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

By Richard Hiscocks | Go to book overview

XII. GOMUŁKA'S RÉGIME

STUDIES of Poland since 1956 have tended to concentrate on her position in the Soviet bloc, on the nature of the October changes, and on the extent of the reaction against them. For an understanding of Gomułka's régime all these points are important, but they do not alone explain its full character and significance.

Three other aspects of contemporary Poland are also of special importance: the high standard of its social services, the influence of Gomułka's personality, and the fact that the great majority of the people are not Communists. As regards the first and last of these characteristics Poland does not stand alone amongst East European countries. But in the nature of its leadership it is unique.

In spite of their low standard of living the Poles enjoy most of the advantages of a typical welfare State. From this point of view post-War Poland has built on the foundations laid between the Wars, when different governments set a high level of social legislation but many social inequalities remained. The Communists have introduced, sometimes on a lavish scale, the social amenities associated with a social-democratic régime in the West as well as with the Soviet Union,1 and this part of their programme the great majority of the people whole-heartedly approve.

The educational system, with its considerable achievements and its high aspirations for the future, has already been described. The vitality of cultural life was due largely to government support. Music and drama are handsomely subsidized, and prices of admission are low. The older artists admit that they are working under conditions which are in many ways more favourable than before the War.2 Architects combine the advantages

____________________
1
Although the legislation is modelled rather on the Soviet pattern, it receives the whole-hearted support of most Poles owing to its association with their own pre-War traditions and with welfare States in the West.
2
For example, there are far more professorships and scholarships available for established and aspiring artists than before the War.

-317-

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