For an introduction to Polish Political Crisis during Cold War Years


Di Francesco Bonicelli Verrina

We may say that the facts which took place in Poland during the 1980s have their premises in 1956. The Krushchev’s speech, denouncing the Stalin’s system, Stalin’s cult, with its cruelties and abuses, given to Bolesław Bierut, head of the Polish state and of the Polish Party (PUWP-Polish United Workers’ Party), at the XXth Congress, marked “not for publication”, to be returned to Moscow within three months, reached the Szczecin Technical University. Alone in the socialist bloc, the Polish party decided in facts to disseminate a text “exclusively for inner-party use”, but soon the party lost the control on some Polish translations, made for those who lacked good Russian.

As underlined by Anthony Kemp-Welch (New York, 2008) the Krushchev’s speech suggested at least three big questions: it was just guilt of Stalin or of the whole Soviet system? Could justice be restored without wholesale reorganisation? Could that hierarchical system throw up other types in place of Stalin, Dzherzhinsky, Ezhov and Beria or the guilt was of the system?

The party aktyw at the Szczecin Technical University, on 26 March 1956, publicly asked 110 questions about Krushchev’s speech, such as: What is our guarantee against a reversion to stalinist methods? Why are 90% of generals in the Polish Army Russians? How can we trust Politburo members who have been there for six or seven years to carry out what they now profess? In this new situation don’t we need to call a Party Congress?1

Reports from the provinces showed a picture of growing confusion and doubt.

Those questions together with the translation of the XXth Congress speech went soon around Poland and in every local party see many new questions arose: was the death of Lenin linked to Stalin in any way? How was Stalin able to decide everything alone? Where were other members of the Politburo when Stalin ordered those infamous crimes? How could Poland be said a sovereign state having Soviet military air-fields on its territory? Why did Kaliningrad belong to Russia rather than Lithuania or Poland?

Others asked whether Stalin would be deprived of his divinity, posthumously expelled from the CPSU (Communist Party of Soviet Union) and removed from the Moscow Mausoleum. The perception of many communists to have been just marionettes and not militants of true Marxism was shared and soon spread in whole Poland.

There were districts asking for rehabilitation of Armja Krajowa (national non-communsit resistance army), others discussing collectivisation, prices, shortages, length of working week, nomenklatura privileges. Others organized collective readings2. General support to Gomułka, who was against collectivisation, was growing day by day. Imre Nagy, already ostracized by the Party, in Hungary, on similar positions, was going to meet the same fate in the following months, in Budapest, but with less fortune, being arrested and hanged in 1958 as consequence of his support to 1956 Budapest revolt against Soviet power, brutally repressed by Soviet tanks (ICP rehabilitated Nagy only in the occasion of his posthumous funerals in 1988).

Several hundred people attended an open meeting of the Writers’ Union, on 27 April 1956, in Warsaw, which gave voice to all those protests. They asked for genuine election of Congress delegates and real choice of Party leaders and their paper was confiscated as answer by a censorship, expression of a Central Committee, directed from Moscow, waiting to intervene, but still seeming not to be aware of what to do.

Anti-Russian sentiments were widespread, Stalin was equated to Hitler.

Finally in June the Party leadership reacted announcing a widespread amnesty: 35,000 prisoners were released within a month, of whom 9,000 were political prisoners, including members of the former anti-communist underground, socialists and populists. Verdicts in the stalinist show trials were quashed and their victims rehabilitated. Senior officials from the stalinist era were dismissed, including key ministers, like Jakob Berman, head of the Polish Security and Stalin’s right hand as defined by Jozef Światło, the Polish secret agent who defected escaping to Federal Germany, in 1953. Notorious interrogators and torturers were also arrested3. Cosmetic operations on the surface, conducted from Moscow, through ambassador Ponomarenko, but no radical interventions in order to change the bad living and working standard conditions at the end were taken.

So the first workers’ revolt against Communism took place, in Poznań, that same June 1956. Not in newly established sites such as Nowa Huta, nor on territories “recovered” from Germany, but in Wielkopolska, a region long noted for its tradition of efficient work: perhaps the most qualified workers, in the most developed industrial area of Poland, with a strong and old labour ethos, were the necessary conditions to see much better than others (especially than underdeveloped regions) the real situation of wage cuts, overlong working hours (especially for women and youth), bureaucratisation, waste of resources (for lack of modernisation), lack of health and safety at work, increase of prices (because a big part of foodstuffs was given to USSR)4.

The visit of the minister Fidelski was useless to find a settlement and the government was not able to offer challenge proposals. A 31 points document of protest was addressed to authorities. On 28 June, in the early morning, several thousand of workers formed up outside the gates of ZiSPO (the oldest, largest and most famous factory of locomotives, named Stalin) and started marching towards the city centre of Poznań. The column fastly grew moving on, adding many students, school children and housewives, also many militiamen adhered and supported the demonstration, refusing to obey orders. Two priests blessed the march as people knelt down passing the Cathedral.

Banners on trams and railways said: We want bread, Down with the red bourgeoisie, Fewer palaces more apartments, Long live Mikołajczyk (the prominent non-communist member of the first government of national unity, Poland was a communist republic and dictatorship from 1948).

The Russian marshal Rokossovsky, minister of Defence of Poland, chief of the Army, Politburo member and vice-premier of Poland from 1952 (the real master of the government) deployed 10,000 soldiers and 400 tanks, leaving 73 deads and many hundreds seriously wounded, also seven soldiers were killed5. Since all communications between Poznań and the outside world were blocked propaganda lies flourished.

Polish officials dispatched to Poznań by plane made no attempt to meet the demonstrators, Edward Gierek, future secretary of PUWP, defined them vandalisers, together with his Politburo and Central Committee colleagues, as propaganda, cinema and newspapers showed protestors like guilty of hooliganism against public property.

In the same days Jacek Kuroń and other academics met the workers in suburban Warsaw, creating the embryonic premise of a link between intellectuals and workers for the future KOR (the committee of workers defense) and Solidarność as well, united by the ideal fight for democratisation, socialisation and self-management.

In August Władysław Gomułka was reinstated in the PUWP and on 20 October, greeted by massive demonstrations, being an ex-prisoner of stalinists, arrived at the head of the Party and in the Politburo, de facto leader of Poland again, as he was after liberation until 1948, year of his imprisonment. Differently from stalinist period the state key roles should not correspond from that moment to key roles in the Party, at least formally. In those days for the first time Soviet, Czechoslovak and East German troops were alerted and moved to the border with Poland. A Soviet delegation led by Krushchev himself and composed by Molotov, Mikoyan, Bulganin, Kaganovich, Konev participated to the Polish Party’s Eighth Plenum, announcing that the USSR was ready to intervene brutally in Poland if necessary, while Gomułka complained about the oversized number of Russian advisers in Warsaw, especially about the oppressive presence of Rokossovsky6.

An important stabilising role, was played in those days of 1956, in favour of Poland, and not of Hungary or later of Czechoslovakia in 1968, by the Chinese Party and by the Chinese premier Chou-en-Lai. In facts, before, in September 1956, Edward Ochab, the first secretary of the PUWP between March (after Bierut’s death) and October 1956, traveled to Beijing. Not far from the Sino-Soviet split of 1961, Beijing was already distanced from Moscow by the anti-Stalin campaign and, for how absurd it can look, China found attractive to support Polish sovereignity and to spend its role to defend a peaceful resolution in favour of Polish course, which was moving on an apparently opposite path compared with China, but could also represent an important economic and military partner for its size in the Soviet bloc and in Eastern Europe, competing with Russia7.

In the same October 3,000 seamen in Gdańsk and Gdynia formed a short-living free trade union in order to defend fellows unjustly dismissed for political reasons and to protest against the Red Fleet, deployed by Moscow in order to discourage and threaten shipyard workers, who were many, well organized and politically oriented and in facts basis of the future foundation of Solidarność.

Gomułka, urged by the facts, speaking at the Plenum said “naive” the attempt to present the protest as work of “imperialist agents and provocateurs” and stated it was “a poor idea, to mantain that only communists can build Socialism”8, an inspirational statement for the socialist leaders of next future, such as Alexander Dubček in Czechoslovakia, and Stanisław Kania, again in Poland, in 1980.

Those words meant immediate opening to catholic organizations not alligned with the regime (just few years later persecuted by the same new first secretary), like Znak, Tadeusz Mazowiecki’s movement (then one of the founders and prominent components of Solidarność, and first President of democratic Poland, in 1989), far from a pro-regime catholic association like Piasecki’s Pax (a sort of stalinist Catholicism), linked to Personalism and inspired by the figure of the French philosophers Emmanuel Mounnier and Jacques Maritain, advocates of a humanitarian christian inspired international cooperation, refusing Capitalism, Communism, Fascism, class struggle and putting just the human being as ultimate antidote to nuclear war and to enslaver totalitarian state. Eight deputies from Znak’s files entered Polish parliament in December 1956, for the first time, thanks to the new PUWP’s first secretary and opened a round table for dialogue (an idea resurfaced in 1988) in order to attract the “eretic” communists, promising a constructive opposition and accepting the old idea of Russia as defensor of Polish independence against Germany.

Also a spontaneous de-collectivization regarding more than the 75% of lands took place after October. The fusion between socialist system of state control of import-export, prices and distribution, coupled to an uncontrolled de-collectivization which left an enormous number of tiny, underdeveloped and infertile familiar farms, was at the origin of 1970s crisis, together with international factors like oil crisis and dependence from foreign production for a large part of products.

The archbishop of Warsaw and Gniezno and primate of Poland, Stefan Wyszyński returned to his palace in Miodowa ulica. He was archbishop since 1946, primate since 1948 and since that moment pushed in silence in an isolated monastery, in 1956 was released and as a fine politician was able to agree with the new first secretary a common path with some openings not too much riskful, in order to avoid a Russian intervention, but gaining some antipathies from the Vatican and Pio XII, enough to establish a sort of dialogue between progressive catholics and communists of the new course, enough to save his country from what happened in Hungary, which was aggravated by an uncompromising position of the Hungarian Church, which for the truth gave martyrs for both Nazism and Communism. But in Hungary the relations between priests and communists had not been tempered by a long national resistance such as in Poland and by a long tragic experience of occupation and extermination. In Hungary the nazi occupation had been not less tragic but lasted just the final four months of war. In Czechoslovakia the occupation had been long too, but the Church had already lost importance before the war and the Czech politics were secularized already before the war. More important was the role of the Church in Slovakia, but it was a role played in clandestinity and not so much influential on the dissent, after all. Thousands of Polish priests, and also bishops, were deported to lager during World War Second or joined the resistance. Wyszyński had been a partisan priest in clandestinity during the war, known by his codename Sister Cecilia. The bishop he was serving was deported by nazis. He shared with many communists his poor peasant origins and did not came from an aristocratic family like high prelates in Hungary, and never shared positions with strong nationalists and with anti-communists tout-court. He always seeked a modus vivendi, with the Workers’ Party and by the way we must admit he had not to face the dogmatism impersoned by East German, Czechoslovak or Hungarian leaders of the 1950s. Gomułka seems still today very less dogmatic and more progressive if compared with Ulbricht, Novotny or Rakosi and with their vision of the world. After all Wyszyński and Gomułka had much more in common: they were two real partisans, who fought resistance, not like Rakosi or Bierut or Togliatti and many others who lived the war in Moscow. Gomułka had a marginal role also in the late 1960s anti-sionist campaign, to be put in a national context were anti-semitic hatred never disappeared neither after the liberation (the pogrom of Kielce of 1946 is remarkable), and more instrumental in order to distract public opinion from the economic disaster. Cardinal Wyszyński was a “progressive” of his time (even if accused by Adam Michnik of “ethnocentrism”), author of books about the workers’class, in the special context of catholic Poland, able also to get position against anti-semitism as to get distance from critics from some cardinals in Vatican or from emigrés’ circles asking for an uncompromising and drastic break of the relations between Church and political authorities in Poland, and his perseverance was inspiring, stabilising and helped Poland somehow to gain the position of most “eretic” country in the communist system, passing over its crisis, inspirer of “eresies” in neighbour states but always “saved” in extremis by consequences of its political and international responsabilities. Even if with its ups and downs in the respect of human rights, but never falling in the “normalization” periods of return of stalinism. Also the post-December 13, 1981-era, though a de facto military coup took place, has not been comparable with the purges post-1956 in Hungary (with thousands of dead) or also post-1969 in Czechoslovakia (with thousands of expulsions and dismissals), also thanks to the mediator role of the primate of Poland. Four political murders, a violent attack against Franciscans who provided aid to protestors, many arrests and dismissals (especially inside the Party and Solidarność), followed by an amnesty and massive reinstatement, which came soon in 1984, many political trials, psychological tortures. The lowest rate of capital punishments in the Warsaw Pact countries (no one for political or economical reasons).

After the moving radio speech made by Imre Nagy, from Budapest, on 4 November, the Polish workers assembled outside the Hungarian embassy to express solidarity, but on 27 October, Foster Dulles, USA secretary of state, had already assured Moscow that Washington was not interested in Hungary or Poland as potential military allies in NATO9. And China had no interests in defending tiny Hungary. So the Red Army and the “allied” troops of Warsaw Pact could finally intervene somewhere, taking thousands of lives.

Gomułka accepted the fait accompli (he voted then against execution of Nagy), loosing some points in the immense popularity gained just a month before, but openly declaring he “could not risk Poland’s fate”10. But in 1981 Hungary played a favourable part anyway refusing a priori the eventuality of a military occupation of Poland.

In December, asked by premier Cyrankiewicz (the only stalinist remained in power in top positions), Wyszyński accepted to encourage catholics to vote at Sejm elections, on Sunday 16 and endorse the official list of Znak.

But just two years later Leszek Kołakowski was expelled, as many other convinced marxists, from the PUWP for his pro-catholic positions and his revisionism of Marxism.

Another important fact to consider of 1956 is that of 2,725 arrested for political reasons, 937 were youngs (under 25), the generation who was about forty years old in 1980-1981, and as young adults tried to take in their hands the country and to change it deeply, they were matured in their wide political committment (often as marxists), through the political episodes of 1956 and 1968-1970.

Among those youngs Adam Michnik and Jacek Kuroń had certain influence on Vaclav Havel and on other Czechoslovak underground figures of the Prague Spring 1968, they often met during those decades in Krkonoše mountains between Czechoslovakia and Poland. Especially the idea of the Flying University, spreading truth about historical facts in non-academic unconventional places was a particularly inspiring one (its first lecture was about propaganda language). In the words of Polish anthropologist Ossowski, those youngs were seeking a modern form of Socialism.

The 1968 was a turning point in Cold War. After that year China defined USSR its main enemy, opening to a common front with the USA, even if for different reasons. The match between blocs would have been displayed, if ever, in Europe and no European member of both blocs was seriously intentioned to follow that way. Leonid Brezhnev, less radical, even if not anti-stalinist like his predecessor, seemed ready to offer a policy of detente after normalization in Czechoslovakia. Both East and West colluded to stabilise their domestic societies without interfering in other’s field of influence and stay in power also sharing technologies and resources. The costs of the arms race, increased during Kennedy and Johnson’s time, was becoming prohibitive.

For the Polish historian Oskar Halecki the balance of power system remained in centuries incomplete, ignoring the third and possibly fourth basic region of Europe, a region different from the others but not considered to be, seeking to exist through centuries, in its own peculiarities: East Central and West Central Europe11.

General Charles De Gaulle, as president of France, questioned NATO, questioned the Soviet-American condominium as a permanent division of Europe for interest of super-powers and, looking for European detente, decided to visit Poland and Romania, with which France had strong and old pre-war ties. The meeting with the Polish counter part was not easy because Gomułka re-called that France failed to defend Poland from Third Reich in 1939. The meeting with Romanians was easier, by the way Ceauşescu was seeking a strong ally for his last dangerous stance against Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia.

But the real occasion for a turning point in Polish-Western Europe relations was probably created by Federal Germany. In 1970 Willy Brandt, social-democratic minister of Foreign Affairs in the Federal German government, conceived Ostpolitik as a foreign policy of engagement with Central East, obviously not welcomed by USA, in the interest of Central West, to say it with Halecki. Brandt understood and tried to persuade his Party and his country and European partners that every opening to East was a step to German reunification and prosperity in Europe. In his major success, the Moscow Treaty between Federal Germany and USSR, on 12 August 1970, Bonn, federal capital, acknowledged that Democratic Germany existed, even stating among main German goals the eventual German unity. The treaty also acknowledged the territorial borders of all countries of Europe, comprised the Oder-Neisse border, the western Polish border which incorporated a remarkable part of historical Germany, after the World War Second (as compensation for the loss of eastern territories by Poland, in favour of USSR). The Oder-Neisse border had been a hot issue in DDR-Poland relations, even if in the same system of alliance, and by the way for FDR too and in Polish foreign policy the defence of the legitimacy of its western boundaries was an existential issue. Brandt was able to go this way in the direction of the legitimacy of Federal Germany as a stabilising actor in Europe, an actor able to enlarge in future European Union to East, working for peace and detente in interest of Europe (and Federal Germany in those years contributed a lot financially and politically to European Community), able, as in the Thomas Mann’s wish, to pursue a European Germany and not any more a German Europe. Acknowledging the Oder-Neisse border meant also to disarm the Polish reasons to stay under the wing of Russia against the German expansionism, an argument convincing also for a large sector of nationalists, liberals and catholics as well, from Roman Dmowski on in. Europeanism (meaning opening to Western Europe) became an main issue for important voices of dissent, like for example Geremek or Modzelewski. Warsaw could begin so to see in Bonn a good commercial partner to trust and not an enemy to fear, even in the eventuality of a future German reunification. Brandt’s visit to Warsaw decreed the success, when the German minister, partisan in Norway during the war, knelt before the monument to fighters who fell in the Warsaw Ghetto, in the 1943 revolt, talking about “sorrow for unspeakable crimes committed by Germans against millions of innocent people”12. During that visit Warsaw and Bonn established strong diplomatic relations and set in motion the transfer of population of 125,000 Polish citizens of German origins, another hot issue unresolved or in some context resolved with sentiment of revenge, exploitation and discrimination.

Ostpolitik was inspiring for Eurocommunists and especially for Giorgio Napolitano’s wing inside Italian Communist Party (ICP), always opened to a never realized political joint venture with social-democrats in Europe and to be mediator between Vatican and Warsaw (during short Kania’s period) or for ENI as proposed by Luigi Longo to Dubček in March 1968. Also Italy, historically strongly linked to Central Europe, for centuries, as bridge to southern Mediterranean, developed its own Ostpolitik, especially during the socialist premiership of Bettino Craxi, in the 1980s, with Giulio Andreotti (the strongest man in Christian Democracy, egemonic Italian party) as minister of Defense and then of Foreign Affairs. Andreotti was defined by Craxi: “Ponomarёv’s best friend”. Ponomarёv was a prominent figure and “grey eminence” of USSR diplomacy. Andreotti and Craxi payed several visits to DDR and to Poland and Italy was the first western country to open again to Poland after general Wojtech Jaruzelski’s military coup and to receive Jaruzelski. Surely the presence, in Rome, of a Polish pope, after all pope, but also bishop of Rome, helped a lot, more than the critical role played by eurocommunists against Jaruzelski and his men’s violations, as against all the military dictatorships around the world, especially against Pinochet’s Chile, and it was not a case if Jaruzelski, playing on useful semantic links, became ironically “Pinochetski” and, in his own words, back from Rome, he faced no one more interested in the fate of human rights in Poland like secretariat of ICP was, nor pope, nor Craxi and less than all Andreotti. Though these facts, ICP was always very suspicious towards KOR and Solidarność, which instead had interesting relations with part of the Italian extra-parliamentarian Left, with few “eretic” communist intellectuals and with some Italian trade unionists.

This pretended coherence kept by Italian communists made very difficult to develop their relations with Poland and Czechoslovakia during 1980s, but they had no hesitation in developing very good relations with Romanian premier, who committed probably more violations in those same years but was internationally regarded in the western world as the good side of communist bloc. This factor together with the refusal to abandon Communism, an ideal more and more anachronistic and weak amongst western public opinion, even in the iper-ideologized Italian electorate, progressively isolated Eurocommunism until his split with the split of Soviet bloc13, showing a still alive basical link to Moscow stronger than what pretended and the impossibility to build a strong Communism without Moscow references, even with all the efforts to distinguish themselves and to show that Russian state was not the real Marxism (philosophical matters obviously not very interesting and understandable for public opinion, far from those countries of Real Socialism). By the way Enrico Berlinguer’s premature death in 1984 (having escaped the attempt against his life in Bulgaria ten years before) with the distances he was able to get with his authoritativeness, gave a contribute.

While, instead, the world of Italian trade unions and Italian extra-parliamentarian Left was more able to keep and develop strong relations with Polish underground, also with publications. They contributed and supported Eastern underground in facts, free from official dues dictated by state reasons and international status quo, but also very less influential on public opinion. Apart some conferences, with the necessary okay from Russian embassy, the ICP was very active in promoting travels and exchanges with Eastern countries, to its members, at every level, through its various accessory associations like for example the hunters’ association, but it is obvious those travels were very strictly controlled and driven by authorities.

A classical matter, EU is facing today its consequences, has been a development of commercial relations, which surely (together with a strategical weakening huge Polish external debt during 1970s and 1980s) improved also living standards and promoted democratisation, delegitimizing progressively communist leadership, but coupled to a too weak interest in cultural relations, integration and reciprocal knowledge.

Perhaps also a sort of “path dependance” has to be found in the recent divisions between East and West in Europe, due to a rigid division in blocs, convenient for the two super-powers, lasted for decades and after, for a fundamental Manichaeism, lacking liberal approach, from both sides. Still due to reciprocal ignorance, to a new edition of “class struggle” on global scale, between countries and areas, with a lasting supremacism of the western world, influencing also Western Europe, not interested in understanding and knowing better the wrong but deeply motivated historical and cultural reasons of return of nationalism in Eastern and Central Europe, a nationalism strenghtened by a western attitude which lost three great occasion in 1956, 1968 and 1981 to be supportive in facts to reform of eastern bloc, passively suffering the logic of blocs’ status quo and fearing any kind of courageous intervention beyond economic interests. The Eastern Europe closes itself like a clam, recycling old phantoms, as forecasted by Romanian historian Vladimir Tismaneanu and putting in a corner the best ideals and men of 1989, who were against all walls and buondaries, like Lech Wałęsa (eventually accused of having been a man of the past regime, as already happened before in post-communist Czechoslovakia with lustrace), probably become anachronistic for having been formed in a close world very distant from today world, in a global context led by fastness and facing continuos changing, while easy nationalistic answers remains always charming and “young”, facing increasing social and economic difficulties and gaps and a new wave of Russian expansionism and division between the two super-powers’ spheres of interest, promoting easy political answers and not courageous answers of those generations of rebels who died or become old without leaving political heirs, in young generations always less interested in recent past, without memory of totalitarian state, ready for new mistifications. In Western Europe memories of dictatorship and totalitarism are even older as well, except for Spain, but Spain have still kept Franco’s statues until twenty years ago. And Italy and France had enormous difficulties to face and admit their own part of crimes in Worl War Second.

Giovanni Malagodi, leader of Italian Liberal Party, in the extraordinary session of Italian Parliament, after 21 August 1968, asked why NATO refused so strongly the idea that Czechoslovakia or Hungary or Poland could even only leave Warsaw Pact. NATO in facts feared and avoided with all its efforts the possible split of Warsaw Pact and from 1977 neither ICP, approaching historical compromise attempt, with Christian Democracy, discussed any more the presence of Italy in NATO, as neither Spanish Socialist Party, despite its promises, dared too, after its victory in Spanish election.

Also the role of Gdańsk as centre of workers’ protests began in 1970, ten years before Solidarność, after the increase of prices of Christmas Eve, protests which brought Edward Gierek in power. Social anthropologists explain that the former Danzig had been re-populated, following enormous civilian war casualties, fight of refugees, imprisonment and expulsion of remaining Germans and resettlement of persons displaced from the East. Sociologists note the high concentration in this region of young workers, most of whom had joined the labour force after 1956, those escaping both wartime tribulations and Stalinism. Housing was there the major problem of daily life, with hundreds put in dormitories. The waiting time for a small apartment was ten years14. The external debt and the low productivity, coupled to one-Party state system of waste of resources for privileges of regime’s elite, created inflation.

On 12 December shipyard workers formulated their first demand to Party officials: that the price increase be rescinded. Party officials melt away, so 3,000 employees gathered outside the Director’s office. Director pointed out he did not decide macro-economic policy of the state. Workers sat on their helmets ignoring calls for a return to work and the promise of cash bonuses. While they waited about 1,000 workers formed up at Gate Two and marched into town, joined by passers-by en route. The crowd sang patriotic anthems and Internationale. The mood was calm. The procession halted outside the provincial Party building, whose windows and blinds had been closed. A workers’ delegation was admitted and did not reappear. At noon, a delegation of top officials from Warsaw arrived. As happened in Poznań in 1956, they drove straight to Party headquarters and remained behind closed doors. There were soon claims from the crowd for resignation of Gomułka and his team. Students of Gdańsk University were sent home earlier for Christmas, threatened with expulsion. Some remained and joined the protest anyway and some of them were arrested. In the late afternoon riot police were brought up, with their long and heavy batons and tear gas, to disperse demonstrators. The Party building came under attack: about 10,000 people went on the rampage. Looting took place, particularly of luxury items such as furs. Symbols of privilege and status, such as cars parked in front of the Hotel Monopol, were set on fire and twenty militiamen were hospitalised, 330 protestors were arrested15.

Next day the strike spread across the Gdańsk and Gdynia and Szczecin regions, the baltic coast. Workers marched everywhere to the militia headquarters. New minister of Defense, general Wojtech Jaruzelski, survived to gulag, strong of his experience in Prague two years before, dispatched 27,000 soldiers and 550 tanks against workers, among them there was the young Lech Wałęsa.

A number of soldiers surrendered to the crowd, realizing that it consisted of Poles and not German invaders like they were told by their officers. When those soldiers had been sent to Prague they neither knew where they were directed to and what they had to do there. But when the massacre began with police helicopters circling overhead, armoured vehicles impeded also ambulances coming to the many wounded dying on the ground. In Szczecin Party building, procuracy and headquarters of trade unions were incinerated. More than 1,000 protestors were wounded. The soldiers were for the first time addressed as “Gestapo” by the crowds.

It was an open conflict of the people with the state, with a dose of improvisation as admitted by Wałęsa himself. But put the basis for the first free trade union one decade later, having Gierek again accumulated all the errors of his predecessors.

The Szczecin strike committee was reconstituted in January 1971 to take up unresolved issues such as the free election to trade union posts and to the workers’ councils and democratic elections for the Party posts. Finally Gierek went to meet workers at Warski Shipyard in Szczecin, on 24 January. Followed a tumultuous exchange lasting eight hours and Gierek accusing his predecessor and exploitation by the West, acting like a fifty-four years old worker just looking forward for pension, in two or three years, he had been miner in Belgium and in France, asked and obtained just help and trust to achieve some results16.

But just four years later the committment taken, in terms of respect of human rights and liberties, by socialist bloc’s leaders, in Helsinki, together with other world leaders, far from remaining just a cosmetic operation as thought by Brezhnev, once spread to eastern public opinion, pushed people to ask for a genuine put into practice of those principles subscribed and transferred “on paper”, in the home constitutions. On this basis Czechoslovak underground gave birth to Charta 77.

If the 1973 represented a sort of deterrence for ICP, the major communist party in the West, showing what happened on 11 September, in Chile, to the first democratically elected communist government, blocked in few months by a military coup17, inviting Western Communism to compromise with other more moderate forces (as already happened in 1936, in the great season of Popular fronts), and to begin dialogue with Christian Democracy towards historical compromise of 1978, the special “revival” of Marxism of 1976, begun in Poland, pushed the three major Western European communist parties, the Italian, the French, the Spanish, to join efforts, looking forward to the first elections for the EU Parliament (1979), under the ideal of a Western European way to Communism, called Eurocommunism. Eurocommunism was an ideological project in the middle between Leninism and Socialism. The fact was that those three parties, in their respective countries, in democratic contexts, were reasonably in the conditions to win power or at least to deeply discuss their respective governments, from a position of strength, not like the weak communist parties of Great Britain or USA. This meant they had to evolve towards a “catch all” party type, modifying important ideological aspects and attitudes dictated from Moscow and it meant fundamentally to discuss the CPSU ideological supremacy, refusing the dictatorship, the proletarian revolution, the single-party model, the violation of human rights and liberties, the abolition of private property, the repression of religious freedom and in a further perspective also the class struggle, at least in its rigid dogmatism, seeking more modern, pragmatic and human, less theoretical and manichaeistic, interpretations. The first Berlinguer’s act was the defense of pluralism, liberties and democracy and the refusal of Moscow’s financing, in October 1977, for the sixtieth anniversary of the October Revolution. The first Eurocommunist conference took place symbolically in Berlin, on 29-30 June 1976, with the presence of twenty-nine Western European communist or workers’ parties, after two summits in July and November 1975, ICP-SCP and ICP-FCP. Santiago Carrillo, leader of Spanish Party, wrote The Eurocommunism and the state, open to a democratic socialist transformation of the state expected in capitalistic countries more than in eastern dictatorships, deeply criticizing the Soviet state and deserving Moscow’s “excommunication”. But in facts the conclusions of the conference on one side claimed a peculiar eurocommunist way and the necessary neutrality of Europe as a whole, from both super-powers, on the other justified the repression of dissent in the special context of Eastern Europe and the Russian penetration in Africa. ICP preferred not to take position in defense of Carrillo. The French Party remained also more skeptic towards new approaches and more Moscow oriented, so after the conference the range of Eurocommunism was already reduced by the same communist actors: with Berlinguer isolated by old members of ICP and Carrillo the same, also for the still recent clandestine condition of his Party, in a worse condition of isolation from the other communist parties. CPSU refused to Carrillo the right to speak at the sixtieth anniversary of October Revolution in Moscow. The most important range was the proposal of the achievement of wider coalition, open to other forces, out from the asphyxiated political field of Left, opening to dialogue with other classes, social groups, beliefs, in a democratic and pluralistic context not anymore in discussion. In economic field there was an opening to a mixed economy of privates-state joint enterprises. In terms of electorate these openings, more or less shy in the different national contexts, brought especially to ICP the votes of the middle classes, more sensitive in the 1980s to the Berlinguer’s new approach to womens’ rights, environmentalism, state efficiency (the good austerity), morality in politics (which in the special Italian context meant mainly the surveillance on relations mafia-politicians). Eurocommunism was inspiring for Venezuelan Communist Party, Japanese Communist Party, Mexican Communist Party, Australian Communist Party. While the British Party and the other minor communist parties in Americas and Europe remained less sensitive to the newness and more Moscow-oriented. The European social-democrats criticized the Eurocommunism first, for its shy critics to Moscow, Berlinguer denounced officially the end of the propulsive momentum of 1917 Revolution only in 1982, due to Realpolitik’s reasons, to mantain the old members, most pro-Moscow, and to keep links with CPSU, making always more theoretical and less effective the break with Moscow, especially after Berlinguer’s death, showing the lack of a clear political strategy, obtaining anyway the distancing and radicalization of groups on ICP’s Left.

In June 1979, one year after his election, pope John Paul II proclaimed: “The future of Poland depends upon how many people are mature enough to be non-conformists”18.

Pope’s speech followed three intense years. The same conviction was shared by Polish intellectuals, the necessity for progress required a relaxation of information policy in order to permit the flow of innovative ideas essential to both international competitiveness and the satisfaction of domestic consummerism. Whilst passivity increased the inflexibility of the system and repression, every instance of resistance, however tiny, served to revive civil society.

Jacek Kuroń added the idea of “self-organisation” by society. The idea was not yet that a more independent culture and society could one day develop into an effective political opposition. Rather, the development of autonomous groups, unofficial initiatives and eventually social movements could in themselves constitute an opposition. Participants would actively enjoy the benefits of self-organisation and freedom of expression, across an increasing range of social activities. A non-coercive sphere for engaged citizens with a sense of common purpose could reclaim the public space monopolised by the Party and promote democratic values. Social activity could take place outside the officially sanctioned realm, by-passing the leading role of the Party and state controlled instruments, such as elections and parliament. Kuroń’s Notes on self-government stressed that this prospect was not utopian, but rooted in the politics of Poland over the post-Stalin period. Thus private farmers had reasserted their independence during the spontaneous de-collectivisation of autumn 1956. This had become a permanent achievement. Though workers’protests had been at a heavy cost, some demands had been met. Writers and scholars had made efforts to restrict censorship and keep alive ideas of intellectual independence, dignity and truth. Finally, the Polish Catholic Church was a mass social movement which remained uncompromised, unlike a number of its counterparts in the Soviet bloc. Since 1956, the interdependence of all four social groups had constituted an essential feature of Polish social reality: none would have been successful on his own. According to Michnik’s New Evolutionism the opposition should address its programme to the public at large, above all, to the working class. It was already clear that working-class consciousness had grown. Political activists previously far from the Church began to discover in it a source of democratic and human values. Especially young marxists embraced the christian categories of love and sacrifice. Cardinal Wojtyła (in Kraków) defended students from repression and allowed Church’s premises to be used for this purpose, from 1976 his pastoral letters had begun to emphasise the right to truth and defence of human freedom and dignity. The Church had come out in defence of workers’ rights, including right of strike and to form independent trade unions. Churches had become from that moment the forums for all those seeking to defend the International Convention of Human Rights and to extend civil liberties.

The most sensitive topic in Polish politics in June 1976 was still the price of meat. But the reality was that in the mid-seventies, the population was still paying sixties’ prices for many basic goods. Party leaders decided to put up basic meat prices by 50%, with better cuts and quality sausages up by as much as 90%. Party economists calculated that much of the population could afford to pay. For how shocking the increases could be perceived by the consummers the truth was that if the 1970 increases followed a decade of stagnation in real wages, since 1971 average earnings had risen by up to 10% per annum, and some groups like miners, shipbuilders, functionaries, policemen and soldiers had done better still. For the first time, in the first seventies many citizens had begun to believe in the possibility of profiting from the existing system. But in the rest of the world artificial increasing of wages was coupled to inflation. Also cash supplements to wages and pensions were assured, together with increased family and child allowances and student grants. At the start of June 1976 student leaders from 1968, members of strike committees during the protests of 1970-1971 and many others who had come into conflict with industrial management or Party organisations were called up for military service. Some 7,000 people19. The external debt of Poland had risen to 20.5 billion dollars, the state budget devolved to keep stable the prices. From 1976 prices began to change also several times a day, from one city to another but also in the same city or even in the same shops20.

Then the Party leaders, preparing “pricing operation” made other efforts to cultivate prominent journalists and figures in culture and arts, as speakers against “those enemies threatening the social well-being”. The Ministry of Internal Affairs dispatched numerous warning circulars to local police headquarters. Provincial secretaries were summoned to Warsaw, by Gierek and premier Piotr Jaroszewicz. The secretaries reported a generally good atmosphere apart for dissatisfaction of teachers and health sector workers about their lowest salaries21.

The Sejm voted the new prices on 26 June, Saturday night. On the eve of the announcement the most moderate secretary, Stanisław Kania, was sent to talk to the episcopal secretary, archbishop Dąmbrowski, just reminding his interlocutor the thirty new churches recently built, permitted by Polish authorities22.

After the public announcement major enterprises in Warsaw stopped work and those at Ursus tractor factory blocked the international railway line, imprisoning the express to Paris for several hours. Protests took place along the baltic coast, in Silesia, in Radom, in Płock, in Łódź. The armaments factory workers in Radom articulated their practical concerns and demands: changes in the scale of compensation, higher allowances for children and non-working mothers, no increase in the price of sugar and butter, why did shops lack many basic goods?, cancel the export of those basic goods, decrease the apartment rents, the matter of the special shops reserved to nomenklatura members23.

Around 40,000 demonstrators marched to the official buildings the same day in the major cities. More than 2,000 were injured. Workers were not consulted, their trade unions were strictly controlled by the state. Price increases had been fixed behind the closed doors of the Council of Ministers24.

On 26 August, cardinal Wyszyński called for clemency and condemned the state system of torture, followed by the Episcopal Conference, on 10 September, inviting to the state to a genuine dialogue with the society and to take workers’ voice into account. A second protest came from fourteen Warsaw intellectuals who declared their solidarity with Polish workers, calling for genuine representation for workers. Kuroń, one of the signatories, added that, as in 1956 and in 1970, Polish workers had paid in blood for the mistakes of those in power: the consultation on price increases had been a fiction, workers had reacted spontaneously against it, yet they had no legal means by which to make their views known or to defend their interests. “Despite ruling for thirty years, those in power had learned nothing and understood nothing”. Kuroń foretold a further tragedy with international implications. His prediction took the form of an open letter to the foremost eurocommunist Enrico Berlinguer, who published and responded positively to the letter, on L’Unità, on 20 July. His reply took the form of a letter from the ICP to its Polish counterpart. It has not been published in Poland, but shortly afterwards Gierek instructed the courts to lighten their sentencing of the accused workers. They were eventually amnistied25.

A further appeal was addressed to western intellectuals through Le Nouvel Observateur. It followed the Warsaw trials of Ursus workers for “hooliganism”. It pointed out that elementary norms of jurisprudence were absent: the defending counsels were all state appointees. Only immediate familiars were admitted to the courtroom, leaving many foreign journalists (and a large number of students and intellectuals) locked outside. Three to five years sentences were handed down. Closed trials had also been held in Radom, with sentences up to ten years. The letter stated that the responsability layed solely with the authorities, whose behaviour had led to the emasculation of workers’ council established in 1956, transformed trade unions in inert and fictious orgnisms, obedient to the Party apparatus of power. Eight French writers were addressed by name26.

On 23 September a committee for the defence of workers was formed and called KOR (litterally from Polish: Committee of Defense of Workers). The aim was to offer medical, financial and legal help to those being persecuted for their part in the June protests and to their families. Also cultural emancipation was one of the aiming principles. Its foundation was announced by the internationally famous writer Jerzy Andrzejewki (author of the novel Ashes and diamonds) to the speaker of the Sejm as a “public appeal to society and to authorities of Polish People’s Republic”, underlining that for the first time in many years arrests and interrogations had been accompanied by physical terror, social welfare agencies and trade unions refused to help, consequently society should organise its own means for self-defense against lawlessness of the state, with solidarity and mutual aid. Public statements attached the names of signatories and their professions, addresses and home telephone numbers, risking police repression but giving much more credibility to the authors. In calling for civic courage from others, those intellectuals showed the way themselves, they showed that communist claims to subservience and obedience could be resisted.

KOR insisted that its activity was legal. In seeking legal ground for such activity, reliance was placed on the Helsinki Final Act, the Polish Constitution and various other laws and conventions. Attempts by the state to argue for its illegality were countered by the comment that the group had never applied for official registration. A body became illegal only if it continued to act after being denied registration. Those which did not apply could exist in a form of legal limbo. In KOR’s case, even the notion of group was understood informally. There was a membership, but no other trappings of an organisation: no membership fees, officials, rules, elected posts, meetings, bureaucracy. Almost all members lived in Warsaw, like Michnik and Kuroń, reducing travel costs to a minimum and the need for funding to the costs of printing and paper. A tiny group of intellectuals began to exert an influence out of all proportions to its size. When most of the June protestors were re-employed, at lower positions, they brought on anyway the demand of identification and punishment of those responsible for torture and other violations, the demand of impartial investigations. Month after month an increasing number of people, unjustly persecuted for political reasons, not connected with the June events, approached the KOR, denouncing many other illegal actions committed by police and secret police. Rather then being redundant the Committee broadened its scope to the protection of the whole society, establishing a social self-defense, showing the major weapon against the use of coercion by those in power was, and always will be, the active solidarity of the citizens. Then KOR had members with outstanding records of resistance: including thirteen members who took part in the underground resistance to nazi occupation, several victims of stalinist and post-stalinist show trials, as the eminent economist Edward Lipiński, an estimated socialist, expelled from the Party together with the others, in April 1977. As observed by Jan Kubik KOR was the syntom of a new cultural-political class in Weberian sense, united to the working class by a common civic sense and by similar social and economic conditions, who rejected both the catechistic Marxism of their authorities and the western theories.

After the murder of Stanisław Pyjas, on 7 May 1977, a Krakowian student, KOR supporter, students formed a Students’ Solidarity Committee, similar to KOR. In the same year the workers of shipyards in Gdańsk founded their news-sheet Robotnik, on the students’ samyzdat example, reporting and diffusing alongside the protests of that year of miners in Romania and of unemployees in USSR27. Among the editors already appeared Wałęsa and Gwiazda and Ania Walentynowicz.

In summer 1978, following protests for a new pension scheme for peasants, some 400,000 peasants withheld contributions and milk and meat deliveries to authorities, Peasants’ Universities spread a revival of the memory of peasants’ resistance against nazis, Pesants’ Party abolished by stalinists, Bukharin and gave life also to a Committee of Pesants’ Self-defence28.

In 1979 the Robotnik published a Charter of Workers’ Rights, basis for the foundation of Solidarność and 1980 claims:

-Citizens are deprived of the right to participate in decisions that concern them

-Basic rights of working people are restricted, such as the rights to safe work

-A sense of inequality and social injustice

-A lack of institutions to defend working people – official trade unions are certainly not doing so

-Workers are deprived of a basic right to self-defense, that is the right to strike

-Society is bearing the costs of all mistakes by the authorities.

Above these points a week of forty hours was requerred, together with medical facilities, the abolition of night work for women, abolition of promotions, housing privileges, holiday and special pension rights, allocation of scarce goods based on Party membership, personal pressures to act against own conscience, the amendement of Article 52 in the 1975 Labour Code, forbiding the right of strike29.

A letter of fourteen former Party leaders headed by Ochab criticised Gierek’s passivity, calling for a daring programme of economic and social reform, for an assertion of “healthy forces” within the Party against “Party bureaucratic machine” which deprived the mass membership of any scope for initiative or action, calling for free discussions of open character and for presenting opinions anonymously, reminding the cooperation between workers’ councils in October 1956, which should still have a larger say in management30. The Gierek team ignored the letter.

In March 1977 a new group was founded in defence of human rights in Poland: ROPCiO and a publishing house to publish the censored literature: NOWA. Also leakages from official bodies as welfare statistics and economic prognoses from the Planning Commission took place and offered material to opposition31.

Overseas the USA elections brought to the White House, in 1976, a president who sought a moral dimension to foreign policy. Jimmy Carter, with the Polish Zbygniew Brezinski as his right hand, in vest of national security adviser.

Brzezinski took the view that the USA should encourage polycentrism and pluralism in Eastern Europe. Presidential directive 21 (13 September 1977) set out a policy giving preference to countries which where relatively more liberal internally and/or more independent of the Soviet Union. Carter’s first major trip included Poland. Brzezinski thought it would encourage the process of liberalization that was gathering momentum there32.

ROPCiO engaged in various activities in Carter’s December 1977 visit, but was denied access to his press conference. Instead, they supplied written questions, to which Carter replied before leaving Warsaw, saying that detente must involve not only governments but also non-official individuals and groups. Refusing fundamentally to intervene openly in internal Polish affairs33.

At the end of 1977 Gierek payed also a visit to Vatican, then relations were transformed by the election of October 1978 which brought a Pole to the Papacy. When in June 1979 John Paul II visited Poland, the authorities forbade vacations on those days, imposed a special tax on foreign correspondents. Despite this obstacles the papal visit became a massive festival in which the nation experienced itself as a community. As many as 12 million Poles saw the pope in person and heard his cycle of thirty-two sermons. The essential messages were the dignity of labour, the opening of borders, the reconciliation, the independence of Poland as part of Europe. A crucial moment was the visit to Auschwitz. John Paul II was “the outstanding western leader” for Brzezinski, who eventually tried to influence some cardinals at the election eve34.

Western historians have interpreted Solidarność in two main ways. Minimalists view it simply as the culmination of workers’ protests, begun in 1970, against the Party repressive and incompetent management of the economy. As Tony Judt says: “they were not in themselves a harbinger of the downfall of communist power”35. Maximalists such as Martin Malia or Viktor Sebestyen, saw in it the start of the Soviet bloc’s collapse, the beginning of dismantling of Communism.

Everything began when Walentynowicz was summarily dismissed, from Gdańsk Lenin Shipyard, on 9 August 1980, just five months before her retirement, a vindicative form of dismissal which meant automatic loss of pension rights, to punish her freedom as the prominent woman among dissenters. The Robotnik published a statement asserting that Walentynowicz had worked there since 1950, as an exemplary employee, with medals to prove it. The management had changed their attitude as soon as she involved herself in unofficial union activity. By defending colleagues who had been unjustly persecuted, she brought sanctions upon herself. The appeal stated that this had implication for everyone: “the best way to defend our own interests is to defend one another”. So it was a general call for strike of solidarity to Walentynowicz. The managers of the shipyard had offered the context. A strike committee was created with a special appeal to older and trusted workers to come forward. A list of demands was formulated, including reinstatement and wage increase, but also social and political issues, such as dissolving the discredited factory council and creating free trade unions (an alive request from 1956), a monument to the victims of the December 1970 massacre on the coast and release of political prisoners36.

Militia reinforcements were sent to Gdańsk, Robotnik published an article about how to organize a strike, directed to the other Polish workers as an invitation to join them. The new premier Babiuch faced alreay a situation of escalating emergency and sent a plane to the Crimea, to pick Gierek, ending his holidays, and to bring first secretary back to Warsaw. The TASS (Soviet news agency) announced manoeuvres of the Warsaw Pact in East Germany and Baltic Sea. General Stachura contended that military action would quickly exterminate the counter-revolutionaries in Gdańsk, but Kania, now chief of the Security (with that influence on the army which brought him at the head of the PUWP in the few months), proposed negotiations as the best option at that moment. 50,000 people were already on strike37.

In that context began also the match inside the Party between two views to handle the crisis and by the way between two top officials: the older Gierek, apparently endorsed by Moscow, and the younger Kania, later eventually endorsed by Budapest (as to say by Kadar’s new course).

In few hours Kania, having the support of the political office of the army, ended the coordinating team for central authority activity against the strike and officially took charge of the crisis together with the chief of political administration of the army, general Baryła, by-passing Gierek. In the meanwhile Gdańsk authorities were trying to narrow negotiations down to the wage question and local Party secretary Fiszbach was apparently successful in peacefully obtaining from workers their evacuation of the shipyard and their return back home, signing guarantee that they would not have troubles nor persecution as happened on 15 December 1970, when instead workers agreed to leave the occupation of the shipyard and local secretary of that time, infamous Kociołek, in facts put them in a trap, waiting them out with tanks and guns. But in the same time workers from other factories and other minor shipyards reached Wałęsa and convinced him to countermand the evacuation order and Ania Walentynowicz and Alina Pieńkowska at Gate 3 explained to workers the need for a strike in solidarity with other and smaller enterprises, inviting them not to leave38.

Bishop of Gdańsk Kaczmarek persuaded local authorities to allow an open-air mass at the shipyard and after mass blessed a cross in honour of the deads of December 1970. Kaczmarek acted as the main conduit between strikers and Vatican. While premier Babiuch, his vice Barcikowski and Łukaszewicz, went to Szczecin to meet the 25,000 workers who had stopped to work at the Warski Shipyard, Kania and the head of the state, popular Professor Jabłonski, attended a widened session of Party Committee in Gdańsk. Fiszbach, then noted to be representative of the most “liberal” wing of the Party, emphasised the genuinely working-class character of the demonstration and stressed the urgent need to find a political solution. Kania agreed that the strike proved the necessity for agreement between authorities and the nation, the Party and its class, strong of the support of the prominent member of the army, admiral Janczyszyn who stated that the armed forces where not disposed anymore to do anything to break their connections with society39. The conclusion was that for the first time all the ones actually in power agreed on the fact that political methods were the only possible means.

Gierek spoke on national television as he was back in Warsaw, with a conciliatory tone, promising revisions of annual and quinquennial economic plans, food import, reform of wages and prices and to discuss trade unions issue on November Party Congress (when Kania was elected new first secretary).

The strikers where maintaining good order and providing for welfare needs. On 20 August already 200 enterprises adhered to the inter-factory strike committee, on 21 already 350, on 24 400. In the same days many KOR members were arrested, beaten or raided their apartments40.

Tadeusz Pyka, a deputy-premier, was appointed chairman of a commission to investigate grievances of workers on the coast. Pyka was sent to Gdańsk mainly to try to divide the strikers. But surprised by the coherence of the committee he discussed the twenty-one demands in detail with them, he dared also to make further promises on meat imports, free Saturdays and relaxation of censorship. He and the leading strikers together edited a document of twelve point to be submitted to the ministers, who replied rejecting the document. The strikers’ committees decided not to compromise and to go on. Pyka was called back and removed. He was replaced by Jagielski.

Kania suggested that the Vatican should be asked to make a calming statement. Jaruzelski reported that events were “disquieting our Russian friends” and proposed the use of military force41.

Wałęsa officially asked authorities to stop arresting KOR activists and other social-political organisations, those arrests did not move the strikers to negotiate their positions, showing the strikers’ strong solidarity to those associations, formed by those intellectuals who showed their solidarity to workers since 1970. The alliance between the major components of the future free trade union, was definitevely stipulated.

On 24 August Jagielski met the delgations of strikers receiving their official demands, mainly consisting in free trade unions, right to strike, freedom of expression, realease of political prisoners, economic reform (self-management). Also Mazowiecki and Geremek arrived in the Gdańsk shipyard to give their help to workers in order to write and express in the best way their demands and statements. On 26 August Jagielski and Barcikowski were made heads of a commission for realising demands made on the coast. Soviet concerns grew when Warsaw welcomed proposals to improve existing trade unions, which should be modernised, made more democratic, opened to electing some of those leading the strike, with democratic, secret and unlimited free elections in trade unions, with no delay. In the meanwhile Babiuch was replaced in premiership by Pińkowski. Jagielski’s commission opened also to “work stoppages as form of pressing workers’ claims when all other remedies, more expedient and appropriate from the social point of view, have been exhausted”42.

On 26 August Kania pointed out that the agreement on the coast would not be the end of the matter, but the beginning, because Moscow’s anxiety seemed increasing, Pravda censored the agreement. Gierek commented with disappointment that it was a political act with incalculable conseuqences for the whole socialist bloc: “Today they are demanding unions, tomorrow they will be storming the Party, government and Sejm”43. On 25 August Brzezinski urged Carter to underline American interest in Polish development through a presidential letter to Western European leaders, so that a common western policy could emerge, expressing concern about possible Soviet intervention. Carter wrote to French, German and British leaders, to Italian government and to the Vatican44.

The agreement was greeted by general workers’ euphoria and began the publication of a bulletin, called Solidarność45.

 A. Kemp-Welch, Poland under Communism. A cold war history, Cambridge University Press, New York, 2008 (p.76).

1 A. Kemp-Welch, Poland under Communism. A cold war history, Cambridge University Press, New York, 2008 (p.77).

2 A. Kemp-Welch, Poland under Communism. A cold war history, Cambridge University Press, New York, 2008 (pp.78-81).

3 A. Kemp-Welch, Poland under Communism. A cold war history, Cambridge University Press, New York, 2008 (pp. 83-84).

4 A. Kemp-Welch, Poland under Communism. A cold war history, Cambridge University Press, New York, 2008 (p.86).

5 A. Kemp-Welch, Poland under Communism. A cold war history, Cambridge University Press, New York, 2008 (p.88).

6 A. Kemp-Welch, Poland under Communism. A cold war history, Cambridge University Press, New York, 2008 (p.98).

7 A. Kemp-Welch, Poland under Communism. A cold war history, Cambridge University Press, New York, 2008 (p.100).

8 A. Kemp-Welch, Poland under Communism. A cold war history, Cambridge University Press, New York, 2008 (pp.100-101).

9 A. Kemp-Welch, Poland under Communism. A cold war history, Cambridge University Press, New York, 2008 (p.113).

10 A. Kemp-Welch, Poland under Communism. A cold war history, Cambridge University Press, New York, 2008 (p.114).

11 O. Halecki, The limits and divisions of European history, London, 1950 (pp.125-141).

12 A. Kemp-Welch, Poland under Communism. A cold war history, Cambridge University Press, New York, 2008 (p.179).

13 The Polish elections of August 1989 (after the round table with the partecipation of an ICP delegation) showed with no doubts the refusal of Polish people to consider communist leadership even to drive the period of passage. The fact that the opposition won all the seats beyond the number of seats kept by the PUWP was exceptionally meaningful.

14 A. Kemp-Welch, Poland under Communism. A cold war history, Cambridge University Press, New York, 2008 (p.182).

15 A. Kemp-Welch, Poland under Communism. A cold war history, Cambridge University Press, New York, 2008 (p.183).

16 A. Kemp-Welch, Poland under Communism. A cold war history, Cambridge University Press, New York, 2008 (p.194-195).

17 In Italy three military coups were subsequently organized in 1964, 1970 and 1974, even if at the end they never took place in facts.

18 A. Kemp-Welch, Poland under Communism. A cold war history, Cambridge University Press, New York, 2008 (p.203).

19 A. Kemp-Welch, Poland under Communism. A cold war history, Cambridge University Press, New York, 2008 (pp.206-207).

20 A. Kemp-Welch, Poland under Communism. A cold war history, Cambridge University Press, New York, 2008 (pp.230-231).

21 A. Kemp-Welch, Poland under Communism. A cold war history, Cambridge University Press, New York, 2008 (pp.206-207).

22 A. Kemp-Welch, Poland under Communism. A cold war history, Cambridge University Press, New York, 2008 (p.208).

23 A. Kemp-Welch, Poland under Communism. A cold war history, Cambridge University Press, New York, 2008 (p.209).

24 A. Kemp-Welch, Poland under Communism. A cold war history, Cambridge University Press, New York, 2008 (pp.210-211).

25 A. Kemp-Welch, Poland under Communism. A cold war history, Cambridge University Press, New York, 2008 (p.211).

26 A. Kemp-Welch, Poland under Communism. A cold war history, Cambridge University Press, New York, 2008 (p.212).

27 A. Kemp-Welch, Poland under Communism. A cold war history, Cambridge University Press, New York, 2008 (p.219).

28 A. Kemp-Welch, Poland under Communism. A cold war history, Cambridge University Press, New York, 2008 (p.217).

29 A. Kemp-Welch, Poland under Communism. A cold war history, Cambridge University Press, New York, 2008 (pp.220-221).

30 A. Kemp-Welch, Poland under Communism. A cold war history, Cambridge University Press, New York, 2008 (p.224).

31 A. Kemp-Welch, Poland under Communism. A cold war history, Cambridge University Press, New York, 2008 (p.227).

32 Z. Brzezinski, Power and principle. Memoirs of the National Security Adviser 1977-1981, London, 1983 (pp.296-300).

33 A. Kemp-Welch, Poland under Communism. A cold war history, Cambridge University Press, New York, 2008 (p.228).

34 A. Kemp-Welch, Poland under Communism. A cold war history, Cambridge University Press, New York, 2008 (p.228).

35 T. Judt, Postwar: a history of Europe since 1945, London, 2005 (p.589).

36 A. Kemp-Welch, Poland under Communism. A cold war history, Cambridge University Press, New York, 2008 (p.238).

37 A. Kemp-Welch, Poland under Communism. A cold war history, Cambridge University Press, New York, 2008 (pp.240-241).

38 A. Kemp-Welch, Poland under Communism. A cold war history, Cambridge University Press, New York, 2008 (p.242).

39 A. Kemp-Welch, Poland under Communism. A cold war history, Cambridge University Press, New York, 2008 (p.243).

40 A. Kemp-Welch, Poland under Communism. A cold war history, Cambridge University Press, New York, 2008 (pp.244-247).

41 A. Kemp-Welch, Poland under Communism. A cold war history, Cambridge University Press, New York, 2008 (p.246).

42 A. Kemp-Welch, Poland under Communism. A cold war history, Cambridge University Press, New York, 2008 (pp.259-260).

43 A. Kemp-Welch, Poland under Communism. A cold war history, Cambridge University Press, New York, 2008 (p.261).

44 A. Kemp-Welch, Poland under Communism. A cold war history, Cambridge University Press, New York, 2008 (p.266).

45 A. Kemp-Welch, Poland under Communism. A cold war history, Cambridge University Press, New York, 2008 (p.268).