Poland. According to Countryaah, the capital of Poland is Warsaw. Only 40% of Poland’s 28.6 million eligible voters participated in the elections to municipal and regional assemblies. The election was the first since the major administrative reform was introduced when the country’s 49 counties merged to 16. At the same time, this reduction introduced hundreds of new regional and municipal decision-making bodies that take over data that had previously existed at national level, such as responsibility for education, housing, roads and environmental protection. The new, decentralized system of local governments creates democratic structures at the grassroots level and was an important step in EU adaptation.
The winners of the election became the Communist Democratic Left Alliance (Sojusz Lewicy Demokratycznej, SLD) with 42% of the seats in the city council around the country. The Alliance Solidarity’s election campaign (Akcja Wyborcza Solidarność, AWS), which at the national level leads the government coalition, received 37% at the municipal level, while the coalition partner Freedom Union (Unia Wolności, UW) returned to 10%. If, at the same time, the result of the vote is to be seen as a vote of confidence for Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek’s center-right government, it was a setback.
Defense restructuring for NATO membership continued throughout the year. Parliament decided to reduce the mandatory military duty from 18 to 12 months. The need for new military aircraft is great, and Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson visited Poland and marketed JAS. Despite Poland’s economic success and rapid pace of reform with a GDP increase of 5-7% several years in a row, its reputation in the EU has deteriorated. In addition, for the first time, there were some difficulties in the negotiations with the EU, although Prime Minister Buzek denied that there was any crisis between the EU and Poland. The Commission stole ECU 34 million from the so-called Phare program of the Poles, as the Warsaw government filled in filing documents too carelessly and too late.
Criticism was also directed at the country’s steel duties and agriculture, and Poland has been accused of protecting the telecommunications company and banks from European competition. Like many other countries, Poland is deeply irritated by the EU’s double message on the date of enlargement.
A lengthy ecclesiastical issue was settled during the year when Parliament approved the state-law treaty, the Concordate, with the Vatican. A bill that would prohibit agents and signatories to secret police during the Communist Party from political posts in the future and that the open archives were met by President Aleksander Kwaśniewski’s veto.
Stalinism and “thawing”
All of Poland was moved to the west and, for the first time, gained a nationally uniform population. Under Wladislaw Gomulka’s leadership, the communists achieved a monopoly of power in the years leading up to 1948, by exerting a bourgeois and social democratic force. But Gomulka’s policy was national communist. It appealed to Polish patriotism and sought support from the peasants and the intelligentsia. This course became unrealistic after the break between Tito and Kominform. In the fall of 1948, Gomulka was put out of business and the Moscow faith Stalinists, Boleslaw Bierut (party leader), Hilary Minc (economist) and Jakub Berman (security chief and ideologue) ruled until 1956.
The board got tough, but managed to avoid the shooting process and death sentences. Under the seven-year plan 1949-55, a new major industry was built. The build-up was not very rational and cost great sacrifices, but broke with Poland’s classic economic structure as a backward agricultural country. Despite huge failures, the foundations of modern Poland were created during these years. But at the same time, the legacy of this period became a major cause of the difficulties that Poland had to go through in the years following the Stalin era.
The new regime challenged peasants through collectivization and by trying to control the strong Catholic church, which was not only a religious but also a national institution with deep roots among the people. In the mid-50s, when the pressure eased somewhat after Stalin’s death, the pressure from below became stronger. It was compounded by the fact that the economic problems were growing. The violent, partly irrational growth at the expense of consumers could not continue. The situation was already explosive, as the revelations at the 20th Communist Party Congress in Moscow led to the political basis slipping. In addition, new conflicts had developed within the party leadership, which also had consequences in the years that followed.
While the public debate became increasingly free and a thaw occurred in the arts and culture, dissatisfaction among the workers grew. This was reflected in strikes and riots in Poznan in July 1956. The riots were first put down, but Poznan showed the necessity of a new course. After tough internal struggles, this broke through at the party’s 8th plenary in October 1956. With “Spring in October”, Wladislaw Gomulka and his closest associates came back to power. They convinced the Russians that no alternative existed. Otherwise, the Russians had been ready to intervene
The collectivization was stopped, the church leader, Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski, was set free and supported Gomulka up to the elections. Workers’ councils were set up, wages were set up and more was bought in stores. The Intelligentsia was encouraged through, initially, a liberal cultural policy that made Poland the most spiritually free country in Eastern Europe and brought about a new boom in the humanities of science, film, theater, literature and visual arts. World-renowned economist Oskar Lange began working on reforms that provided a theoretical basis for later attempts at economic reorientation in Eastern European countries.
But it soon became apparent that Gomulka was not a liberal leader. He sought cooperation with parts of the old power apparatus and created a new power monopoly where there was no room for radical reformers. The labor councils came under scrutiny, the censorship was reintroduced, and after 1959 he again introduced central management of the economy. The economic reforms had no real chance until after Gomulka’s fall in 1970. Despite increasing stagnation and new internal conflicts – which eventually led to power struggles within the party – the regime, by Eastern European scale, retained a relatively liberal mark. The borders to the west were fairly open, and cultural life could continue to unfold fairly freely, although boundaries of the socially critical literature and debate were set. Security agencies’ power increased, but rarely resorted to violence.