Diego Lopez Liranzo
22 September 2014
AP European History
Analyse the factors that contributed to the emergence of a workers’ opposition movement in Communist Poland in the period 1956-1981. After World War II, the official communist party dominated all aspects of Polish politics, which soon became an issue with not only the working class of the country, but also the intellectual and educated Polish community. Between 1956 and 1981, there was an emergence of workers’ opposition against the communist party in Poland due to the blatant oppression and desperate living conditions of many of the Polish workers and their families. Workers demanded rapid change in policy from the party because the workers believed the government had been misleading in their political agenda and had steered to a policy of simply ignoring the plea for more democratic rights. Other factors that contributed to the opposition include deplorable economic conditions throughout the country, Catholic Church leaders support, and a massive attack on the government by Polish communist intellectuals.
The massive disconnect between the communist party’s policy and the desire of the people was a factor in the emergence of the entire opposition movement. The communist party originally had promised the Polish workers that it would be a government that put the needs of the working class before all others, but over time it became obvious the government was following a policy of dictatorial political repression. When the Polish working class attempted to make its “voice heard” in Poznan during a protest against communist rule, several dozen workers were killed in the government’s suppression of the strike. Marketed in a governmental propaganda piece as an “exciting and uncommon” event, they promised that the party was “united with the nation.” (Doc 1) Edward Gierek, head of the Polish communist party, addressed the issue as a whole by demanding that the Polish workers not “demand that kind of democracy” and translucency with the government, further alienating the workers’ basic interests with the party’s agenda. (Doc 3) Not only did the party choose to actively ignore pleas from protests, but it also disregarded political platforms written on wooden boards and hung on hates of worker shipyards, which included demands such as a “guarantee of freedom of speech, the press, and publication.”(Doc 9) The relentless party was determined to extinguish and destroy any “thorn in the side of the administration,” despite them being peaceful, model activists with the desire to simply “defend others.” (Doc 8) The disconnect with the party helped unite all of the desperate Polish workers and was a major factor in the emergence of the opposition movement.
Another major factor in the advent of the opposition movement was the fact that the movement and the dissidents received support from Polish, communist intellectuals and international communists and human right activists. Very aware of the fact that the communist party was not only not keepings its promises to the people of Poland, but also deviating from traditional communist practice, Polish communist intellectuals were pushed to overtly critique the party leaders. Jacek Kuron and Karol Modzelewski, professors at Warsaw University and Polish communist party members, wrote an open letter to party members addressing their concern that the party had lost its roots. They make the claim that the working-class rooted communist party is now aristocratic and corrupt. The letter conveys a stinging inditement of the communist party and demands that there be a “creation of a new system where the organized working class will truly be the master of its labour.” (Doc 2) Kuron and Modzelewski are most likely trustworthy sources because they are members of the communist party yet take a critical view of the party. They have seen the issues that they are condemning personally. Intellectuals and supporters abroad shared...
Please join StudyMode to read the full document