From Labor Action, Vol. 12 No. 1, 5 January 1948, pp. 1 & 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).
The strike of the Polish workers of Lodz, one of the most important centers of the cotton weaving industry in Europe, was not only the largest of all the workers’ strikes against the Stalinist assassin regime, but the most revolutionary as well.
The strike broke but as a protest against the government decree that four looms be assigned each worker instead of two, as has been the case until now. The government argued that the productivity of the Lodz weaver was 35 per cent below the level provided for in the three-year economic plan. For this reason the factory administration ordered that each worker be assigned four looms. Whoever is acquainted with the textile industry of Lodz knows very well that the machines are old and that not only is it impossible to fulfill the government’s decree, given the technical conditions of the industry, but that any attempt to comply with this decree exposes the health and life of the Polish proletariat to danger.
Besides, the economic situation of the Polish proletarian is desperate as never before. His wage vacillates between 3,000 and 8,000 zlotys, when a pair of shoes costs 5,000 to 10,000 zlotys, a suit of clothes 30,000 zlotys, and a kilo of bread 80 zlotys. Recently rationing was liquidated. According to the official organ of the Stalinist trade unions, Workers Review, the basic wage has practically disappeared, and has been replaced by piecework, premiums and overtime. Under the whip of inhuman exploitation, the badly dressed and poorly fed Polish worker does what be can to avoid death by hunger.
In Lodz, strikes had already occurred in the Crusche-Ender, JOHN and other factories against the unfulfilled promises of the Stalinist administration and in order to increase rations. The new decree of the Stalinist satraps filled the workers with such despair, that the day shift in the Posnansky factory, one of the largest, went on strike. Its strike action was continued by the night shift which numbers 6,000 workers. The workers occupied the factory all night. The Bezpieka (Polish GPU) surrounded the factory with a police cordon and proceeded to the arrest of the strike leaders, 80 being seized. In spite of this terror, unknown in Poland even in the worst days of the “Colonels reaction,” the indignation of the textile workers was so great that in the course of the next few days, other important factories such as Bwehle, Biederman, Campe, Albrecht and other smaller ones joined the strike begun by the Posnansky factory. In spite of the arrests, the strike continued. There were direct struggles between the GPU and the strikers, in which there were many wounded and some dead.
The workers came to a silent demonstration, which was dispersed by the GPU and which, according to Polish sources, numbered 40,000 people. Half the textile workers participated in the strike. Fifty per cent of the Lodz textile workers are women. Due to the GPU terror, the strike was partially broken. But in spite of everything, the Posnansky factory maintained its action for several days, defying the Stalinist security police.
The Polish press hermetically isolated the strike from the world. Nobody in Poland spoke about the strike. The police surrounded the factories and maintained a surface calm in the city. The workers themselves did not want to give anybody the facts about the strike for fear of reprisals or betrayal into the hands of the GPU. In spite of all this news of the strike circulated through all the workers’ centers and outside the country. We are not in a position to say how much of a role the clandestine organization of the PPS played, in the strike. The official Stalinist circles blame the strike on the influence of “reactionary centers,” attributing the strike to political causes. Backed by the GPU, the representatives of the Stalinist PPR (Workers Party), the pro-government PPS, and the trade unions rushed to the strike-bound factories in an attempt to pacify the workers.
The fundamental cause of the strikes in Poland is the misery of the proletariat, whose wages have fallen to a level that is 30 to 50 per cent below the pre-war wage. The cancellation of the basic wage rate for a day’s work and the liquidation of rationing have brought despair to the workers in the statified industry. The cost of living is rising, and the government takes advantage of the misery and hunger to introduce “Stakhanovist methods” into Poland, forcing the workers to toil longer hours and increase their productivity. But the backward technique of the industry and the misery of the workers acts as an obstacle and pushes the working class toward desperate resistance.
In addition, the strike wave occurs in Poland’s largest industrial centers and signifies the opposition of the most conscious layers of the proletariat to the regime. After the defeat of Mikolajczyk’s party, a defeat accomplished along the road of terror and electoral fraud, the Stalinist regime is preparing to come to grips with the working class, which quite frequently, without political leadership and in spontaneous form, resists the government.
Experienced in long revolutionary struggle, the Polish workers know full well that the primary cause of their misery is not so much the economic destruction of Poland as the imperialist policy of the Russian occupiers, who deliver 20 million tons of Polish coal to Stalin, the greater part of the iron and steel, as well as the lion’s share of Polish textiles.
In spite of its spontaneous character, the strike of the Lodz textile workers has a primary political importance, since it is a question of the first workers’ strikes in the zone occupied by the Russians, an unusual and new phenomenon, which signifies that the united action of the proletariat is capable of breaking even the grip of Stalinist terror. For all these reasons, the strike deserves the support and aid of the proletariat of the United States, England and Western Europe. It is a living example of the socialist third front, which in the countries under Russian occupation is directed first of all against Stalinist reaction.
Last updated: 26 December 2015