a first Solidarity movement. And it’s provoked in part by some price hikes that are taking place in the spring of 1988.

Those strikes—one of them is put down by force, another one is sort of negotiated retreat and then things are sort of quieter for the early part of the summer. And then August, mid-August of 1988, strikes unexpectedly start again, first in the mines in southern Poland, mines that were created in the 1970s and so therefore you have workers who were mostly quite new to the workforce. And then the strikes spread to, among other places Gdansk, the Gdansk shipyards where Solidarity had happened in 1980 and where there had also been strikes in April/May of 1988.

This is an important moment because these strikes go on for several weeks until the Communists essentially realize, we sort of have to now start talking to Solidarity because we can’t end these strikes by ourselves. There’s a decision that ending the strikes by force could be really messy and really an unpleasant situation. And so they agree to start negotiating and it takes a long time. It’s not until February that they actually sit down around the Round Table, but negotiations begin.

How to Cite

Padraic Kenney, interview, "What led to the Round Table Talks?." Making the History of 1989, Item #588 (accessed May 28 2021, 3:26 pm)