Postwar Poland Essay Research Paper CommunistSocialist strength

Postwar Poland Essay, Research Paper Communist-Socialist strength in the government grew steadily during 1946 and 1947. In the 1947 parliamentary elections

Postwar Poland Essay, Research Paper

Communist-Socialist strength in the government

grew steadily during 1946 and 1947. In the 1947 parliamentary elections

the two-party coalition won more than 85 percent of the vote. Beginning

in September 1948 the Polish Communist Party purged itself of many thousands

of so-called national Communists who were accused of approving Yugoslavia’s

defiance of the USSR. Among those jailed in the purge was Wladyslaw Gomulka,

secretary general of the party and first deputy premier. In December the

Socialists and Communists merged to form the Polish United Workers’ Party,

in which pro-Stalin Communists were dominant. Thereafter Poland appeared

to be one of the most faithful satellites of the USSR. During the postwar

period, Poland became an active member of the Council for Mutual Economic

Assistance and the Warsaw Pact. In 1952 Poland adopted a constitution modeled

after that of the USSR but recognizing certain property rights. Gomulka

became the dominant figure in Poland, steering a careful course between

pro-Soviet and nationalist sentiments and introducing limited political

reforms. In the 1957 elections, slates included some non-Communists and

independents; there were nearly twice as many candidates as there were

jobs. By the early 1960s Gomulka had tightened the party’s hold on Poland

and halted most of the reforms.

An economic crisis assumed major proportions

late in 1970. Polish industry had fallen short of planning goals. Bad weather

again contributed to a poor harvest and resulted in the costly import of

grain. In addition, the prices of coal, food, and clothing were drastically

increased. Outraged at the increases, Polish workers, mainly from the Baltic

seaports of Gdansk, Gdynia, and Szczecin, staged demonstrations that led

to riots, arson, and looting. A week-long state of emergency was declared,

and the protests were forcibly suppressed with considerable loss of life.

In the aftermath of the rioting, party secretary Gomulka and other party

leaders were removed from the the executive committee of the Communist

Party. Edward Gierek, a prominent Politburo member from Silesia, became

party secretary. Prices were frozen at their previous levels.

Improving relations with the West were

symbolized by visits to Poland by U.S. presidents Richard M. Nixon in 1972,

Gerald R. Ford in 1975, and Jimmy Carter in 1977. Living standards deteriorated,

and hundreds of thousands of Polish workers responded to a large food price

hike by going on strike in the summer of 1980. In August the country was

paralyzed when workers in Gdansk and other Baltic ports conducted sit-in

strikes in their shipyards for three weeks and started making political

demands. Finaly the communist government gave in to the demands of the

ritors, they gave them more liberties which included the right to strike,

wage increases, the release of political prisoners, and the elimination

of censorship. The ill and discredited Communist Party leader Gierek stepped

down shortly afterward.

In February 1981, General Wojciech Jaruzelski

was made premier, and in October he became the head of the Communist Party.

To control the situation Jaruzelski used the demands of the Solidarity

movement for economic improvements and greater political freedom. In mid-December

the Solidarity organization was suspended, its leader, Lech Walësa,

was interned. Thousands of other Solidarity activists were either arrested

or interned, and approximately 90 activists were killed. All industrial

and political opposition was banned and suppressed, and Communist Party

reformers were also reviewed.

The political and economic stalemate in

Poland during the 1980s was broken by the election of Mikhail Gorbachev

as Soviet leader in 1985. Reform became possible in Poland. Jaruzelski’s

reformist Communists and Walësa’s Civic Committee negotiated an agreement

in early 1989. Solidarity was re-legalized, and a freely elected Senate

was established. Jaruzelski was elected to the presidency with Solidarity’s

approval. In the 1989 elections, Solidarity won 99 of the 100 Senate seats

as well as the 35 percent of the Sejm, the lower house seats that it was

allowed to contest.

Poland established or renewed diplomatic

relations with the European Community, the republics of the former USSR,

the Vatican, and Israel, and signed cooperation treaties with the newly

unified Germany and a number of other European states. The country joined

the Council of Europe and negotiated associate membership of the European

Union; full membership was promised by the year 2002. Full national sovereignty

was regained in 1992 with the evacuation of most of the Soviet troops stationed

in Poland. The withdrawal was completed in August 1993. In 1994 Poland

became a member of NATO’s Partnership for Peace program.