Lech Walesa




is a retired Polish president and activist who headed oneof the largest trade unions and social movements in the world. Bornon 29th September 1943 to a humble family, Walesa developed strongbeliefs shaped by his mother from an early age as his father had diedsoon after his birth. He enrolled in a local school and later joineda vocational school where he trained as a mechanic and electrician.He served in the military for several years as was required by lawbefore practicing his trade as a civilian in the Gdansk shipyard(Walesa 2).

His experiences working the shipyard exposed him to the plight ofworkers and the level of government oppression. He organized hisfellow workers to protest official rallies in support of studentstrikes. Further to that, he led his collogues in staging strikes atthe Gdansk shipyard to protest increased cost of living. He inspiredother shipyards across the country to stage similar protests. Heaccused the communist regime of abusing its powers contrary to hisbelief that “power is only important as an instrument for serviceto the powerless” (Walesa b). Consequently, he was marked as anenemy of the state.

For his efforts, Walesa was elected as an official of The StrikeCoordinating Committee, which was a body that was authorized by thegovernment to organize strikes. He later founded the Solidaritymovement and acted as its chairman. In his capacity, he traveled allover the country educating workers about their rights. His employeeeducation programs increased the frequency of strikes in differentfields thereby antagonizing the government further. In December 1981,he declared martial law in the country, something that led to hisarrest and banning of the Solidarity Union. The global communityrecognized his efforts by winning the 1983 Noble Peace Prize in whoseacceptance speech he said, “It is hardly possible to build anythingif frustration, bitterness and a mood (sic) of helplessness prevail”(Walesa b). His words simply explained his use of violence inprotests.

With the Solidarity Union already banned, Walesa continued advocatingfor labor related matters underground. With tim, he formed apolitical party that won nearly all seats contested in the 1988general elections. Walesa did not run for any political seat despitehis popularity. Nonetheless, he challenged for the presidency in 1990and won, to become the country`s first non-communist president(Campbell, MacKinnon and Stevens 361).

As the president, he oversaw significant milestones for the country.He established and expanded democratic space in the country, createdjobs, and improved foreign relations e.g. joining NATO and theEuropean Union. However, his confrontational approach, which washoned in labor activism, earned him much criticism. His affront onthe media saw his popularity decline gradually that culminated inlosing the 1995 presidential election.

In spite of such a disappointing ending, Walesa’s efforts in labor,social, and political activism advanced Poland and also inspiredsimilar changes across the world. As such, he is still an influentialperson who shaped history.


Campbell, Patricia,Aran MacKinnon and Christy Stevens. An Introduction to Global

Studies,John Wiley &amp Sons. 2011. Print.

Walesa, Lech. TheStruggle and the Triumph: An Autobiography. Arcade

Publishing, 1992.Print.

Walesa, Lech (b), Quotes. Web. n.d.