Philip Coben

Second Big Blowup Hits Stalinland!

(13 September 1948)

From Labor Action, Vol. 12 No. 37, 13 September 1948, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The second major blowup in Stalin’s new empire has taken place, this time in Poland. The effect, but not the significance, of the Gomulka affair is lessened by the fact of the capitulation. Unlike Tito, Gomulka was defeated inside the Stalinist machine of his country (called the Polish Workers Party).

The all-important outcome of the case, however, is confirmation of the fact that “Titoism” is not merely a Yugoslav phenomenon peculiar to one country but rather an internal and inherent disease of expansionist Stalinism – the thesis which Labor Action has maintained since the Tito-Stalin break became known.

It has been revealed that the No. 1 Stalinist of Poland, Wladyslaw Gomulka, secretary general of the Stalinist party and vice-premier of the country, has for the last six months been in opposition to the official line and in sympathy with Tito. During this time the Polish Stalinist press was vigorously denying that Gomulka’s announced illness was really “political,” and was pretending that there were no rifts in the leadership.

If the severe internal fight is now made public, it is not (as some reports have had it) because of the Stalinists’ overweening confidence, but because the Gomulka tendency is so widespread that a public demonstration had to be made for the benefit of would-be imitators and Gomulka’s capitulation broadcast in order to convince his followers that they cannot look to his leadership.

The basic issue is plainly the same as in Yugoslavia: opposition to slavish domination by Russia on the part of elements among the new Polish Stalinist bureaucracy – partly under the pressure of the peasantry but more basically as a reflection of the desire of the native bureaucrat-rulers to be junior partners in exploitation rather than mere vassals of the Kremlin.

Gomulka is accused of the following “crimes”:

  1. Agreeing with the stand of Tito’s Yugoslav Communist Party against the Cominform.
  2. Failing to keep secret his opposition vote to the Polish Stalinist party’s decision to back the Cominform.
  3. Opposing the pace of the Stalinists’ plans for putting peasant production under more complete state control – what the Stalinists call “socialization” of agriculture.
  4. In general, refusing to recognize Russia’s right to completely dominate and control Poland.
  5. Opposing the formation of the Cominform in the first place.

With regard to this last point, it is interesting to note that Gomulka, who is now accused of having been against setting up the Cominform, sat as co-chairman of the first Cominform meeting with the late Zhdanov as the other chairman – naturally a great honor. It may well be considered, in view of the Russians’ well-known disinclination to heap honors on political dissidents, that this was a concession at that time to the Gomulka-Tito tendencies in the satellites.

In addition to Gomulka, other leaders of the Polish Stalinists are also denounced by name. They are: Wladyslaw Bienkowski, formerly vice-minister of education and still a member of the party Central Committee; Wladyslaw Kowalski, speaker of Parliament; Zenon Kliszko, chairman of the Stalinist parliamentary group; and one Loga-Sowinski.

Opposition Widespread

Boleslaw Bierut, president of the country, had to be recalled to party work to take over Gomulka’s post as head of the party. An interesting passage in New York Times correspondent Sydney Gruson’s report (September 5) explains why the three leading Stalinist stalwarts were passed over for this job – namely Hilary Minc, Jakob Berman and Roman Zambrowski. The Stalinist high command did not consider them available because “these three men are Jews. In historically anti-Semitic Poland the appointment of any one of them would have made the Communist wooing of the masses much more difficult.” The existence of widespread and active anti-Semitism in Stalin’s “popular democracy” is thereby not only acknowledged but catered to.

An AP dispatch from Warsaw makes clear that the crack-up in Poland is of no small dimensions. The party Executive Committee’s resolution, it states,

“... admitted tacitly by its announcement of the switch in leadership that the Communist organization was facing a possibility of a breakup. Reliable reports say a large part of the party’s membership is in open revolt against the dictation by the Cominform and Moscow. It is clear that the Communist Workers Party now is facing the most serious crisis in its history ... M. Bierut’s new assignment will give him the task of settling disputes within the party ranks. These disputes are said to involve about one half of the party’s 1,000,000 members ... M. Gomulka long has been known as a man who is a Pole before he is a Communist. He is popular and commands a huge following throughout the nation.”

Gomulka’s recantation and breast-beating at a mass meeting was in the standard tradition of Stalinland. He was not permitted, however, to speak at an open public meeting even for this purpose. The audience consisted of a selected 800 party workers whose job it will be to “explain” to everybody else.

Last updated on 5 October 2018