Polish United Workers Party

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Polish United Workers’ Party


(PUWP; Polska Zjednoczona Partía Robotnicza), a political party founded on Dec. 15, 1948, through a merger of the Polish Workers’ Party (PWP) and the Polish Socialist Party (PSP) based on the principles of Marxism-Leninism. The founding of the PUWP, which has inherited and carries on the revolutionary traditions of the Polish workers’ movement, ended the split that had existed in the Polish workers’ movement for more than half a century and concluded an important phase in the movement’s organizational and ideological unification.

The First (Unification) Congress of the PUWP, held in Warsaw on Dec. 15–21, 1948, adopted the Ideological Declaration, which reaffirmed that the socialist path of development chosen by Poland was correct and historically substantiated. The declaration also emphasized the decisive role of the working class in building socialism and the need to strengthen the alliance between the workers and peasants as the basis of people’s rule. The Congress adopted directives for a six-year economic development plan (1950–55), based on a program of socialist industrialization. It also confirmed the party rules and elected the Central Committee, with B. Bierut as chairman. (From March 1954 to March 1956, Bierut served as first secretary of the Central Committee of the PUWP.)

After the Congress the party launched a massive sociopolitical campaign to rally the workers, peasants, and working intelligentsia in the struggle for the victory of socialism in Poland. In 1952 the National Front (Front of National Unity since 1956) was established under the direction of the PUWP. In addition to the PUWP, the front included other political parties and organizations that recognized the leading role of the PUWP, among them the United Peasant Party, the Democratic Party, trade unions, and youth and public organizations.

The Second Congress of the PUWP, held in March 1954, examined the results of the fulfillment of the first four years of the six-year plan, taking into account the corrections made between 1951 and 1953. It also modified the plan to increase capital investments in agriculture and light industry. Some changes were made in the party rules; the post of chairman of the party Central Committee was replaced by the office of first secretary, and the Organizational Bureau of the Central Committee was abolished. The Congress decided to replace the existing political and organizational secretariats of the Central Committee with a single Secretariat. It emphasized the need for the strict observance of the principles of collegiality and for the development of intraparty democracy in party agencies on all levels. The decisions of the Congress established guidelines for the party’s internal development and the ways for further strengthening the party’s directing role in society.

Guided by the Congress’ decisions, the party directed the efforts of the Polish working people toward fulfilling the objectives of the first six-year plan, which was on the whole successfully completed in 1955. This led to important changes in Poland’s economic and social structure. The gross industrial output increased 2.7 times between 1949 and 1955. The greatest achievements were in the development of heavy industry, primarily metallurgy. Socialist relations now predominated in all the major branches of the national economy, with the exception of agriculture. The fulfillment of the planned objectives involved difficulties, chiefly owing to the increasing international tension, which required the mobilization of additional resources to strengthen the country’s defense capability, and to disproportions in the development of different branches of the national economy.

During this period the party was successfully solving its main task, the rapid socialist industrialization of the country. In March 1956 the sixth plenum of the PUWP Central Committee elected E. Ochab first secretary of the Central Committee to replace B. Bierut, who had recently died, and also enlarged the Secretariat. The seventh plenum of the Central Committee, held in July 1956, noted the positive changes in the party’s work resulting from the restoration of the principles of collegiality in party agencies on all levels and the increased political activity of party members. But the plenum also recognized that the shortcomings in intraparty work and in the party’s day-to-day contacts with the masses had not yet been fully corrected.

The eighth plenum of the Central Committee, held in October 1956, was an important event in the life of the PUWP. The plenum analyzed the complications that had arisen at that time in Poland’s political life and outlined ways to overcome them. The decisions of the plenum provided for measures intended to eliminate disproportions in the development of the economy and to improve the planning and management of the national economy. The plenum also called for a more rapid growth of agricultural output, in particular, by raising the productivity of private farms, and it emphasized that further strengthening of the party’s leading role was crucial for the socialist development of the Polish People’s Republic. The plenum altered the party leadership and elected W. Gomułka first secretary of the Central Committee.

With a view to consolidating the ideological, political, social and economic base of socialism, the party intensified its struggle against all manifestations of revisionism. The ninth (May 1957) and tenth (October 1957) plenums of the Central Committee of the PUWP declared revisionism to be the main danger in the Polish and international communist movement at the current phase of historical development. To improve the quality of the party membership and intensify the struggle against all antiparty elements, the tenth plenum of the Central Committee adopted a resolution to issue new party membership cards. As a result 16 percent of the party members were dropped from the PUWP. Measures were taken to improve work among youth. In 1957–58 the party greatly consolidated its ranks.

The Third Congress of the PUWP, held in March 1959, worked out measures aimed at further democratizing social and political life and at strengthening the party’s unity and its ties with the popular masses. The Congress focused on the long-range development of Poland’s economy. It emphasized that the foundation for the further development of the country’s productive forces had been laid in all the major branches of the national economy. The Congress pointed out that an integral part of socialist construction was the socialist transformation of social consciousness and the development of a new attitude toward work and public property. The Congress confirmed the directives of the economic development plan for 1959–65. The plan included the last two years of the 1956–60 five-year plan, which had been ratified by the Sejm in February 1957. The congress also confirmed the five-year plan for 1961–65 and adopted new party rules.

All the plenums held between the Third and Fourth Party Congresses discussed questions relating to the realization of the objectives for the country’s social and economic development adopted by the Congress. These plenums devoted much attention to technical progress in industry, to a more efficient use of capital investments, and to the expansion of foreign trade. The

Table 1. Congresses and conferences of the Polish United Workers’ Party
First (Unification) Congress .....WarsawDec. 15–21, 1948
Second Congress...........WarsawMar. 10–17, 1954
Third Congress ............WarsawMar. 1–19, 1959
Fourth Congress............WarsawJune 15–20, 1964
Fifth Congress.............WarsawNov. 11–16, 1968
Sixth Congress ............WarsawDec. 6–11, 1971
First All-Polish Party Conference ..WarsawOct. 22–23, 1973
Seventh Congress...........WarsawDec. 8–12, 1975

13th plenum of the Central Committee of the PUWP, held in July 1963, noted the serious shortcomings and omissions in the party’s ideological work and stressed the need for greatly improving this aspect in order to make ideological activity commensurate with the country’s social and economic development.

The Fourth Congress of the PUWP, held in June 1964, summed up the development of the Polish People’s Republic in the preceding 20 years. Noting the major achievements in the country’s economic and social development, the Congress called attention to the great reserves in the national economy and noted the need for austerity and for raising the level of technical progress and labor productivity. The Congress approved the control figures for the development of Poland for 1966–70.

The Fifth Congress of the PUWP, held in November 1968, pointed out the need to further intensify the development of the national economy and to step up the party’s ideological work. The Congress analyzed the causes and consequences of the events of the previous March, when antisocialist and revisionist elements in the country tried to turn the students and the intelligentsia against the people’s state and the working class. The Congress confirmed the control figures for the 1971–75 five-year plan and set forth the party’s tasks in strengthening the solidarity of the countries belonging to the socialist commonwealth and in bolstering the international communist movement.

After the Congress, difficulties arose in implementing the social and economic development program. The difficulties were caused by errors in the planning and management of the economy and by the bad harvest in 1969–70. All this led to serious social and political complications in December 1970. The seventh plenum of the Central Committee of the PUWP, held on Dec. 20, 1970, adopted decisions aimed at resolving the difficulties. The plenum accepted W. Gomułka’s resignation as first secretary of the Central Committee for reasons of health and elected E. Gierek to the post. It also elected a new Politburo and a new Secretariat of the Central Committee of the PUWP.

The eighth plenum of the Central Committee, held in February 1971, evaluated the December events and set forth the party’s current tasks, noting in particular that the party must strengthen its ties with the working class and other strata of the working people. The plenum indicated that the most important and the most pressing of all the tasks confronting the party was to ensure high rates of industrial development and a substantial rise in labor productivity, thereby improving the living conditions of the working people. As a result of the decisions of the seventh and eighth plenums of the Central Committee essential changes were made in the national economic plan and the state budget for 1971. Measures ensuring the solution of pressing social and economic problems were adopted in the course of 1971.

The Sixth Congress of the PUWP was convened in December 1971, ahead of schedule, by a decision of the eighth plenum of the Central Committee. The Congress summed up the results of the 1966–70 plan and noted the considerable growth in the productive forces and in the national income; in these years the national income had increased by 34 percent and the gross output 1.5 times. The Congress approved the measures taken by the Central Committee after the seventh and eighth plenums and adopted a comprehensive decision entitled For the Further Socialist Development of the Polish People’s Republic, containing directives for social and economic development for 1971–75 and in some cases for longer periods. The decisions of the Congress indicated that the 1970’s must become a period of further progress in the creation of a developed socialist society in Poland. The Congress emphasized the importance of Poland’s cooperation with the countries of the socialist commonwealth, of which socialist economic integration is the highest form. The Congress approved changes in the party rules and replaced many members of the Central Committee.

Carrying out the party’s policy of improving its supervision of social and political life on all levels, the September 1972 plenum of the Central Committee adopted a resolution to introduce reforms in the local agencies of state power and to replace the gromadas with enlarged administrative and economic units, called gminas. In accordance with this decision, a network of gmina committees of the PUWP was created. The November 1972 plenum, which discussed the ideological and political upbringing of the younger generation, was an important event in the life of the PUWP and the country. The implementation of the decisions of the Sixth Congress of the PUWP has been accompanied by a growth in the labor and political activism of the working people and by a strengthening of the party’s leading role and authority in society.

The First All-Polish Conference of the PUWP, held in October 1973, discussed the results of social and economic development for 1971–73 and set forth the tasks for 1974–75. Emphasizing once more that the party’s chief task is the consistent and optimal realization of the program for accelerated social and economic development, which would raise the living standard of the working people, the conference adopted a resolution to work out the Comprehensive Program for the Better Satisfaction of the People’s Need for Food Products. The conference stressed the need to develop a long-range agricultural policy that would above all substantially increase the proportion of agricultural products supplied by state farms and agricultural cooperatives, as well as agricultural centers, in the total agricultural output. Examining Poland’s long-range prospects for development, the documents of the First Party Conference of the PUWP and of the 13th plenum of the Central Committee (February 1974) emphasize that all the preconditions exist for drawing up a program to build a developed socialist society and to implement this program within two decades.

The 15th plenum of the Central Committee of the PUWP, held in October 1974, discussed the growth of agricultural production and the development of all forms of cooperation in agriculture.

In accordance with the party rules, the Seventh Congress of the PUWP was held in December 1975. The Congress summed up the results of the successfully fulfilled national economic development plan for 1971–75 and noted the increase in industrial output and national income. (In the five years of the plan industrial output had increased by 73 percent and agricultural output by 22 percent; foreign trade turnover had more than doubled; and the national income had increased by more than 62 percent.) The Congress adopted a detailed resolution called For the Further Dynamic Development of Socialist Construction, for Higher Work Quality and Living Standards for the People, which contained directives for Poland’s socioeconomic development between 1976 and 1980. It proclaimed that the country was entering the stage of the construction of a developed socialist society. Its resolutions emphasized the importance of further strengthening international unity with the Soviet Union and the other countries of the socialist commonwealth, of solidarity with the international communist and workers’ movement, and of further extending socialist economic integration. The Congress approved some changes in the party rules: regular party Congresses are to be convened every five years. In addition, certain changes were made in the structure of party organizations, taking into account the administrative reform that provides for replacing powiats with gminas. The Congress elected the PÙWP’s new Central Committee, consisting of 140 members and 111 candidate members.

The fifth plenum of the Central Committee of the PUWP, held in December 1976, was of great importance for the PUWP and the entire country. It discussed the question of The Consistent Fulfillment of the Socioeconomic Program of the PUWP’s Seventh Congress and Greater Efficiency in Economic Management, as well as the national economic development plans for 1976–80 and 1977. The plenum’s resolutions envisage some corrections in the plan indexes and economic maneuvering aimed at concentrating efforts on the main lines of economic plan development. They call for providing the domestic market with a greater number of consumer goods through the more rational use of resources in industry and for increasing allotments for the development of housing and agriculture (which would increase the production of foodstuffs). Other tasks include reducing the share of capital construction in the national income and increasing the output of export products.

The problems of developing crop cultivation and livestock raising and of the more effective use of agricultural resources were considered at the sixth plenum of the Central Committee of the PUWP, held in January 1977. The extensive parceling of land in Poland’s countryside prompted the adoption of measures designed to increase commodity output by private farms. Along with further strengthening the socialist sector, the plenum recommended an increase in the number of specialized crop-cultivation and livestock-raising farms. It adopted a resolution calling for a new pension law for peasants. The law would enable the state, if necessary, to take over the plots of peasants unable to turn out commodity production. In exchange, the peasants would receive a pension. The plenum set as a task the reduction of the number of private farms within the next few years by almost a factor of three.

In April 1977 the seventh plenum of the Central Committee of the PUWP discussed the question of the party’s ideological and educational work. It called for the further organizational strengthening of the PUWP and for stepping up its work in heightening the socialist consciousness of the people on the basis of the tasks put forward by the Seventh Congress of the PUWP aimed at carrying out the program of building a developed socialist society in Poland.

Delegations of the PUWP attended the international conferences of the communist and workers’ parties held in Moscow in 1957, 1960, and 1969. The PUWP approved the documents adopted at the conferences. The party approved the Peace Program proclaimed at the Twenty-fourth Congress of the CPSU and made a significant contribution to the joint efforts of the countries of the socialist commonwealth toward easing international tension.

The PUWP is organized according to the principles of democratic centralism. The highest organ of the PUWP is the party Congress, and between Congresses the highest authority is the Central Committee, which elects from among its members the Politburo and the Secretariat. The PUWP had 2.4 million members and candidate members as of Jan. 1, 1975. E. Gierek is the first secretary of the Central Committee of the PUWP. The main press organ is the newspaper Trybuna Ludu, and the party’s theoretical organ is the magazine Nowe Drogi.

A list of the congresses and conferences of the Polish United Workers’ Party is given in Table 1.


Bierut, B. Otchetnyi doklad TsK PORP II s”ezdu partit 10 marta 1954 g. Moscow, 1954.
III s”ezd PORP. Moscow, 1959. (Translated from Polish.)
IV s”ezd PORP. Moscow, 1966. (Translated from Polish.)
V s”ezd PORP. Moscow, 1969. (Translated from Polish.)
VI s”ezd PORP. Moscow, 1972. (Translated from Polish.)
VII s”ezd PORP. Moscow, 1976. (Translated from Polish.)
Gierek, E. Zadachi partii po dal’neishemu sotsialisticheskomu razvitiiu PNR: Programmnyi doklad na VI s”ezde PORP 6 dekabria 1971 g. Moscow, 1971. (Translated from Polish.)

P. K. KOSTIKOV [20–832–1; updated]

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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