August 31, 1983
Three years have passed since the working class of Poland challenged the whole might of a modern totalitarian state and without shedding one drop of blood won the right to have their own free trade unions. In the 15 months of its legal existence, Solidarity offered a ray of hope that people who had no other weapons but their courage and determination may gain more freedom for themselves and thus bring about a more peaceful and secure world.
It seemed for a moment that such hopes were dashed in December 1981, when the military regime of General Jaruzelski, acting under strong pressure from the Soviet Union, introduced a state of war, and the legal structure of Solidarity was destroyed by force. But such an assessment was wrong. The 13th of December 1981 did not mark the end of the Polish quest for freedom. Solidarity leaders were interned; others were thrown into jail; strikes were broken by police; some people were killed, wounded, or badly beaten; many thousands lost their jobs or were forced to leave their country. Solidarity suffered many setbacks, but its spirit remained unbroken. In spite of all repressive measures, the movement has been longer in existence now than the era of Solidarity itself. The Poles refused to be intimidated. And it is clear today that no force can eradicate the memories of the historical event of August 31, 1980. As a prominent Pole said recently, ``Solidarity remains alive in the minds and hearts of Polish people.''
One more thing has to be said on this occasion. In spite of the great intensity of hostile feelings generated by repressive measures, there was not one single case of violence against the oppressive regime in Poland. Solidarity has remained a nonviolent, massive popular movement which is renouncing the use of force or any attempts to overthrow the government. In our world tormented by terrorism, this is in itself a remarkable achievement.
Winston Churchill once said that Poland is like a rock. It may from time to time be submerged for a while by a tidal wave, but it will remain a rock.
Throughout their thorny history, the Poles have never lost hope and have never surrendered. Solidarity perseveres in its peaceful struggle in a hope that one day -- sooner or later -- the Polish Government will have to recognize that Polish problems can be solved not by intimidation, but only on the basis of reconciliation with this proud and courageous people. If the Polish Government makes tangible progress toward this end, we are prepared to reciprocate with concrete steps of our own.
To us Americans, Solidarity should serve as a reminder of the power of ideas born out of peoples' readiness to accept sacrifices and to face risks. The Poles are struggling for the common values which we cherish in our democratic society: for dignity and the rights of man and nations. They can proudly repeat their old motto: for your freedom and ours.