Poland, Bridge for the Abyss? An Interpretation of Developments in Post-War Poland

By Richard Hiscocks | Go to book overview

II. MARX AND ENGELS

POLISH Communism, in theory and practice, can be understood best against the broad background of the history of the Communist movement. During the first eight years of Communist government in Poland, from 1945 until 1953, Stalin was the dominating force in world Communism. Before that, during the inter-War period, he had exercised a powerful influence over the Polish Communists, while they were still a small and illegal opposition party; so much so, in fact, that the party was dissolved at his command in 1938 and its leaders were liquidated. After Khrushchev's attack on Stalin in 1956 at the Twentieth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), 'Marxism-Leninism' became a criterion of Communism orthodoxy in Poland as in other Communist countries and is likely long to remain so. But Lenin's main contributions to the Communist movement were the adaptation of Marxism to meet the Russian situation and the organization in Russia of its first great revolutionary victory. Polish Communists, particularly Gomułka, have been very conscious of the differences between conditions in Russia after the February revolution in 1917 and the situation in Poland after the second World War, and they have frequently stressed the need to employ different methods in the two cases. This has often led some of the theorists among them to go back one stage further, in the search for an orthodox criterion, to the founding fathers of the Communist movement, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels.

Some brief preliminary consideration of the leading ideas and achievements of Marx and Engels, of Lenin, and of Stalin is necessary, therefore, in order to put Polish Communism into an intelligible setting. Such a consideration will have the additional advantage of putting the whole Marxist movement into perspective before an attempt is made to interpret the significance of developments in Poland. It will also facilitate the adoption of an objective attitude to the Marxist problem; for Stalin presents much the biggest obstacle to a balanced approach from the

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