What made the struggle for democracy in Poland unique in the Soviet Bloc was the emergence of opposition movements in the mid-1970s, thirteen years before the collapse of the system in 1989. "The Origins of Democratization in Poland" probes the prehistory of Solidarity, focusing on the Polish underground prior to the formation of the union.
Bernhard focuses on two groups of activists from the late 1970s -- the intellectuals of the Workers' Defense Committee (KOR) and the workers of the Committees for the Foundation of Free Trade Unions. Arguing that the historical weakness of the Polish state and the economic crisis of the late 1970s laid the groundwork for popular resistance, Bernhard traces the origins of the opposition to the strikes of June 1976. The disorganized nature of these actions -- and their subsequent repression by the government -- foreshadowed the more vigorous and sustained protest movement of the 1980s.
By examining original documents from the Polish underground -- including the important working class newspaper "Robotnik" -- Bernhard presents a new interpretation of the founding of Solidarity and offers various insights into the relationship between workers and intellectuals at a pivotal moment in recent Polish history.