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Modern myths and legends about communist past in Poland


pawian 157 | 8,616
8 May 2019  #1
That's actually a great idea.

Yes, the idea for this thread originated in another thread.

I like reading comments under various articles describing contemporary lifestyle in Poland and I don`t remember a single article without a poster going like: In communism it was a good life because... or during communist times such things were unthinkable or before Solidarity we had real.....

Some of these comments might be produced by Kremlin trolls because they follow certain fixed pattern, some by Polish trolls who are bored but some must be written by people disappointed with today`s capitalist reality.

Myths are an result of focusing on positive and good facts from a collective history.

Yes, people tend to forget bad sides and prefer to remember only good ones.

However, doing so, they too often embelish those positive things, making them nearly perfect, which is against historical accuracy, of course.

Is it like in the anecdote about an old aristocratic French lady asked about her best time in life? She answered: The time of the French Revolution. What? Massacres, persecutions, beheadings are the best? Yes, because I was 18 years old then.

How can we do it? Provide an exampe of a myth and bust it right away.

The sausage one in particular reminds me of a discussion

In communism sausage was real, made according to strict technological norms (mostly meat) and without additives.
People forget that:
- there were long periods when sausage and meat was rationed.
- there were only a few kinds of sausage available.
- today they complain about cheapest sausages for 10 PLN but if they pay more, like 25, they can buy excellent product. Let alone one for 40 PLN.
kaprys 2 | 1,677
8 May 2019  #2
You know how they queue nowadays to get the latest iPhone oraz something.
My grandpa was apparently a pioneer in that. He once started queuing at a furniture shop in a neighbouring town in the middle of the night to get my parents a nice set of mebloĊ›cianka soon after they married.
10iwonka10 - | 398
9 May 2019  #3
@kaprys
I think when delivery was expected ( fridges, TV) people were queuing all night. Every few hours there was list read if you left queue they would remove you from list.

There were also special shops for Police/UB/government workers. Bit like animal farm- we are all equal in socialism but some are more equal than others :-)
Miloslaw 6 | 1,687
9 May 2019  #4
Great quote!
And that is the problem with Socialism.....and it makes me wonder why so many people, especially youngsters, still support it.
kaprys 2 | 1,677
10 May 2019  #5
I guess one of the biggest myths is that people back then supported the government eagerly.
Some might have been attracted to the ideals that everyone should be equal but they were soon disillussioned.
But the means of oppression were still there.
And the reality is that there just needs to be a variety of political options and views (with respect to human rights!) even if we disagree with them.
TheOther 5 | 3,716
10 May 2019  #6
I guess one of the biggest myths is that people back then supported the government eagerly.

Interestingly though, you cannot find a source (in English) that gives you the number of members of the PZPR towards the end of the regime in the 1980s. The only number I've ever found was on Wikipedia, which claims that membership was about 3.5 million in the 1970s. Unfortunately, I can't read Polish. Are there Polish sources out there which are more accurate?
kaprys 2 | 1,677
10 May 2019  #7
Here's an article about it but I don't know how accurate it is.
dzieje.pl/aktualnosci/rozwiazanie-pzpr
At the bottom they give the number of members : roughly 2.1 million. The source is PAP - Polish Press Agency
Dougpol1 27 | 2,683
10 May 2019  #8
"Mechanics and technically minded people could fix anything on the cheap.."
The reality being that all was low tech, there were no authentic spare parts, and a hammer would sometimes do the trick, as on wife's cousins' Trabant starter motor:) To be fair my Austin Morris had the same lazy starter problem.

a nice set of mebloĊ›cianka

All in the ubiquitous communist fake brown veneer. What the f was the obsession with the colour brown for? Why not red? :):)

One thing that is not a myth. Washing machines. My MIL had hers' for 30 years, and it never saw a repair man. Apparently she was not alone, or lucky. The thing was (rather) noisy though and shook da house.
TheOther 5 | 3,716
10 May 2019  #9
Here's an article about it

Thanks, kaprys.
OP pawian 157 | 8,616
10 May 2019  #10
"Mechanics and technically minded people could fix anything on the cheap.."

Shyt, it isn`t a myth! Whenever I take my car to the garage today, I boast to mechanics that "once I even took the engine out of my Fiat 126p when I wanted to change the clutch plate." I depended on self-repair books with loads of step by step photos and I did it with basic tools.

The reality being that all was low tech,

Exactly. Today it is impossible although when I read car fora, I see that some guys are still able to repair their advanced cars at home.

Washing machines. My MIL had hers' for 30 years, and it never saw a repair man

Yes, this myth has been functioning for decades now and mostly it is true. I still use things which I bought in 1980s, e.g., a car foot pump which is bulky and uncomfortable like a Soviet tank but it is equally durable. Those Chinese pumps are worthless.

Let`s call these two cases positively verified legends.
Miloslaw 6 | 1,687
10 May 2019  #11
when I read car fora, I see that some guys are still able to repair their advanced cars at home

No longer possible.
Except for the most basic repairs, car owners can no longer repair their own cars.
Unless they are very old.
mafketis 19 | 6,902
10 May 2019  #12
I think when delivery was expected ( fridges, TV) people were queuing all night

When I first visited Poland in 1984 there was a 24 line in front of an appliance outlet. I was told that those in line (dozens if not hundreds of people) had shifts they had to wait to keep their place in line (there were never more than 7 or 8 people there but they were always different...

The sweet, sweet bounty of socialism!
Miloslaw 6 | 1,687
10 May 2019  #13
So true.
But why are so many youngsters falling for the lies of Socialists?
Bratwurst Boy 5 | 9,995
10 May 2019  #14
Very often when you ask socialists that question they will tell you that the whole history of 200 years of failed socialist/communist "experiments" weren't really the kind of socialism they envision.

And of course it was never the socialist ideal that failed...only the people who failed that ideal.

So, the ideal lives on...and they just wait to try anew.

Einstein had a great description for that: "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing yet expecting different results"
kaprys 2 | 1,677
11 May 2019  #15
@Miloslaw
Where do you see youngsters falling for the lies of socialism?

@Dougpol1
As for washing machines, there are two types I remember from my childhood - the 'regular' one and Frania. The previous would break down from time to time and you had to call someone to have it repaired and possibly we're talking about several washing machines - it seems that nowadays they keep breaking down and you end up buying a new one - perhaps it's the quality of water.

As for frania, we kept it in case of emergency. When I googled it, it turned out there are tens of videos of frania on YouTube. These things still work. ...
delphiandomine 84 | 17,703
11 May 2019  #16
Here's an article about it but I don't know how accurate it is.

Yes, I think it's accurate. 2m is the number given by other sources too, and that link accurately shows the huge decline in membership in 1980-1 when many Party members gave up membership. From what I understand, Poland never really had the same level of tedious Party bureaucracy like elsewhere: you needed Party membership to have a career, but it was never on the level of East German or Soviet bureaucracy.
kaprys 2 | 1,677
11 May 2019  #17
As for mebloscianka, yeah it was brown indeed ;)

Grandma's furniture was nicer - kredens kuchenny (apparently most grandmas at that time had something like that at home) and witryna (also from the fifies, I suppose). Nothing similar in quality to prewar antique furniture but much nicer than the stuff from the 70s /80s .

Not sure about other furniture but I'm pretty sure that kredens would be still ok now. Grandma had something like that
fotoforum.gazeta.pl/photo/3/ud/oa/bhda/jW20W2gBmMX7p8aQiX.jpg
johnny reb 16 | 3,391
11 May 2019  #18
Where do you see youngsters falling for the lies of socialism?

stream.org/time-wean-millennials-lies-socialism/#
All around the world with Venezuela recently topping the list as a failure.
Socialism is the philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance and the gospel of envy.
Even in the land of milk and honey like America Socialism is flurrying where the youth are sucking up Crazy Bernie.
Free free free but the Socialist don't know how they will pay for all the free things they want like healthcare, universities and etc.

Those lies........as someone has to pay for those things in the end.
Nothing is free.
kaprys 2 | 1,677
11 May 2019  #19
@delphiandomine
I can't remember much about those times.
As for party membership, some time ago I read a biography of a doctor from my hometown. The head of town hospital sent to concentration camps during WW2. He turned up at work in the hospital the day after he'd got back home from the camp. I asked my dad about him. He remembers him vaguely. When he was a child, he treated his sinuses. According to dad, the injections he was given were really painful but he has never had any problems with sinuses ever since; ) A really good and kind doctor.

Anyway, the doctor was told to become a party member or resign from the position of the head of hospital. He could retire at that time so he did. But I guess that's how it worked - to hold any prominent position, you had to be a party member.
Miloslaw 6 | 1,687
11 May 2019  #20
Where do you see youngsters falling for the lies of socialism?

In The UK :-(
NoToForeigners 6 | 970
11 May 2019  #21
If u want to get knowledge from ppl who still think socialism and communism are great you should interview any Koalicja Obywatelska (Platforma Obywatelska especially) member
OP pawian 157 | 8,616
11 May 2019  #22
to hold any prominent position, you had to be a party member.

That was called nomenklatura. There were exceptions of course but most people in charge of big things had to belong to the party.

ppl who still think socialism and communism are great you should interview any Koalicja Obywatelska member

It is sad that you are lying on such a beautiful day. :)
delphiandomine 84 | 17,703
11 May 2019  #23
But I guess that's how it worked - to hold any prominent position, you had to be a party member.

Pretty much, or at least be known and trusted to them. There are examples where someone enjoyed a privileged position in society despite not having formal Party membership, though it's almost certain that they would have betrayed others to get to that point.

The big problem was that loyalty and patronage was more important than knowledge.

Going back to myths - the whole economic system could be regarded as a bit of a myth. People are nostalgic for the days of factories with full employment.
OP pawian 157 | 8,616
11 May 2019  #24
the whole economic system could be regarded as a bit of a myth. People are nostalgic for the days of factories with full employment.

Yes, that`s another good example.

A typical comment on sites: in the past, people didn`t worry about work, there was no unemployment.

They forget that:
- the employment was artificially increased, 3 people did work which could be done by 1 person. The reasons were ideological - unemployment in a communist country? Impossible! But the economic effect was disastrous because the productivity was a few time lower than in the West.

Besides, people doing such jobs earned peanuts.
That, however, was compensated by various benefits, especially when you were a permanent worker in a big enterprise. You could go on holidays paid by your company, get some food or other articles (coal) for free, and if you were lucky the company provided you with an apartment which after decades could become yours.

That is why some people are still so nostalgic about communism.
delphiandomine 84 | 17,703
11 May 2019  #25
Yes, I always say that Poles are rather economically illiterate as a result of such a system.

I know a remarkable lady who started a business in 1991, and she said that people were absolutely shocked when she explained that in her factory, there were no perks and no alcohol - but that salaries would be paid fairly while being dependent on the productivity of the factory and on their ability to sell the products to Western Europe. People just couldn't understand that the factory had to work economically, and that she fired a hell of a lot of people for smelling of booze on the factory floor.
Ironside 47 | 9,586
11 May 2019  #26
hat is why some people are still so nostalgic about communism.

No, some people are nostalgic because they remember that stratification of the society wasn't that great, that employment was state ,,,if they compare with years of unemployment and no prospects while their neighbors prosper, that brings nostalgia .....

Anyway that is thing of the past, those people are in their 70 and 80 now.
delphiandomine 84 | 17,703
11 May 2019  #27
Not only. You can hear the same nonsense come from younger people, especially nationalists who promote very similar economic ideologies. For some young people today, a system that provides everything for them is appealing. They have no idea that the work was often dangerous and harmful to people's health.


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