Włodzimierz Brus

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Włodzimierz Brus born Beniamin Zylberberg (Płock, August 23, 1921 – August 31, 2007, Oxford) was a Communist economist in Stalinist Poland. He emigrated from Poland in 1972, removed from power after the Polish 1968 political crisis. Brus spent the rest of his life in the United Kingdom.

Brus was born in 1921 in Płock in northern Second Polish Republic, into a Jewish family. He began his studies there at Wolna Wszechnica. After the 1939 German and Soviet invasion of Poland, he fled to the Soviet occupation zone and settled in Lwów (now Lviv, Ukraine) a Polish city conquered by the Red Army. He continued his studies at John Casimir University (now Lviv University) and later at the Leningrad University in the Soviet Union. He then fled to Saratov, where he was a Comintern teacher and also worked in a factory. Towards the end of the war, Brus returned to Poland with the Soviet controlled Polish First Army, only to find that his parents and sister had been killed in the Treblinka concentration camp. He ran into his young Jewish wife Fajga (now Helena Wolińska),[1] who he thought also died in the Holocaust.[2] She was alive but already married to a commander of Gwardia Ludowa and first commandant of the communist state police Milicja Obywatelska, a deputy minister of stalininst Secret Police (1945–1949).[3]


After the war, Brus became the head of propaganda for the communist Polish Workers' Party (PPR). He also wrote his doctoral thesis on the Marxist law of value and then started teaching at Warsaw University. In 1952 he wrote a propaganda textbook in which he expressed admiration for Joseph Stalin's work The Economic Problems of Socialism. He also attacked Titoism and Władysław Gomułka's ideas claiming that neither proposed a Soviet paths to socialism. In 1955, Brus became the vice-chairman of a council which was to advise the Gomułka government on economic reforms, but, with the economic stabilization that followed the Poznań 1956 uprising, most of the council's proposals were ignored.[1] In 1956, he remarried Wolińska, who was recently fired from her job as a military prosecutor accused of violating the rule of law in staged trials of Polish officers which frequently resulted in executions.[2][4]

In 1961, Brus's most influential work The General Problems of the Functioning of the Socialist Economy appeared, in which he argued that both democracy and market mechanisms were a necessity on the road to socialism. In 1965, he testified in defense of Jacek Kuroń and Karol Modzelewski, who were on trial for their "Open Letter to the Party" calling for democratic reforms. He would also defend Leszek Kołakowski and Krzysztof Pomian when they were expelled from the Party, but in 1968 he was expelled himself. Between 1968 and 1972 Brus was not allowed to publish under his real name. In 1972 he emigrated with Wolińska to the United Kingdom where he became a professor at the University of Oxford. In 1989, together with Kazimierz Laski, he published From Marx to the Market, in which the arguments presented in Brus's 1961 work were extended. In the 1990s, Brus and his wife decided against their return to democratic Poland because she would face charges there for her involvement in the unlawful detainment and subsequent murder of General Emil August Fieldorf. Polish prosecutors issued a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) against Wolinska on November 20, 2007.[5] Brus died earlier that year, on August 31, 2007.[1]


  1. ^ a b c Toporowski, Jan: Wlodzimierz Brus (Obituary). The Guardian online. Retrieved January 1, 2008.
  2. ^ a b "The Three Lives of Helena Brus" by Anne Applebaum, blog copy from The Sunday Telegraph 1998
  3. ^ "Są zbrodnie bez kary," (There are crimes without justice) by Piotr Szubarczyk, IPN Gdańsk, 23–24 February 2008. Nasz Dziennik. No. 46 (3063)
  4. ^ Nick Hodge, "Controversial communist prosecutor dies in UK." Krakow Post, 31 December 2008.
  5. ^ The Daily Telegraph, November 21, 2007. Retrieved November 22, 2007; The Times, November 20, 2007. Retrieved November 22, 2007