Lech Walesa said Wednesday that an eight-day sit-down strike at the Lenin shipyard showed Solidarity's strength but that lack of widespread support hurt the strikers.
"We were paralyzed because there were so few of us," Walesa told reporters at St. Brygida's Church near the shipyard in this Baltic port, where the electrician-led workers formed the Soviet bloc's first independent union federation eight years ago.He said this month's action showed "our strength as well as our helplessness" and that the workers would try again if necessary.
Walesa and about 1,000 haggard strikers who had occupied the plant and refused to work abandoned their strike Tuesday evening. Strike leaders said they wanted to avoid a police raid, but communist authorities said the action failed for lack of support.
Still, the government said the two weeks of strikes that ended Tuesday will compel it to speed up efforts to revive Poland's crippled economy.
Government spokesman Jerzy Urban told The Associated Press by telephone that the decision to end the strike was judicious and "so eloquent that it requires no comment whatsoever."
The official PAP news agency reported some shipyard supervisors were back at work Wednesday and normal work would resume Thursday. Walesa said he got a phone call at home in the morning asking him why he was not there.
"If there are people who think we lost, it is because we still lack solidarity" among workers nationwide, he said.
But Walesa said that "if necessary we will try again. Nothing ended. Nothing is finished." He added that the 15-member strike committee that engaged in five rounds of negotiations with management will not be dissolved.
There was no immediate word on whether the strikers would face legal charges or disciplinary action. During negotiations, the strikers had been offered amnesty but only if they left the shipyard Sunday night.
Heads held high, the shipyard workers filed out of the yard without a settlement Tuesday but also without having backed down from demands whose centerpiece was reinstatement of the yard's Solidarity chapter.
Through the intervention of the Catholic Church, workers and management met five times from Saturday until Monday.
Police had surrounded the shipyard since Thursday and the strikers had rejected government offers of wage increases, so quitting was the "best solution possible," said strike committee chairman Alojzy Szablewski.
The strike evoked memories of 1980, when a younger, leaner Walesa cosigned an accord at the same shipyard during a nationwide wave of strikes over price increases that toppled a government. A time of unmatched freedom followed.