Polish Level 1 20th-C History Stalinism 3 February 1999
Polish History Level 1 Stalinism in Poland 10 Feb 1999
New Political Situation: East and West meet at Elbe. Atlee, Truman new leaders
17 July 1945 Potsdam Conference. Polish delegation led by Bolesław Bierut, who agrees to Oder-Neisse line as Western Polish border. In Poland a provisional government is set up with representatives from PPR, PPS, PSL, and other minor parties. Stanisław Mikołajczyk is the only member of the London government to return to Poland. This government, Tymczasowy Rząd Jednoci, lasts from 28.6.1945 to 17.1.1947.
The radical policies of the provisional government are agreed by all parties: Nationalisation, the repatriation of nearly 3 mln Germans and Ukrainians.
Near civil war continues in Poland until after 1947 elections: WiN, UPA and NSZ groups committing terrorist acts are gradually rooted out.
Agrarian reform is passed on 6 September 1946.
This is the period of the so-called "gentle revolution" (łagodna rewolucja), which sees a softly-softly approach in cultural affairs conducted by the head of Czytelnik Publishing Collective, Jerzy Borejsza, designed to win over writers to the new regime without requiring overt declarations of political loyalty.
5 March 1946 Winston Churchill's famous Iron Curtain speech.
30 June 1946 REFERENDUM: TRZY RAZY TAK ("Three Times Yes")
1 Jan 1947 Beginning of THREE-YEAR PLAN (Trzyletni Plan Odbudowy Gospodarczej) . Wincenty Pstrowski initiates the principle of Stakhanovite working in Poland (ruch socjalistycznego współzawodnictwa pracy).
17 Jan 1947 ELECTIONS. Severely manipulated by OBÓZ DEMOKRATYCZNY [PPS, PPR, SD and others] and so the results are: OD 80%; PSL 10%.
March 1947 Sejm elects Bierut president, Rząd Rzeczpospolitej Polskiej is led by Cyrankiewicz (PPS) as PM and Gomułka as vice-PM. OD has 394 seats, PSL 28 in Sejm.
Truman voices the "Truman doctrine" - containment of communism for fear of domino effect.
Summer 1947 PSL and Mikołajczyk become increasingly isolated, attacked as agents of reactionary forces.
October Mikołajczyk escapes from Poland as he is to be arrested. PSL collapses, leaving no effective opposition to OD.
March 1948 USSR walks out of Allied Control Council in disagreement over the quadripartite administration of Germany.
26 July 1948 First purge: PPR and PPS both cleansed of pro-Western elements.
Blockade of Berlin.
Summer 1948 Start of the Yugoslavian crisis as Tito expels Soviet advisers.
September 1948 PPR Plenum: Gomułka accused of "odchylenie prawicowo-nacjonalistyczne" ("Right-wing, antionalist deviations") and ejected from PPR. Bierut, who up to this point had been "bezpartyjny" (unaffiliated to any party), is elected First Secretary (3 Sept). Next day Bierut announces the collectivization of agriculture along Soviet lines (thus reversing the Agricultural Reform Act of 1946). Further purges.
10 Dec 1948 Unification Congress (Kongres Zjednoczenia) of PPR & PPS. The new party, PZPR (Polska Zjednoczona Partia Robotnicza), openly declares itself to be Marxist-Leninist. Its Chairman (Przewodniczący) is Bierut.
Jan 1949 Jakub Berman leads the new PZPR offensive in science and culture, and remains the leader of the "ideological front" until 1956. Socialist Realism ("socrealizm") is adopted as the obligatory creative method at the Szczecin Congress of the Writers' Union.
April 1949 Formation of NATO, as well as the Basic Law of the German Federal Republic, which was to bring West Germany sovereignty and its own government.
The Vatican issues its decree against Communism, forbidding Catholics to cooperate with Communists and putting all Communist publications on the Index.
1 June 1949Alexander Zawadzki (elected chairman of the CRZZ, the new TUC) urges the unions to mobilize workers to increase production which is the only source of prosperity and progress.
September Adenauer elected Chancellor of FRG
6 November Bierut announces that "at his request" the USSR has placed Marshall Rokossovsky at the disposal of the Polish gvt. He becomes Minister of Defence and gains a permanent place in the Politburo. A purge begins in the army.
11 November Bierut again attacks Gomułka's policies and announces that a "permanent purge" is now in effect. He urges verification and investigation of the political attitudes of every person in Poland, including the Central Committee. The UB, MO, ORMO and newly created Military Information service grow rapidly. Bierut also declares that the Three Year Plan has been achieved in 2 yrs 10 months. He prepares the country for the next plan, PLAN SZECIOLETNI (Six Year Plan), to operate from 1 Jan 1950 to 31 Dec 1955.
4 Feb 1950 Compulsory National Service is introduced.
March-May 1950 New Labour Laws introduced through Sejm making absenteeism a crime, tying workers to their jobs and making them responsible to management, and managers answerable for fulfilling their quotas.
June 1950 Korean War breaks out as North invades South.
24 June Writers' Union Congress in Warsaw. After much ideological pressure, the Union is converted into an "ideological centre", and endorses "socrealizm" according to the Soviet example. Soviet culture provides the model in all spheres, coinciding with the mass translation of Soviet works into Polish.
16 July Under Soviet pressure, the 6 YR PLAN is revised to set impossible goals: GNP growth to be raised from 70% to 112.3% over the period.
Spring 1951 Strikes in the Dąbrowa Basin coal mines over working conditions and pay. Brutally suppressed.
June 1951 Gomułka arrested and case begins to be prepared against him, but nothing materializes and he is quietly released in 1954.
July-August Show trials instigated by MilInf: 4 generals sentenced as British spies; volunteers in the International Brigades [Spanish Civil War, 1936-38], former members of AK, people who returned from exile, are arrested and tried.
September Rationing introduced due to acute shortages of food and goods in shops.
22 July 1952 New Constitution based on Soviet model introduced. Poland becomes known officially as POLSKA RZECZPOSPOLITA LUDOWA.
October 3 bishops arrested in Katowice.
26 October First elections under the new constitution. A National Unity Front ("Front Jednoci Narodowej") garners the vast majority of the votes; Bierut remains First Secretary and becomes the Przewodniczący Rady Ministrów, his new post following the abolition of the presidency.
January 1953 3 priests arrested and tried as agents of the CIA.
5 March 1953 Stalin dies in Moscow. Tygodnik Powszechny, the leading Catholic liberal newspaper, refuses to print a eulogic obituary in honour of the Great Dictator and is suspended. In June its editorial board is replaced by more pro-regime journalists from PAX.
May CC of CPSU led by more liberal Malenkov decide on the "New Course", though it is not announced until 18 August. Bierut opposes the changes.
17 June Riots in East Berlin are suppressed by Red Army. Beria, who had been behind the new liberal course, is deposed and arrested. His execution is announced in December.
29 September Cardinal Wyszyński put under house arrest.
10-17 March 1954 SECOND CONGRESS (II ZJAZD) of PZPR, which initiates the New Course in Poland. Bierut has to endorse the collective leadership policy from the CPSU and so stands down in favour of Cyrankiewicz.
November Stormy Central Committee meeting criticizes Bierut's isolation from the party.
8 Feb 1955 Malenkov replaced on PB CPSU by Bulganin, who halts all reforms in USSR and the Bloc. A relieved Bierut reiterates the need to adhere to the Stalinist interpretation of Marxism-Leninism and to the demands of the 6 YR PLAN, due to end in December.
May 1955 FRG gains total sovereignty and joins NATO. Warsaw Pact signed that same month by all of the USSR's allies in Bloc.
July Secret session of CPSU CC, where Stalin's treatment of Tito is criticized, as also his treatment of the "peoples' democracies". This added to the attack on Bierut's diminishing authority.
September Po prostu, a student socio-cultural weekly undergoes a revamp and begins to propagate increasingly outspoken views in the drive for 'democratization'
21 December Bierut insists on celebrating Stalin's birthday.
14-25 Feb 1956 XX CONGRESS OF CPSU. Polish delegation attends, led by Bierut. Speeches clearly show that the New Course will continue, and Khrushchev makes his scathing personal attack on Stalin and the "personality cult". Bierut falls very ill and on
11 March dies in Moscow of a heart attack.
20 March PZPR Plenum elects Edward Ochab as First Secretary.
20 March Khrushchev arrives in Warsaw during the Plenum due to "elect" Bierut's successor, and supports Zenon Nowak against Roman Zambrowski, who is Jewish. The Plenum finally settles on Ochab as a compromise.
24 March Jan Kott criticizes the Party's cultural dictatorship.
6 April The Warsaw Party "aktyw" hears Ochab proclaim opposition to the Stalinist line and announce a political amnesty, rise in wages and some industrial decentralization. For a decade there are no political prisoners in Poland. Many prominent Stalinists, such as Radkiewicz, were dismissed. Simultaneously, the text of Khrushchev's secret speech was printed and distributed for party (PZPR & ZMP) reading. The effect was shattering, especially for the young. It subsequently leaks out to the rest of the intelligentsia and the West. A split develops between the predominantly Stalinist Politburo and the reformist CC Secretariat. Party apparat resists changes.
6 May Berman resigns from the PB.
Antoni Słonimski urges writers and intellectuals to work for greater civil and political liberalism, soon followed by other sections of the intelligentsia. A semi-independent press emerges, led by Życie Warszawy, Po prostu and Nowa Kultura. Student theatre, satirical theatre blooms.
Late Spring At this point, changes are limited to the Party's own internal struggles: "demokratyzacja", the slogan of the New Course, soon begins to affect other sections of society.
28 June ZISPO Factory workers in Poznań, now reverting to its original name of the Cegielski factory, march to the city centre on last day of International Trade Fair carrying banners with the slogan "chleb i wolnoć". They are joined by workers from other factories and demand talks with Cyrankiewicz. When rioting breaks out because the government would not talk, and the radio station and UB HQ is attacked, military units are sent in with machine guns. Official figures list 53 killed and 300 injured and 300+ arrested for organizing or complicity.
The so-called "Poznań events" ("wydarzenia" - the Party euphemism for riots) were seen at first by the Party (and media) as a provocative attack on socialism in general, made possible by press criticism and the general effects of "demokratyzacja", particularly in Cyrankiewicz's broadcast of 28 June.
30 June The effect on the CPSU was also far-reaching: Khrushchev's liberal wing was restricted and de-Stalinization halted.
1 July PZPR revises its interpretation: the "events" were a result of legitimate workers' grievances and the ignoring of these by State, TU ad Party officials. [For the first time since 1948 the CPSU and PZPR "publicly" disagreed].
18 July VII PLENUM. Ochab confirms the commitment to democratization despite Poznań. When Marshals Bulganin and Zhukov arrive unexpectedly, the CC adjourns, only to re-convene when their distinguished guests had left Poland again. It also readmitted Gomułka and his followers to the Party, and gave new directives for the 1956-60 Five Year Plan, all in the spirit of democratisation and limited autonomy for the workers, factories and culture, and an improvement in living standards was made a priority. Again little sign of these policies reaches the provinces and the CC warned of a "struggle on two fronts": against the "personality cult" and against "imperialist spontaneity".
September Trial of participants in Poznań riots: relatively impartial, defence counsel pleads diminished responsibility in crowd situation. Workers' Council set up at Żerań Car Plant outside Warsaw, other factories in capital soon follow suit.
Gomułka's accession to a place in the PB was strongly opposed by the Stalinist faction in the Party which met at Natolin, outside Warsaw. Dubbed the "Natolinites", they were denounced by the press as the enemies of democratization and accused of planning a coup d'état before the VIII Plenum, due in October.
19 October VIII Plenum. Again a high-level Soviet delegation arrives in Warsaw (Khrushchev, Mikoyan, Molotov), demanding talks with the leaders of the PZPR. Soviet troops stationed in Poland began advancing towards Warsaw. Gomułka, co-opted onto the CC, and Ochab lead talks with the Soviets, who were apparently persuaded that all was well. The new PZPR plenum resumed its deliberations, Gomułka's attack on Stalinism and its political and economic consequences in Poland was vicious. It was broadcast live to the nation, itself a historic event. He also called for Party unity and vigilance against anti-socialist propaganda, but his intentions were clearly for creating a new Poland. Proportions of votes for the "new wave" in the CC for PB seats was 70 to 23. The Natolinite influence was therefore limited to one-third of the CC, and Gomułka duly became First Secretary.
24 October 400,000 attend rally to hear Gomułka's speech outside Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw.
23-24 Oct Public demonstrations in Budapest for the New Course adopted in Warsaw, which, when fired on by Security Forces, changed into open revolt. Soviet intervention further changed the protest, as the Hungarian Workers' Party and the political system disintegrated. Hungary withdrew from the Warsaw pact, proclaimed neutrality and a multi-party democracy. On 4 November, Soviet troops re-entered Hungary and bloodily suppressed the revolt, establishing another pro-Soviet government under Janos Kadar. The possibility of a Warsaw-Budapest-Belgrade reformist Communist axis was nipped in the bud, and, by contrast, the Warsaw situation was deemed wholly acceptable. In Poland, the events discredited the Natolinites who seemed to have advocated just such a Soviet intervention, and vindicated Ochab and Gomułka's manoeuvrings to avoid such a tragedy.
15-19 Nov MODUS VIVENDI was established between Poland and USSR. Gomułka visited Moscow, successfully reversing some of the unfair economic agreements of the Six Year Plan; the USSR was to pay the costs of stationing Soviet troops in Poland and the repatriation of Poles remaining in the USSR was agreed (250,000 returned).
The October changes had many repercussions in Polish society. The CRZZ led a move towards workers' autonomy, the ZMP collapsed, and a crucial series of changes took place in ZBOWiD, an organization for resistance members and veterans of WWII. Rokossovsky and other Natolinite generals resigned in October. On 29 November, Słonimski called for the ending of the "Red Salvation Army" in the Writers' Union. Catholic ZNAK intellectuals (Turowicz, Zawieyski, Stomma, Woniakowski) announce their support of Gomułka's policies. Tygodnik Powszechny is freed from PAX control and Wyszyński emerges from house arrest the very day that Rokossovsky resigns (26 October).
8 December Wyszyński and Gomułka agree on Government-Episcopate Commission: religious education is reinstated in schools and autonomy is granted in ecclesiastical appointments.
21 December Economic Council, set up under chairmanship of Oskar Lange to advise the Council of Ministers, leads to a new agricultural programme after January 1957 in consultation with the ZSL: the collectivization programme collapses, but it also resulted in the dissolution of many PGR (state collective) farms, and thus worried the Party, who feared that the process would get out of hand. Local ZSL groups came under the influence of pre-1948 PSL members, and once again the village priest became an important (if not the most important) voice in their communities. While Gomułka called for order and discipline, he also had to call for the implementation of Party directives in the sullen apparat. The changes were to be substantiated and in part legalized as a result of the elections due in January 1957, but Gomułka was definitely in control of People's Poland.
©Dr John Bates, 2000