This project has received funding from the European Research Council under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme
(Grant Agreement n. 669194)
(Grant Agreement n. 669194)
After Edward Gierek became First Secretary of the Polish United Workers’ Party (PUWP), the politburo of the party’s Central Committee returned to being the centre of political power. Unlike his predecessor Władysław Gomułka, who in the late-1960s marginalised the body, privileging his closed circle of collaborators, Gierek aimed to reinvigorate the functions of the politburo. The body validated every critical decision made in the 1970s. During the decade, apart from Gierek, its most influential members included Piotr Jaroszewicz, Franciszek Szlachcic (in the first half of the decade), Stanisław Kania (in the second half of the decade) and Edward Babiuch.
However, the actual influence of the party over everyday policymaking decreased compared with the previous decades. The documents debated during politburo meetings usually arrived from the government and were prepared by the competent ministry, not by departments of the party. The party focused on establishing the general ideological direction rather than on day-to-day policymaking. It also maintained close relations with the Soviet Union and the other socialist states and parties, ensuring the ideological and political unity of the socialist bloc and often advocating the need for this in domestic debates.
The decline of the PUWP’s dominant role in everyday policymaking largely resulted from the preferences and political style of the First Secretary. Unlike his predecessor, Gierek disliked intervening in small economic decisions and instead focused on the broader picture.
However, in 1971 Gierek created the new position of personal economic advisor to the First Secretary of the PUWP. The office was first occupied by Zdzisław Rurarz and after 1973 by Paweł Bożyk. In the second half of the decade, the latter even created and coordinated a special team of economic advisors to the First Secretary. Neither Rurarz nor Bożyk participated in critical government or politburo meetings. Instead, they drafted reports for the First Secretary and so had the possibility to influence him directly.
The presence of economic experts in the PUWP apparatus was the exception rather than the rule. Recruitment to its highest bodies depended primarily on loyalty. Moreover, members of the party leadership maintained close relationships with Moscow and in some cases even passed information to the Soviets. In this way, the functioning of the PUWP was characterised by self-imposed censorship caused by a fear of surveillance.
In debates between different groups in the socialist elite the party usually advocated the most orthodox ideological approach. When working out policy towards the West and the European Economic Community (EEC), members of the politburo regularly insisted on consulting the Soviet Union and coordinating Poland’s position with the other socialist regimes. Proposals to reinvigorate socialist cooperation within the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (CMEA) often had their source in the party apparatus.
Unlike other groups in the socialist elite, highly positioned members of the party were often concerned with the ideological consequences of increasing cooperation with the West. Nowe Drogi, the PUWP theoretical monthly, regularly published articles and debates concerning ideologically problematic practices such as increasing exchanges with the West, introducing mass consumption in the socialist state or developing relations with Western politicians in power rather than with Western communist parties. In contrast to the party leadership, the economic experts gathered around the First Secretary advocated a highly pragmatic approach and further expansion of relations with the West, often contradicting the regime’s ideological line.
Despite this exception, the party apparatus officially represented a unified position. However, in reality its leadership was divided between different factions. In the first years of the decade, the First Secretary and his supporters faced opposition from the close co-operators of Gierek’s predecessor, Władysław Gomułka. This group included older communists who had experienced their political formation in the interwar communist party. Opposed to the new technocratically-minded generation gathered around Gierek, they represented traditional orthodox views characterised by hostility to the West and strong opposition to taking foreign loans. By the mid-1970s all the remaining representatives of this group had been dismissed from the leadership. At the end of the decade, with the deterioration of Poland’s economic situation a new group of opponents to the First Secretary emerged. Unlike bankers and economic experts who recommended easing Poland’s financial situation through negotiations with creditors and joining the International Monetary Fund, they believed that the Polish economic crisis could only be overcome through closer cooperation with the Soviet Union. After the events of summer 1980, this group took over the PUWP leadership.
* This text summarises some of the research findings of PanEur1970s team member Aleksandra Komornicka, which are published as a chapter in PanEur1970s’ academic edited book. For a link to the e-book, please see Poland’s “Overview” webpage of this map.
Report: Wstępne poglądy strony polskiej w sprawy RWPG i krajami RWPG z EWG
AAN, KC PZPR 1354, V/101 | p. 7/12-11/16; Zał. do RW/098/tjn/72/wych., p.1-4
The Politburo accepted the report on Poland's position towards the EEC. - Available here.
Memo: Notatka w sprawie przystąpienia Polski do Międzynarodowego Funduszu Walutowego i Międzynarodowego Banku Odbudowy i Rozwoju (on rejoining the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank)
AAN, KC PZPR 1354, V/141 | p. 26/37-32/42, p. 1-7
Memo recommending to rejoin the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Although the Politburo and the government agreed on applying for the membership in the organisations, the Soviet Union eventually stopped the decision. Available here.
Report: Koncepcje Rozwoju Gospodarczego Polski w latach 1971-1995 [Concepts of economic development of Poland 1971-1995]
AAN, KC PZPR 1354, XIA/1172 | p. 3-57
Report advocating the policy of accelerated economic growth prepared for Edward Gierek. - Available only in the archives https://www.aan.gov.pl
Report: Możliwości i warunki kontynuacji strategii dynamicznego rozwoju Polski w latach 1976-1980 [On the possibility of continuing the strategy of dynamic development of Poland 1977-1980]
AAN, KC PZPR 1354, XIA/486 | p. 1-35
Report proclaiming a critical economic situation and calling for a revision of economic strategy from the early 1970s. - Available here.
Minutes from government meeting
AAN, URM 290, 5.4/71 | p.1-164, RM032-4-74
Dispute between Piotr Jaroszewicz and Stefan Jędrychowski. - Available only in the archives https://www.aan.gov.pl
Report: Stanowisko Polski wobec projektu porozumienia RWPG-EWG [Polish attitude towards CMEA-EEC agreement]
AMSZ, Dep. IV, 1/83, w.17 | DSiP.og.90/11-77
Report discussing the possible strategies of dealing with the EEC. - Available only in the archives https://archiwum.msz.gov.pl/