Solidarity was an independent trade union in Communist-dominated Poland. Its courageous struggle for freedom ultimately helped bring about the collapse of Communism in Poland and then Central Europe, spreading later to the Balkans and Eastern Europe (the Soviet Union).
Solidarity was founded in September 1980 during a strike at the Lenin Shipyard in Gdańsk, on Poland's Baltic Sea coast. Its first leader was a shipyard electrician, Lech Walesa. In 1981 the Polish government imposed martial law to suppress industrial and political unrest, and Walesa was interned; the union was forced underground for several years, but the Communist Party eventually had to negotiate. Elections held in 1989 led to a coalition government of which Solidarity formed part, and Walesa became Polish president. During the 1981-1989 period when the Solidarity party was outlawed, the communist government tended to see its local Roman Catholic church as a far more conservative and reasonable social force than the Solidarity party.