Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Dennis Strawn

The Polish Working Class Stands up

Published: Workers Herald, Vol. 1, No. 2, September 1980.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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As Workers’ Herald goes to press, hundreds of thousands of Polish workers are on strike, with new battalions of workers joining the movement every day. The bourgeois-revisionist Gierek regime in Poland is scrambling to make some concessions to appease the workers. For fear of causing an even more widespread and determined rebellion of the working masses, it has thus far been reluctant to use the armed forces.

The Western imperialist media has tried to present the strike wave as a “workers’ rebellion against communism,” but the reality is completely different. Poland is not a socialist country and the ruling party is not a genuine communist party. The country is capitalist, ruled by a bourgeois-revisionist party.

During World War II, the Communist Party of Poland led the Polish people’s heroic struggle against Nazi fascist rule. With the help of the Soviet Red Army, it created a people’s democratic government when the Nazis were defeated. But the Polish Communist Party was corrupted by its merger with the social-democratic party in Poland. It failed to crush the Polish bourgeoisie and adopted liberal positions towards opportunists and bourgeois nationalists. Some opportunists, bourgeois leaders and Titoites were purged between 1948 and 1953, but the party and government remained infested with bourgeois agents. Proletarian rule and socialist relations of production were never consolidated. With the aid of Khrushchev and the other revisionist renegades who seized power in the Soviet Union after Stalin’s death in 1953, the Polish bourgeois forces, led by the open reactionary, Wladislaw Gomulka, gained strength and established their hegemony through a series of political maneuvers and bloody clashes. The government of Gomulka and his successors is in no way a workers’ government. Rather, it represents the Polish revisionist-bourgeoisie and oppresses the masses of working people while maintaining the guise of “socialism” and “workers’ rule,” just like the Soviet government. Along with the rest of the western capitalist and bourgeois revisionist world, Poland is in the throes of a severe economic crisis. The situation there is particularly grave. The Polish revisionist-bourgeoisie has reduced the country to a neo-colony of the Soviet Union and has mortgaged it to the Soviet, U.S. and West German imperialists. Poland’s external debt of $19.4 billion is among the highest in the world. It hangs like a millstone on the neck of the Polish working class and peasantry who slave to produce the $7.18 billion a year that Poland must pay out simply to service the debt. Even today, as thousands of Poles are protesting against the government’s policy of indebting itself to foreign banks, government officials just completed negotiations for a new loan of $325 million from the Bank of America. This maneuver will not get the government out of its current crisis but will only serve to exacerbate it.

Despite the shortage of many consumer goods and food items in Poland, the government exports huge quantities of such products to the Soviet Union, at below their actual value, in order to meet the demands of the Soviet imperialists. At the same time, the Polish upper classes import large quantities of luxury items, legally and through semi-legal and illegal markets.

In step with the crisis worldwide, overall economic production dropped 2% last year, while prices rose at a 6.7% rate. Grain imports have been rising annually over the last decade, jumping last year from 6 million to 10 million tons. This is the direct result of the failure to collectivize agriculture in Poland, 80% of which is in private hands and dominated by the rich peasant-capitalist class. This stands in the way of modernization of agriculture.

Strikes by the Polish workers are the natural result of their conflict with the Polish bourgeoisie. Over the last decade, the Polish working class has engaged in increasingly militant struggle against its oppressors. In 1970, a huge strike, sparked by a sharp rise in prices, broke out in the industrial cities on the Baltic coast. Fifty-five workers were killed by the armed forces and police, and the revisionist Gomulka regime was toppled, only to be replaced by a new revisionist regime led by Edward Gierek. In 1976, a new wave of working class strikes and rebellions broke out, once again centered in the shipyards and other industrial centers on the Baltic coast. Since July of this year, when the government announced a 40-60% increase in meat prices, a new strike wave has arisen. On August 4, 30,000 textile workers went on strike. The next day, 20,000 workers at the Swidnik helicopter works walked out for the second time in a month. By August 5 there were over 150 enterprises on strike, including steel, coal and paper plants and the Warsaw transit and garbage workers. On August 14, the strike wave was transformed into an acute political crisis when 16,000 workers expelled all management and trade union bureaucrats, organized a workers militia, and took over the V.I. Lenin Shipyards in Gdansk. Workers around the country followed suit and occupied their plants. On August 20, the key port of Szcecin was closed down. As this article is being written over 300,000 Polish workers are on strike at hundreds of enterprises throughout the country.

The workers have recently elected a unified national strike leadership and have advanced a list of key economic and political demands. Among the political demands are:
1. An end to all censorship and a “full public discussion of the crisis.”
2. The release of political prisoners and amnesty for all workers punished for past and present strike activity.
3. The right to organize trade unions independent of the state apparatus and the Party.

“We are the first true representatives of the workers in our nation,” said a representative of the workers’ unified strike committee. “Our main aim is to create free trade unions, independent of the Party and the government, because only then the interests of the nation and the interests of the workers can be objectively defended.” Representatives of the strike committee went on to denounce the “capitalist” methods of the Polish government which, until then, had refused to negotiate with the unified strike committee, and tried to split up the workers by recognizing only the bogus renegade trade union officials and negotiating factory by factory.

We, as Marxist-Leninists, believe that trade unions and mass workers’ organizations should operate under the leadership of the communist party, and we strive to build the influence of the communists in the trade unions to achieve this objective. However, we will never support the tyranny of bourgeois parties, such as the revisionist “Communist Party of Poland,” over the trade unions. In our country we condemn the ties of the AFL-CIO and the other bureaucratic unions with the Democratic Party and the state and urge the workers to build a revolutionary trade union movement. The need for a revolutionary trade union movement is even clearer in Poland, where the trade unions are openly a part of the bourgeois revisionist Polish state apparatus and serve more as tools for repressing the workers’ movement than anything else.

Within the ranks of the working class movement in Poland are well organized opportunists and bourgeois agents of long standing. They are the same leaders of the reactionary intelligentsia and the Catholic clergy that have acted as agents of Western imperialism all along. They attempt to divert the working class movement using backwards religious ideas promoting the Catholic church, and reducing the struggle against imperialism *to narrow nationalist, anti-Russian views. They want to overthrow the Gierek regime, but they want to replace it with their own bourgeois regime dominated by U.S. and West German imperialism. Of course, these reactionaries are promoted by the Western imperialist news media as “leaders of the workers” in Poland. And no doubt the Western imperialists are doing all they can to finance and organize these forces within Poland.

On the other hand, the demands and militancy of the Polish workers’ movement reflect the existence of a genuine revolutionary tendency within it, and the democratic and revolutionary aspirations of the masses of working people in Poland. The masses of Polish workers know that the government of Poland is run by a bureaucratic elite that lives well, while they live in poverty. They know that the Soviet Union, the United States and West Germany are ruthlessly exploiting the working people of their country. These are the things they are fighting against. A leader of the unified strike committee explained that “the people are fighting against our labor enriching Soviet leaders and having to pay off Western imperialist banks.”

We do not know to what extent the consciousness and organization of the genuine revolutionary tendency in the Polish working class movement has developed. We don’t know much about the genuine Marxist-Leninists in Poland, how well they are organized or the extent of their influence in the working class. We expect that as the struggle develops the differences between the genuine revolutionary tendency and the opportunist agents of the Catholic church and Western imperialism will sharpen and break out more openly. The strike movement itself will help sharpen the differences and expose the bourgeois agents, and develop the consciousness and organization of the revolutionary workers’ movement tremendously.

The strike wave in Poland is showing that the suppression of democratic liberties, complete bourgeois control of the news media, control of the trade unions by the bourgeois state and severe government repression cannot stop the workers’ movement. This should inspire revolutionary workers in our country as well. We, too, face a situation where the trade unions are under bourgeois rule and tied to the bourgeois state more and more openly, where the news media is the exclusive property of the rich, who have perfected the art of propagating bourgeois ideology and deception. We, too, face increasing suppression of democratic rights and growing government repression. The strength of the Polish workers’ movement, in the face of all the obstacles there, should encourage us, as well as provide us many lessons. The Polish workers’ movement is only beginning to display its potential, a potential to dwarf the now-formidable Polish bourgeois-revisionist state apparatus.

The great upsurge in the Polish workers’ movement shatters the myth, widely propagated by the proponents of the “Theory of the Three Worlds,” that the working class in the Soviet Union and the bourgeois-revisionist countries in Eastern Europe cannot, and will not, rise up against its oppressors. The example provided by the Polish workers will unquestionably inspire their compatriots in other bourgeois-revisionist nations, and rouse them.

The Polish working class is taking giant steps, shouldering its responsibility to turn Polish society around. Enver Hoxha, General Secretary of the Party of Labor of Albania, describes this responsibility, and gives us insight into ours, in the following words,

The working class in the revisionist countries is now faced with the historic necessity of coming out again on the battlefield, of hurling itself into a merciless and consistent fight to the finish to overthrow and smash the treacherous cliques, to carry out the proletarian revolution once again and reestablish the dictatorship of the proletariat....In the first place and above all this requires the organization of the genuine revolutionaries into new Marxist-Leninist parties, which have to mobilize, organize and lead the general uprising of the proletariat and the other working masses to victory.

Only the working class at the head of the masses, only the working class headed by its true Marxist-Leninist Party, only the working class through armed revolution, through violence, can and must bury the traitorous revisionists.

The vigilance and legitimate violence of the working class against the class enemies is what terrifies the revisionists. Thus, the rekindling and fanning the flames of proletarian revolution in those countries is the “sine qua non” of the road of salvation. Proletarian internationalism demands that all revolutionaries raise their voices and wage a principled struggle, through to the end, for the destruction of the revisionist cliques in power and to give all support to the working class and peoples that are under revisionist rule today, to overthrow these treacherous cliques and to raise the banner of revolution and socialism once more. [Hoxha, Speeches, Conversations and Articles.]


1. Hoxha, Enver. “Workers in the Revisionist Countries Must Take the Field and Reestablish the Dictatorship of the Proletariat,” Enver Hoxha Speeches, Conversations and Articles 1967-1968. pp. 229-230, 267-268.