Battle for trade

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Battle for trade (Polish: Bitwa o handel; also translated as trade battle or battle over trade) refers to the early period of communist takeover of Poland (1946–49) when new laws and regulations succeeded in significantly decreasing the size of the private sector in Polish trade, in order to facilitate the transformation of Polish economy from capitalism to Soviet communism's planned economy. The private shops were nationalized or closed, and government-owned chains (Państwowe Domy Handlowe) and cooperatives were created to replace them; this was however inefficient as more shops were closed than opened and led to lasting difficulties for Polish people in obtaining consumer goods.

The 'battle' began when Polish communist Hilary Minc proposed and succeeded in passing a series of reforms during the 1947 Polish Workers Party congress accompanying the Three-Year Plan. On 13–14 April the 1947 congress of the Polish Workers Party accepted that direction.[1]

On 2 June 1947[1] new laws were passed to help the government in the 'battle':

  • on fighting high prices and excessive profit in trade (maximum prices were introduced by Biuro Cen (Prices Bureau), and owners of shops where prices were found higher than maximum were subject to a high fine and five years of imprisonment when found by a special commission (The Special Commission for Counteracting Profiteering and Abuses — Komisja Specjalna do Walki ze Spekulacją i Nadużyciami)[1])
  • new fines or surtaxes (domiary) were levied on the private sector, applicable when government officials found that the private business was generating higher revenues than declared[1]
  • on citizens tax commissions and social controllers (Społeczne Komitety Kontroli Cen, Public Committees of Price Control)
  • on concessions to run trade and building enterprises
  • private shops were banned in centers of large cities
  • private shops were banned from trading certain goods
  • merchants' organizations were disbanded

This new legislation allowed the government to accuse many shopkeepers of sabotage, imprison them and nationalise their enterprises. The name itself, 'battle for trade', was introduced by Polish communist propaganda, to denote the importance and urgency of the fight against 'capitalist speculators and saboteurs'.[2]

The number of private retail shops fell from 150,000–185,000 in 1946 (numbers vary) through 131,000 in 1947 to 58,000–70,000 in 1949.[1] Wholesale stores fell from 3300 to 1100.[1] By 1953 only 7% of shops in Poland remained in private hands (about 14,000 in 1955); 75% of craftsmen's workshops were closed or nationalized (to 80,000).[3]

Since many fewer government-run shops were opened, it marked the beginning of the shortage economy, as people found it increasingly difficult to find a shop with items of everyday use.[4]

All Polish businesses that employed more than 50 staff were nationalized in 1948.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f (in Polish) 60 lat temu komuniści rozpoczęli "bitwę o handel"[permanent dead link], Gazeta Wyborcza, 2007-04-11
  2. ^ Andrzej K. Koźmiński, Catching Up?: Organizational and Management Change in the Ex-Socialist Block, SUNY Press, ISBN 0-7914-1597-X, Google Print, p.49
  3. ^ (in Polish) Polska. Gospodarka. Przemysł.. Encyklopedia PWN
  4. ^ "Między Modernizacją A Marnotrawstwem" (in Polish). Institute of National Remembrance. Archived from the original on 2005-03-21. See also other copy online Archived 2007-04-26 at the Wayback Machine

Further reading[edit]