The Nature of the PRL State from 1956 to 1976 Cover Image

Jakim państwem była PRL w latach 1956–1976?
The Nature of the PRL State from 1956 to 1976

Author(s): Jerzy Eisler
Subject(s): History
Published by: Instytut Pamięci Narodowej

Summary/Abstract: The article is chronologically set against the dramatic events of the modern history of Poland. It begins with the political breakthrough of October 1956, marking the end of Stalinism in Poland, represented by the return to power of Władysław Gomułka, and culminates in the workers protests of June 1976 brought about by price increases. As a result of the protests, an opposition movement was established. Although not considered legal by the authorities, it was organized in nature and openly active. This period of Polish history remains insufficiently investigated despite undoubted progress in research. Is it justified to distinguish the 1956–1976 period and, if so, what would be its specific features? Historians widely agree that a majority of classically totalitarian characteristics were apparent in Poland during the Stalinist period (1944–1956). The system which followed should be described more precisely as being an authoritarian regime, even though the intention until 1989 was to create a truly totalitarian state in Poland. This is confirmed by the scale and nature of the invigilation of society. The importance of the breakthrough of 1956 has been discussed on more than one occasion. The communist system which had been gaining strength up to that date began to weaken, with some analysts believing that this was the beginning of its 30-year long torment. The scale of the events of October 1956 may be viewed through the changes seen (the spontaneous de-collectivization of agriculture, the significant improvement in Church - State relations, the reduction of terror in public life, greater engagement with the outside world, and increased independence in Soviet policy), as well as through what remained unchanged (the legal system, the constitution, the economy). The fact is, however, that Poland did not cease to be a police state under dictatorial rule. The above may also be said to be true of the period after December 1970, when Edward Gierek replaced Władysław Gomułka as the 1st Secretary of the KC PZPR (Central Committee of the Polish United Workers’ Party). Again, the system did not undergo significant change, although the improvements (as seen by society) continued, to some extent, both after 1956 and 1970. The political changes were accompanied by economic enlivenment and an improvement in the quality of life.

  • Issue Year: 10/2006
  • Issue No: 2
  • Page Range: 11-23
  • Page Count: 13
  • Language: Polish