Poland as a People’s Democracy Part II

By | August 23, 2021

The participation of Polish troops in the defeat of the “Prague Spring” in August 1968 damaged Poland’s international prestige. The readiness offered by Gomułka in May 1969 and taken up by the social-liberal coalition in Bonn to negotiate the normalization of mutual relations on the basis of a border treaty resulted in the signing of the Warsaw Treaty on December 7, 1970 after difficult negotiations. In 1972 the two states established diplomatic relations.

Success and failure of E. Gierek (1970–80)

With drastic personnel changes in the party and the government, which Piotr Jaroszewicz (* 1909, † 1992) led as Chairman of the Council of Ministers from 1970-80, and thanks to generous Soviet economic aid, the new party leader E. Gierek,appointed on October 20, 1970, was able to do so quickly restore calm. His course of satisfying the material desires of the population by borrowing from abroad and promoting industrialization found the full support of the West. The easing of censorship, easier travel, improved income and a more generous church and cultural policy with a national patriotic component accompanied the initial economic success. But growing social tensions, inadequate constitutional reform on February 10, 1976 and price increases erupted in strikes and riots in June of the same year, which were brutally suppressed by the government. The Workers’ Defense Committee established in September 1976 (KOR) encouraged the emergence of further associations critical of the regime and an underground publishing system. The strengthening of the Catholic Church with the election of Cardinal Karol Wojtyła from Krakow as Pope (October 16, 1978) gave even greater emphasis to the need for far-reaching reforms.

When, in the early summer of 1980, a sharp increase in petrol and meat prices was ordered when the supply of goods was inadequate, nationwide strikes broke out. / 2. 9.) and the admission of independent trade unions (founded on September 17, 1980 and judicial confirmation of Solidarność on November 10, 1980) could be ended. On September 6, 1980, Gierek had to give way to Stanisław Kania (* 1927) as the first secretary of the PZPR.

Crisis and disintegration of the real socialist system (1981-89)

The ongoing economic misery and wing fighting within Solidarność, which had grown to 10 million members, but much more the resistance of the orthodox-communist cadre in the PZPR and the growing mistrust of the USSR prevented consolidation in Poland. According to extrareference, in February 1981 the Defense Minister General W. Jaruzelski took over the office of chairman of the Council of Ministers, in October 1981 also that of the party leader. Wide-ranging discussions about the political role of the new trade union under the charismatic leadership of L. Wałęsa, frequent strikes and a paralysis of the economy as a whole, v. a. but the threatened loss of power of the PZPR and the threatening scenario of Soviet intervention prompted J aruzelski to proclaim martial law on December 13, 1981.

A National Rescue Military Council (WRON), under his chairmanship, assumed power. Strikes were banned and thousands interned. Initial resistance in the factories was violently suppressed, Solidarność dissolved in October 1982. After the abolition of martial law (July 22, 1983), which had already been suspended with effect from December 31, 1982, almost all internees were subsequently released, but numerous restrictions (including the ban on Solidarność) remained in place. The kidnapping and murder of the Warsaw priest J. Popiełuszko by employees of the Polish State Security Service on October 19, 1984 triggered new mass demonstrations and tensions. To overcome economic difficulties, the government presented a reform program that was rejected in a referendum in November 1987. The government under Zbigniew Messner (* 1929; 1985-88) did not succeed in overcoming the domestic political crisis; Nationwide strikes that broke out in August 1988 could only be ended after Wałęsa’s appeal, to which the possibility of re-admitting Solidarność had been signaled. Under the government of M. Rakowski (1988–89) held talks with the opposition at the »round table« from February to April 1989; Results included the legalization of Solidarność and agreements on the introduction of a pluralistic democracy and a market economy. The semi-free parliamentary elections in June 1989 resulted in an overwhelming victory for the opposition; In the Sejm, the “Solidarność” citizens’ committee received all 161 seats granted to the opposition, in the newly established second chamber, the Senate, 99 out of 100 seats. Jaruzelski, who has been chairman of the State Council since 1985, was elected President on July 19, 1989 (in office until December 1990). On August 24, 1989 the opposition politician T. Mazowiecki became the first non-communist prime minister since 1947 (until December 1990). In September 1989 he formed a coalition cabinet in which PZPR politicians only occupied four (key) departments (home affairs, defense, etc.).

Poland as a People's Democracy 2