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Gomułka -- a true believer and realist?


Polonius3 1,000 | 12,448
17 Mar 2015  #1
Last night there was a programme on Władysław Gomułka on TV (TVP1). It portrayed him as a person of limited intellectual horizons but a true believer. He believed socialism was the onły viable option for Poland but was also a realist. In 1956 when Khrushchev flew to Poland in the wake of the Poznań Bread & Freedom riots, Gomułka begged for Soviet support without which socialism could not survive in Poland. He realised socialism was not popular in Poland and believed in time it would prove its worth and win the the Polish nation over. He also opposed large-scale collectivisation, allowed small-scale private entrepreneurship and a measure of cultural autonomy and tolerated a certain amount of religious freedom. That ran counter to what was happening the remaining far more hard-line Soviet-bloc countries. He called it "the Polish road to socialism". After he had settled into his leadership role, he turned the screw a bit, but the net result was far more liberal than elsewhere in the bloc. Maybe that's why it was said that "Poland is the jolliest barracks of the socialist camp!"
sobieski 107 | 2,128
17 Mar 2015  #2
"Poland is the jolliest barracks of the socialist camp!"

Actually far more applicable to Hungary.
jon357 63 | 14,134
17 Mar 2015  #3
And Yugoslavia before (and really after) they became non-aligned.

Though he was liked by many - especially after what had been before.
OP Polonius3 1,000 | 12,448
17 Mar 2015  #4
After stalinism the devil himself would have been welcomed with open arms. Although an advocate of Marxist materialism, he was very non-materialistic in the private sphere. One time when he met workers at FSO (car factory), someone asked why there wasn't any ham in the shops. "Workers don't eat ham" - came the reply. (Ham was considered a luxury item in PRL.) He was known to split the already stubby Sport (cigarettes) in half and smoke them out of a ciggy holder down to the last puff. At least that's better than the red bourgeoisie who regularly dipped in the till and wallowed in luxury at the proletarian's expense. One joke went that the PZPR handbook of socialist savour-vivle contained this definition:

COGNAC: a beverage of the working class sipped through the lips of their (political) leadership. (KONIAK: napój klasy robotniczej spijany ustami jej kierownictwa.)
jon357 63 | 14,134
17 Mar 2015  #5
I doubt the ordinary workers got much of a go at it during the Second Republic either. Gomulka does seem to have had a more positive and practical outlook than some of his contemporaries - what would you say were his main achievements?
OP Polonius3 1,000 | 12,448
17 Mar 2015  #6
** Giving some semblance of equality to Polish-Soviet econ cooperation, he travelled by train to Moscow and came back, greeted at every stop along the way, for achieving a clean balance-sheet (obviously a propaganda ploy but cleverly executed); earlier Poles had said RWPG was short for: Rosji wsio, Polsze gawno!

**Destalinised the country: dismantled the secret-police terror apparatus although stopped short of putting most of its chief villains on trial; began decollectivaiton of agriculture; improved relations with the Church (released Primate Wyszyński from detention, restored religious instruction in schools); allowed some liberalisation of censorship; brought about a treaty in which the FRG recognised the Odra-Nysa border...


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