Chris Harman


Polish strikes hit shipping and transport

(January 1971)

From Socialist Worker, 30 January 1971.
Reprinted in In the Heat of the Struggle, London 1993, p.59.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

A NEW WAVE of strikes has hit Poland. Workers in the Baltic ports who fought pitched battles against the police and army last month are once again taking action to press their demands.

In Gdansk, Sopot and Gdynia there have been token strikes by bus and tram workers, as well as a continual go-slow in the shipyards. And in Szczecin a complete shutdown of the shipyards has spread to the transport workers.

After the December fighting in which scores of people were killed, the authorities tried to give the appearance of accepting some of the workers’ demands.

Opponents of the old party leader Gomulka used the riots as an excuse to get rid of him and his close associates. Although price increases were not ended, wage improvements for lower-paid workers and pensioners were promised.

It was admitted that some of the demands made had been justified. Publicity of grievances appeared in the press.

Now the government is beginning once again to drop its mask of benevolence and toleration. The Warsaw paper Trybuna Ludu has warned against ‘attempts to create an atmosphere of anarchy and demagoguery’ and the prime minister has called on industrial managers to ‘strengthen discipline and oppose unrealistic demands by workers’.

Poland’s workers are determined to continue to press for improved living standards. They have been neither lulled into complacency by government promises nor intimidated by its displays of force.

They are not striking just for economic demands. They are also calling for the removal of certain key members of the government: Kociolek, the economic overlord, and General Moczar, the former police chief who initiated a campaign of vicious anti-semitism three years ago.

The lesson is being learnt that there is only one way out of the present crisis – an overthrow of the bureaucratic class that rules in Poland as elsewhere in the so-called Communist states. This is the lesson Hungarian workers began to learn in 1956 and Czech workers in 1968-9.

Last updated on 28 February 2010