Poland was indeed an element in the political strategy of the Reagan administration as part of the destabilization of the Soviet empire (at least during President Reagan’s first term), notes Polish historian and civic activist Paweł Zyzak, who recently gave a talk to the Albert Shanker Institute about his new book, Efekt Domina: Czy Ameryka Obaliła Komunizm w Polsce? (Domino Effect: Did the United States of America Overthrow Communism?). His book recognizes that it was the AFL-CIO‘s leadership that argued Poland was the place from which the domino effect leading to the collapse of the Eastern Bloc would originate. And it was the AFL-CIO leadership that actually had the decisive impact in bringing that about, he writes for the Institute’s blog.
The AFL-CIO had sought out means of cooperating with Solidarity from its inception in the fall of 1980, understanding that such cooperation would face stark resistance from Moscow, he adds, noting that the Free Trade Union Institute, originally the Free Trade Union Committee, was active mostly in Europe and was the main financial backer of Solidarity, organizing its own “aid” channels from money raised through the Polish Workers Aid Fund (more than $500,000 total):
Starting in 1984, the institute, headed by Eugenia Kemble, distributed resources from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a non-governmental but publicly financed organization the AFL-CIO helped to create. The AFL-CIO brushed off all external attempts to impose organizational restrictions on such funding, determining whom they would help and how. It supported the activities of individuals whom Lane Kirkland and his assistant Tom Kahn, the director of the Polish Workers Aid Fund, trusted, such as Magdalena Wójcik, deputy chief of the Foreign Section of Solidarity’s National Bureau in 1981, who would eventually emigrate to Norway, and Irena Lasota, one of the leaders of the 1968 youth uprisings in Poland and president of the Committee in Support of Solidarity.