Workers' Defence Committee

Workers' Defence Committee

The Workers’ Defense Committee (Polish: Komitet Obrony Robotników, KOR, pronounced [kɔmitɛt ɔbrɔnɨ rɔbɔtɲikuf]) was a Polish civil society group that emerged under communist rule to give aid to prisoners detained after labor strikes in 1976 and their families. 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, 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 and London, 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 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 such as George Orwell. 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 community to establish the Flying University, 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 (Komitet Samoobrony Społecznej KOR).

KOR published an underground paper, Robotnik ("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


See also

Further reading

Lipski, Jan Józef KOR : a history of the Workers’ Defense Committee in Poland, 1976-1981. Berkeley: University of California Press. 1985. ISBN 0-520-05243-9. 

External links

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