14
Nov
08

On This Day, 11-14-2008: Solidarność

November 14, 1982

Walesa released from jail

Lech Walesa, leader of communist Poland’s outlawed Solidarity movement, returns to his apartment in Gdansk after 11 months of internment in a remote hunting lodge near the Soviet border. Two days before, hundreds of supporters had begun a vigil outside his home upon learning that the founder of Poland’s trade union movement was being released. When Walesa finally did return home, on November 14, he was lifted above the jubilant crowd and carried to the door of his apartment, where he greeted his wife and then addressed his supporters from a second-story window.

Walesa, born in 1943, was an electrician at the Lenin Shipyard in Gdansk when he was fired for union agitation in 1976. When protests broke out in the Gdansk shipyard over an increase in food prices in August 1980, Walesa climbed the shipyard fence and joined the thousands of workers inside. He was elected leader of the strike committee, and three days later the strikers’ demands were met. Walesa then helped coordinate other strikes in Gdansk and demanded that the Polish government allow the free formation of trade unions and the right to strike. On August 30, the government conceded to the strikers’ demands, legalizing trade unionism and granting greater freedom of religious and political expression.

Millions of Polish workers and farmers came together to form unions, and Solidarity was formed as a national federation of unions, with Walesa as its chairman. Under Walesa’s charismatic leadership, the organization grew in size and political influence, soon becoming a major threat to the authority of the Polish government. On December 13, 1981, martial law was declared in Poland, Solidarity was outlawed, and Walesa and other labor leaders were arrested.

In November 1982, overwhelming public outcry forced Walesa’s release, but Solidarity remained illegal. In 1983, Walesa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Fearing involuntary exile, he declined to travel to Norway to accept the award. Walesa continued as leader of the now-underground Solidarity movement, and he was subjected to continual monitoring and harassment by the communist authorities.

In 1988, deteriorating economic conditions led to a new wave of labor strikes across Poland, and the government was forced to negotiate with Walesa. In April 1989, Solidarity was again legalized, and its members were allowed to enter a limited number of candidates in upcoming elections. By September, a Solidarity-led government coalition was in place, with Walesa’s colleague Tadeusz Mazowiecki as premier. In 1990, Poland’s first direct presidential election was held, and Walesa won by a landslide.

President Walesa successfully implemented free-market reforms, but unfortunately he was a more effective labor leader than president. In 1995, he was narrowly defeated in his reelection by former communist Aleksander Kwasniewski, head of the Democratic Left Alliance.

“Walesa released from jail.” 2008. The History Channel website. 14 Nov 2008, 10:39 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=7081.

On This Day

1851 – Herman Melville’s novel “Moby Dick” was first published in the U.S.

1881 – Charles J. Guiteau’s trial began for the assassination of U.S. President Garfield. Guiteau was convicted and hanged the following year.

1935 – U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed the Philippine Islands a free commonwealth after its new constitution was approved. The Tydings-McDuffie Act planned for the Phillipines to be completely independent by July 4, 1946.

1940 – During World War II, German war planes destroyed most of the English town of Coventry when about 500 Luftwaffe bombers attacked.

1956 – The USSR crushed the Hungarian uprising.

1968 – Yale University announced it was going co-educational.

1969 – Apollo 12 blasted off for the moon from Cape Kennedy, FL.

1969 – During the Vietnam War, Major General Bruno Arthur Hochmuth, commander of the Third Marine Division, became the first general to be killed in Vietnam by enemy fire.

1979 – U.S. President Carter froze all Iranian assets in the United States and U.S. banks abroad in response to the taking of 63 American hostages at the U.S. embassy in Tehran, Iran.

1989 – The U.S. Navy ordered an unprecedented 48-hour stand-down in the wake of a recent string of serious accidents.

1991 – After 13 years in exile Cambodian Prince Norodom Sihanouk returned to his homeland.

November 14, 1959

Kennedy publishes article on television and American politics

On this day in 1959, an article written by Massachusetts senator and presidential hopeful John F. Kennedy appears in an issue of TV Guide. In it, Kennedy examined the influence of television, still a relatively new technology, on American political campaigns.

In the article, Kennedy mused that television had the power to bring political campaigns—and scandals—immediately and directly to the public and illuminated the contrast between political personalities. Kennedy shrewdly noted that a “slick or bombastic orator pounding the table and ringing the rafters” fared poorly against a more congenial candidate and “is not as welcome in the family living room” as a candidate with “honesty, vigor, compassion [and] intelligence.” Kennedy strove to convey the latter image. He also compared Woodrow Wilson’s 1919 month-long cross-country railroad trek to promote his League of Nations proposal (an exhausting trip that ended when Wilson suffered a stroke) to then-President Eisenhower’s ability to reach millions of voters in a 15-minute television appearance.

A year after the publication of the article, Kennedy and his Republican opponent, Vice President Richard Nixon, faced off in the nation’s first-ever televised presidential campaign debates. A master at projecting the quintessential presidential image, Kennedy exhibited a calm demeanor and responded to questions with intelligence and decorum. While Kennedy appeared rested, well-groomed and in control, Nixon appeared flustered and his light beard, or “five-o’clock shadow,” created more of a stir than his responses to the moderator’s questions. As president, Kennedy continued to showcase his skill at handling the press on-camera and carefully cultivated a relationship with journalists by enlisting their direct involvement in balancing candor with secrecy.

Kennedy’s article also addressed the potential perils of marrying mass media to politics. He warned that political campaigns “could be taken over by public relations experts, who tell the candidate not only how to use TV but what to say, what to stand for and what kind of person to be.” He cautioned Americans to be vigilant about what they watched, and to be aware that, like game shows, political campaigns “can be fixed…It is in your power to perceive deception, to shut off gimmickry, to reward honesty, to demand legislation where needed.” Without the public’s acquiescence, he said, “no TV show is worthwhile and no politician can exist.”

“Kennedy publishes article on television and American politics.” 2008. The History Channel website. 14 Nov 2008, 10:48 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=52007.

On This Day in Wisconsin: November 14

1861 – Frederick Jackson Turner Born
On this date Frederick Jackson Turner was born in Portage. Turner spent most of his academic career at the University of Wisconsin. He published his first article in 1883, received his B.A. in 1884, then his M.A. in History in 1888. After a year of study at Johns Hopkins (Ph.D., 1890), he returned to join the History faculty at Wisconsin, where he taught for the next 21 years. He later taught at Harvard from 1910 to 1924 before retiring. In 1893, Turner presented his famous address, “The Significance of the Frontier in American History,” at the Chicago World’s Fair. Turner died in 1932. [Source: Bowling Green State University]

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