Walesa, Lech

Wałęsa, Lech

(lĕkh väwĕn`zə), 1943–, Polish labor and political leader. He worked as an electrician at the Lenin Shipyard in Gdańsk but was dismissed in 1976 for his antigovernment protests. In 1980 striking workers at the shipyard won his reinstatement, and he assumed leadership of the independent trade union SolidaritySolidarity,
Polish independent trade union federation formed in Sept., 1980. Led by Lech Wałęsa, it grew rapidly in size and political power and soon posed a threat to Poland's Communist government by its sponsorship of labor strikes and other forms of public protest.
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. A moderate, he gained numerous concessions from the authorities before his arrest and internment in the military crackdown of 1981. He was released in Nov., 1982, and in 1983 was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

In 1987, he helped block Jaruzelski's reform initiatives by organizing a boycott of the government referendum, and in 1988 he led a series of nationwide strikes. In 1989 he negotiated an agreement with the government under which Solidarity was legalized and allowed to campaign as a political party in the upcoming elections. By the end of Aug., 1989, a Solidarity-led coalition government was in power, but Wałęsa became increasingly critical of Premier Tadeusz Mazowiecki. In Dec., 1990, Wałęsa was elected president of Poland, defeating Mazowiecki, and resigned his Solidarity post. Wałęsa failed to win reelection in 1995, losing to Aleksander KwaśniewskiKwaśniewski, Aleksander
, 1954–, Polish politician, president of Poland (1995–), b. Bialogard. He studied economics at the Univ. of Gdańsk, joined the Communist party at 23, and was an organizer of the Socialist Union of Polish Students during the late
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, a former Communist who was the Democratic Left Alliance candidate. He ran again in 2000 but received only 1% of the vote. In 2017, handwriting experts employed by a state historical institute said that Wałęsa had signed secret police reports and payment receipts in a Communist-era interior minister's files, but he insisted the signatures were counterfeited; the issue was complicated by the fact that the Law and Justice party, which controlled the government, had a history of animosity toward Wałęsa.


See his autobiography, The Struggle and the Triumph (1992).

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References in periodicals archive ?
(1)Lech Walesa, Lech Walesa: A Way of Hope (Henry Holt, 1988), p.