We describe a numerical procedure for solving the stationary two‐dimensional Stokes problem based on piecewise linear finite element approximations for both velocity and pressure, a regularization technique for stability, and a defect‐correction technique for improving accuracy. Eliminating the velocity unknowns from the algebraic system yields a symmetric positive semidefinite system for pressure which is solved by an inner‐outer iteration. The outer iterations consist of the unpreconditioned conjugate gradient method. The inner iterations, each of which corresponds to solving an elliptic boundary value problem for each velocity component, are solved by the conjugate gradient method with a preconditioning based on the algebraic multi‐level iteration (AMLI) technique. The velocity is found from the computed pressure. The method is optimal in the sense that the computational work is proportional to the number of unknowns. Further, it is designed to exploit a massively parallel computer with distributed memory architecture. Numerical experiments on a Cray T3E computer illustrate the parallel performance of the method.