24 Pictures Examining Life in Communist Poland
24 Pictures Examining Life in Communist Poland

24 Pictures Examining Life in Communist Poland

Jacob Miller - July 30, 2017

Communism in Poland traces its roots back to the late 19th century when the Marxist First Proletariat Party was founded in 1882. Between the First and Second World Wars, in the Second Polish Republic, communists formed the Communist Party of Poland KPP but most of the leaders and activists were killed in Stalin’s Great Purge in the 1930s and the Party was abolished by Communist International, an international organization that advocated a global communist system.

In 1942, the Polish Workers’ Party (PRR) was established in Nazi-occupied Poland. At the same time, in Moscow, the Union of Polish Patriots was installed with Stalin’s support as a rival communist center. After the Nazis were defeated, the Polish People’s Republic was formed and the PRR and Polish United Worker’s Party (PZPR) were joined.

Under communism, the Polish economy deteriorated. On June 28, 1956, the first major anti-communist protests began in Poznan, a western city close to the German border. 57 protesters were killed and almost 800 arrested, almost all of whom were workers.

As communism became less popular, the government became more and more oppressive, with many anti-religion policies. The State machine was spending too much on heavy industry, armaments and prestige projects, and not enough time on consumer production. In March 1968, a second wave of protests sprang up, starting in Warsaw after the regime banned a play by the famous Polish writer Adam Mickiewicz. The intelligentsia was targeted and removed from their positions in academia and government.

Because the Soviets invested too much money in military strength, the food prices needed to be artificially low to kept urban discontent under control. On December 12, 1970, the regime suddenly announced a massive 60% increase in the prices of basic foods. Food Ration Cards were introduced because of the destabilized market in August 1976 and remained a part of life in Poland for the duration of the People’s Republic. Poland’s crisis deteriorated and in 1970, 1971, 1976, a third, fourth, and fifth wave of protests broke out.

In the 1980s the Solidarity Movement, an anti-communist, pro-labor union formed. This led to the fall of communism in Poland. On December 13, 1981, with the country on the verge of economic and civil breakdown, Martial law was declared. Several thousand Solidarity union supporters were imprisoned. The Military Council of National Salvation banned Solidarity on October 8. Martial law was formally lifted in July 1983, although oppressive policies and food rationing remained through the late 1980s.

In 1989, the National Assembly Presidential Election was held. The communist party just barely won, despite their representative being the only name officially on the ballot. Solidarity elected representative Tadeusz Mazowiecki was appointed prime minister and confirmed on August 24, 1989. In December 1989, socialism and Marxism were officially removed from the Polish Constitution. Lech Wałęsa, President of the Solidarity union demanded early presidential elections. In 1990, Wałęsa won the presidential elections.

The communist Polish United Worker’s Party dissolved in 1990. The Soviet Union disbanded in December 1991.

24 Pictures Examining Life in Communist Poland
Chris Niedenthal, Warsaw 1982. Meat store, photo: press material
24 Pictures Examining Life in Communist Poland
Chris Niedenthal, Bieszczady Mountains, 1979. Tar worker after a hard day’s work, photo: press material
24 Pictures Examining Life in Communist Poland
Chris Niedenthal, Kraków 1982. Vistula clothing factory, photo: press material
24 Pictures Examining Life in Communist Poland
Chris Niedenthal, Kalwaria Pacławska, August 1977. Pilgrimage, photo: press material
24 Pictures Examining Life in Communist Poland
Chris Niedenthal, girl looking after Christmas Eve carp, photo: press material
24 Pictures Examining Life in Communist Poland
Chris Niedenthal, Wrocław, summer 1982, photo: press material
24 Pictures Examining Life in Communist Poland
Chris Niedenthan, While searching for oil in Karlino (western Pomerania) in December 1980, a fire broke out. A rumour went around saying that it was a ploy by the authorities to distract Poles and people outside of Poland from the activities of Solidarity.
24 Pictures Examining Life in Communist Poland
Chris Niedenthal, Gdańsk 1980. Before leaving for his new job as head of the newly-founded Solidarity trade union, the electrician Lech Wałęsa says goodbye to his wife Danuta in the presence of his mother-in-law, photo: press material
24 Pictures Examining Life in Communist Poland
1956 Polish Anti-Communism protest, sign says we ask for bread
24 Pictures Examining Life in Communist Poland
Waiting in long lines for bread. topsecretinfodump
24 Pictures Examining Life in Communist Poland
there was zero percent unemployment but many workers had nothing to do. Workers chat at the Rawa Mazowiecka meat processing plant. Chris Niedenthal

24 Pictures Examining Life in Communist Poland
1) Wroclaw, July 1982. The “Moda Polska” clothes shop in the Market Square. A long queue of people waits to be allowed in. This was a “high end” fashion store in those days, photo by Chris Niedenthal / Forum
24 Pictures Examining Life in Communist Poland
Early 1960s 1st May parade. Attendance was mandatory. Portraits of Brezhniev, Krushchev, Gomółka and Zawadzki. Warsaw, photo by Zbyszek Siemaszko / Forum
24 Pictures Examining Life in Communist Poland
Chocolate-like products. Upper one is titled ‘a greasy mass product’, photo by Adam Golec / Agencja Gazeta
24 Pictures Examining Life in Communist Poland
Come In, a popular communist TV series, photo by Polfilm / East News
24 Pictures Examining Life in Communist Poland
Lech Walesa relaxing at home with family (wife Danuta, their 3 children, mother-in-law Feliksa Golos), in Gdansk, November 1980, photo by Chris Niedenthal / Forum
24 Pictures Examining Life in Communist Poland
1) A women pushing a saturator, Warsaw, 1959. photo by Zbyszek Siemaszko / National Digital Archives
24 Pictures Examining Life in Communist Poland
Warsaw, 1978. Phones, advertising photo. The deficit of private phones was a result of poor infrastructure, and low priority of the communist regime. People often had to wait 20 years to get a phone installed. photo by Michał Browarski / Forum
24 Pictures Examining Life in Communist Poland
A family meeting in the sixties in communist Poland. Photo Zbyszko Siemaszko : Forum
24 Pictures Examining Life in Communist Poland
The kitchen of a milk bar in the seventies, photo by Tomek Sikora : Forum
24 Pictures Examining Life in Communist Poland
Students enjoying a meal in a milk bar in 50s Warsaw. photo Zbyszko Siemaszko : Forum
24 Pictures Examining Life in Communist Poland
Chris Niedenthal, Warsaw, December 1981. First day of Martial Law. Kino Moskwa screens Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now”, photo: press material
24 Pictures Examining Life in Communist Poland
Polish communist security troops use tear gas during clashes with anti-martial-law demonstrators in the Warsaw Old Town.SOURCE TEODOR WALCZAK:CORBIS

 

Sources For Further Reading:

Encyclopedia Britannica – Dictatorship Of The Proletariat

New York Times – Rioting Over Hard Life in Poland Led to ‘Golden October’ of 1956

Poland Culture – What Poles Ate When There Was Nothing to Eat

Poland History – Communist Food Rationing Turned into a Board Game

Holocaust Research Project – “How The Germans Are Starving Poland”

Harvard Business Review – Starting Over: Poland After Communism

National Security Archive – “Solidarity’s Coming Victory: Big or Too Big”

DW – Poland Blazed The Trail For The Fall Of Communism

Deseret News – Polish Communists Vote To Dissolve Communist Party

History Collection – This Day In History: Lech Walesa Is Released By The Communists (1983)

The New York Times – END OF THE SOVIET UNION; The Soviet State, Born Of A Dream, Dies

Encyclopedia Britannica – Why Did the Soviet Union Collapse?

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