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Life in communism vs democracy in Poland


sue 2 | 4
12 Sep 2008 #1
Has anyone lived in Poland during communism and during independence who could tell me the pros and cons of both?
southern 75 | 7,096
12 Sep 2008 #2
during communism and during independence

You mean in the same period because during communism Poland was independant.
SeanBM 35 | 5,808
12 Sep 2008 #3
Hello Sue,

And welcome to the Polish Forum.

It is a very interesting question you pose.
I am from Ireland and I live in Poland.
I have also lived in Lithuania and I have travelled in Cambodia.
I absolutely hate communism, it sucks hard.
Communism seems to go against human nature, some people are going to want more.
And although democracy is by no means perfect (mob rule), I believe in it.

I have had long conversation with various people about this subject and found it fascinating. The Polish are not a very good example of communism because they did not make "good commies" you would be better off talking to Lithuanians and Cambodians, it was tougher there than in Poland.

I know it is strange to compare suffering but it is true, Poland was never part of the U.S.S.R. and Cambodia had the Khmer Rouge, enough said.

People on this forum are always on about the second world war and the German Nazis, because they think that's what Polish people think about (but they are mostly foreigners). Well from the very many Polish people I have met they talk more about communism and the hangover they are having now. It is understandable that Polish people think of the last people who attacked them.

I have been to the KGB museum in Vilnius Lithuania and the Khmer Rouge S-21 Museum in Phnom Penh, shocking stuff all together. Really depressing but educational.

I recommend talking to locals in all ex-communist countries. I have noted how little information there is on this subject on here but young people don't really care and look to the future and foreigners do not know.

Also if you want a fun communist tour in Krakow try crazyguides.

Perhaps you should be more specific with your question, in what ares exactly are you interested in this topic?.

I do not think you will get many pros for communism.
southern 75 | 7,096
12 Sep 2008 #4
have had long conversation with various people about this subject and found it fascinating. The Polish are not a very good example of communism because

Because many of them actually support communism and you were surprised by that by what you heard during conversations,is this not right?
SeanBM 35 | 5,808
12 Sep 2008 #5
Absolutely not, i have heard many times that in the beginning polish people welcomed Communism but soon became very disheartend about the whole thing.
Eastern European Communism used Vodka a lot to keep the people stupid, Some of my older friends became teetotalers in reaction to this, they still do not drink today. Look at Nowa Huta, they build churches in defines against communism.

Although most of the people i know are from Malapolska, you might find a different opinion in East Poland.
Somerled 5 | 93
12 Sep 2008 #6
There are pros to Communism?
SeanBM 35 | 5,808
12 Sep 2008 #7
Ha ha ha
Well if I really try, the only thing I can think of is the "communist economists" put their own prices on Oak parkett flooring. So most communist flats have this wonderful flooring, sure you can't control the heating, drink the water, poor insulation (if any), the pipes were stuck together using cement but you had very nice flooring ;0)
Somerled 5 | 93
12 Sep 2008 #8
So thats why our floor is peeling! I thought it was my office chair.

Don't get me started on our flat. In the bathroom hot means cold. There are vents that don't go anywhere. Some of the light switched are backwards. Locks are installed upside down. The tub was caulked over the wallpaper...although I think it might be due to copious amounts of vodka rather than Communism.
OP sue 2 | 4
12 Sep 2008 #9
Well, I certainly appreciate all the comments. I'm taking a class in college and I need to interview someone from Poland. I thought getting a couple viewpoints would be more interesting. I live in Northern Michigan and have never lived anywhere else (sheltered life). While my schooling taught me that communism was bad, I think (from my biased teachings) that communism offers more security than democracy does and wondered if people who lived under communism ever had that feeling. See, now in my little world Vodka is never mentioned as a major player in history. :) I'll have to make sure I use that. I appreciate more comments if you have them. Now these communist flats-are they still communist flats or are they privetaly owned now and just built during the communist years?
celinski 31 | 1,258
12 Sep 2008 #10
Now these communist flats-are they still communist flats or are they privetaly owned now and just built during the communist years?

I just saw a show where a young couple in Russia were looking for their first home and they looked at 3 communist flats, they went for $66,000 USD to $56,000. Size was the most shocking with 500 sq ft. being the norm. Needless to say they are rather small and in Kremlin area. All three were in need of cosmetic and storage was lacking.

They bought one with a balcony and in the end they showed how beautiful the couple set it up with some bright colors. Bathrooms were very tiny in all three and you really had no room to entertain company in any of them. Bedrooms were full when a bed was added and fold up bed was used. They did not have dressers and if they did they would not have fit. They removed the carpet that looked like indoor/outdoor and the father helped by putting in beautiful wood flooring. They did not say what kind of wood but it was stunning.

You may also want to follow this case,

Poland's last communist leader, General Wojciech Jaruzelski, has gone on trial accused of committing a crime by imposing martial law in 1981.

news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7611690.stm
southern 75 | 7,096
12 Sep 2008 #11
that communism offers more security than democracy does and wondered if people who lived under communism ever had that feeling.

Yes,I have noticed that older generation who lives in former eastern block countries(like CR,Poland) have often this feeling of security loss especially the unemployed.
randompal 7 | 306
12 Sep 2008 #12
There are pros to Communism?

if you signed up for Communist Party membership and were accepted, then yes there were pros, or rather benefits. Why do you think it lasted as long as it did? The people in charge did everything possible to stay in charge, including handing out privileges to the select members of society who could be trusted.

The people who bemoan the demise of communism in Poland are the ones who received comparatively decent wages in the day, and now they earn shite if they even have a job (miners, teachers, etc).

Most people nowadays would argue that the cons (dumpy economy, empty shelves) outweighed the pros (modicum of security in many spheres of life) during the PRL period.

But the whole lack of democracy thing is an overblown argument - now we supposedly have democracy but its limited, and we still have our "masters" everywhere, the only difference is that society has been placated with nice toys and consumer goods so that we willingly shut up and forget about our problems..
polishcanuck 7 | 462
12 Sep 2008 #13
There are pros to Communism?

Social programs, low crime, no unemployment, free education, free medicare, same standards for all.

However, overall the cons out weigh the pros.
randompal 7 | 306
12 Sep 2008 #14
Social programs, low crime, no unemployment, free education, free medicare, same standards for all

true, but unfortunately in reality the execution didn't meet expectations:
low crime: nothing valuable enough to steal
no unemployment: many people had unfulfilling jobs provided by the state, and often the state chose your career path for you
free education: ok, that was nice, I agree
free medicare: in hospitals that were under equipped and staffed by questionable doctors (sometimes). although I generally agree that ****** health care is better than no health care..

same standards for all: in theory only, like I said the CP members were the elite and they generally had the law on their side (or a judge here and there who would look the other way because they were "connected").

With all this said, it is not unusual to find Poles who think back fondly upon those times, although this could be simply a matter of reminiscing about the days of their youth, who knows!
Lodz_The_Boat 32 | 1,535
12 Sep 2008 #15
If I must need to choose between the two devils... i'd rather choose democracy
:-s
SeanBM 35 | 5,808
12 Sep 2008 #16
Now these communist flats-are they still communist flats or are they privetaly owned now and just built during the communist years?

Communism is finished but there is Społdzielnia, which are the closest thing to government housing/council flats but they have a communist twist.
Years ago I went to a Społdzielnia (to buy a flat) and I went into the administrations office, well I never, there were all these old women with towers of folders and documents. I watched one woman in particular she took a sheet put it under some other documents and then decided it was a bad idea and took it out again...

. I asked them what a Społdzielnia was, they could not answer me, so I left. I found out that you do not own the flat you buy but you become part of the Społdzielnia. No thank you.

There are a lot of blocks of flats left over from communism,
Perhaps some one PF could explain it better to us? I have been told there are some very good Społdzielnias but I could not take the risk of buying a place and it not being mine.

While my schooling taught me that communism was bad,

Although i had a similar education, I find that it was much much worse than we were taught, especially in Lithuania. I say Lithuania because i know the place well.

communism offers more security than democracy does and wondered if people who lived under communism ever had that feeling.

I understand what you mean, I remember being taught about communism in school and thinking it was a wonderful idea.
The sence of security is completely false, in my opinion, it is based on peoples ignorants. Any country that employs everyone yet they do not have to work is going to go down the tubes. Sure you had a job but the country was in the deep end of trouble.

PLZ check "Third złoty (PLZ), 1950-1994."
People had no security, except a very false sence of it. But I have met many Lithuanians who miss communism, they are lost, fallen in between the cracks of ideologies.

Social programs

What were they? And what was good about them?

Something i really don't understand (maybe because i have been brought up a capitalist) is every body goes to school, everybody works and gets the same treatment unless they are for the political party, so what would be the incentive to become a doctor or become financially successful? you are just going to get the same as someone who didn't. Basically money is a great incentive.

I really enjoy this topic and i have a million questions.

But Sue please remember i am from Ireland and have only experienced the after mat.
Robert A 1 | 102
12 Sep 2008 #17
I think (from my biased teachings) that communism offers more security than democracy does and wondered if people who lived under communism ever had that feeling.

You've only to look toward Russia - and the ascendancy of Authoritarianism - to see how a population is reverting to its former self; based solely on the perceived benefits of former communism. The Motherland will take care of all your needs . . . from cradle to the grave.
SeanBM 35 | 5,808
12 Sep 2008 #18
from cradle to the grave.

Dependency is a terrible thing.
I did not know Russia was headed that direction again? I thought they were Kinda communist kinda not, like c China?
polishcanuck 7 | 462
12 Sep 2008 #19
What were they? And what was good about them?

Mandatory (and free) summer programs/camps for kids, like scouts in canada, designed to keep kids busy/active and off the "streets." There's more, i'll have to ask my parents.

low crime: nothing valuable enough to steal

There's always something to steal. People always stole under communism because often times it was difficult to buy some goods. For example, construction sites were targeted for tools, building supplies/concrete. Many poles built houses during the commie era using stolen goods:)

But crime isn't limited to stealing. Although i did not make myself clear, I meant crime as in violence. My parents always talk about how there were no dangerous neighbourhoods when they were growing up. Today there are areas in most cities where even police are afraid to enter.

no unemployment: many people had unfulfilling jobs provided by the state, and often the state chose your career path for you

True, and many workplaces had more employees than required which actually decreased efficiency/productivity. But at least everyone had a JOB and didn't have to worry about putting food on the table.

The state chose people's career paths?? Where did you hear this? I've never heard anyone in my family talk about this, as far as i know it was their choice.

same standards for all: in theory only, like I said the CP members were the elite and they generally had the law on their side (or a judge here and there who would look the other way because they were "connected").

True. But you should also realize that this still exists to some degree. Many things can be arranged "po znajomosci" (with connnections) in today's poland.
SeanBM 35 | 5,808
12 Sep 2008 #20
Mandatory (and free) summer programs/camps for kids,

This might sound terrible but was it a kind of communist educational brain washing camp?, i somehow doubt it because polish were not good commies.
z_darius 14 | 3,968
13 Sep 2008 #21
Democracy is an illusion both commies and capitalists will try to impress on you.
To make a long story short - a choice between capitalism is really a choice of whether you want to get screwed by a communist party or by a so called democratically elected parliament.

In either case you get screwed.

Now, communism ain't a fairy tale at all but... , since you appear to know all th bad sides of communism, just one tidbit on a merry side for you: as a kid (since I remember till I completed high school) I didn't spend more than a week of vacation (these lasted about about 3 months) at home. Schools and workplaces (or the commie government I should say) organized all kinds of trips, tours, vacations for kids and families. The cost was minimal - a day's worth of pay for a two week stay in a resort, sometime cheaper). I see kids here in North America. They are basically left alone to their own limited ingenuity, and, as we often learn form the media is not necessarily a good thing.
polishcanuck 7 | 462
14 Sep 2008 #22
This might sound terrible but was it a kind of communist educational brain washing camp?,

No, there was no teaching of ideology or brainwashing. They were just like scouts. Quite enjoyable for kids (well at least my parents).
SeanBM 35 | 5,808
14 Sep 2008 #23
Correct me if i am wrong, this sounds more like a Polish thing, rather than having any connection with communism?.

Another thing I would like clarification on is,
Communism was a way of taking over Poland by the Russian communists. The leaders were chosen by the Russian commies and the people who had control of Poland were in bed with all other communist parties but the people were not communist, it was a kind of political invasion or take over and if it was not at first it became it, perhaps someone could explain it better?
ConstantineK 26 | 1,259
14 Sep 2008 #24
One thing I cannot understand, how can you hate communism? How can you hate the idea which means the prosperity of all mankind? You should hate the human nature which spoils and kills the essence of any generose idea instead!
lesser 4 | 1,311
14 Sep 2008 #25
So called 'democracy' present especially in many countries of the 'western world' is just an illusion like Dariusz mentioned above. However this is much better than communism and this is out of question for anybody who lived under these two systems. First system is just a huge scam while the second could be compared to unforgettable crime.
Lodz_The_Boat 32 | 1,535
14 Sep 2008 #26
First system is just a huge scam while the second could be compared to unforgettable crime.

Its like choosing between the theif and the robber :P ... but then... i think theif is better than the robber, as often the theif dont murder! Isnt that what you mean?
Dekameron 1 | 146
14 Sep 2008 #27
So called 'democracy' present especially in many countries of the 'western world' is just an illusion like Dariusz mentioned above. However this is much better than communism and this is out of question for anybody who lived under these two systems. First system is just a huge scam while the second could be compared to unforgettable crime.

Lesser i think i understand your issue now but you apparently lack academic knowledge to call it, democracy is just that, democracy.

What you are supporting is the 19th century russian anarchy which claimed total equalness in all respects.

As for communism its a myth, people cannot have the same amount of everything Marks and Engels were jackasses without basic knowledge of human nature and economy.

If someone works harder and earns more will you take away his money so that someone who does not work at all gets an equal cut ? This is one of a thousand issues that make communism an idiotic and unreasonable idea.
Krecik - | 3
14 Sep 2008 #28
One thing I cannot understand, how can you hate communism? How can you hate the idea which means the prosperity of all mankind? You should hate the human nature which spoils and kills the essence of any generose idea instead!

It was a philosophical question. Quite interesting, better hate system than ourselves.
SeanBM 35 | 5,808
14 Sep 2008 #29
How can you hate the idea which means the prosperity of all mankind? You should hate the human nature which spoils and kills the essence of any generose idea instead!

There is another way to look at it, that it is not the human which is flawed but the theory.
ConstantineK 26 | 1,259
14 Sep 2008 #30
you think that communism is in the past? I think it's a huge mistake, we are still on the way, still on the way Sean!


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