IN Soviet eyes, Poland is the most important of the satellites. Even after her enormous losses in the war years, she has by far the largest population of any member of the group. She is the largest in area; she is the greatest producer of food and coal; and she has in the Dabrowan-Silesian basin an industrial area potentially capable of playing the part of an Eastern European Ruhr.

Of even greater importance, however, Poland is the bridge to Germany. Having served alternately as the channel through which Lenin hoped to reach the German working class in order to touch off the world revolution, and the obstacle which prevented the realization of that aim, today Poland offers an open road over which men, materials and ideas roll westward into Germany from the Soviet Union.

Thus what Lenin attempted, Stalin has been able to achieve: Poland today is on the way to sovietization. She has been won for Communism methodically and relatively quietly. There have been no "February days," there has been as yet no Mindszenty trial, and incipient Polish "Titoism" has been effectively knocked on the head.[i]

The end of effective and open political opposition to the process of sovietization was signalized by the defeat of Stanislaw Mikolajczyk's Polish Peasant Party in the rigged elections of January 19, 1947. Mikolajczyk had not been alone, of course, in his attempt to ward off absolute Communist control. A majority of the prewar membership of the Polish Socialist Party stood with him on this issue, and so did many of its post-1944 leaders. The relative ease of the success of the Communists in Poland was the result of their ability to keep Mikolajczyk and the Socialists from forming a common front against them. The destruction of the Socialist Party followed soon after Mikolajczyk's disappearance from the scene. This ended all hope that Poland might manage her own affairs in a fashion divergent in even the slightest measure from that ordained by her "big brother" to the east.

At the time the Polish Committee of National Liberation was constituted in July 1944, it contained a small group of Polish Communists and a large group of ephemeral opportunists and confused exponents of the belief that "we can do business with Stalin and still maintain our domestic freedom of action." The Communists, who formed its continuing core, were faced with three principal tasks: 1, to gain immediately the support of the mass of the peasantry, or at least to render the peasants passive; 2, then to destroy the representative institutions of the peasantry, the most important of which was the party of Wincenty Witos and Mikolajczyk; and 3, thereafter to destroy or transform into Communist instruments the institutions of the next largest segment of the population, the working class, the most important of which were the Socialist Party, the trade unions and the coöperative movement. In accomplishing these ends, they isolated each victim in turn and then prevented the formation of a Populist-Socialist anti-Communist front.

The story of the Polish Peasant Party's fight against the attempt to sovietize Poland has been told in part by Mikolajczyk and the former American Ambassador to Poland, Arthur Bliss Lane.[ii] The story of the confused and foredoomed struggle of Polish Socialism has received much less attention, despite the fact that it possibly is even more significant. At all events, it carries a moral which although it has become almost banal through reiteration still apparently has not sunk into the consciousness of Socialist leaders of Western Europe.


The Polish Communists used four main tactics in their campaign against the Socialists.

In the period when they were destroying the Peasant Party, led by Mikolajczyk, the Communists sedulously fostered the belief among Socialist Party leaders that the only alternatives before them were acceptance of a dictatorial working-class party régime, complete with secret police and political prisons, or the "return of reaction." The Socialist leaders, who had experienced a long period of repression under Pilsudski and the subsequent "régimes of the colonels" (1926-1939), were thoroughly frightened by this prospect. And when they saw National Democrats and other elements even farther to the right entering the Peasant Party they were the more willing to believe that the Party as a whole and its leaders were, either wittingly or unwittingly, bearing the seeds of a reviving Polish counter-revolution. The Communists also were quick to point out that should a "reactionary" government be elected, the Soviet Union might well occupy the country. The only way for Poland to be free to work out her own destiny, they argued, was by preventing, through any and all means, a Mikolajczyk victory.

This was the first Communist tactic. It provided the basis for combining the strength of the Socialists with that of the Polish Workers' Party (Communist) against Mikolajczyk and his associates.

An even more important instrument used by the Polish Communists was the Kremlin. When differences between them and the Socialists arose, representatives of the two parties journeyed to Moscow to submit them to arbitration. Naturally the influence of the Soviet leaders was always exerted to further the aims of the Communist-dominated Workers' Party and to reconcile the Socialists to those very policies which were designed eventually to destroy them.

The third tactic of the Communists was to capture or neutralize the important mass organizations which had traditionally linked the Socialist Party and the working class -- the cooperatives and the trade unions. The Communists manipulated the leadership of these organs so that all democracy in them was stifled. The effectiveness of the coöperatives was undermined by transference of their functions to state organizations; when they had been sufficiently weakened and infiltrated on the local levels, the Workers' Party moved in on the national level, captured the leadership and turned the coöperative system into a mere organ of the state. The trade unions were subverted by variations of the same technique.

The final Communist instrument was the political police. At the height of Socialist resistance to the Workers' Party, in the summer of 1947, there began a series of trials of "rightist" Socialists. The charges, usually of espionage and anti-state activities, were made in such a way as to serve warning on the post-1944 leaders of the Socialist Party that their failure to continue coöperating with the Communists would be tantamount to treason. The warning had the desired effect. The police also were used to destroy the democratic bases of the trade-union movement by breaking strikes and proceeding against local leaders who clung to prewar conceptions.


The original link between the Socialist Party and the Workers' Party was forged during the period of "liberation," when the Red Army invaded Poland and the German occupation came to an end. In the chaos and obscurity of those days, when any sort of normal political activity was restricted, the Communists applied to political parties the technique which they had used to secure control of nations such as Finland and Greece. In those cases they had set up a "shadow government" on the fringe of a state. Now in a similar way they arranged for the Socialist Party to be taken over by a Communist-sponsored splinter-group, the Workers' Party of Polish Socialists, which had been formed in 1942 in Krakow under the leadership of Edward Osobka-Morawski and Stanislaw Szwalbe. This group of left Socialists opposed what they looked upon as the futile policy of the majority of the "London Socialists" who, through the Socialist underground organization "Freedom-Equality-Independence" (known from its Polish initials as "WRN"), were already going over from combatting the German occupation forces to fighting the small Polish Communist underground groups.

When the Red Army entered Poland, these left-wing Socialists hastened to join the Communists in forming the Polish Committee of National Liberation, already mentioned above. Soviet intentions towards the old Socialist Party and the WRN were quickly made obvious when several of the "London Socialists," among them Kazimierz Puzak and Aleksy Bien, were included among the 16 arrested underground leaders who stood trial in Moscow on June 18-21, 1945. The left-wing Socialists, meanwhile, proclaimed themselves the Socialist Party; and, as the Red Army moved through Poland, they took over the prewar properties of the Party and summoned all Party members to register with their agencies.

During this period, Zygmunt Zulawski, who had been the Socialist trade-union leader before 1939, endeavored, together with Bien (who had returned from the Soviet Union), Dorota Kluszynska, Antoni Zdanowski, Stanislaw Garlicki, Stefan Zbrozyna and others, to form a Social-Democratic Party. The provisional government refused to permit the formation of new parties, and Zdanowski, Garlicki and Zbrozyna were arrested. Shortly thereafter, Zulawski, Kluszynska and some other members of the group joined the "concessioned" Socialist Party.

The entry of most of the prewar Socialist leaders into the "new" Socialist Party induced two mutually supporting developments. On the one hand, the Party lost its puppet character. The rank-and-file were not satisfied to play second fiddle to the Communists of the Workers' Party. They disdained the latter as johnny-come-latelies and opportunists and feared them as perverters of the ideals of true Socialism. They demanded that the Socialist Party be at least an equal partner in any combination with the Workers' Party. On the other hand, the Socialist leadership itself, emboldened by the discovery that it now had a living political organism behind it, began to act more and more independently of the Communists.

The new spirit found expression in two ways. In the first place, the Polish Socialists began to resume their contacts with the international Socialist movement. The Party sent representatives to the International Socialist Conference at Clacton-on-Sea in May 1946, and joined the Committee for the International Socialist Conference (COMISCO). This development had, of course, partial Communist approval, since the Communists hoped that the Polish Socialists might help to persuade left-wing Socialists in other countries of the desirability and necessity of forming Communist-Socialist united fronts throughout Europe. Primarily, however, it represented an effort by the Polish Socialist Party to strengthen its domestic position by reëstablishing itself as a significant factor in European politics.

At home, simultaneously, the Party set to work to reconstruct its influence in the trade unions and coöperatives and to strengthen the rôles of these organizations in the national economy. Success in this field was reflected in the fact that candidates of the Party beat those of the Workers' Party so decisively in elections to the Works Councils that the Communists finally ceased competing openly with the Socialists and demanded the establishment of joint election lists. At the first postwar Trade Union Congress in November 1945, the Socialist Party controlled about 60 percent of the delegates and a Socialist, Kazimierz Rusinek, became Secretary-General of the new Central Committee of Trade Unions.


The feeling of growing strength among the Socialist leadership led them, in the middle of 1946, to the first severe friction with the Workers' Party. They saw that the Workers' Party intended to relegate the Socialist Party to the status of junior partner, and this was particularly galling because quite clearly a very large majority of the working class supported the Socialist viewpoint on most political questions and not that of the Communists.

The Socialists accordingly brought up the fact that they had smaller representation than the Communists in the Provisional Government of National Unity, established by the "Moscow Agreement" of June 1945. Although each Party had six ministers in that Government in its latter days, the Communists held the decisive posts: Public Security, Recovered Territories, Industry, Food Supply and Trade. In addition, they controlled the Ministry of National Defense through the "non-party" Minister, General Zymierski, and Communist vice-ministers. The Socialists held less significant positions, such as Treasury, Justice and Labor.

The action of the Communists in their spheres of power, moreover, was very arbitrary. Their use of police methods in implementing ministerial policy, and the clear indication they gave that political considerations constituted their rationale for action in distributing UNRRA supplies, hiring and firing executives in nationalized industry and repopulating the "Recovered Territories" made the Socialists realize that they ran the risk of being seriously weakened in the elections, which had finally been scheduled to take place early in 1947.

The Socialists decided, therefore, on a counterattack. Osobka-Morawski, then Premier and Chairman of the Central Executive Committee of the Socialist Party, wrote in the Party's central organ, Robotnik (The Worker), on August 6, 1946: "It seems to me that the greatest difficulties [in the maintenance of a united front] arise from the fact that one partner operates too much under the slogan of 'the leading party'. . . . A united front may not be based on the principle that the one rules, while the other subordinates himself, that the one lays down the conditions while the other submissively nods his head. . . ." The Workers' Party organ, Glos Ludu (The Voice of the People), countered two days later by inferring that the "difficulties" to which Osobka referred were, in part at least, due to "elements inimical to democracy" within the Socialist Party.

The climax of this friction was the resignation of Henryk Wachowicz, the leader of the Socialist Party in Lodz, from the post of Vice-Minister of Public Security. The Workers' Party demanded that he resign because he had released from prison certain minor officials of the Peasant Party who had been arrested at the time of the referendum on June 30. Wachowicz believed that the Communists were abusing the police power for their own political ends; and his resignation was forced because he gave evidence of that belief.

Leaders of the Socialist right-wing thereupon entered into negotiations with the Peasant Party, offering it 25 percent of the seats in the proto-parliamentary National Council of the Homeland (Krajowa Rada Narodowa -- or "KRN"), if it would enter the government bloc. The Peasant Party leaders, believing they could win a much larger number of mandates than this in the coming "free" election, refused the offer. But the two Parties maintained contact.

It was at this juncture (August 29, 1946) that Socialist and Communist leaders made the first of their significant joint trips to Moscow. In an attempt to reconcile the differences of the two Parties, a conference was arranged there between Soviet leaders and Osobka-Morawski, Jozef Cyrankiewicz and Stanislaw Szwalbe for the Socialists and Wladyslaw Gomulka, Jakob Berman and Roman Zambrowski for the Communists. The main disputes seem to have been over the methods of cooperation to be pursued during the electoral campaign and over the representation which each party would have in the government to be formed in January. Apparently the results were inconclusive.

Convinced that the efforts of the Socialist Party to maintain an independent line were proving futile, Zulawski left the Party in November 1946 and concluded an agreement with the Peasant Party under which he was to run as an independent Socialist on its electoral ticket. Local Socialist leaders who were known to favor ending the "united front" were meanwhile being harassed by the secret police and arrested on one charge and another. Among them was Boleslaw Galaj, Chairman of the Warsaw Committee of the Party.

The approach of the elections and the danger that the Socialist half of the bloc might be seriously fragmented necessitated a second visit to Moscow in November by the six Socialist and Communist veterans of the August journey. This meeting proved more fruitful than the first, as shown by the signature of a United-Front Agreement (published November 29) providing methods for combatting the "elements" of the Peasant Party and the WRN within the Socialist Party and for close coöperation in the coming electoral struggle. The Agreement declared that the Socialist Party and the Workers' Party were "separate, independent and equal political organisms," which would "mutually respect the organizational structure of each."[iii] Simultaneously, it was announced that the Secretary-General of the Socialist Party, Cyrankiewicz, was appointed Minister without Portfolio, and Dr. Stanislaw Leszczycki, a minor Party leader, was appointed Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs. These obviously were Communist concessions to the Socialist complaint about inferior representation in the Government.

During the electoral campaign, the Communists intensified their tactic of playing upon the Socialist fear of a "return to reaction." In a speech delivered at Lodz,[iv] the Secretary-General of the Workers' Party Central Committee, Gomulka, painted a vivid picture of the probable result if Mikolajczyk met with success. He concluded by hinting plainly that the Soviet Union would not tolerate any government in which the Workers' Party was not a leading element and that the consequences of the election of such a government would be the occupation of Poland by the Red Army.

The results of the Moscow conversations about the new Government became apparent when its composition was announced following the "free" elections of January 19, 1947. The Socialist Party gained in number of cabinet posts, retaining the premiership (which Osobka-Morawski yielded to Cyrankiewicz) and obtaining six ministries. The Workers' Party received only five cabinet posts, but among them was included that of Education in addition to the other key positions it had occupied in the Provisional Government of National Unity. Moreover, it succeeded in placing strong vice-ministers in most of the other ministries; some of these, in effect, preëmpted the authority of weak ministers appointed from smaller parties. In all, it had 17 vice-ministries in the new Government to 12 for the Socialists.


By removing Mikolajczyk from participation in the Government the elections of January 1947 returned the situation to something like that which had prevailed under the "Lublin coalition" before June 1945. The difference was that the Socialists, who in the Lublin days had had no popular support behind them, now led a mass working-class party with such influence in the trade-union and coöperative movements that they were even stronger, in terms of representation of that class, than the Communists.

The new Constituent Sejm (diet) passed an act on February 19 amending certain articles of the 1921 Constitution, as the new Government had been pledged to do. Thus amended, the old Constitution was to serve as the organic law of the state until the Sejm should elaborate a new one. The act represented a defeat for the Socialist Party, which had expressed its desire, in editorial comment following the election, for a "strong government and a strong Sejm." It favored separation of legislative and executive functions and a diet which would play a meaningful rôle. The Workers' Party, taking its cue from a statement of President Boleslaw Bierut shortly after the election, had espoused the necessity of "a new superior organ which would act under the direction of the President of the Republic" and would, in effect, be a continuation of the Presidium of the KRN, which had legislated largely by decree. The "new superior organ" instituted by the amended Constitution was the Council of State, a body corresponding to the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the U.S.S.R. The Sejm was reduced to little more than a rubber-stamp, with the function of approving decrees issued by the Council or passing into law bills submitted to it by that body.

The Socialists supported the "Little Constitution," as it was called, despite their desire for returning to real parliamentarism and ending the extraordinary powers of the secret police and the army. They had tied themselves too closely to the Communists to be able to break away on so fundamental an issue.

The friction between the two parties, which had subsided during the election campaign, now revived, and in February it became necessary to establish a system of "mediation commissions" between them.[v]

On May Day, the Communists issued a clear call for the merger of the two parties. Gomulka declared that the parties were "on the road to complete unity of the Polish working class." The Socialists were greatly disturbed. They felt that Gomulka's statement flouted the recognition given by the Communists, in the United-Front Agreement, of the "separateness and independence" of the Socialist Party. Szwalbe, in Robotnik for May 10, asked whether the Workers' Party contemplated turning Poland into a one-party state, and averred that organic unity of the two parties could not occur during the period of people's democracy but only when Poland was ready to enter the stage of Socialism. Answering him in Glos Ludu the next day, Roman Werfel, one of the chief Communist ideologists, said that his party had no desire to create a one-party state; that as long as different classes existed in Poland, they must each be represented by separate parties. He asked what class interests the Socialists represented in contradistinction to the Workers' Party, and vice versa. The answer, he said, was none. He pointed out that the two parties were separated, rather, by traditions, history and ideology. The task of the moment, he said, was to attain ideological unity, to which organic unity would be the logical consequence.

In this atmosphere the Socialists felt free to enter upon some substantive criticism of the Workers' Party's activities. Adam Kurylowicz, a prewar trade-union leader, protested against the action of "the clan of personnel managers" in ousting non-Communist executives and employees of nationalized industries on political grounds.[vi] The Ministry of Industry, a Communist stronghold presided over by the Politburo member, Hilary Minc, issued a denial of the charge.

More fundamental matters came under fire in a polemic later in the month between Minc and the Socialists. On May 14, Minc attacked the Socialist views on how to combat inflation. In general, the Communists held that there was plenty of grain available domestically to supply the country's needs, but that strong measures, possibly even involving the use of the army, were needed to collect it. Specifically, they complained that the rural coöperative structure, operated by the Socialist-dominated Spolem system, was incompetent as a collecting agent; they proposed that a governmental organization be constructed alongside Spolem, and that most of Spolem's responsibilities be turned over to it. The Socialists, believing that the reason for the inflation was the understandable failure of war-ravaged Polish agriculture to produce enough grain, objected strongly to this proposal; they saw in it a manifestation of the Communist desire to vitiate one of the two important Socialist links with the people.[vii]

The upshot of the argument was that the Sejm passed the Workers' Party plan for combatting inflation, substantially as proposed. The Socialists, yielding to entreaties not to rupture the "united working-class front," supported the proposal and contented themselves with expressing reservations. It was at this point that Julian Hochfeld emerged as the chief Socialist leader opposed to the idea of merging the two parties. He voiced a strong warning in Robotnik that continued Communist criticism of the Socialist Party might result in the dissolution of the united front.

Socialist opposition to the Communist offensive crystallized at a meeting of local organizational delegates (the Chief Council) on June 30. Osobka-Morawski attempted to resign as Chairman of the Central Executive Committee and Hochfeld as President of its Sejm Deputies' Club, in protest against what they regarded as the weak position taken by the other Socialist leaders towards the Workers' Party. They were persuaded to retain their offices by the usual appeal to refrain from breaking the united front in the face of the danger of reaction.


Acrimony had by this time reached such a point that the Communists felt the need of a new weapon to break the deadlock, and turned to the coercive tactic of the political trial. Their aim was twofold: to raise again their bogey of the "reversion to reaction" by showing the Socialist Party that its own ranks contained germs of a counter-revolution in those of its members who had formerly belonged to the WRN; and to intimidate the Socialist leaders by implying that they too might be stigmatized as "reactionary" if they resisted the demands for a merger -- and, indeed, if they proved too obstinate, might be tried for "anti-state activity."

The first of the political trials was that of members of the WRN and of members of a nationalist underground organization called Wolnose i Niepodleglose ("Freedom and Independence"). The chief defendant was Galaj, who voiced a warning which played into the Communists' hands: "If the Socialist Party does not carry out a purge in good time, it will have unnecessary trouble." At another trial in Krakow the defendants were questioned in a way designed to elicit admissions that the underground had hoped to use rightist members of the Socialist Party as a base of political action against the Workers' Party. The climax of these tactics was reached in December. One of the defendants, Obarski, who had been Secretary of the Socialist Cell in the Ministry of Reconstruction, stated that after Zulawski's failure to obtain permission to organize a Social Democratic Party the WRN had disbanded and its members had been instructed to join the "concessioned" Socialist Party. Obarski said, "There were no actual differences between the WRN and the Socialist Party." The threat to the Socialist Party implied by the introduction of such testimony was plain.

This sort of pressure soon produced tangible results in the political arena. At a joint meeting of the Socialist and Workers' Parties, held in Warsaw on July 26, Socialist leaders echoed the call of the Communist representatives for joint meetings throughout the country to organize mutual assistance in uncovering "reactionary and alien elements" in both parties and for "liquidating" all differences between the two parties through the mediation commissions. The watchword was, "The enemy is only on the right; the ally and friend is on the left." In the sequel, Socialists leaders toured the country, speaking at the joint meetings and exhorting their followers to maintain the united front and to coöperate more closely with the Communists. Many of the meetings were stormy; local Socialist members often rose to assert that such coöperation was a one-way street. But the leaders persevered in their campaign, and simultaneously they undertook a purge of ex-members of WRN and other "rightists."

In the final months of the year, the identification of the two parties seemed to be almost complete. Following the formation of the Cominform, the Central Executive Committee of the Socialist Party passed a resolution echoing the Communist line; and on the anniversary of the United-Front Agreement, Roman Zambrowski, Secretary of the Central Committee, again openly voiced the call for merger: "We know that the Central Executive Committee of the Socialist Party and the Central Committee of the Workers' Party, tracing the perspectives of organic unity in the Agreement, are proceeding with the deep faith that the valuable united-front experience and ideological rapprochement are creating an ever more realistic perspective of the day when the Workers' Party and the Socialist Party, as separate and independent Marxist parties, will multiply the strength of the working class a hundredfold by creating one party of the working class of Poland." (Emphasis as in the original). Cyrankiewicz, however, gave no indication that he considered any such unity to be in the offing. He rather guardedly declared: "The year which has passed has not been wasted. We shall shortly discuss the experiences of that period, all its lights and shadows, and the problems of the next stage, at the Wroclaw Congress. That Congress will decide upon the next step on the united-front road of the reborn Socialist Party." [viii]

After all the emphasis laid during the autumn on "ideological rapprochement" and "deepening coöperation" between the parties, the Socialist Party Congress which opened in Wroclaw on December 14 proved surprisingly unreceptive to the Communist demand for a merger. This demand was voiced unequivocally by Gomulka, the Workers' Party leader, on the opening day. "Our Party," he said, "represents the viewpoint that . . . a united front must lead to . . . establishment of one working-class party. . . . We stand on the ground of accelerating this process." Cyrankiewicz answered Gomulka by stating that the Socialists had an international task to fulfill: to create a united front on an international scale. The Polish Socialist Party, an old and respected Socialist group, would serve as a link between the left-Socialism of Western Europe and Communism. "By this method," he said, "we will prove that the Socialist Party is, and will continue to be, necessary to the Polish people." [ix]

The central event of the Congress, however, came at the final session when Julian Hochfeld presented a "Plan of Platform Principles." It consisted of 1, a carefully worked-out analysis, along orthodox Marxist lines, of the "present phase of imperialism;" and 2, a definition of the part which the Socialist Party should play in this situation, at home and abroad. The Plan applied the "third-force" theory to Polish politics and was one of the few creative Socialist theoretical formulations to appear since the end of the war.

Hochfeld put forward certain conclusions. The masses had seized power in Poland. While their power was being consolidated, and while the framework of bourgeois liberalism was being smashed, a certain amount of dictatorship was inevitable. He implied that this transitional period would shortly end in Poland. Once it was over, the people's government must effect certain reforms. It would have to:

"Guarantee . . . the control and influence of the social factor . . . upon political and economic management;

"Guarantee . . . the possibility of liquidating dictatorial ways and means of wielding power;

"Ensure to citizens the right . . . to vote and run for central and local political representative bodies; ensure freedom of conscience, of convictions, of press and assembly and coalition;

"Create particularly favorable conditions for the development of self-governing organizations of the labor world (trade unions, coöperatives, etc.)."

Hochfeld postulated a justification for continuing a multi-party system throughout the period of people's democracy, and possibly (he was not clear on this) into the period of Socialism. For the traditional party function of representing classes he substituted that of exercising "mutual control" and being "guarantors of the free exchange of thought and opinion." He said: "Even in the course of the period of hard strife against the counter-revolution and external intervention, it is necessary . . . to widen and deepen . . . civil rights and liberties. . . . The scope of civil rights and liberties is of a distinctly functional character with relation to the prosperity and living standard of a nation."

The Congress referred Hochfeld's libertarian Marxist platform to a committee, which did not act upon it before adjournment. Thus the program evidently was put up by the leadership of the Party as a trial balloon. The Party as a whole was not committed.

The balloon was immediately riddled with Leninist-Stalinist slugs. Roman Werfel, editor of the Workers' Party ideological organ, Nowe Drogi, published a devastating analysis of it in the January issue. He dismissed Hochfeld's demand for civil liberties with a question -- "Civil liberties in general, or freedom for the people's masses?" And he concluded by saying that he saw no reason why the merger of the two parties should be contingent upon victories of Communist-Socialist united fronts in the west, as Cyrankiewicz put it.


The refusal of the Communists to accept the Hochfeld plan as a proper Socialist platform precipitated a crisis in the Socialist Party. The Socialists had hoped to find an ideological ground for their contention that "the Socialist Party is necessary to the Polish people," and they had utterly failed; for a program unacceptable to the Workers' Party was presumed to be, ipso facto, unacceptable to the U.S.S.R.

On January 15, 1948, a governmental delegation, headed by Cyrankiewicz and including Gomulka and Minc, went to Moscow to negotiate a trade agreement with the Soviet Government. What Cyrankiewicz was told there is not known, but his action was decisive. At a meeting of the Warsaw Committee of the Socialist Party on March 17, he declared, in effect, that the Party was ready to merge with the Workers' Party. Once the decision had been taken, there was no longer any need for the Socialists to maintain their claim to need a separate existence because of their potential international influence. The Party withdrew from COMISCO on March 23.

The reaction of the Communists to the offer to merge was disappointing. Gomulka accepted Cyrankiewicz's offer in principle, but stipulated that the Socialist Party must first undertake an extensive cleansing of its ranks. There had developed, in fact, an anomalous situation. After having pressed so hard and so long for merger, the leaders of the Workers' Party now felt unable to accept the Socialist Party into full partnership until it had been radically purged and, consequently, weakened. The Communists were aware, moreover, that the leaders of the Socialist right-wing were just as anxious for merger as they themselves had been, and that they wanted it immediately. The reason was plain. The Socialist right hoped that if the merger could take place without delay they would be able to move into the united party "with all of their old ideological baggage," and that they could exert an influence on it even beyond what their relative numerical strength justified, by virtue of the fact that they commanded a larger number of trained and experienced political activists than the Workers' Party could muster. The Communists, of course, knew of this hope; and it precluded them from accepting Cyrankiewicz's offer until the right wing had been driven out of the Socialist Party from top to bottom. Thus an impasse was reached.

Both Parties started purges, however, and combined to give "joint schooling courses" to their members. As a result, it was believed in June that the merger would take place at the end of September. But just at this point the blast of the Cominform resolution against the Jugoslav Communist Party, and the implications it carried for Communists in Poland blew this hope out the window. Gomulka, Secretary-General of the Workers' Party, held nationalist views similar to Tito's. Indeed, he had defended these views in the Cominform, and he continued to defend them in the Workers' Party. The Resolution of the Central Committee of the Party, which condemned Gomulka's deviationism and dismissed him from office, revealed incidentally that he had not been as averse to rapid merger as he had sounded in his answer to Cyrankiewicz. On the contrary, Gomulka had hoped to see the Socialists bring a sizable number of rightists and moderates into the united party. When his own position had been endangered by his "nationalist deviationism," he had resorted to "Napoleonism." He believed that if a mass party could be formed, in which the Socialists -- traditionally "Polish first and Socialist second" -- would amalgamate with the opportunists, band-wagon-hoppers and pseudo-Marxists of the Workers' Party, the nationalistic Polish Communism in which he believed would acquire such a strong base that it could not be overturned except by direct intervention by the Soviet Union.

Following the session of the Central Committee at which Gomulka was dismissed as Secretary-General, the Chief Council of the Socialist Party held a "purge session" (September 18-23). Here, further action was taken against rightists still holding seats in the Party's organs, and critiques of the "false course" of these party members were delivered by Cyrankiewicz and Matuszewski. The latter was a crypto-Communist who had been expelled from the Socialist Party in 1946 for advocating merger; he had been allowed to reënter the Party and had been elected to the Central Executive Committee in the summer of 1948. The Council adopted an ideological declaration which characterized many leaders, including Hochfeld and Szwalbe, as "revisionists." As Robotnik said, this meeting "did not take place in the traditional atmosphere of a love feast." As a result, Hochfeld recanted his heresy, the "theory of the golden mean," explaining that he did so not only because he "now recognized it as erroneous" but also because he was greatly afraid of one thing: "separation from the labor movement."

The Merger Congress met in Warsaw December 15-21. After the successive crises which had agitated the two parties during the year, it proved an anticlimax. The Socialist Party had lost its independent leadership, both national and local, in the purges. Those who had not been expelled were cowed. The Workers' Party, on the other hand, had not expelled any of its rightists and nationalists but had simply put them in cold storage, against a day when Moscow's orders might veer again to the right.

So as to take no chances, the Workers' Party had brought various Socialist leaders to trial just before the Merger Congress. Among them were the prewar Secretary-General of the Party, Kazimierz Puzak, and some of his fellow leaders in the WRN -- Szturm de Sztrem, Dziegielewski, Krawczyk and others. The case against them was blatantly political. Krawczyk, for example, was questioned on his membership in a military detachment which had fought the Red Guards in the Dabrowan Basin in 1919-1920. The warning which the trial was meant to carry was not lost on the remaining Socialist leaders.

The new party was named the United Polish Workers' Party. Of course it is completely Communist-dominated. Of the Politburo's 11 members, for example, eight are Communists. The government was entirely reorganized and every significant office, with the exception of the premiership, was taken over by a Communist. On January 1, 1949, before the reorganization began, the Communists occupied 33 out of 60 governmental posts of the rank of vice-minister and higher; they now hold 53 out of 74.


The Socialist Party always stood for an essentially western solution of the "Polish problem." Its participation in the battle for Polish independence during the First World War in the Pilsudski Legions, and its subsequent rejection of the Bolshevism imported in the van of Tukhachevsky's Red Army, had long ago made it anathema to the Kremlin.

In the period between the two wars the Socialist Party expressed the conviction that German Nazism and Soviet Communism were equally enemies of Poland, and equally fatal to democratic Socialism.

In the Second World War, many of its members turned to fighting the Soviet occupying forces as soon as the German occupying forces were on the run. After the war, the rank and file kept their old convictions to a large extent, but the Party vacillated. Some of them were weak or naïve; others were opportunistic. The attempts of those that were sincere to create a Polish Socialism based on real democracy were confused and blundering. Their complete and final failure affirms once again that compromise with Stalinism is the end of freedom.

[i] The Red Army had withdrawn by the time the Provisional Government of National Unity was established in June 1945. However, "line-of-communications" troops with the Soviet occupation troops in Eastern Germany remained; and Soviet troops are still stationed in the ex-German territories.

[ii] Stanislaw Mikolajczyk, "The Rape of Poland." New York: Whittlesey, 1948. Arthur Bliss Lane, "I Saw Poland Betrayed." Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1948.

[iii]Robotnik, Warsaw, November 29, 1946.

[iv]Glos Ludu, Warsaw, January 5-6, 1947.

[v]Glos Ludu, February 13, 1947.

[vi]Robotnik, May 7, 1947.

[vii] Time proved the Socialists to be right. Poland had to borrow 300,000 tons of grain from the U.S.S.R. at the end of the year, despite an all-out collection effort along the lines of the Communist proposal.

[viii]Glos Ludu, November 29, 1947.

[ix]Glos Ludu, December 15 and 16, 1947.

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