Over the past year we’ve seen credit for bringing down the Soviet Union given first to President Ronald Reagan then extended to Pope John Paul II, on the occasions of their passing. Much ink was shed on how they’d provided the mighty rocks of Western civilization upon which the USSR was wrecked.
I have my own theories about how corruption, mismanagement, and overextension of power had weakened the Soviet structure before either of those men came on the scene, but since everyone’s been giving the big guys a salute for standing up to power from Washington and the Vatican City, respectively, I’d like to nominate another entity that did more to show the weakness of the regime than either of them did, and at greater personal risk: the Solidarity union.
Established in on August 31, 1980, a year-and-a-half after the Pope’s victory lap through his home country (a true sign that the Soviets were losing their grip in Poland), eight months after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and two months before Ronald Reagan was elected President, Solidarity began chipping away at Soviet control of Poland.
The members of Solidarity, including its original leader Lech Walesa, were on the forefront of the struggle against a totalitarian system. They were the people with their jobs, homes, families, and lives on the line. They and the people of other Eastern Bloc countries who risked — and in some cases lost — it all are the people who deserve the real credit for ending the Soviet system.
I’ll be over here holding my breath until I hear everyone who praised Reagan and John Paul II give credit to a union.