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The history of Poland from 1945 to 1989 spans the period of communist rule imposed over Poland after the end of World War II. These years, while featuring general industrialization, urbanization and many improvements in the standard of living,[a1] were marred by early Stalinist repressions, social unrest, political strife and severe economic difficulties.

Near the end of World War II, the advancing Soviet Red Army, along with the Polish Armed Forces in the East, pushed out the Nazi German forces from occupied Poland. In February 1945, the Yalta Conference sanctioned the formation of a provisional government of Poland from a compromise coalition, until postwar elections. Joseph Stalin, the leader of the Soviet Union, manipulated the implementation of that ruling. A practically communist-controlled Provisional Government of National Unity was formed in Warsaw by ignoring the Polish government-in-exile based in London since 1940.

During the subsequent Potsdam Conference in July–August 1945, the three major Allies ratified the colossal westerly shift of the Polish frontier and approved its new territory between the Oder–Neisse line and Curzon Line, which resulted in the Polish borders shrinking and resembling those of the former Piast dynasty era. Following the destruction of the Polish-Jewish population in the Holocaust, the flight and expulsion of Germans in the west, resettlement of Ukrainians in the east, and the expulsion and resettlement of Poles from the Eastern Borderlands (Kresy), Poland became for the first time in its history an ethnically homogeneous nation-state without prominent minorities. The new government solidified its political power, while the Polish United Workers' Party (PZPR) under Bolesław Bierut gained firm control over the country, which would remain an independent state within the Soviet sphere of influence. The July Constitution was promulgated on 22 July 1952 and the country officially became the Polish People's Republic (PRL).

Following Stalin's death in 1953, a political "thaw" allowed a more liberal faction of the Polish communists, led by Władysław Gomułka, to gain power. By the mid-1960s, Poland began experiencing increasing economic as well as political difficulties. They culminated in the 1968 Polish political crisis and the 1970 Polish protests when a consumer price hike led to a wave of strikes. The government introduced a new economic program based on large-scale loans from western creditors, which resulted in a rise in living standards and expectations, but the program meant growing integration of Poland's economy with the world economy and it faltered after the 1973 oil crisis. In 1976, the government of Edward Gierek was forced to raise prices again which led to the June 1976 protests.

This cycle of repression and reform[b] and the economic-political struggle acquired new characteristics with the 1978 election of Karol Wojtyła as Pope John Paul II. Wojtyła's unexpected elevation strengthened the opposition to the authoritarian and ineffective system of nomenklatura-run state socialism, especially with the pope's first visit to Poland in 1979. In early August 1980, a new wave of strikes resulted in the founding of the independent trade union "Solidarity" (Solidarność) led by Lech Wałęsa. The growing strength and activity of the opposition caused the government of Wojciech Jaruzelski to declare martial law in December 1981. However, with the reforms of Mikhail Gorbachev in the Soviet Union, increasing pressure from the West, and dysfunctional economy, the regime was forced to negotiate with its opponents. The 1989 Round Table Talks led to Solidarity's participation in the The history of Poland from 1945 to 1989 spans the period of communist rule imposed over Poland after the end of World War II. These years, while featuring general industrialization, urbanization and many improvements in the standard of living,[a1] were marred by early Stalinist repressions, social unrest, political strife and severe economic difficulties.

Near the end of World War II, the advancing Soviet Red Army, along with the Polish Armed Forces in the East, pushed out the Nazi German forces from occupied Poland. In February 1945, the Yalta Conference sanctioned the formation of a provisional government of Poland from a compromise coalition, until postwar elections. Joseph Stalin, the leader of the Soviet Union, manipulated the implementation of that ruling. A practically communist-controlled Provisional Government of National Unity was formed in Warsaw by ignoring the Red Army, along with the Polish Armed Forces in the East, pushed out the Nazi German forces from occupied Poland. In February 1945, the Yalta Conference sanctioned the formation of a provisional government of Poland from a compromise coalition, until postwar elections. Joseph Stalin, the leader of the Soviet Union, manipulated the implementation of that ruling. A practically communist-controlled Provisional Government of National Unity was formed in Warsaw by ignoring the Polish government-in-exile based in London since 1940.

During the subsequent Potsdam Conference in July–August 1945, the three major Allies ratified the colossal westerly shift of the Polish frontier and approved its new territory between the Oder–Neisse line and Curzon Line, which resulted in the Polish borders shrinking and resembling those of the former Piast dynasty era. Following the destruction of the Polish-Jewish population in the Holocaust, the flight and expulsion of Germans in the west, resettlement of Ukrainians in the east, and the expulsion and resettlement of Poles from the Eastern Borderlands (Kresy), Poland became for the first time in its history an ethnically homogeneous nation-state without prominent minorities. The new government solidified its political power, while the Polish United Workers' Party (PZPR) under Bolesław Bierut gained firm control over the country, which would remain an independent state within the Soviet sphere of influence. The July Constitution was promulgated on 22 July 1952 and the country officially became the Polish People's Republic (PRL).

Following Stalin's death in 1953, a political "thaw" allowed a more liberal faction of the Polish communists, led by Władysław Gomułka, to gain power. By the mid-1960s, Poland began experiencing increasing economic as well as political difficulties. They culminated in the 1968 Polish political crisis and the 1970 Polish protests when a consumer price hike led to a wave of strikes. The government introduced a new economic program based on large-scale loans from western creditors, which resulted in a rise in living standards and expectations, but the program meant growing integration of Poland's economy with the world economy and it faltered after the 1973 oil crisis. In 1976, the government of Edward Gierek was forced to raise prices again which led to the June 1976 protests.

This cycle of repression and reform[b] and the economic-political struggle acquired new characteristics with the 1978 election of Karol Wojtyła as Pope John Paul II. Wojtyła's unexpected elevation strengthened the opposition to the authoritarian and ineffective system of nomenklatura-run state socialism, especially with the pope's first visit to Poland in 1979. In early August 1980, a new wave of strikes resulted in the founding of the independent trade union "Solidarity" (Solidarność) led by Lech Wałęsa. The growing strength and activity of the opposition caused the government of Wojciech Jaruzelski to declare martial law in December 1981. However, with the reforms of Mikhail Gorbachev in the Soviet Union, increasing pressure from the West, and dysfunctional economy, the regime was forced to negotiate with its opponents. The 1989 Round Table Talks led to Solidarity's participation in the 1989 election. Its candidates' striking victory gave rise to the first of the succession of transitions from communist rule in Central and Eastern Europe. In 1990, Jaruzelski resigned from the presidency following the presidential election and was succeeded by Wałęsa.

Before World War II, a third of Poland's population was composed of ethnic minorities. Poland had about 35 million inhabitants in 1939, but fewer than 24 million in 1946, within the respective borders. Of the remaining population over three million were ethnic minorities, such as Germans, Ukrainians and Jews, most of whom would soon leave Poland.[1] Poland suffered the heaviest proportionate human losses during World War II, amounting to 16–17 percent of its population.[2] It is estimated that up to 6 million Polish citizens died from war-related causes between 1939 and 1945.[3] The approximate figure includes 3 million Jewish-Polish victims as part of the above total. The number of ethnically Polish victims was perhaps 2 million.[4][5][6]

The historical minorities in Poland were most significantly affected, whereas Poland's multiethnic diversity reflected in prior national censuses was all but gone within several years after the war.[7][8] The Polish educated class suffered greatly. A large proportion of the country's pre-war social and political elite perished or were dispersed.[9][10]

Map showing the different borders and territories of Poland and Germany during the 20th century, with the current areas of Germany and Poland in dark gray

The implementation of the immense task of reconstructing the country was accompanied by the struggle of the new government to acquire centralized authority,[11] further complicated by the mistrust a considerable part of society held for the new regime and by disputes over Poland's postwar borders, which were not firmly established until mid-1945.[12] The Soviet forces present at that time engaged in plunder of the former eastern territories of Germany which were being transferred to Poland, stripping them of valuable industrial equipment, infrastructure and factories and sending them to the Soviet Union.[13][14]

After the Soviet annexation of the Kresy territories east of the Curzon Line, about 2 million Poles were moved, transferred or expelled from these areas into the new western and northern territories east of the Oder–Neisse line,[15][16] which were transferred from Germany to Poland under the Potsdam Agreement.[17] Others stayed in what had become the Soviet Union and more went to Poland after 1956.[16] Additional settlement with people from central parts of Poland brought the number of Poles in what the government called the Recovered Territories up to 5 million by 1950. Most of the former German population of 10 million had fled or was expelled to post-war Germany by 1950:[8][18] about 4.4 million fled in the final stages of the war and 3.5 million were removed by the Polish authorities in 1945–1949.[19] The expulsion of the Germans was the result of the Allied decisions finalized in Potsdam.[16][b1]

With the expulsion of Ukrainians from Poland to the Soviet Union and the 1947 Operation Vistula dispersing the remaining Ukrainians in Poland,[20] and with most of the Polish Jews exterminated by Nazi Germany during the Holocaust and many of the survivors emigrating to the West and to newly created Israel,[16] Poland for the first time became an ethnically homogeneous nation state.[8] The government-imposed and spontaneous movements of people amounted to one of the greatest demographic upheavals in European history.[16]

Unlike othe

The historical minorities in Poland were most significantly affected, whereas Poland's multiethnic diversity reflected in prior national censuses was all but gone within several years after the war.[7][8] The Polish educated class suffered greatly. A large proportion of the country's pre-war social and political elite perished or were dispersed.[9][10]

The implementation of the immense task of reconstructing the country was accompanied by the struggle of the new government to acquire centralized authority,[11] further complicated by the mistrust a considerable part of society held for the new regime and by disputes over Poland's postwar borders, which were not firmly established until mid-1945.[12] The Soviet forces present at that time engaged in plunder of the former eastern territories of Germany which were being transferred to Poland, stripping them of valuable industrial equipment, infrastructure and factories and sending them to the Soviet Union.[13][14]

After the Soviet annexation of the Kresy territories east of the Curzon Line, about 2 million Poles were moved, transferred or expelled from these areas into the new western and northern territories east of the Oder–Neisse line,[15][16] which were transferred from Germany to Poland under the Potsdam Agreement.[17] Others stayed in what had become the Soviet Union and more went to Poland after 1956.Kresy territories east of the Curzon Line, about 2 million Poles were moved, transferred or expelled from these areas into the new western and northern territories east of the Oder–Neisse line,[15][16] which were transferred from Germany to Poland under the Potsdam Agreement.[17] Others stayed in what had become the Soviet Union and more went to Poland after 1956.[16] Additional settlement with people from central parts of Poland brought the number of Poles in what the government called the Recovered Territories up to 5 million by 1950. Most of the former German population of 10 million had fled or was expelled to post-war Germany by 1950:[8][18] about 4.4 million fled in the final stages of the war and 3.5 million were removed by the Polish authorities in 1945–1949.[19] The expulsion of the Germans was the result of the Allied decisions finalized in Potsdam.[16][b1]

With the expulsion of Ukrainians from Poland to the Soviet Union and the 1947 Operation Vistula dispersing the remaining Ukrainians in Poland,[20] and with most of the Polish Jews exterminated by Nazi Germany during the Holocaust and many of the survivors emigrating to the West and to newly created Israel,[16] Poland for the first time became an ethnically homogeneous nation state.[8] The government-imposed and spontaneous movements of people amounted to one of the greatest demographic upheavals in European history.[16]

Unlike other European countries, Poland continued the extensive prosecution of both Nazi perpetrators and their collaborators into the 1950s. According to Alexander Prusin, Poland was the most consistent in investigating and prosecuting war crimes among the post-war communist nations; between 1944 and 1985 Polish courts tried over 20,000 defendants including 5,450 German nationals.[21]

Poland suffered catastrophic damage to its infrastructure during the war, which caused it to lag even further behind the West in its industrial output.[22] The losses in national resources and infrastructure amounted to over 30% of the pre-war potential.[22] Poland's capital of Warsaw was among the most devastated cities – over 80 percent destroyed in the aftermath of the Warsaw Uprising of 1944. The Polish state acquired more highly developed western territories and lost the more economically backward eastern regions. Already in 1948 the prewar level of industrial production was exceeded in global and per capita terms during the Three-Year Plan (Plan Trzyletni), implemented first and fueled by the collective desire to rebuild shattered lives.[11] The Three-Year Plan was the work of the Central Planning Office led by Czesław Bobrowski and PPR economist Hilary Minc, who declared the need to preserve elements of market capitalism. Standard of living of the population of Poland markedly improved.[23] Soviet pressure caused the Polish government to reject the American-sponsored Marshall Plan in 1947 and to join the Soviet Union-dominated Comecon in 1949.[24][25]

Warsaw and other ruined cities were cleared of rubble — mainly by hand — and rebuilt with great speed (one of the successes of the Three-Year Plan)[26] at the expense of former German cities like Wrocław, which often provided the needed construction material.[27] Wrocław, Gdańsk, Szczecin and other formerly German cities were also completely rebuilt.

Historian Norman Davies wrote that the new Polish frontiers, from the Polish interests point of view, entirely advantageous, but realized at the cost of enormous suffering and specious justifications. The radically new Eastern European borders constituted a "colossal feat of political engineering", but could not be derived from immemorial historical determinations, as claimed by the communist propaganda.[26] at the expense of former German cities like Wrocław, which often provided the needed construction material.[27] Wrocław, Gdańsk, Szczecin and other formerly German cities were also completely rebuilt.

Historian Norman Davies wrote that the new Polish frontiers, from the Polish interests point of view, entirely advantageous, but realized at the cost of enormous suffering and specious justifications. The radically new Eastern European borders constituted a "colossal feat of political engineering", but could not be derived from immemorial historical determinations, as claimed by the communist propaganda.[28]

Already before the Red Army entered Poland, the Soviet Union was pursuing a strategy of eliminating pro-Western resistance as an organized force to ensure that Poland would fall under its sphere of influence.[29] In 1943, following the revelation of the Katyn massacre, Stalin suspended relations with the Polish government-in-exile in London.[30] At the February 1945 Yalta Conference, the Soviet Union agreed to allow the formation of a coalition government composed of the communists, including the Polish Workers' Party (Polska Partia Robotnicza, PPR), as well as Polish pro-Western elements in exile and in Poland, and subsequently to arrange for free elections to be held.[31]

After the prewar Communist Party of Poland was eliminated in Stalin's purges in 1938 (some five thousand Polish communists were brought to Russia and killed), a group of survivors led by Marceli Nowotko, Bolesław Mołojec and Paweł Finder convinced in 1941 the Soviets in Moscow of the need to reestablish a Polish party. The conspiratorial core of the new Polish Workers' Party was assembled in Warsaw in January 1942, and after the deaths or arrests of the above leaders there, Władysław Gomułka emerged as the PPR's first secretary by the end of 1943. Gomułka was a dedicated communist in the national tradition of the Polish leftist movement. He loathed the Soviet practices he experienced while being trained in Russia and Ukraine in the 1930s, but was convinced of the historic necessity of alliance with the Soviet Union. He may have survived the purges because of being imprisoned in Poland for illegal labor-organizing activities in 1938–39. Throughout the German occupation, Gomułka remained in Poland and was not a part of the circle organized in the Soviet Union around the Union of Polish Patriots by Stalin and Wanda Wasilewska. In Polish society of 1945, Gomułka's party was marginally small in comparison to other political groups.[33]

With the liberation of Polish territories and the failure of the Home Army's Operation Tempest in 1944, control over what was to become post-war Poland passed from the occupying forces of Nazi Germany to the Red Army, and from the Red Army to Polish communists, who formed the Polish Committee of National Liberation (Polski Komitet Wyzwolenia Narodowego, PKWN), an early government, in existence from late July 1944 in Lublin. The Polish communists became the most influential Polish factor in the politics of emerging Poland,[34] despite having initially minuscule popular support.[35] The PKWN recognized the legal continuity of the March Constitution of Poland, as opposed to the Home Army's Operation Tempest in 1944, control over what was to become post-war Poland passed from the occupying forces of Nazi Germany to the Red Army, and from the Red Army to Polish communists, who formed the Polish Committee of National Liberation (Polski Komitet Wyzwolenia Narodowego, PKWN), an early government, in existence from late July 1944 in Lublin. The Polish communists became the most influential Polish factor in the politics of emerging Poland,[34] despite having initially minuscule popular support.[35] The PKWN recognized the legal continuity of the March Constitution of Poland, as opposed to the April Constitution.[25][36] On 6 September 1944, the PKWN issued its momentous land reform decree, the consequences of which would fundamentally alter the antiquated social and economic structure of the country. Over one million peasant families benefited from parcellation of the larger estates.[37]

The communists, favored by the Yalta decisions, enjoyed the advantages of Soviet support within the Soviet plan of bringing Eastern Europe firmly under the influence of the Soviet Union; they exercised control over crucial government departments, such as the security services (security was in the hands of the Soviet NKVD until its Polish counterparts were developed).[32][31] Beginning in the later part of 1944, following the defeat of the Warsaw Uprising and the promotion of the populist program of the PKWN, the London exiled government's delegation was increasingly seen by the majority of Poles as a failed enterprise, its political-military organizations became isolated, and the resistance against the new communist political and administrative forces decisively weakened. The population was tired of the years of oppression and conflict and the ideas expressed in the PKWN Manifesto and their progressive implementation attracted widening social support.[38] Beyond the land reform, the PKWN Manifesto foresaw no further radical ownership changes and nationalization of industry was not mentioned. On the contrary, business property was supposed to return to its owners as the economic relations become properly regulated.[39] From 1944 in liberated areas, responding to promulgated slogans, workers spontaneously took over existing factory installations, established workers' councils, undertook reconstruction, activation and production. A considerable labor struggle and compulsion were necessary for the PPR to claim the factories and enforce its own rules.[40]

The PKWN was reshaped into the Provisional Government of the Republic of Poland (Rząd Tymczasowy Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej, RTRP), which functioned from January 1945.[34] This government was headed by Edward Osóbka-Morawski, a socialist, but the communists, mostly non-PPR Soviet employees such as Michał Rola-Żymierski, held a majority of key posts.[33] In April 1945, a Polish-Soviet treaty of friendship and cooperation was signed; it severely limited the possibilities of future Western or émigré impact or internal cooperation with non-communist political forces in Poland.[25][41] The consecutive early Soviet-influenced governments were subordinate to the unelected, communist-controlled parliament, the State National Council (Krajowa Rada Narodowa, KRN), formed by Gomułka and his PPR in occupied Warsaw in January 1944. The communist governmental structures were not recognized by the increasingly isolated Polish government-in-exile, which had formed its own quasi-parliament, the Council of National Unity (Rada Jedności Narodowej, RJN).

The Yalta agreement stipulated a governmental union in Poland of "all democratic and anti-Nazi elements". Prime Minister Stanisław Mikołajczyk of the Polish government-in-exile resigned his post in November 1944 and having accepted the Yalta terms went to Moscow, where he negotiated with Bolesław Bierut the shape of a "national unity" government". Mikołajczyk, along with several other exiled Polish leaders, returned to Poland in July 1945.[42][43]

The new Polish Provisional Government of National Unity (Tymczasowy Rząd Jedności Narodowej, TRJN) — as the Polish government was called until the elections of 1947 — was established on 28 June 1945.[34] Osóbka-Morawski was kept as prime minister, Gomułka became first deputy prime minister and Mikołajczyk second deputy and minister of agriculture. The government was "provisional" and the Potsdam Conference soon declared that before a regular government is created, free elections must be held and a permanent constitutional system established.Provisional Government of National Unity (Tymczasowy Rząd Jedności Narodowej, TRJN) — as the Polish government was called until the elections of 1947 — was established on 28 June 1945.[34] Osóbka-Morawski was kept as prime minister, Gomułka became first deputy prime minister and Mikołajczyk second deputy and minister of agriculture. The government was "provisional" and the Potsdam Conference soon declared that before a regular government is created, free elections must be held and a permanent constitutional system established.[42]

The communists' principal rivals were veteran activists of the Polish Underground State, Mikołajczyk's Polish People's Party (Polskie Stronnictwo Ludowe, PSL), and veterans of the Polish Armed Forces in the West. Of particular practical importance was Mikołajczyk's People's Party (originally a peasant formation), because it was legally recognized by the communists and thus able to function within the political arena. The People's Party wanted to prevent the communists from monopolizing power and eventually establish a parliamentary polity with a market economy by winning the promised elections.[44] Mikołajczyk hoped that an independent Polish state, friendly with the Soviet Union, would be allowed to act as a bridge between the East and the West.[43]

Soviet-oriented parties, backed by the Soviet Red Army and in control of the security forces, held most of the power, concentrated especially in the Polish Workers' Party under Gomułka and Bierut. Bierut represented the influx of appointees to the Polish party coming (during and after the war) from the Soviet Union and imposed by the Soviets, a process accelerated at the time of the PPR Congress of December 1945. The party's membership dramatically increased from perhaps a few thousand in early 1945 to over one million in 1948.[26][33][45]

As a show of Soviet domination, sixteen prominent leaders of the Polish anti-Nazi underground were brought to trial in Moscow in June 1945.[46] Their removal from the political scene precluded the possibility of a democratic transition called for by the Yalta agreements.[47] The trial of the defendants, falsely and absurdly accused of collaboration with the Nazis, was watched by British and American diplomats without protest. The absence of the expected death sentences was their relief.[42] The exiled government in London, after Mikołajczyk's resignation led by Tomasz Arciszewski, ceased to be officially recognized by Great Britain and the United States on 5 July 1945.[48]

In the years 1945–47, about 500,000 Soviet soldiers were stationed in Poland. Between 1945 and 1948, some 150,000 Poles were imprisoned by the Soviet authorities. Many former Home Army members were apprehended and executed.[49] During the PPR Central Committee Plenum of May 1945, Gomułka complained that the Polish masses regard the Polish communists as the "NKVD's worst agency" and Edward Ochab declared the withdrawal of the Soviet Army from Poland a high priority.[41] But in the meantime tens of thousands of Poles died in the postwar struggle and persecution and tens of thousands were sentenced by courts on fabricated and arbitrary charges or deported to the Soviet Union.[47] The status of Soviet troops in Poland was not legalized until late 1956, when the Polish-Soviet declaration "On the legal status of Soviet forces temporarily stationed in Poland" was signed.[50] The Soviet Northern Group of Forces would be permanently stationed in Poland.

Stalin had promised at the Yalta Conference that free elections would be held in Poland. However, the Polish communists, led by Gomułka and Bierut, while having no intention of giving up power, were also aware of the limited support they enjoyed among the general population. To circumvent this difficulty, in 1946 a national plebiscite, known as the "Three Times Yes" referendum (Trzy razy tak), was held first, before the parliamentary elections.[51] The referendum comprised three fairly general, but politically charged questions about the Senate, national industries and western borders. It was meant to check and promote the popularity of communist initiatives in Poland. Since most of the important parties at the time were leftist or centrist – and could have easily approved all three options – Mikołajczyk's Polish People's Party (PSL) decided, not to be seen as merging into the government bloc, to ask its supporters to oppose the first one: the abolition of the Senate.[52] The communists voted "Three Times Yes". The partial results, reconstructed by the PSL, showed that the communist side was met with little support on the first question. However, after a campaign marked by electoral fraud and intimidation the communists claimed large majorities on all three questions,[53][52] which led to the nationalization of industry and state control of economic activity in general, and a unicameral national parliament (Sejm).[26][31][54][55]

The communists consolidated power by gradually whittling away the rights of their non-communist foes, particularly by suppressing the leading opposition party – Mikołajczyk's PSL.[44] In some widely publicized cases, the perceived enemies were sentenced to death on trumped up charges — among them Witold Pilecki, the organizer of the Auschwitz resistance. Leaders of the Home Army and of the Council of National Unity were persecuted. Many resistance fighters were murdered extrajudicially or forced to exile.[56] The opposition members were also harassed by administrative means. Although the ongoing persecution of the former anti-Nazi and right-wing organizations by state security kept The communists consolidated power by gradually whittling away the rights of their non-communist foes, particularly by suppressing the leading opposition party – Mikołajczyk's PSL.[44] In some widely publicized cases, the perceived enemies were sentenced to death on trumped up charges — among them Witold Pilecki, the organizer of the Auschwitz resistance. Leaders of the Home Army and of the Council of National Unity were persecuted. Many resistance fighters were murdered extrajudicially or forced to exile.[56] The opposition members were also harassed by administrative means. Although the ongoing persecution of the former anti-Nazi and right-wing organizations by state security kept some partisans in the forests, the actions of the Ministry of Public Security (known as the UB, Department of Security), NKVD and the Red Army steadily diminished their numbers. The right-wing insurgency radically decreased after the amnesty of July 1945[57] and faded after the amnesty of February 1947.[58][59]

By 1946, all rightist parties had been outlawed,[31] and a new pro-government Democratic Bloc was formed in 1947 which included only the Polish Workers' Party and its leftist allies. On 19 January 1947, the first parliamentary elections took place featuring primarily the PPR and allied candidates and a potentially politically potent opposition from the Polish People's Party. However, the PSL's strength and role had already been seriously compromised due to government control and persecution.[31] Election results were adjusted by Stalin to suit the communists, whose bloc claimed 80% of the votes. The British and American governments protested the poll for its blatant violations of the Yalta and Potsdam accords.[60] The rigged elections effectively ended the multiparty system in Poland's politics.[25][26][31][54][55] After the referendum dress rehearsal, this time the vote fraud was much better concealed and spread into various forms and stages and its actual scale is not known. With all the pressure and manipulations, an NKVD colonel charged with election supervision reported to Stalin that about 50% of the vote was cast for the regime's Democratic Bloc nationwide. In the new Sejm, out of 444 seats, 27 were given to the Polish People's Party of Stanisław Mikołajczyk.[61] He, having declared the results to be falsified, was threatened with arrest or worse and fled the country in October 1947, helped by the US Embassy; other opposition leaders also left.[55][61] In February, the new Sejm created the Small Constitution of 1947. Over the next two years, the communists monopolized political power in Poland.[31]

Additional force in Polish politics, the long-established Polish Socialist Party (Polska Partia Socjalistyczna, PPS), suffered a fatal split at this time, as the ruling Stalinists applied the salami tactics to dismember the opposition.[62] Communist politicians cooperated with the left-wing PPS faction led by Józef Cyrankiewicz, prime minister under new president Bierut from February 1947. The socialists' originally tactical decision to collaborate with the communists resulted in their institutional demise.[44] Cyrankiewicz visited Stalin in Moscow in March 1948 to discuss the idea of a party merger. The Kremlin, increasingly uncomfortable with Gomułka's communist party leadership, concurred, and Cyrankiewicz secured his own political place for the future (until 1972).[63] In December 1948, after the removal of Gomułka and imposition of Bierut as the communist Polish Workers' Party chief,[64] the PPR and Cyrankiewicz's rump PPS joined ranks to form the Polish United Workers' Party (Polska Zjednoczona Partia Robotnicza, PZPR), in power for the next four decades. Poland became a de facto one-party state and a satellite state of the Soviet Union.[26] Only two other parties were allowed to exist legally: the United People's Party (ZSL) that had split from Mikołajczyk's PSL and was meant to represent rural communities, and the Alliance of Democrats (SD), a token intelligentsia party (see also: List of political parties in Poland).[31]

As the period of Sovietization and Stalinism began, the PZPR was anything but united. The most important split among the communists occurred before the union with the PPS, when the Stalinists forced Gomułka out of the PPR's top office and suppressed his native communist faction.[64] The PZPR became divided into several factions, which espoused different views and methods and sought different degrees of the Polish state's distinction and independence from the Soviet Union. While Marxism–Leninism, the official ideology, was new to Poland, the communist regime continued, in many psychologically and practically important ways, the precepts, methods and manners of past Polish ruling circles, including those of the Sovietization and Stalinism began, the PZPR was anything but united. The most important split among the communists occurred before the union with the PPS, when the Stalinists forced Gomułka out of the PPR's top office and suppressed his native communist faction.[64] The PZPR became divided into several factions, which espoused different views and methods and sought different degrees of the Polish state's distinction and independence from the Soviet Union. While Marxism–Leninism, the official ideology, was new to Poland, the communist regime continued, in many psychologically and practically important ways, the precepts, methods and manners of past Polish ruling circles, including those of the Sanation, the National Democracy, and 19th century traditions of cooperation with the partitioning powers.[33]

With Poland being a member of the Soviet Bloc, the party's pursuits of power and reform were permanently hindered by the restrictions and limits imposed by the rulers of the Soviet Union, by the resentful attitude of Polish society, conscious of its lack of national independence and freedoms, and by the understanding of the party managers that their positions would terminate once they stop conforming to the requirements of the Soviet alliance (because of both the lack of public support and Soviet reaction).[65] Poland's political history was governed by the mutual dependence of the Soviets and the Polish communists.[48]

The nomenklatura political elite developed. It comprised leaders, administrators and managers within the ruling party structure, in all branches of central and local government and in institutions of all kinds. Nomenklatura members were appointed by the party and exercised political control in all spheres of public life, for example economic development, industry management, or education. For the party, the privileged nomenklatura layer was maintained to assure the proper placement of people who were ideologically reliable and otherwise qualified, but the revisionist dissidents Jacek Kuroń and Karol Modzelewski later described this system as a class dictatorship of central political bureaucracy for its own sake.[40] The Polish public widely approved the many social undertakings of the communist government, including family apartment construction, child care, worker vacation and resorts, health care and full employment policies, but the special privileges granted nomenklatura and the security services were resented.[66]

As in other Eastern Bloc countries, there was a Soviet-style political purge of communist officials in Poland after 1948, accused of "nationalist" or other "deviationist" tendencies.[67] The half-hearted in Poland campaign included the arrests and imprisonments of Marian Spychalski from May 1950, and Michał Rola-Żymierski five months after Stalin's death.[68] In September 1948 Władysław Gomułka, who opposed Stalin's direct control of the Polish PPR party, was charged, together with a group of communist leaders who like Gomułka spent the war in Poland, with ideological departure from Leninism, and dismissed from the post of the party's first secretary.[67][69] Gomułka, accused of "right-wing nationalist deviations", had indeed emphasized the Polish socialist traditions and severely criticized Rosa Luxemburg's Social Democracy of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania (SDKPiL) party for belittling Polish national aspirations.[70] More insidiously, the Soviets claimed Gomułka's participation in an anti-Soviet international conspiracy.[71] Following Bolesław Bierut's order, he was arrested by the Ministry of Public Security (MBP) in early August 1951 and interrogated by Roman Romkowski and Anatol Fejgin, as demanded by the Soviets.[72] Gomułka was not subjected to physical torture unlike other communists persecuted under the regime of Bierut, Jakub Berman, and other Stalin's associates.[73][74] Under interrogation he defiantly conducted his defense, threatened to reveal "the whole truth" if put on a trial and remained unbroken. Gomułka was thus placed in prison without a typical show trial (he was released in December 1954).[72][75] Bierut replaced Gomułka as the PPR (and then the PZPR) leader.[31] Gomułka remained protected by his Polish comrades to the best of their ability and the record of his sometime defiance came in handy when in 1956 there was an opportunity for the Polish party to reassert itself.[64]

The Stalinist government was controlled by Polish communists originating from wartime factions and organizations operating in the Soviet Union under Stalin, such as the Union of Polish Patriots. Their leaders at that time included Wanda Wasilewska and Zygmunt Berling.[38][69] Now in Poland, those who remained politically active and in favor ruled the country, aided by the MBP and Soviet "advisers", who were placed in every arm of the government and state security as a guarantee of pro-Soviet policy of the state. The most important of them was Konstantin Rokossovsky (Konstanty Rokossowski in Polish), defense minister of Poland from 1949 to 1956, Marshal of the Soviet Union and war hero.[76][77] Military conscription was introduced following a postwar hiatus and the army soon reached its permanent size of 400,000 men.The Stalinist government was controlled by Polish communists originating from wartime factions and organizations operating in the Soviet Union under Stalin, such as the Union of Polish Patriots. Their leaders at that time included Wanda Wasilewska and Zygmunt Berling.[38][69] Now in Poland, those who remained politically active and in favor ruled the country, aided by the MBP and Soviet "advisers", who were placed in every arm of the government and state security as a guarantee of pro-Soviet policy of the state. The most important of them was Konstantin Rokossovsky (Konstanty Rokossowski in Polish), defense minister of Poland from 1949 to 1956, Marshal of the Soviet Union and war hero.[76][77] Military conscription was introduced following a postwar hiatus and the army soon reached its permanent size of 400,000 men.[78]

The Soviet-style secret police including the Department of Security (UB) grew to around 32,000 agents as of 1953. At its Stalinist peak, there was one UB agent for every 800 Polish citizens.[79] The MBP was also in charge of the Internal Security Corps, the Civil Militia (MO), border guard, prison staff and paramilitary police ORMO used for special actions (with over 100,000 members). The ORMO originated from popular self-defense efforts, which were a spontaneous reaction to the explosion of crime in the power vacuum of 1944–45. In February 1946, the PPR channeled and formalized this citizen militia movement, creating its ostensibly crime control voluntary ORMO structure.[80]

Primarily in Stalin's lifetime, public prosecutors and judges as well as functionaries of the Ministry of Public Security and the Main Directorate of Information of the Polish Army engaged in acts recognized by international law as crimes against humanity and crimes against peace.[74] One example was the 1951 Mokotów Prison execution in Warsaw of members of the Freedom and Independence (WiN) organization, former participants in anti-Nazi resistance, after the official amnesty and their voluntary disclosure.[81] The postwar Polish Army, intelligence and police were staffed with Soviet NKVD officers who stationed in Poland with the Northern Gr

Primarily in Stalin's lifetime, public prosecutors and judges as well as functionaries of the Ministry of Public Security and the Main Directorate of Information of the Polish Army engaged in acts recognized by international law as crimes against humanity and crimes against peace.[74] One example was the 1951 Mokotów Prison execution in Warsaw of members of the Freedom and Independence (WiN) organization, former participants in anti-Nazi resistance, after the official amnesty and their voluntary disclosure.[81] The postwar Polish Army, intelligence and police were staffed with Soviet NKVD officers who stationed in Poland with the Northern Group of Forces until 1956.[82]

Mass arrests continued during the early 1950s. In October 1950, 5,000 people were arrested in one night in the so-called "Operation K". In 1952, over 21,000 people were arrested. By the second half of 1952, according to official data, 49,500 political prisoners were being held.[83] Former Home Army commander Emil August Fieldorf was subjected to several years of brutal persecution in the Soviet Union and Poland before being executed in February 1953, just before Stalin's death.[84]

Resistance to the Soviet and native Stalinists was widespread among not only the general population but also the PZPR ranks, which limited the oppressive system's damage in Poland to well below that of other European communist-ruled countries. According to Norman Davies, political violence after 1947 was not widespread.[85] The Church, subjected to partial property confiscations,[25] remained largely intact, the marginalized to a considerable degree intelligentsia retained its potential to affect future reforms, the peasantry avoided wholesale collectivization and remnants of private enterprise survived. Gradual liberalizing changes took place between Stalin's death in 1953 and the Polish October of 1956.[85]

In February 1948, Minister of Industry Hilary Minc, a Marxist economist, attacked the Central Planning Office of Poland as a "bourgeois" remnant, the office was abolished and the Polish Stalinist economy was born. The government, headed by President Bierut, Prime Minister Cyrankiewicz and Minc, embarked on a sweeping program of economic reform and national reconstruction.[86] Poland was brought into line with the Soviet model of a "people's republic" and centrally planned command economy,[31] in place of the façade of democracy and partial market economy which the regime had maintained until 1948.[26]

The relationships of ownership of the industry, the banking sector and rural property after the nationalization and the land reform were fundamentally altered. The changes, implemented in the name of egalitarianism, enjoyed broad societal approval and support.[66]

The structure of Polish economy was established in the late 1940s and the early 1950s.[40] Soviet-style planning begun in 1950 with the Six-Year Plan.[31] The plan focused on rapid development of heavy industry ("accelerated industrialization", after the outbreak of the The relationships of ownership of the industry, the banking sector and rural property after the nationalization and the land reform were fundamentally altered. The changes, implemented in the name of egalitarianism, enjoyed broad societal approval and support.[66]

The structure of Polish economy was established in the late 1940s and the early 1950s.[40] Soviet-style planning begun in 1950 with the Six-Year Plan.[31] The plan focused on rapid development of heavy industry ("accelerated industrialization", after the outbreak of the Korean War driven by Soviet military demands at the expense of many cancelled consumer-oriented investments)[23][40] and the (eventually futile) collectivization of agriculture. Among the main projects was the Lenin Steelworks and its supporting "socialist city" of Nowa Huta (New Steel Mill), both built from the scratch in the early 1950s near Kraków, of which Nowa Huta soon became a part.[87] The land seized from prewar large landowners was redistributed to the poorer peasants, but subsequent attempts at taking the land from farmers for collectivization met wide resentment. In what became known as the battle for trade, the private trade and industry were nationalized. Within few years most private shops disappeared.[31] The regime embarked on the campaign of collectivization (State Agricultural Farms were created),[26] although the pace of this change was slower than in other Soviet satellites.[31] Poland remained the only Eastern Bloc country where individual peasants would continue to dominate agriculture. A Soviet-Polish trade treaty, initiated in January 1948, dictated the dominant direction of Poland's future foreign trade and economic cooperation.[88]

In 1948, the United States announced the Marshall Plan initiative to help rebuild postwar Europe and thus gain more political power there. After initially welcoming the idea of Poland's participation in the plan, the Polish government declined the American offer under pressure from Moscow.[25] Also, following the Uprising of 1953 in East Germany, Poland was forced by the Soviet Union to give up its claims to compensation from Germany, which as a result paid no significant compensation for war damages, either to the Polish state or to Polish citizens.[89] Poland received compensation in the form of land and property left behind by the German population of the annexed western territories.

Despite the lack of American aid, the East European "command economies", including Poland, made some progress in bridging the historically existing wealth gap with the market economy driven Western Europe.[90] Because of the capital accumulation, the Polish national income grew in real terms by over 76% and the agricultural and industrial production more than doubled between 1947 and 1950. The economic transition and industrialization were accompanied and made possible by massive social transformations, as peasants migrated and were converted into city dwelling working class (1.8 million between 1946 and 1955) and the country went through a period of rapid urbanization (total population of the cities increased by 3.1 million).[91][c1] The influx of cheap labor and the availability of the Soviet market facilitated an accumulation of resources, despite low productivity and insufficient investment in new technologies.[40] The centrally planned socialist economies of Eastern Europe in terms of growth during the postwar years did relatively better than the West, only to sustain economic damage later, especially after the 1973 oil crisis.[90] However, the rise in living standards caused by the earlier industrial dynamics was not comparable to that in the West.[40]

The last Polish–Soviet territorial exchange took place in 1951. Some 480 km2 (185 sq mi) of land along the border were swapped between Poland and the Soviet Union.

The Constitution of the Polish People's Republic was promulgated in July 1952 and the state officially became the Polish People's Republic (PRL).[92] Among the rights it guaranteed was universal free health care. The large state-owned enterprises provided to employees an extensive range of welfare and leisure activities, including housing, sports facilities and hospitals, which started to diminish in the 1970s.[93] In the early 1950s, the Stalinist regime also carried out major changes to the education system. The program of free and compulsory school education for all and the establishment of free institutions of higher learning received much support. The communists screened out what facts and interpretations were to be taught; history and other sciences had to follow Marxist views approved by ideological censorship.Constitution of the Polish People's Republic was promulgated in July 1952 and the state officially became the Polish People's Republic (PRL).[92] Among the rights it guaranteed was universal free health care. The large state-owned enterprises provided to employees an extensive range of welfare and leisure activities, including housing, sports facilities and hospitals, which started to diminish in the 1970s.[93] In the early 1950s, the Stalinist regime also carried out major changes to the education system. The program of free and compulsory school education for all and the establishment of free institutions of higher learning received much support. The communists screened out what facts and interpretations were to be taught; history and other sciences had to follow Marxist views approved by ideological censorship.[31] During 1951–53, a large number of prewar professors who were perceived by the regime as reactionary was dismissed from universities. Government control over art and artists deepened. The Soviet-style socialist realism became the only formula accepted by the authorities after 1949. Most works of art and literature represented propaganda of the party or had to be in line with its views. (See also: Socialist realism in Poland)

The reforms often brought relief for a significant part of the population. After World War II many people were willing to accept communist rule in exchange for the restoration of relatively normal life; hundreds of thousands joined the communist party and actively supported the regime. Nonetheless, latent popular discontent remained present and many Poles adopted the attitude of "resigned cooperation". Others, like the Freedom and Independence organization that originated from elements of the Home Army and especially the National Armed Forces actively opposed the communists, hoping for a World War III that would liberate Poland. Most people who took up arms against the communist regime had surrendered during the amnesties of 1945 and 1947, but brutal repressions by the secret police continued and some fought well into the 1950s.[12][29][d]

The communists further alienated many Poles by persecuting the Catholic Church.[31] The PAX Association created in 1947 and led by the former prewar far-right activist Bolesław Piasecki, attempted to divide the Catholic movement and promote a communist rule-friendly, collaborationist church.[87] The PAX did not get very far in molding the Catholic public opinion, but published numerous books and officially approved daily Catholic press. In 1953 Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński, the Primate of Poland, was placed under house arrest, even though he had been willing to make compromises with the government.[26][31] In the early 1950s, the war against religion by the secret police led to arrests and persecution of hundreds of religious personalities, culminating in the Stalinist show trial of the Kraków Curia.[94][95] (See also: Polish anti-religious campaign)

The constitution of 1952 guaranteed on paper all sorts of democratic rights and freedoms. In reality, the country was controlled extra-constitutionally by the Polish United Workers' Party, which used its own rules and practices to supervise all governmental institutions specified in the constitution.[96] The post of President of Poland was replaced with the collective Council of State, but Bierut, the party's first secretary, remained the effective leader of Poland. In the future, the existence of a constitution with de

The constitution of 1952 guaranteed on paper all sorts of democratic rights and freedoms. In reality, the country was controlled extra-constitutionally by the Polish United Workers' Party, which used its own rules and practices to supervise all governmental institutions specified in the constitution.[96] The post of President of Poland was replaced with the collective Council of State, but Bierut, the party's first secretary, remained the effective leader of Poland. In the future, the existence of a constitution with democratic provisions would give the opposition a legal tool and a way to pressure the regime.

Stalin died in 1953, which was followed by a partial thaw in Poland.[97] Nikita Khrushchev became first secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The PZPR's Second Congress deliberated in March 1954. Cyrankiewicz, previously replaced as prime minister by Bierut, was returned to that post (to remain prime minister until December 1970). The Six-Year Plan was adjusted to increase production of items for popular consumption. Khrushchev, present at the Congress, asked Bierut for the reasons of the continuing detention of Gomułka, "a good communist"; Bierut denied having specific knowledge of Gomułka's imprisonment.[98]

Following the defection to the West and revelations of its official Józef Światło, the Ministry of Public Security was abolished in December 1954. Gomułka and his associates were freed from confinement and censorship was slightly relaxed.[90] The two notable periodicals braving the prohibitions were Po prostu ('Simply') and Nowa Kultura ('The New Culture') (Po prostu was closed down and its defenders brutally pacified in October 1957, just one year after Gomułka's rise to power).[99][100] From early 1955, the Polish press engaged in criticizing the Stalinist recent past and praising the older Polish socialist traditions (social democratic Marxism and national independence). Political discussion clubs were on the rise throughout the country. The party itself appeared to be moving in the social democratic direction. Leftist intellectuals, who had joined the party because of their commitment to social justice, were heading in the social democratic direction more decisively and they soon gave rise to the Polish revisionism movement.[70]

In February 1956, Khrushchev denounced Stalin's cult of personality at the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and embarked on a reform course.[99] The de-Stalinization of official Soviet ideology left Poland's Stalinist hardliners in a difficult position.[55] While unrest and desire for reform and change among both intellectuals and workers were beginning to surface throughout the Eastern Bloc, the death of Stalin's ally Bierut in March 1956 in Moscow (he was attending the Soviet party's congress)[101] exacerbated an existing split in the Polish party.[55] In March Bierut was succeeded by Edward Ochab as first secretary.[90] As the 20th Congress inspired also partial democratisation of Polish political and economic life, Ochab engaged in reforms intended to promote industrial decentralization and improve living standards.[40]

The number of security agents was cut by 22%. By a widespread amnesty, 35,000 detainees across the entire country were released. 9,000 imprisoned for political reasons were freed in all. Hardline Stalinists, such as Jakub Berman, Roman Romkowski and Anatol Fejgin were removed from power, some arrested.[102] Berman, dismissed in May, by Gomułka's decision was never prosecuted.[101][103] A few perpetrators of Stalinist crimes were prosecuted and sentenced to prison terms. A much broader plan to charge the responsible and verify all of the security apparatus was formally presented by the prosecutors, but the action was not approved by Gomułka, who counted among the Stalinist persecution victims, as did his wife. Gomułka conducted some purges and reforms but did not want to destabilize the security system, now under his control, by wide-ranging formal prosecutions.[104]

Beginning on 28 June 1956, workers in the industrial city of Poznań, who had repeatedly but in vain petitioned the authorities to intervene and improve their deteriorating situation,[105] went on strike and rioted in response to a cut in wages and changed working conditions.[90] Demonstrations by factory workers turned into a huge citywide protest.[105] 16 tanks, 2 armoured personnel carriers and 30 vehicles were brought to bear by a local military commander. Some of them were seized by the protesters, who also broke into the local government buildings.[105] 57 people were killed and several hundred injured in two days of fighting.[106] Several major military formations entered the scene, but the army's role was mainly that of support of the police and security forces action.[101][105][a] At the Poznań radio station, Prime Minister Cyrankiewicz warned and threatened the rioters in his widely publicized speech: he "…who will dare raise his hand against the people's rule may be sure that… the authorities will chop off his hand".[90][105] Of the 746 people officially detained during and in the aftermath of the disturbances, almost 80% were workers. The authorities launched an investigation, attempting to uncover a claimed premeditated instigation and involvement by Western or anticommunist underground centers. Such efforts were unsuccessful and the events were found to have been spontaneous and locally supported.[105] The Poznań revolt's lasting impact was that it caused a deeper and more liberal realignment within the Polish communist party and in its relationship to Moscow.[90]

Deeply shaken by the protests and violence,[90] the 7th Plenum of the Central Committee, held in July 1956, split into two groups, the "ethno-nationalist" Natolin and the "reformist" Puławy factions, named after the locations where they held their meetings.[107][108] The Natolin faction consisted largely of communist officials from the army and state security, including Mieczysław Moczar, Zenon Kliszko and Zenon Nowak, who advocated the removal of "Stalin's Jewish protégés", but were themselves of Stalinist sympathies.[109] Many in the Puławy faction were former S

Deeply shaken by the protests and violence,[90] the 7th Plenum of the Central Committee, held in July 1956, split into two groups, the "ethno-nationalist" Natolin and the "reformist" Puławy factions, named after the locations where they held their meetings.[107][108] The Natolin faction consisted largely of communist officials from the army and state security, including Mieczysław Moczar, Zenon Kliszko and Zenon Nowak, who advocated the removal of "Stalin's Jewish protégés", but were themselves of Stalinist sympathies.[109] Many in the Puławy faction were former Stalinist fanatics, past Gomułka's enemies, now turned liberal reformers, supporters of Gomułka's return to power.[69][110] In response to the recent disturbances, the regime turned to conciliation: wage rises and other reforms for the Poznań workers were announced. In the party and among the intellectuals, demands for wider reforms of the Stalinist system were becoming more widespread and intense.[107]

Realizing the need for new leadership, in what became known as the Polish October, the Politburo chose Gomułka, who had been released from prison and reinstated in the party, and the Central Committee's 8th Plenum elected him without a Soviet approval the new first secretary of the PZPR.[25][90] Subsequently, Gomułka convinced the Soviet leaders that he would preserve the Soviet influence in Poland.[31][55] Gomułka's elevation was preceded by ominous Soviet military moves and an arrival of Soviet high-level delegation led by Khrushchev, which flew into Warsaw to witness and influence the upheaval in the Polish party. After the sometimes confrontational encounters and negotiations, they soon returned to Moscow, where the Soviet leader announced on 21 October that the idea of an armed intervention in Poland should be abandoned. This position was reinforced by pressure from communist China, which demanded that the Soviets leave the new Polish leadership alone.[111] On 21 October in Warsaw Gomułka's return to power was accomplished, giving rise to the era of national communism in Poland.[109] Gomułka pledged to dismantle Stalinism and in his acceptance speech raised numerous social democratic-sounding reformist ideas, giving hope to the left-wing revisionists and others in Polish society that the communist state was, after all, reformable.[70] The revisionists aspired to represent the worker movement, recently defeated in Poznań. Their main goals were political freedom and self-management in state enterprises.[112] However, the end of Soviet influence in Eastern Europe was nowhere in sight. On 14 May 1955, the Warsaw Pact was signed in the Polish capital, to counteract the earlier establishment of NATO.[78]

Many Soviet officers serving in the Polish Armed Forces were dismissed,[55][77] but very few Stalinist officials were put on trial for the repressions of the Bierut period. The Puławy faction argued that mass trials of Stalinist officials, many of them Jewish, would incite animosity toward the Jews. Konstantin Rokossovsky and other Soviet advisers were sent home, and the Polish communist establishment and system took on a more independent orientation.[26][31] Gomułka, conscious of geopolitical realities, agreed that Soviet troops would remain in Poland and no overt anti-Soviet outbursts would be allowed. However, he formalized the Polish-Soviet relations and the unprecedented for a Soviet-allied state military cooperation treaty, signed in December 1956, stated that the stationing of the Soviet forces in Poland "can in no way violate the sovereignty of the Polish state and cannot lead to their interference in internal matters of the Polish People's Republic".[113] Poland thus avoided the risk of Soviet armed intervention of the kind that crushed the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. On his part, Gomułka rewarded the Soviets for his internal leeway with loyal support for the duration of his career. In one act of defiance, the Polish delegation at the United Nations abstained in November 1956 from the vote condemning the Soviet intervention in Hungary.[114]

There were repeated attempts by some Polish academics and philosophers, many related to the prewar Lwów–Warsaw school – such as Leszek Kołakowski, Stanisław Ossowski and Adam Schaff – to create a bridge between Poland's history and Marxist ideology and develop a specific form of Polish Marxism. Such efforts were stifled due to the regime's unwillingness to risk the wrath of the Soviet Union for deviating too far from the Soviet party line. Kołakowski, a leading revisionist, was verbally attacked by Gomułka in 1957, expelled from the party in 1966 and had to emigrate in 1968.[104][115][116] Among other noted revisionists were Włodzimierz Brus, Bronisław Baczko, Zygmunt Bauman, and Krzysztof Pomian. The PZPR establishment saw them as true supporters of capitalist social democracy, pretending to be socialists.[117]

Poland welcomed Gomułka's rise to power with relief.[55] Gomułka promised an end to police terror, greater intellectual and religious freedom, higher wages, and the reversal of collectivization; and to some degree he fulfilled these promises.[25][26][31] Production of consumer goods was somewhat increased. The party elite as well as academic and literary intelligentsia experienced greater freedom and significant gains, felt as "a certain diversity and revitalization of elite public life".[70] The dissident discussion group Club of the Crooked Circle [pl] survived until 1962.[118] Other forms of collective community expression and a legally guaranteed academic autonomy (based on the 1958 statute of higher learning)[119] lasted until the 1968 Polish political crisis.[70][120] The permitted academic discourse was in marked contrast to the treatment afforded workers, whose self-management councils that had spontaneously formed in 1956 were neutralized and brought under control of the party by 1958.[40][70] In the communist era, because of their class role in the official ideology and leadership's sensibilities, workers enjoyed some clout and a degree of protection of their economic interests, on the condition that they refrained from engaging in independent politics or publicly exerting pressure.[112]

Economic reform was attempted when the Sejm created the Economic Council in 1957. The council included the prominent economists Oskar R. Lange, Czesław Bobrowski, Michał Kalecki, and Edward Lipiński. They proposed a market reform, beginning with the granting of greater self-rule and more independent decision-making capability to enterprises, to facilitate their "realization of plan goals". But the recommended economic improvements, despite the self-restraint of the authors, were not compatible with the obligatory at that time heavy-handed centralized economic command system, and the reform effort fizzled out.[1

Economic reform was attempted when the Sejm created the Economic Council in 1957. The council included the prominent economists Oskar R. Lange, Czesław Bobrowski, Michał Kalecki, and Edward Lipiński. They proposed a market reform, beginning with the granting of greater self-rule and more independent decision-making capability to enterprises, to facilitate their "realization of plan goals". But the recommended economic improvements, despite the self-restraint of the authors, were not compatible with the obligatory at that time heavy-handed centralized economic command system, and the reform effort fizzled out.[121]

In October 1957, Poland's Foreign Minister Adam Rapacki proposed a European nuclear-free zone that would include the territories of Poland, West Germany, East Germany and Czechoslovakia.[114] In August 1961, the new Berlin Wall cemented the division of Europe.

During 1948–71, the Polish government signed indemnification agreements with a number of West European countries (excluding those considered allies of Nazi Germany), Canada and the United States. The agreements dealt with compensation for the losses incurred by citizens and firms of the countries involved as a result of war events and the subsequent nationalization. The agreement with the U.S. followed the visit to Poland of Vice President Richard Nixon in August 1959 and his talks with Gomułka. It was signed in 1960 and the agreed amount had been paid by the Polish government in twenty installments. The U.S. government thereby assumed responsibility for indemnities resulting from claims filed by U.S. citizens.[122]

After the first wave of reform, Gomułka's regime started to move back on their promises. Control over mass media and universities was gradually tightened, and many of the younger and more reformist members of the party were forced out (over 200,000 purged already in 1958, when the PZPR undertook a "verification" of its membership).[117] The reform-promising Gomułka of 1956 turned into the authoritarian Gomułka of the 1960s. Although Poland enjoyed a period of relative stability in that decade, the idealism of the "Polish October" faded away.[25][26][31] The decisions made at the XIII Plenum of the Central Committee, held in 1963, meant a definite end of the post-October liberalization period. The demise of Gomułka's tactical allies, the Puławy faction, gradually replaced by Gomułka's own people, was apparent when Roman Zambrowski, the leading Jewish politician, was removed from the Politburo.[123]

Poland under Gomułka's rule was generally considered one of the more liberal communist states. However, Poles could still go to prison for writing political satire about the party leader, as Janusz Szpotański did,[124] or for publishing a book abroad. A March 1964 "Letter of the 34", signed by leading intellectuals and delivered to the office of Prime Minister Cyrankiewicz, criticized the worsening censorship and demanded a more open cultural policy, as guaranteed by the constitution.[125] Jacek Kuroń and Karol Modzelewski were expelled from the party and from 1965 imprisoned for written criticism (an "Open Letter to the Party") of the party rule and pointing out the contradictory nature of the supposedly workers' state.[126] Kuroń and Modzelewski accused the regime of betraying the revolutionary cause; like many younger Polish reformers, they spoke from leftist positions and were ideologically closely aligned with Western radicals of the 1960s.[127]

As the regime was getting less liberal and more repressive, Gomułka's popularity declined as his initial vision lost its impetus.[31] Many Poles found Gomułka's self-righteous attitude irritating and his demeanor provincial. He reacted to increasing criticism by refusing to budge and insulating himself with the help of cronies, of whom Zenon Kliszko was the most influential. Within the party, Minister of the Interior Mieczysław Moczar and his nationalist-communist faction known as "the Partisans" (together with Moczarowcy, the much broader system of Moczar's political clientele) were looking for an opportunity to assert their dominance.[69][123][128]

By the mid-1960s, Poland was starting to experience economic difficulties and the appreciable thus far standard of living improvements were showing signs of stagnation (during 1960–70 real wages for workers grew only by an average of 1.8% per year). The postwar economic boom was ending and the increasingly globalized and integrated world economy was becoming inhospitable to national developments operating behind trade barriers.[40][129] Like the other communist states, Poland was spending too much on heavy industry, armaments and prestige projects and too little on consumer production. The failure of Soviet-style collectivization returned the collectivized land to the peasants,[31] but most of their farms were too small to be prosperous and productivity in agriculture remained low. Economic relations with West Germany were frozen due to East German interference and resistance to economic integration. Gomułka attributed the signs of economic decline to faulty implementation of the fundamentally correct directions issued by central organs of the party. He failed to appreciate the corrective role of the market, whose feedback could not be replaced by theoretical computations, planning and administrative decisions.[130] On the other hand, pursuing conservative investment rather than consumption oriented economic policies, his government generated no foreign debt.[131]

From 1960, the regime increasingly implemented anti-Catholic policies, including harassment, atheistic propaganda, and measures that made carrying out religious practices more difficult.[132] Gomułka, according to Andrzej Leder, was the last Polish politician who seriously tried to realize an anti-clerical program, a staple leftist undertaking.[133] In 1965, the Conference of Polish Bishops issued the [132] Gomułka, according to Andrzej Leder, was the last Polish politician who seriously tried to realize an anti-clerical program, a staple leftist undertaking.[133] In 1965, the Conference of Polish Bishops issued the Letter of Reconciliation of the Polish Bishops to the German Bishops.[134] In 1966, the celebrations of the 1,000th anniversary of the Christianization of Poland led by the primate, Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński and other bishops who toured the country, turned into a huge demonstration of the power and popularity of the Catholic Church in Poland.[135] In fierce competition, the state authorities conducted their own national celebrations, stressing the origin of Polish statehood,[135] but the display of the Church hierarchy's command of enormous crowds in a land ruled by the communists must have impressed the Catholic prelates in the Vatican and elsewhere. The state-church dialogue, symbolized by the presence of the few Znak independent Catholic deputies in parliament, was rapidly deteriorating.[25]

By the 1960s, rival regime officials and their followers, generally from the younger generation of party activists, had begun to plot against the rule of Gomułka and his associates. Poland's security chief Mieczysław Moczar, a wartime communist partisan commander, based his appeal on nationalistic rhetoric combined with anti-intelligentsia and anti-Jewish sentiments and became the chief challenger.[25] The party leader in Upper Silesia, Edward Gierek, who had become involved with the communist movement as a teenage mining industry laborer in France,[136] also emerged as a possible alternative leader. Gierek was favored by the more pragmatic and technocratic members of the nomenklatura.[137] From January 1968, Polish revisionist opposition and other circles were strongly influenced by the developing movement of the Prague Spring.[138]

In March 1968, student demonstrations at the University of Warsaw broke out in the wake of the government's ban on further performance of the play Dziady by Adam Mickiewicz (written in 1824) at the National Theatre in Warsaw,[139] because of its alleged "anti-Soviet references". Subsequently, the ORMO and other security formations attacked protesting university students in several major cities.In March 1968, student demonstrations at the University of Warsaw broke out in the wake of the government's ban on further performance of the play Dziady by Adam Mickiewicz (written in 1824) at the National Theatre in Warsaw,[139] because of its alleged "anti-Soviet references". Subsequently, the ORMO and other security formations attacked protesting university students in several major cities.[140][u]

In what became known as the March 1968 events, Moczar used the prior spontaneous and informal celebrations of the outcome of the Arab–Israeli Six-Day War of 1967 and now the Warsaw theatre affair as pretexts to launch an anti-intellectual and anti-Semitic (officially designated as "anti-Zionist") press campaign, whose real goal was to weaken the pro-reform liberal party faction and attack other circles.[25][26][140] Thousands of generally secular and integrated people of Jewish origin lost their employment and some 15,000 Jews emigrated between 1967 and 1971.[141] Of what used to be the prewar Europe's largest Jewish community, only several thousand people remained in Poland.[142]

Other victims were college students, many of whom were expelled from their institutions and had their careers destroyed, academic teachers who tried to defend the students and the academic institutions themselves: Warsaw University had several departments administratively dissolved.[k] Liberal intelligentsia members, Jewish or not, were removed from the government and other places of employment. Leftist intellectuals and student leaders lost what was left of their faith in the ostensibly socialist government. Finally the party itself was purged of many thousand suspect members, people who somehow did not fit the new environment of intolerance and hatred.[143] The 1968 purges meant also the beginning of a large scale generational replacement of the party executive membership, a process that continued into the early 1970s, after Gomułka's departure. The prewar communist cadres were removed and people whose careers were formed in People's Poland took their place, which gave Gomułka's successor Edward Gierek one of the youngest in Europe elites of power early in his term.[144]

The revisionist dissident prominence in the 1968 events overshadowed the equally significant awakening taking place among the working class of Poland. Gdańsk, where thousands of students and workers fought the police on March 15, had the highest in the country rate of administrative detentions and court cases.[145] The greatest proportion of people arrested and imprisoned in March and April 1968 in Poland were classified by the authorities as "workers".[146]

An internal attempt was made to discredit Gomułka's leadership, but there were aspects of the ongoing witch hunt which he found

The revisionist dissident prominence in the 1968 events overshadowed the equally significant awakening taking place among the working class of Poland. Gdańsk, where thousands of students and workers fought the police on March 15, had the highest in the country rate of administrative detentions and court cases.[145] The greatest proportion of people arrested and imprisoned in March and April 1968 in Poland were classified by the authorities as "workers".[146]

An internal attempt was made to discredit Gomułka's leadership, but there were aspects of the ongoing witch hunt which he found to be to his advantage and tolerated. In the meantime, irreversible damage to society had been wrecked by the Moczar movement. Gomułka's regime reasserted itself and was saved by a combination of international and domestic factors, including the Moczar faction's inability to take over the party and state apparatus. The Soviet Union, now led by Leonid Brezhnev, was preoccupied with the crisis in Czechoslovakia and not inclined to support personnel changes in the Polish leadership.[140]

In August 1968, the Polish People's Army took part in the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia.[25][55] Some Polish intellectuals protested, and Ryszard Siwiec burned himself alive during celebrations of an official holiday. The Polish participation in the crushing of the Czech liberalization movement (the crowning achievement of Marxist revisionism, according to David Ost) further alienated Gomułka from his former liberal supporters.[55][143] But within the party, the opposition to Gomułka faded and the 5th Congress of the PZPR reconfirmed his rule in November. Brezhnev, who attended the gathering, used the occasion to expound his Brezhnev Doctrine, a self-granted Soviet right to forcefully intervene if an allied state strays too far from the "fraternal course".[140]

In December 1970, Gomułka's government scored a major political success when Poland obtained recognition by West Germany of post-World War II borders.[26][55] In the negotiations leading to the Treaty of Warsaw, the German side secured the right to emigrate to West Germany for residents of Poland of German identity and the ability to help financially those who stayed in Poland by granting pensions. Hundreds of thousands eventually became affected.[147] German Chancellor Willy Brandt, who signed the agreement, used the occasion to ask on his knees for forgiveness for the crimes of the Nazis (Kniefall von Warschau). His gesture was understood in Poland as being addressed to all Poles, although it was made at the site of the Warsaw Ghetto and thus directed primarily toward the Jews. The notable reconciliation process between the Polish and German nations was initiated five years earlier, when the Polish Church leaders issued the Letter of Reconciliation of the Polish Bishops to the German Bishops, criticized then by the Polish government.[26]

Gomułka felt proud and secure after the treaty with West Germany, his milestone political achievement. It signified a lasting trend in Poland's international policy: extricating the country from the disproportional dependence on Russia and compensating the security vulnerability by building good relations with Germany.[147][148]

But the event could not mask the economic crisis into which Poland was drifting. Although the system of fixed, artificially low food prices kept urban discontent under control, it caused economic strain. In the long run the situation was unsustainable, and on 12 December 1970 the regime unexpectedly announced substantial increases in the prices of basic foodstuffs.[31] The new measures were incomprehensible to many workers, and their unfortunate timing (before Christmas, the most intense food purchase period for most Polish families) led to strong social reaction and ultimately Gomułka's fall from power.

On 14–19 December 1970, mass demonstrations against the price rises broke out in the northern (Gomułka felt proud and secure after the treaty with West Germany, his milestone political achievement. It signified a lasting trend in Poland's international policy: extricating the country from the disproportional dependence on Russia and compensating the security vulnerability by building good relations with Germany.[147][148]

But the event could not mask the economic crisis into which Poland was drifting. Although the system of fixed, artificially low food prices kept urban discontent under control, it caused economic strain. In the long run the situation was unsustainable, and on 12 December 1970 the regime unexpectedly announced substantial increases in the prices of basic foodstuffs.[31] The new measures were incomprehensible to many workers, and their unfortunate timing (before Christmas, the most intense food purchase period for most Polish families) led to strong social reaction and ultimately Gomułka's fall from power.

On 14–19 December 1970, mass demonstrations against the price rises broke out in the northern (Baltic coast) cities of Gdańsk, Gdynia, Elbląg and Szczecin.[25][31][55] In violent confrontations at those and other locations 19 public buildings were destroyed or damaged, including headquarters of the party in Gdańsk and Szczecin.[147] The PZPR Central Committee was deliberating in Warsaw, but a smaller conference, led by Gomułka, issued an authorization for a limited use of lethal force to defend lives and property.[149] Gomułka, however, was determined to impose a forceful resolution of the conflict.[150] Among the party leaders who arrived on the coast and directed the local enforcement actions, initially in Gdańsk, were Zenon Kliszko and Stanisław Kociołek. In Gdynia, soldiers were instructed to prevent protesters from returning to factory buildings; they fired into a crowd of workers emerging from commuter trains. Fatal confrontations took place also in Szczecin. Possibly about fifty people were killed in the coastal region in December.[149][151]

The protest movement spread to other cities, leading to more strikes and causing angry workers to occupy many factories. The general strike across Poland was scheduled for 21 December 1970.[150]

The party leadership meeting in Warsaw on 20 December recognized the danger that the working class revolt presented to their system. In consultations with the disturbed Soviet leaders, they proceeded with arranging the resignation of Gomułka, who was by then stressed out and ill.[150] Several of his collaborators were also removed. Edward Gierek was drafted as the new first secretary. Mieczysław Moczar, another strong contender, was not trusted and even blamed for the current debacle by the Soviets.[149]

Another strike in Szczecin broke out on 22 January 1971. Gierek gambled that his personal appearances would resolve the crisis. He went to Szczecin on 24 January and to Gdańsk the next day, met the workers, apologized for the past mistakes and assured them that as a former worker himself he understood their plight and would now govern Poland for the people. Participants of the Szczecin strike demanded freely elected worker councils and union representatives. Gierek consented, but in reality the authorities soon marginalized and eliminated the worker leaders from the legally existing labor structures and their places of employment. The February 1971 Łódź strikes followed and concentrated on economic demands. Afterwards prices were lowered, wage increases announced, and sweeping economic and political changes promised.[152][153][154]

The Polish opposition movement, traditionally led by the intelligentsia, after the two heavy blows of 1968 and 1970 was in disarray and silent. The revisionists' tenuous connection with the communist party was permanently broken, but a new strategy had not yet emerged.[143] However, already in 1971 Leszek Kołakowski published in the émigré Kultura journal a seminal article entitled Theses on Hope and Hopelessness. It put forward a concept of civil democratizing resistance movement that would be valid even in the repressed and seemingly deadlocked state socialist society.[155]

Gierek, like Gomułka in 1956, came to power on a raft of promises that everything would be different from now on: wages would rise, prices would remain stable, there would be freedom of speech, and those responsible for the violence at Gdynia and elsewhere would be punished. Gierek was believed to be an honest and well-intentioned man, and his promises bought him some time. He proceeded to create a new economic program, based on large-scale borrowing from banks in the West, to buy technology that would upgrade Poland's production of export goods. This massive borrowing, estimated to have totaled over 24 billion US (1970s) dollars during Gierek years, was intended to be used for equipment and modernization of Polish industry, and for import of consumer goods to give the workers more incentive to work.[31][154]

For the next few years, the regime optimistically engaged in reform and experimentation and for the first time many Poles could afford to buy cars, televisions and other luxury items. Attention was paid to the wages workers received. The peasants had their compulsory deliveries abolished, were paid higher prices for their products and free health service was finally extended to rural, self-employed Poland. Censorship was eased and Poles were able to travel to the West and maintain foreign contacts with little difficulty. Relations with the Polish emigrant communities were improved. The relative cultural and political relaxation resulted in a better freedom of speech environment, exercised for example by the respected weekly Polityka. The massive investments and purchases of Western technology were expected to both improve the standard of living of the various segments of society and establish an internationally competitive Polish industry and

For the next few years, the regime optimistically engaged in reform and experimentation and for the first time many Poles could afford to buy cars, televisions and other luxury items. Attention was paid to the wages workers received. The peasants had their compulsory deliveries abolished, were paid higher prices for their products and free health service was finally extended to rural, self-employed Poland. Censorship was eased and Poles were able to travel to the West and maintain foreign contacts with little difficulty. Relations with the Polish emigrant communities were improved. The relative cultural and political relaxation resulted in a better freedom of speech environment, exercised for example by the respected weekly Polityka. The massive investments and purchases of Western technology were expected to both improve the standard of living of the various segments of society and establish an internationally competitive Polish industry and agriculture.[153] The modernized manufacturing would result in a vastly expanded export of Polish-made products to the West, which in turn would generate hard currency to pay-off the debts.[156]

This "New Development Strategy", based on import-led growth,[156] depended on the global economic conditions and the program faltered suddenly because of worldwide recession and increased oil prices.[55][157] The effects of the 1973–74 oil crisis produced an inflationary surge followed by a recession in the West, which resulted in a sharp increase in the price of imported consumer goods in Poland, coupled with a decline in demand for Polish exports, particularly coal. Poland's foreign debt, absent at the time of Gomułka's departure,[158] rose rapidly under Gierek to reach a multibillion-dollar figure. Continuing borrowing from the West had become increasingly difficult. Consumer goods began to disappear from Polish shops. The new factories built by Gierek's regime proved to be largely ineffective and mismanaged, as the basics of market demand and cost effectiveness were often ignored.[26][55] The significant internal economic reform, promised by the Gierek team, had not materialized.[159]

The Western credits thus helped spur industrial growth and helped Gierek's policy of consumerism, but just for a few years. The industrial production grew by an average of 10% per year between 1971 and 1975 (the years remembered later by many older Poles as most prosperous, considering not only the communist period in Poland), only to dwindle to less than 2% in 1979. Debt servicing that took 12% of export earnings in 1971, rose to 75% in 1979.[156][160]

In 1975, like other European countries, Poland became a signatory of the Helsinki Accords and member of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE); such developments were possible because of the period of "détente" between the Soviet Union and the United States. Despite the regime's promises that the freedoms listed in the agreement would be implemented in Poland, there was little change. However, the Poles were becoming more aware of the rights they were being denied and emboldened by the knowledge of their government's treaty obligations.[31]

Gierek government's growing difficulties led also to increased dependence on the Soviet Union, including tight economic cooperation and displays of submissiveness not seen under Gomułka's rule. The constitution, amended in February 1976, formalized the alliance with the Soviet Union and the leading role of the communist party. The language of the proposed changes was softened after protests by intellectuals and the Church, but the regime felt it needed additional authority given the indebtedness to the West and the deepening economic crisis. The divisive issues raised helped to coalesce the emerging circles of active political opposition.[31][153][161]

Nevertheless, the regime of Gierek deemphasized the Marxist ideology and from his time the "communist" governments of Poland concentrated on pragmatic issues and current concerns.[162] In Polish economic politics new lasting trends were initiated, such as the emphasis on individual initiative, personal aspirations and competition, which some interpreted as an attack on egalitarianism (social inequalities were indeed increasing). Sections of the intelligentsia, nomenklatura and small business gave rise to the emerging middle class. The new "socialist" ways were less totalitarian, stressed innovation, modern management methods and engaged workers, all seen as necessary to push the outdated economy past the constant crisis stage. Poland of the 1970s became more open to the world and entered the global economy, which permanently changed society, creating at the same time a new type of crisis vulnerability. The opposition thinking, its promotion of society formed by active individuals, developed along complementary concepts.[163][164]

As a result of the 1970 worker rebellion food prices remained frozen and were artificially low. The demand for food products exceeded the supply also because of the higher real wages, which already in the first two years of Gierek's government increased more than during the entire decade of the 1960s.[165] In June 1976, in an attempt to reduce consumption,[156] the government introduced a long-announced and several times delayed, but radical price increase: basic foodstuffs had their prices raised by an average of 60%, three times the rate of Gomułka'a increases from six years before. The compensatory wage rises were skewed toward the better-off part of the population.[153][w] The result was an immediate nationwide wave of strikes, with violent demonstrations, looting and other labor unrest at the Ursus Factory near Warsaw, in Radom, Płock and other places.[166] The government quickly backed down and repealed the price rises, but the strike leaders were arrested and put on trial.[156] A series of "spontaneous" large scale public gatherings, intended to convey the "anger of the people" at the "trouble-makers" was staged by the party leadership in a number of cities, but the Soviet pressure prevented further attempts at raising prices. Gierek's cordial in the past relations with Leonid Brezhnev were now seriously damaged. Food ration cards, introduced because of the destabilized market in August 1976, were to remain a feature of life in Poland for the duration of the People's Republic.[167] The regime's retreat, having occurred for the second time in several years, amounted to an unprecedented defeat. Within the rigid political system, the government was neither able to reform (it would lose control and power) nor to satisfy society's staple needs, because it had to sell abroad all it could to make foreign debt and interests payments. The government was in a quandary, the population suffered from the lack of necessities, and organized opposition found room to expand and consolidate.[153]

Because of the 1976 disturbances and the subsequent arrests, mistreatment and dismissals of worker militants, a group of intellectuals led by Jacek Kuroń, Antoni Macierewicz, Jan Józef Lipski and Adam Michnik founded and operated the Workers' Defence Committee (Komitet Obrony Robotników; KOR).[168] The aim of the KOR was to assist the worker victims of the 1976 repression.[25][1

Because of the 1976 disturbances and the subsequent arrests, mistreatment and dismissals of worker militants, a group of intellectuals led by Jacek Kuroń, Antoni Macierewicz, Jan Józef Lipski and Adam Michnik founded and operated the Workers' Defence Committee (Komitet Obrony Robotników; KOR).[168] The aim of the KOR was to assist the worker victims of the 1976 repression.[25][157] Working to support the spontaneous workers' movements, the dissidents recognized the necessarily predominant role of the working class in resisting the abuses of the regime. Accordingly, the newly formed opposition was increasingly characterized by an alliance of intelligentsia with workers.[112][169] The KOR, according to Modzelewski, constituted the core of organized opposition and a seed of political alternative; clearing the way for other opposition formations, it engendered political pluralism.[170] More opposition groups indeed soon followed, including the Movement for Defense of Human and Civic Rights (ROPCiO), Free Trade Unions of the Coast (WZZW) and the Confederation of Independent Poland (KPN).[25] The periodical Robotnik ('The Worker') was distributed in factories from September 1977.[170] The idea of independent trade unions was first raised by the Gdańsk and Szczecin workers striking in 1970–71. Now it was developed and promoted by the KOR and its leftist collaborators, which led to the establishment in 1978 of Free Trade Unions, the precursor of Solidarity. The KPN represented the minority right-wing of the Polish opposition scene at that time.[143][171] The opposition members tried to resist the regime by denouncing it for violating the Constitution of the Polish People's Republic, Polish laws and Poland's international obligations. They fit within the post-Helsinki Soviet Bloc human rights movements and for the most part had not yet developed more radical, anti-system orientations.[153][x]

For the rest of the 1970s, resistance to the regime grew, assuming also the forms of student groups, clandestine newspapers and publishers, importing books and newspapers, and even a "Flying University".[31] The regime practiced various forms of repression against the budding reform movements.[172]

On 16 October 1978, Poland experienced what many Poles literally believed to be a miracle. Cardinal Karol Wojtyła, the archbishop of Kraków, was elected pope at the Vatican, taking the name John Paul II. The election of a Polish pope had an electrifying effect on what was at that time one of the last idiosyncratically Catholic countries in Europe.[25] When John Paul toured Poland in June 1979, half a million people came to welcome him in Warsaw; in the next eight days, about ten million Poles attended the many outdoor masses he celebrated.[173] John Paul clearly became the most important person in Poland, leaving the regime not so much opposed as ignored. Rather than calling for rebellion, John Paul encouraged the creation of an "alternative Poland" of social institutions independent of the government, so that when the next crisis came, the nation would present a united front.[174][175]

Polish emigration

The Polish government-in-exile in London, unrecognized since the end of World War II, ridiculed by the communists[failed verification], to many Poles was of great symbolic importance. Under President Edward Bernard Raczyński it overcame years of internal squabbles, and after the election of the Polish pope, at the time of the incre

The Polish government-in-exile in London, unrecognized since the end of World War II, ridiculed by the communists[failed verification], to many Poles was of great symbolic importance. Under President Edward Bernard Raczyński it overcame years of internal squabbles, and after the election of the Polish pope, at the time of the increasingly assertive Polish opposition, improved its image and standing.[176]

The large Polish emigrant communities in North America, Western Europe and elsewh

The large Polish emigrant communities in North America, Western Europe and elsewhere were politically active and lent significant support to those struggling in the country. The staunchly anti-communist American Polonia and other Poles felt grateful for the leadership of President Ronald Reagan. Of the Polish institutions in the West the most important were the Radio Free Europe, whose Polish section was run by Jan Nowak-Jeziorański, and the monthly literary Kultura magazine in Paris, led by Jerzy Giedroyc and Juliusz Mieroszewski.[176]

By 1980, the authorities had no choice but to make another attempt to raise consumer prices to realistic level, but they knew that doing so would likely spark another worker rebellion. Western financial companies and institutions providing loans to the regime at a meeting at the Bank Handlowy in Warsaw on 24 April 1980 [177] The bankers made it clear that the state could no longer subsidize artificially low prices of consumer goods. The government gave in after two months and, on 1 July, announced a system of gradual but continuous price rises, particularly for meat. A wave of strikes and factory occupations began at once, with the biggest ones taking place in Lublin in July.[157][178][179]

Baltic Sea coast, with a sit-down strike at the Lenin Shipyard in Gdańsk beginning on 14 August. Among the leaders of the strike were Anna Walentynowicz and Lech Wałęsa, a long-fired shipyard electrician who headed the strike committee. A list of 21 demands was formulated by the Inter-Enterprise Strike Committee on 17 August.[180] The strike wave spread along the coast, closing the ports and bringing the economy to a halt. With the assistance of activists from the KOR and support of many other intellectuals (an Expert Commission was established to aid with the negotiations),[181] the workers occupying the various factories, mines and shipyards across Poland organized as a united front. They were not limiting their efforts to seeking economic improvements, but made and stuck to the crucial demand, an establishment of trade unions independent of government control.[157][178] Among other issues raised were rights for the Church, the freeing of political prisoners and an improved health service.[179]

The party leadership was faced with a choice between repressions on a massive scale and an amicable agreement that would give the workers what they wanted and thus quieten the aroused population.[182][183] They chose the latter. On 31 August Wałęsa signed the Gdańsk Agreement with Mieczysław Jagielski, a member of the party Politburo.[157] The agreement acknowledged the right of employees to associate in free trade unions, obliged the government to take steps to eliminate censorship, abolished weekend work, increased the minimum wage, improved and extended welfare and pensions and increased autonomy of industrial

The party leadership was faced with a choice between repressions on a massive scale and an amicable agreement that would give the workers what they wanted and thus quieten the aroused population.[182][183] They chose the latter. On 31 August Wałęsa signed the Gdańsk Agreement with Mieczysław Jagielski, a member of the party Politburo.[157] The agreement acknowledged the right of employees to associate in free trade unions, obliged the government to take steps to eliminate censorship, abolished weekend work, increased the minimum wage, improved and extended welfare and pensions and increased autonomy of industrial enterprises, where a meaningful role was to be played by workers' self-management councils. The rule of the party was significantly weakened (to a "leading role in the state", not society) but nonetheless explicitly recognized, together with Poland's international alliances.[182][183] It was seen by the more moderate forces, including leading intelligentsia advisers and the Catholic hierarchy, as necessary to prevent a Soviet intervention.[157] The opposition negotiators did not concern themselves with the issue of affordability of the economic concessions they obtained and a wave of national euphoria swept the country. In addition to the Gdańsk Agreement, similar documents were signed at other centers of strike activity: in Szczecin (the Szczecin Agreement), Jastrzębie-Zdrój, and at Katowice Steelworks.[184]