Poland in the 1940's

Poland in the 1940’s and 1950’s

The settlement in the communist sense, implemented in the second half of 1948 and particularly through the Warsaw congress of 15-21 December 1948 which led the socialists – or at least one third of them – into the Polish workers’ party, did not fail to have its own repercussions also in connection with the emergence, in Yugoslavia, of the tendency to evade the Soviet directive. Faced with the possibility that a similar orientation could also take hold in Poland, deviations, nationalist or “right”, began to be identified in the regime. The result was that men like H. Minc, B. Bierut, J. Berman and others (who were originally moderates and had advocated a “Polish way to socialism”) lined up against the party secretary Wl. Gomulka who in the Central Committee of the party (31 August-3 September 1948) was accused of “nationalist deviation”, of “bourgeois” tendencies, etc., of having assumed an attitude in some respects favorable to Tito and therefore hostile to the USSR. In reality Gomulka had always tried to create a large mass base for the communist regime and for this reason he had not hesitated to graft the old social democratic tradition on the new or renewed communist trunk. All this implied moderation, gradualness, even in the context of structural economic objectives, such as the collectivization of agriculture. Hence the easy accusation of repudiation of communism for which Gomulka was exonerated from the office of general secretary and expelled from the Politburo.

According to collegesanduniversitiesinusa, the removal of Gomulka and the merger of the Socialist Party into the Communist Party marked a decisive step forward in the process of aligning the country’s politics and economy with the experiences and orientations of the USSR, which was thus able to consolidate its positions of check. A purge of some importance, even if done in a prudent way and in such a way as not to arouse reactions, excluding men like Gomulka, Lechowicz and others from the Polish workers’ party. This, except in the name, became in all respects the same organization and development as the Soviet Communist Party, while the very structure of the state, expressed by the constitution of July 22, 1952, closely follows that defined by the Soviet constitution of 1936. This coordination, indeed very close collaboration with the The USSR was highlighted above all by the appointment, in November 1949, of the Soviet Marshal (of Polish origin) C. Rokossovskij – one of the major Soviet military leaders who emerged with the Second World War – as Defense Minister and Vice President of the Council of the Polish Republic. In a country with very high military traditions, the Soviet marshal knew how to implement vast and capillary reforms in the organization, armament, training of cadres, mechanization, training, etc. of the Polish Armed Forces, as well as in the armaments and war equipment industry. Naturally, the presence of the Soviet marshal had as a corollary that of many Soviet generals and senior officers and specialists, all with high professional skills.

In a compact, organically Catholic country like Poland, where the church has always been one with the nation and with its centuries-old torment, the relations between the Catholic Church and the communist regime could not fail to present a physiognomy of extreme delicacy. After the denunciation of the Concordat of 1925 (September 12, 1945), motivated by the appointment of German bishops in two Western Polish dioceses, an internal agreement was reached between the government and the Polish Church, without the intervention of the Holy See.. Subsequently, however, acts and provisions aimed at limiting the rights and prerogatives enjoyed by the Church in P were started: from 1 January 1946 civil marriage was in force, restrictions on religious education began to be introduced in 1950 was “nationalized” the large Catholic charity organization “Caritas” (which received aid mainly from abroad and particularly from the USA); all religious orders from 5 August 1949 were subject to “registration”, while on 20 March 1950 all lands owned by churches and religious bodies were nationalized, except for a limited number of hectares per parish and the properties used by communities, bodies diocesan and parishes, etc. This conspicuous pressure, aimed at limiting the presence of the church and the clergy in the social field, induced the primate S. Wyszyński to start negotiations for a compromise, reached on April 14, 1950; the clergy and Catholics had to collaborate in strengthening the authority of the state, in the program of collectivization, of reconstruction, to take a firm stand against any revisionist attempt by Germany as regards western territories, etc .; for its part, the state undertook not to introduce further restrictions on religious education, to guarantee the rights of Catholic associations, the freedom of religious orders, and to ensure, in the context of nationalization of real estate, the needs of ecclesiastical bodies. This modus vivendi did not last long: apart from the usual attitude of official propaganda, attempts were made to weaken the positions of the ecclesiastical hierarchy by demanding, from 9 February 1953, the approval by the state bodies of all ecclesiastical appointments. Faced with the opposition of the bishops, the arrests and trials of bishops began, which culminated on 26 September 1953 with the arrest of Cardinal Primate Stefano Wyszyński (confined to a convent) and with the oath of allegiance to the Polish state by the ecclesiastical hierarchy.

But already a few months after Stalin’s death, a serious crisis of ideological orientation and related practical consequences was opening up for the Polish political regime as well. The departure, already during Malenkov’s transition period, from the harshness of the Stalinist era was immediately felt in Poland, where in December 1954 the Politburo – caught between the need to keep firm the “Stalinist” line (in order not to re-emergence of Gomulka’s “right-wing” tendencies) and the need for a “new course” that could not only be economic – he was harshly criticized within the party and accused of having “isolated” himself from the grassroots. Further criticisms, increasingly harsh and which followed closely the same crisis of political power in the USSR, they arose in the following years and inevitably came to involve basic problems, such as that of Polish-Soviet relations and above all of the meaning to be given to the Stalinist experience. The strikes that broke out in the factories of Poznań on June 28, 1956 (determined by pure and simple economic reasons) paved the way for wider turmoil. To the agitation of the workers was added that of the young intellectuals, grouped around the lively magazine Po Prostu(soon reaching a circulation of over 150,000 copies). In it, for example, on October 28, 1956 it could be read that Stalinism constituted “a social economic system… in which there is a relationship of economic dependence of the popular masses on the group of administrators. The political expression of this relationship is the dictatorship of the dominant group over the proletariat… There is no dictatorship of the proletariat as long as the worker is an employee of the state enterprise, and not the owner of it “. Hence the requests, shared by the workers, to see workers’ control introduced, the transition from state ownership to social ownership, profit sharing, strengthening of market relations, etc.

Faced with these ferments and wide-ranging criticisms that deeply concerned the entire political, economic and moral life of the nation, the so-called Natolin group (“dogmatist” and Stalinist, which took its name from a building near Warsaw where it kept its meetings) had to leave power to the more moderate current: on 9 October H. Minc, the Stalinist planner of the Polish economy (after all with recognized merits, for the reconstruction of a country destroyed by war), resigned; in three days, from 19 to 21 October, with the rise to the party secretariat of Wl. Gomulka the general atmosphere changed, card. Wyszyński was freed and everywhere, especially in large industrial complexes, “workers’ councils” were formed, which as an authentic democratic movement “from below”.

Faced with this situation, on 19 October a large Soviet delegation with N. Khrushchev, L. Kaganović, A. Mikojan and V. Molotov met in Warsaw with Gomulka, who, aware of having the country behind him, in the two days of discussions succeeded in convincing Khrushchev that the new course started in Poland would strengthen the “construction” of socialism (naturally according to a “Polish way”, allowed by the USSR) and that it and the change of men would lead to an improvement in Polish-Soviet relations.

Immediately after the government was reconstituted under the presidency of F. Cyrankiewicz, on November 13, 1956 the Russian Marshal Rokossovskij was replaced by Marian Spichalski as Minister of Defense and commander of the armed forces and changes took place in key posts, in trade unions, etc. Relations between State and Church improved immediately, steadily, and in this more relaxed atmosphere the general elections of January 20, 1957 led to the Sejm 237 communists (51.7% of the seats), 119 from the peasants’ party (26%), 39 from the democratic party (8.5%), as well as a few other independents and Catholic exponents. On the other hand, the developments hoped for by the young intellectuals and workers did not take place because, once the struggle for power against the Natolin group ended, Gomulka, as his position was consolidating, ended up doing without their support: the magazine Po Prostu was suppressed in October 1957 and the workers’ councils were virtually sacked in April 1958.

After these developments, which did not affect the basic close collaboration relations with the USSR and with the “popular democracies” (underlined by the military link constituted by the Warsaw Pact of May 1955 and by the agreements of an economic nature), Poland continues to remain an element with its own individuality and political, economic and cultural dynamics, both within the framework of the “communist” system and on the vast world arena. The principle of “peaceful coexistence” has been underlined since 1955; the proposal, with the so-called “Rapacki plan” of October-December 1956, then relaunched several times, of a “demilitarized” zone, especially in the atomic sense, in Central Europe; the commitment to enter into wider economic and cultural relations with the countries of the West; the lesser virulence of internal, ideological polemics, also as a consequence of the significant improvement in the economic situation and the settling of relations with the USSR on a line of mutual trust and broad autonomy of Polish communism; the policy of favoring the return of the exiles with whom contact is sought; finally, the luxuriance of cultural life, everything leads to the definition of the “Polish way” as vital, in relation to the obligatory terms of the country’s position towards the USSR, to the unsolved German revisionism, to the recurrent tension between the two blocs. USSR on a line of mutual trust and broad autonomy of Polish communism; the policy of favoring the return of the exiles with whom contact is sought; finally, the luxuriance of cultural life, everything leads to the definition of the “Polish way” as vital, in relation to the obligatory terms of the country’s position towards the USSR, to the unsolved German revisionism, to the recurrent tension between the two blocs. USSR on a line of mutual trust and broad autonomy of Polish communism; the policy of favoring the return of the exiles with whom contact is sought; finally, the luxuriance of cultural life, everything leads to the definition of the “Polish way” as vital, in relation to the obligatory terms of the country’s position towards the USSR, to the unsolved German revisionism, to the recurrent tension between the two blocs.

In reality, Gomulka’s policy aims to be the search for a compromise between the demands of the Polish reality and the impositions of ideology, not without taking into account international data and inclusion in a communist bloc. Of course, despite the adaptations and compromises, the direction of the whole life of the country remains more and more rigidly in the hands of the party: this is firm, with Gomulka, in a line that accepts the close alliance with the USSR but not the subordination to in internal matters, it is alien to “external” ideological ambitions (such as Chinese communism), and takes into account the individualist agrarian framework of the country, which it wants to correct with a state industry in full expansion.

Poland in the 1940's

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