Edward Lipiński (October 18, 1888-July 13, 1986) was a Polish economist, intellectual, social critic, and human rights advocate. Lipinski’s career spanned almost seven decades. Throughout his career, he held a series of advisory positions within the government, founded several organizations, and published books and essays on economic policy. His works concerned business cycles, growth theory and other areas in economics. Fighter for Polish independence, Socialist activist in the Second Polish Republic, opponent of communism in the People's Republic of Poland.
Born at Nowe Miasto, Congress Poland, Russian Empire he was educated in Leipzig from 1909-1912 and eventually obtained a doctorate in economics from the University of Zurich prior to World War I. He had been briefly jailed in 1906 for protesting Tsarist rule in Poland. After the war, in 1918, he was a participant in the Polish-Soviet War (1919-1920).
He organized and directed the Institute of Prices and Business Cycles in 1928. Since 1929 he was a professor of Warsaw School of Economics. He founded the Polish Central Statistical Office, and Polish Economic Association. He also served as president of the Economic Association (1945-1965) and was an editor of Ekonomista (The Economist, a Polish publication), and a member of the Academy of Sciences. Poland’s foremost economist, he was also a notable author whose works are widely read in his native Poland, though many have not yet been translated into English. In 1938 he actively opposed anti-semitic campaign carried at the university by some youth factions and supported by the Obóz Narodowo-Radykalny party which eventually forced him to resign from his position at the School of Economics.
Always an active professor, Lipinski held underground classes even during Nazi occupation of Poland. After the war he briefly became the Chair of Economics at the Warsaw University and became one of the economic advisors to the Polish post-war government but his career has been somewhat derailed by the communist takeover of Poland after the war.
Lipinski, a member of the Polish Socialist Party since 1906 was expelled from the party in 1946 when it merged with the Soviet-backed Communist party (Polish Workers Party) to which he was fervently opposed; later however he joined the Polish United Workers Party (PZPR).
Throughout his post-World War II career he frequently clashed with communist government economists, regarding economic issues such as their reluctance to stray from Marx’ by then already dated economic principles. An outspoken critic of Stalinism, Lipinski warned that “overorganization” of economic policy and rigid adherence to the party line even in the face of rapidly changing conditions that required immediate action beyond the scope of the routine would stifle growth. He was finally punished for his criticism when hardliner Stalinist faction (Bolesław Bierut and others) gained power in 1949; he was forced to resign as the Chair of Economics and banned from delivering some of his lectures (but not all) by the Polish Stalinist regime.
After the Polish October he briefly returned as an economic advisor, but when the new government lost its zeal to reform, he became sidelined again. His candidature was one of many that were put forward by the people but discarded by the government screening commission in the Polish legislative election, 1957.
Eventually Lipinski became one of the prominent critics of the government; his position as a known Marxist economist shielded him to certain extent from government persecution and allowed him to say things many others were unable to, although till the very end he remained convinced that some form of socialism is preferable to the Western capitalism. He signed three public letters criticizing the communist government: the Letter of 34 in 1964 and Letter of 59 and Letter of 14 in 1976. In 1977 he was finally expelled from the Polish communist party (PZPR).
In the spring of 1976 Lipinski sent an open letter to then Polish Communist Party head Edward Gierek roundly criticizing the drastic price increase on foodstuffs that Gierek imposed in an attempt to balance Poland’s import based economy that relied heavily on western loans that it had difficulty paying back by the mid seventies. Gierek, who succeeded Władysław Gomułka, came to power by promising to improve the quality of life of the Polish worker by raising wages and stabilizing prices. In his letter Lipinski affirms that “socialism cannot be decreed. It is and may only be born of the free actions of free people” and pledges that “the movement of revival shall gain in strength, and that the recently intensifying repression will not contain it much longer…” Lipinski’s letter came shortly after massive strikes near Warsaw which were a precursor to the strikes at Gdansk in 1980 that forced the Polish government to recognize independent trade unions. The Gdansk Agreement, as it came to be known, was made possible by the successful cooperation of workers and intellectuals.
The letter also coincided with the formation of the Worker’s Defense Committee. Also known as the KOR, this aid group founded by Edward Lipinski, Stanisław Barańczak, Jacek Bocheński, Jan Józef Lipski and others that gave assistance to protestors and dissidents jailed after the widespread workers’ strikes that resulted from Gierek’s price hikes. The support of Lipinski and other intellectuals for these striking workers’ proved to be a catalyst for forcing Gierek to withdraw the increases. The assistance provided by the KOR and the continual activities of its members helped make the Gdansk agreement possible. On September 23, 1981 Lipinski gave a speech to Solidarity's first national congress disbanding the KOR. He heralded the arrival of Solidarity as a political force saying, the "KOR has recognized that its work has ended, and that other forces have arrived on a much more powerful scale. But the task of fighting for an independent Poland, for human and civil rights, is a fight that still must go on."
Lipinski is the author of nearly 200 books and essays on subjects ranging from the theory of economic fluctuations, a subject upon which he wielded a great influence, to industrial performance, prices and planning, market structures, and in his early career social issues. A great deal of his scholarships is dedicated to socio-economic research. Never relying solely on mathematical models and theory alone to predict and explain economical phenomenon, Lipinski is known for the emphasis on human creativity and spontaneity he placed on economic theorizing. In his seminal Karl Marx and Problems of Our Time, he posits that economics are a “complex social phenomena” and he draws on sociology and psychology to explain trends as much as he does mathematics.
Selected bibliography of texts available in English:
- Studies in the History of Polish Economic Thought (1956)
- Karl Marx and the Problems of Our Time (1969)
- Development of Agriculture and Industry (1955)
- Member Polish Socialist Party (1906-1975)
- President Bank of Economical Developments
- Minister of the Statistical Office
- Chair of Economics, Higher Academy of International Trade (1930-retirement)
- Chair of Economics, Warsaw University (post World War II)
- Founder and Head of the Institute of Trade Cycles and Prices (1928)
- Director of the Institute of National Economy (1956)
- Editor of The Economist (1928-1978)
- President of Polish Academy of Economists
- Founding member of Komitet Obrony Robotników (Worker’s Defense Committee, KOR) (1976)
- Solidarity advisor (1981)
- N. Assorodobraj-Kula et al., eds., Studies in Economic Theory and Practice: Essays in Honor of Edward Lipinski New York: North Holland Publishing Company, 1981, ix-x.
- Andrzej Brzeski, review of Karol Marks i Zagadnienia Wspolczesnosci, by Edward Lipinski, Journal of Economic Literature Vol. 14, No.2 (Jun, 1976), pp. 478–480.
- "Obituary of Professor Edward Lipinski," The Times, 16 July 1986 .
- Bernhard, Michael H., The Origins of Democratization in Poland: Workers, Intellectuals, and Oppositional Politics 1976-1980 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993), 76.
- Abraham Brumberg, Edward Lipinski, Jan Litynski, “After Gdansk: Two Interviews,” New York Review of Books Vol. 27, No. 15 (Oct. 9, 1980)
- Edward Lipinski, "Lipinski's Farewell," New York Review of Books Vol. 28, No. 18 (Nov. 19, 1981)
- (Polish) Witold Gadomski, Edward Lipiński - ekonomista, socjalista, Gazeta Wyborcza, 2003-09-19