Workers' Defence Committee
The Workers’ Defense Committee was a Polish
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

 civil society
Civil society
Civil society is composed of the totality of many voluntary social relationships, civic and social organizations, and institutions that form the basis of a functioning society, as distinct from the force-backed structures of a state , the commercial institutions of the market, and private criminal...

 group that emerged under communist
Communism is a social, political and economic ideology that aims at the establishment of a classless, moneyless, revolutionary and stateless socialist society structured upon common ownership of the means of production...

 rule to give aid to prisoners & their families after the June 1976 protests
June 1976 protests
June 1976 is the name of a series of protests and demonstrations in People's Republic of Poland. The protests took place after Prime Minister Piotr Jaroszewicz revealed the plan for a sudden increase in the price of many basic commodities, particularly foodstuffs...

 & government crackdown. KOR was a strong example of successful organizing related to specific issues relevant in the public's daily lives, a precursor and inspiration to efforts of Solidarity a few years later.


This organization was the first major anti-communist civic group in Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

, borne of outrage at the government crackdown in June 1976 and with the purpose to “stimulate new centers of autonomous activity.” It raised money through sale of its underground publications, through fund-raising groups in Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

 and London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

, and grants from Western institutions.

KOR sent open letters of protest to the communist government, organizing legal and financial support for the families of the detainees. The leaders of the organization established an activities and coordination center and offered analysis on workers’ conditions within Poland, collaborating often with Western journalists on articles. The group worked with sympathetic lawyers to get better representation for the strikers and obtained medical diagnoses from doctors to present as evidence in the trials. The group smuggled in mimeograph machines to print its underground newsletter Komunikat, which had a circulation of around 20,000 by 1978.

As a sort of side project of KOR, an underground publishing house called NOWA
Nowa may refer to the following places in Poland:*Nowa, Lower Silesian Voivodeship *Other places called Nowa ...

 was founded using mimeograph machines owned by KOR to print works critical of the regime in addition to reproducing banned writings from thinkers outside the Warsaw Pact
Warsaw Pact
The Warsaw Treaty Organization of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance , or more commonly referred to as the Warsaw Pact, was a mutual defense treaty subscribed to by eight communist states in Eastern Europe...

 such as George Orwell
George Orwell
Eric Arthur Blair , better known by his pen name George Orwell, was an English author and journalist...

. NOWA had its own print shops, storehouses, and distribution network, and financed itself through sales and contributions.

In the fall of 1977 KOR collaborated with intellectuals in the Warsaw
Warsaw is the capital and largest city of Poland. It is located on the Vistula River, roughly from the Baltic Sea and from the Carpathian Mountains. Its population in 2010 was estimated at 1,716,855 residents with a greater metropolitan area of 2,631,902 residents, making Warsaw the 10th most...

 community to establish the Flying University
Flying University
Flying University was the name of an underground educational enterprise that operated from 1885 to 1905 in Warsaw, the historic Polish capital, then under the control of the Russian Empire, and that was revived between 1977 and 1981 in the People's Republic of Poland...

, a series of lectures organized by unofficial student groups to discuss ideas about freedom that could not be debated in public. The government harassed KOR members as it did to any other hint of civil society in Poland: beating up and jailing dissidents, infiltrating and interrupting lectures, and conducting searches of dissidents’ houses.

However, KOR became an inspiration for the nation when its efforts finally paid off when the Polish government declared amnesty for jailed strikers in the spring of 1977. In that year, it was renamed to Committee for Social Self-defence KOR
Committee for Social Self-defence KOR
Committee for Social Self-defence KOR was a Polish civil society group that emerged under communist rule. It was created in 1977 from the Workers' Defence Committee . It was one of the movements whose activities led to the creation of Solidarity...

 (Komitet Samoobrony Społecznej KOR).

KOR published an underground paper, Robotnik
Robotnik can refer to:* a newspaper of the Polish Socialist Party, published in various places and times, with breaks, from 1894 to 2003. Most known versions include:** Robotnik , a newspaper of Piłsudski's Polish Socialist Party...

("The Worker"—the same title as Józef Piłsudski's underground paper)


The organization is often forgotten in the wake of Solidarity's success in the 1980s, but KOR remained an important force in bringing down communism in Poland.

Founding members

  • Jerzy Andrzejewski
    Jerzy Andrzejewski
    Jerzy Andrzejewski was a prolific Polish author. His novels, Ashes and Diamonds , and Holy Week , have been made into film adaptations by the Oscar-winning Polish director Andrzej Wajda...

  • Stanisław Barańczak
  • Ludwik Cohn
  • Jacek Kuroń
    Jacek Kuron
    Jacek Jan Kuroń was one of the democratic leaders of opposition in the People's Republic of Poland. Kuroń was a prominent Polish social and political figure; educator and historian; an activist of the Polish Scouting Association; co-founder of the Workers' Defence Committee; twice a Minister of...

  • Edward Lipiński
    Edward Lipinski
    Edward Lipiński was a Polish economist, intellectual, social critic, and human rights advocate. Lipinski’s career spanned almost seven decades. Throughout his career, he held a series of advisory positions within the government, founded several organizations, and published books and essays on...

  • Jan Józef Lipski
    Jan Józef Lipski
    Jan Józef Lipski was a Polish critic and literature historian, socialist politician, and notable Freemason . As a soldier of the Home Army , he fought in the Warsaw Uprising...

  • Antoni Macierewicz
    Antoni Macierewicz
    Antoni Macierewicz is a Polish Catholic politician, anti-communist activist, member of Sejm, journalist and a former internal affairs minister, former vice-minister of national defence in Jarosław Kaczyński's government, and current parliamentary representative.-Early years and activity during...

  • Piotr Naimski
  • Antoni Pajdak
  • Józef Rybicki
  • Aniela Steinsbergowa
  • Adam Szczypiorski
  • Fr. Jan Zieja
  • Wojciech Ziembiński

See also

  • Movement for Defense of Human and Civic Rights
    Movement for Defense of Human and Civic Rights
    Movement for Defense of Human and Civic Rights was a right-wing political and social organization formed in People's Republic of Poland in March of 1977...

  • Jan Krzysztof Kelus
    Jan Krzysztof Kelus
    Jan Krzysztof Kelus, also known by his initials JKK, is a Polish singer, poet, composer and a member of the democratic opposition in Poland between the 1960s and 1980s...

Further reading

Lipski, Jan Józef

External links

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