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International Socialism, Spring 1967


Jacek Kuron & Karol Modzelewski

A Socialist Manifesto for Poland


From International Socialism (1st series), No.28, Spring 1967, pp.25-27.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


IS 25 (Summer 1966) published an appeal, Freedom in Poland, on behalf of a group of imprisoned Polish socialists, one of whose leaders was an old Trotskyist, Ludwik Hass (IS 27, winter 1966/7 included a memoir of Hass). Prior to his sentence, Hass had spent eighteen years in gaol in the USSR for his beliefs. As a result of world-wide protests to the Polish Government and intercession by Amnesty International, Hass has now been releasedgranted what amounts to conditional liberty so that the regime can incarcerate him again whenever it pleases. The historian, Romuald Smiech, has also been set free. However, three of the accused, Jacek Kuron, Karol Modzelewski and Kasimierz Badowski, are still in gaol serving three year sentences (Kuron three and a half years). Kuron and Modzelewski were the actual authors of the oppositional document whose distribution provoked the arrest of the group. We appeal to readers to renew their protests to the Polish Embassy demanding unconditional release and freedom of expression for all the accused. It is highly dangerous for a Socialist and Communist opposition in the East if a totalitarian regime can silence protests from abroad by more selective repression along the lines now applied to this group. We are proud to be able to print below a summary of their manifesto, now smuggled out of Poland and printed in its entirety by the Paris journal, Kultura (the Institut Litteraire, Paris, 1966). We hope shortly to distribute a translation of the complete document, a remarkable testimony to the courage and dedication of its authors, and all the more distinguished for having been written by two young men brought up and educated in a closed society. It is a landmark in the Marxist analysis of the class societies based on State property which rule in many parts of the contemporary world. New Politics (507, Fifth Ave, New York 10017) has already published an American translation of the document in two parts (Vol.V, Nos.2 and 3, Spring and Summer 1966), and the current International Socialist Review (873, Broadway, New York 10017) includes a translation of Chapter 10, the Programme of the Group. – NH


The Open Letter to the Members of the Warsaw University Campus’ Branches of the Polish Workers’ Party and of the Union of Socialist Youth


History of the Document

The original form in which the two authors put down their ideas was a 128-page manifesto. The only copy of this document (which was still incomplete and had two chapters yet to be re-written) was confiscated by the Polish police during their search of the apartment of one of the authors, on 14 November 1964. The very existence of this document, as well as some rather vague notion of its content, became, however, public knowledge, and was reported by some Western newspapers, most notably by Michel Tatu in Le Monde.

The two authors were arrested on the day their manuscript was discovered. They were released after two days. Both men were expelled from the Communist Party on 27 November 1964, subsequent to a propaganda campaign of considerable fervour, conducted among the University youth circles in Warsaw. In a number of staged meetings the confiscated manifesto was quoted and reproved with indignation, the authors being charged with ‘primitive demagoguery,’ ‘double-mindedness,’ ‘dishonesty’ and ‘lack of civil courage.’

With the purpose of defending themselves against misquotations from the text and distortions of their views, the two authors decided to put down their ideas again, in the form of a 95-page Open Letter to their former comrades from the party cell. It is this document – and not the former – which was made the basis for criminal prosecution, resulting in sentencing Modzelewski for three and a half, and Kuron for three years of prison. Since the size of the two documents does not differ considerably, and since the latter is complete and produced later, we may assume that it probably represents the views of the authors more accurately.

Three other names are mentioned in the document: not as co-authors, but as persons who expressed their solidarity with the ideas for the first manifesto: Stanislaw Gomolka, Joanna Majerczyk and Eugeniusz Chyla. All three were expelled from the CP, along with the two authors. The names of the defendants of the second ‘Trotskyite’ trial in January 1966, Ludwik Hass, Romuald Smiech and Kazimierz Badowski, are not mentioned. Since their trial was secret, their role in the production and distribution of the ‘Trotskyite’ literature in Poland remains unclear.

Content of the Document

The text consists of a brief introduction (the source of the facts reported above) and eleven chapters.

Chapter 1: The Power of the Bureaucracy. The main point is the irrelevancy of the State ownership of the means of production to the question of whether the society is socialist, and whether the working class is the ruling class. The official claim that one is prima facie evidence of the other is called non-Marxist, since it is based on the formal legalistic concept of ownership. The character of the society must be determined by the class content of the ruling power instead. Since it is the elite of the CP which actually rules in Poland, this elite is also a sort of a collective owner of the means of production. This elite is called the Central Political Bureaucracy.

Chapter 2: Salary, Surplus Produce, Ownership. This chapter is an analysis of accumulation in the Communist society in terms of classical Marxist theory. Conclusions: Exploitation exists. ‘The worker produces the minimal necessary means of subsistence for himself, and the whole power of the State which is turned against himself.’

Chapter 3: Class-determined Goal of Production. It is not so much the profit and individual consumption of the elite which is the goal of production in the Communist society, as production itself and its expansion. In this respect this society differs from the capitalist one, where profit and consumption is the basic goal of production. But this goal, like that of capitalist production, implies the ‘contradictions’ impairing the efficiency of the system. In conclusion, the problem of a managerial class is discussed, and Yugoslavia declared a ‘managerial class’ State.’

Chapter 4: The Origin of the System. The seizure of political power by the bureaucracy was possible due to the backwardness of the country, the decisive role of the Soviet Army, and the dependence of the Polish bureaucrats upon Soviet ones. In spite of that, the bureaucracy stood for the national interest and followed the requirements of economic development as long as it carried out the industrialisation of the country. But this task being completed, the bureaucracy became a monopolist, acting against the interests of the nation and against the requirements of economic development.

Chapter 5: The Economic Crisis of the System. This chapter is an analysis of ‘contradictions’ in the system; the basic one being between the expanded production potential and the low level of consumption. Various consequences of this ‘contradiction’ and their dysfunctional impact upon the system are discussed. The inevitability of the crisis is stressed, and the overthrowing of the system singled out as the only possible solution. The statistical evidence referred to in the whole analysis is impressive.

Chapter 6: The Productive Relationships and the Crisis in Agriculture. The same type of analysis applied to agriculture. A tendency towards steady decrease in food consumption is noted. Final conclusions are the same as in Chapter 5. Again abundant statistical evidence is provided.

Chapter 7: The First Anti-bureaucratic Revolution of 1956-57. The events of those years are discussed in terms of a conflict of class interests. The area of revolution is defined as including all highly industrialised communist countries, i.e., USSR, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and GDR. The failure of revolution is attributed to the failure of the working class to assume the leading role. Specifically, the left wing of the movement is blamed for not having been able to detach itself from the ruling ‘liberal’ bureaucracy and from the managerial trend in the workers’ councils movement.

Chapter 8: Nationwide Crisis of the System. This chapter deals with the future. Predictions are made: of a further decrease in the real value of earnings, a growth in unemployment, a reduction in cultural and welfare investments, a tightening in political controls, a deepening spiritual crisis. Under such circumstances the bureaucracy will become totally isolated within the society, and the working class forced to act. The revolution is therefore seen as inevitable. Its outcome will depend more upon the social consciousness of the workers (i.e. their readiness or refusal to accept the existing social order) than upon who has guns.

Chapter 9: International Problems of Revolution. This chapter considers the arguments that

  1. any revolution is a conspiracy against peace; therefore it is a moral duty to renounce it and tolerate the status quo,
  2. any revolution in Poland has to be crushed by Soviet tanks,
  3. any revolution may only lead to escalation of war and nuclear disaster.

The authors reply:

  1. Revolutions break out as a result of social conditions and not conspiracies. The social conditions are unlikely to be improved if people remain loyal towards authority. Conspiracies are a pet topic for police, courts, etc. – the same forces which are reluctant to talk about social conditions. Let them renounce the means of violence first.
  2. Class conflicts are not confined to Poland. In the USSR, classes also exist; not only the armies, tanks, and aircrafts. Revolution confined to one country alone would indeed be doomed to defeat.
  3. The two blocs do not want to destroy each other; they rather want to compete on the basis of mutually delimited zones of influence.

The experience shows that both the (Eastern) bureaucracy and Western imperialism have systematically used violence against genuine revolutionary movements in various parts of the world; not against each other. In this sense they constitute the threat to the preservation of world peace, and for the sake of world peace have to be resisted. The chapter concludes with the statement that the Bureaucracy does not want to expand the revolution, but to subjugate revolutionary movements to itself. All independent revolutionary movements are, for the bureaucracy, undesirable. On p.74 an unknown fact is mentioned: the uprising of workers in Novo-Cherkassk (USSR) in 1962, which was crushed by tanks.

Chapter 10: Our Programme. It is stated in eight points:

  1. Workers’ control of factories.
  2. Legislative and executive power over the country in the hands of the federation of workers’ councils.
  3. Multi-party system, freedom of speech and organisations, no censorship.
  4. Free independent trade unions.
  5. The political activisation of the working class. Providing necessary education of workers for that purpose.
  6. Abolition of political police and of the regular army. The functions of the army to be taken over by workers’ militia. The navy and the air force to be preserved, but consisting of industrial factories.
  7. In agriculture both collectivisation and free market to be avoided. Problems to be solved by the establishment of an autonomous political representation of peasant producers.
  8. International solidarity of the working class. Expanding revolution to other countries of both East and West as well as to the underdeveloped areas.

The chapter concludes with remarks on the relationships between the working class and other classes in the course of the future revolution. The working class, by the abolition of the army, will liberate the soldier; by the abolition of the bureaucratic hierarchy, it will liberate the white-collar; by the implementation of freedom of speech it will liberate the intellectual; by securing popular control over the decision-making power it will liberate the whole of society.

Chapter 11: Reply to criticisms. Four arguments are discussed. The first and the third concern the attitudes of the authors towards managers and intellectuals. The replies are not essential here, except for the authors’ strong affirmation that they stand for a working-class point of view, want the political power to belong to the working class, do not believe any State may stand above classes, and have never heard about such a State (’except in the official programme of CPSU’). The fourth reply is against the argument that their programme means incitement to lawlessness and law breaking: here the authors defend themselves by pointing to the permanent lawlessness of bureaucratic rule, with its arbitrary enforcement of vague legal formulae. Most essential in the chapter is the second point dealing with the criticism that the establishment of a multi-party system in Poland may only open the door for reactionary elements. The authors reply that it is the bureaucracy which has systematically allied itself with fall sorts of right-wingers, the Catholic Church hierarchy included, and which has systematically borrowed ideological symbols from them. The working class has to oppose both these right-wingers who support the bureaucracy and those who do not. ‘The struggle against the ruling right wing and against the pensioned right wing is indivisible,’ the authors declare.

One passage in the chapter discloses what tactical steps were advocated by the authors in their former manifesto: strikes and the formation of small underground circles of workers which could become germs of a future, independent workers’ party.

The chapter concludes with the following description of the party bosses who conducted the propaganda campaign against the authors:

‘Brought up in dogmatic Marxism, they rejected Marxism, retaining the dogma. They doubt the validity of Marx’s theory of the classes, but do not doubt that in the party there can be no factions and that authority should be obeyed.’

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