SOCREALIZM in Poland (1949-1955)
'an attempt to translate Marxism into the sphere of art' [Jerzy Andrzejewski, 1952]
'a work of socialist realism is a component part of a culture that is socialist in content and national in form' [Henryk Markiewicz]
It is important to understand that Socialist Realism (Socrealizm) in Poland was entirely an import. Although claims were made for its basis in Polish tradition, extending back to the Classical phase (1760s-1790s), or the mid-nineteenth century (the Realistic didactic novel) and even the leftwing avantgarde of the interwar period (1918-1939), none of these movements envisaged the degree of state control and interference in literary creativity which was the writer's lot under Stalinism. The closest experience in time to the reality of that lot was the 'literary-political experiment' which had taken place in Lwów after the Soviet occupation of the Poland's pre-1939 Eastern borderlands. The combination of terror, politically declarative works which proclaimed the supremacy of the Soviet example in all artistic spheres, and the highly politicised revision of the national literary tradition in line with current ideological requirements, provided an intense, if brief, foretaste of the Communists' approach to literature and writers in the first half of the 1950s.
Socrealizm was formally introduced into People s Poland as the obligatory literary method at the Fourth Writers' Union (ZLP) Congress in Szczecin, 20-23 January 1949. The new executive announced the revamping of the ZLP via a political verification of its members, and consolidated the programme at the Fifth ZLP Congress, held in Warsaw on 24-27 June 1950. The Sixth ZLP Congress did not take place until 1954 (8-11 June, again in Warsaw), in rather different conditions.
The death of Stalin and promulgation of a "New Course" by the Soviet leadership led to a relaxation of the rigours of Socialist Realism. However, the real damage to the programme had been done a couple of years earlier, when in early 1952 a Cracow-based critic, Ludwik Flaszen, had critised the 'schematicism' of SR works, in particular of the favoured novel form. The subsequent attempts to "broaden" and "deepen" Socialist Realism led to slightly less schematic works, which nonetheless largely failed to satisfy the cultural administration. The administration, particularly in the form of Minister for Culture Włodzimierz Sokorski, had lost faith with the project by the spring of 1954. The wave of criticism of SR continued over the following two years and culminated in Antoni Słonimski's denunciation of SR as a 'morale-boosting literature for bureaucrats'.
The apparatus developed to ensure the success of the programme was considerable. In publishing, the Communists had established their monopoly by early 1950. No publisher could carry on their business without an official licence, and, in order to do so, they had to belong to the group of approved publishers and subscribe to the Party's cultural agenda. In addition, each publisher had to submit its proposals each year for inclusion in an annual publishing plan. Proposals which offended the party agenda would therefore be removed at an early stage. In effect, this meant the end for independent, private publishers, and a severe reduction in the Church's publishing resources.
Opportunities for a free literature were thus drastically limited even before the apparatus of control, particularly the censorship office (GUKP), came into play. By and large, the GUKP was only the final stage of control, deciding whether works should appear in the public domain — even politically correct works could be overtaken by political events which made their "line" unacceptable. Much of the actual censorship took place within publishing houses themselves, sometimes without the author's involvement, and often the GUKP employees merely advised publishers on cuts.
ZLP internal mechanisms reinforced the censorship process. In 1950 sessions of the various creative sections (dealing with poetry, prose, drama, children's literature, etc) commenced. At these sessions, authors would receive critical "advice" from fellow writers about their work and would thus be steered in the appropriate ideological direction in their future endeavours. In conjunction with the ZLP Executive, the Ministry of Culture organised so-called "field trips", designed to introduce writers to the socio-economic realities of the new Poland and encourage them to write about the achievements of the Six Year Plan. Finally, criticism proper — the reviews a novel received when it appeared — would often criticize a work from the ideo-political standpoint, showing its author where he had gone wrong in his attempt to realize the new doctrine. In sum, the system was intended to achieve a degree of hermeticism — to be 'total(itarian)' — which prevented any deviation from the ideological norms. By 1955, much of this system had collapsed or assumed a somewhat more benign character.
Key works in the "softening" of Socrealizm include a schoolgirl's diary, published in Nowa Kultura in late November 1953, which revealed the real attitudes and behaviour of a member of the Polish Youth Union (ZMP) in contrast to the officially propagated version. The publication of Adam Ważyk's Poem for Adults in the same journal in August 1955 led to the author's condemnation by the Politburo and the sacking of the editor, Paweł Hoffman. Ważyk's great "sin" was to present a more realistic portrayal of everyday life after 10 years of Communist rule, even while asserting the Party's leading role in Polish social and political life.
Prose: Positive - Critical Realism; Proletarian and Left literature;
Soviet prose of 1930s and 1940s
Negative - Naturalism/ decadent" experimentalism
Poetry: Positive - Revolutionary (Broniewski)
Agitational Verse (Mayakovsky)
Classicism: the Ode and Satire as preferred forms
Negative - Neoclassicism (favouring status quo) and the avantgarde
reality in the process of revolutionary transformation";
the individual and History
Dydaktyzm ( didacticism"):
The Positive Hero
Tendencyjność( justified bias")
Topicality of subject matter = centrality of WORK
The fundamental principles of realism are the same for poetry as for prose, regardless of the difference in form and how the word works" [A. Wazyk, Fifth ZLP Congress]
De-individuation of the lyrical subject
Communicability & Simplicity
Binary (black/white) universe
A Select Bibliography:
K Clark The Soviet Novel. History as Ritual (Chicago and London, 1985) 
B Groys The Total Art of Stalinism (Princeton, New Jersey, 1992)
(eds) T Lahusen Socialist Realism without Shores (Durham, USA and London,
& E Dobrenko 1997)
D Pirie "Engineering the People's Dreams" in: (ed.) A Czerniawski,
The Mature Laurel (Bridgend, 1991)