|First Secretary of the Polish United Workers' Party|
21 October 1956 – 20 December 1970
|Preceded by||Edward Ochab|
|Succeeded by||Edward Gierek|
|First Secretary of the Polish Workers' Party|
|Preceded by||Paweł Finder|
|Succeeded by||Bolesław Bierut|
6 February 1905|
|Died||1 September 1982
|Political party||Polish United Workers' Party|
Władysław Gomułka (Polish: [vwaˈdɨswaf ɡɔˈmuwka]; 6 February 1905 – 1 September 1982) was a Polish communist leader. He was the de facto leader of Poland from 1945 to 1948, and again from 1956 to 1970.
Gomułka was a member of the Communist Party of Poland (Komunistyczna Partia Polski, KPP) starting in 1926.
Life and career
Gomułka was born in Krosno. In 1934, he went to Moscow, where he lived for a year. Upon his return to Poland he was arrested and spent most of his time in prison until the beginning of World War II. During the war, Gomułka became an influential Polish communist and in 1943 convinced Joseph Stalin to allow the reformation of the local communist party under the name Polish Workers' Party (Polska Partia Robotnicza). He was a Deputy Prime Minister in the Provisional Government of Republic of Poland - Rząd Tymczasowy Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej, from January to June 1945, and in the Provisional Government of National Unity (Tymczasowy Rząd Jedności Narodowej), from 1945 to 1947. Using his position in the government, he crushed all meaningful resistance to the communists. He also helped the communists in winning the 3 x Tak (3 Times Yes) referendum of 1946. A year later, he played a key role in the rigged 1947 parliamentary elections, after which the communists and their allies were declared overwhelming winners and legal opposition was eliminated.
With the onset of undisguised communist rule, Gomułka became, as he said, "the hegemon of Poland". However, between 1948–1954, rivalry between Party factions (Gomułka was the leader of the native, Bolesław Bierut of Stalin's Moscow-reared wartime communist group) led to Gomułka's removal from power and imprisonment. He was accused of "right wing-reactionary deviation", and expelled from the Polish United Workers' Party (as the Polish Workers' Party was renamed following a merger with the Polish Socialist Party).
After the death of Stalinist Prime Minister Bierut in 1956, a brief period of de-Stalinization began, raising popular hope for reform. In June 1956, an insurrection began in Poznań. The workers rioted to protest shortages of food and consumer goods, bad housing, decline in genuine income, shipments of commodities to the Soviet Union and poor management of the economy. The Polish government initially responded by branding the rioters "provocateurs, counterrevolutionaries and imperialist agents". Security forces killed and wounded scores of protesters. Soon, however, the party hierarchy recognized the riots had awakened nationalist sentiment and reversed their opinion. The rioters became "honest workers with legitimate grievances". Wages were raised by 50% and economic and political change was promised.
Edward Ochab, Bierut's successor, invited the now-rehabilitated Gomułka to serve as First Secretary of the Party. Gomułka insisted that he be given real power to implement reforms. One specific condition he set was that the Soviet Marshal Konstantin Rokossovsky, who had ordered troops against the Poznań workers, be removed from the Polish Politburo and Defense Ministry, to which Ochab agreed. On 19 October, the majority of the Polish leadership, backed by the army and also the Internal Security Corps, brought Gomułka and several associates into the Politburo and designated Gomułka as First Secretary of the Party. The Soviet leadership viewed events in Poland with alarm. Simultaneously with troop 'maneuvers' on the Soviet-Polish border, a high-level delegation of the Soviet Central Committee flew to Poland. It was led by Nikita Khrushchev and included Mikoyan, Bulganin, Molotov, Kaganovich, Marshal Konev and others. Gomułka made it clear that Polish troops would resist if Soviet troops advanced, but reassured the Soviets that the reforms were internal matters and that Poland had no intention of abandoning the communist bloc or its treaties with the Soviet Union. The Soviets yielded. Gomułka was confirmed in his new position. Information about events in Poland reached the people of Hungary via Radio Free Europe during 19–22 October 1956. A student demonstration in Budapest in support of Gomułka, asking for similar reforms in Hungary, soon sparked the Hungarian Revolution of 1956.
Gomułka was initially very popular for his reforms and seeking a "Polish way to socialism", and giving rise to the period known as "Gomułka's thaw". However, during the 1960s he became more conservative under growing Soviet pressure. In the 1960s he supported persecution of the Catholic Church and intellectuals (notably Leszek Kołakowski who was forced into exile). He participated in the Warsaw Pact intervention in Czechoslovakia in 1968. At that time he was also responsible for persecuting students as well as toughening censorship of the media. In 1968 he incited an "anti-Zionist" propaganda campaign as a result of the Soviet bloc's frustration with the outcome of the Six-Day War. It has been alleged that this was simply a thinly veiled anti-Semitic campaign designed to keep himself in power by shifting the attention of the populace from stagnating economy and Stalinist mismanagement. Gomułka later claimed that this was not deliberate, but the result was that the majority of the remaining Polish citizens of Jewish origin left the country.
In December 1970, bloody clashes with shipyard workers on the Baltic Coast, in which several dozen workers were fatally shot, forced his resignation and retirement (officially for health reasons; he had in fact suffered a stroke). A dynamic younger man, Edward Gierek, took over the Party leadership and tensions eased.
After his death in 1982 of cancer, Gomułka's negative image in communist propaganda was modified and some of his constructive contributions were recognized. He is seen as an honest and austere believer in the socialist system, who, unable to resolve Poland's formidable difficulties and satisfy mutually contradictory demands, grew more rigid and despotic later in his career. His memoirs were first published in 1994.
Decorations and awards
- Order of the Builders of People's Poland
- Grand Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta
- Partisan Cross
- Order of the Cross of Grunwald, 1st class
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Władysław Gomułka.|
- Rothschild and Wingfield: Return to Diversity, A Political History of East Central Europe Since World War II OUP 2000
- "The defection of Jozef Swiatlo and the Search for Jewish Scapegoats in the Polish United Workers' Party, 1953-1954" (PDF). Fourth Convention of the Association for the Study of Nationalities. Harriman Institute, Columbia University, New York City. April 15–17, 1999. Retrieved 2007-10-27.
- "Notes from the Minutes of the CPSU CC Presidium Meeting with Satellite Leaders, October 24, 1956" (PDF). The 1956 Hungarian Revolution, A History in Documents. George Washington University: The National Security Archive. November 4, 2002. Retrieved 2006-09-02.
- "Rebellious Compromiser". Time Magazine. 10 December 1956. Retrieved 2006-10-14.
- Judt, Tony (2005). Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945. New York, The Penguin Press (pages 434-435)
|Party political offices|
|General Secretary of the Polish Workers' Party
Bolesław Bierut (as General Secretary of the Polish United Workers' Party
|General Secretary of the Polish United Workers' Party