The Role of Peasants in the Systemic Transformation of the Polish Economy, 1944-1990
The history of peasants and of the peasant economy in socialist countries is one of the stormiest, most dramatic and most complex elements of recent history. This history, despite the differences and deviations in particular socialist countries, to a substantial degree has modified the shape of the economies and the societies--their social institutions, fundamental rights, and legal regulations.
The continuation of the peasant (or quasi-peasant) economy in all socialist countries, the persistent fight of the peasants for survival, and the weaknesses of the collective forms of management and organization in agriculture have resulted in demands from the peasants for qualitatively greater changes in the socialist economic system than were called for by any other major social group.
The establishment of the new political and economic order in Poland after World War II did not result in an elimination of peasantry and the peasant economy. On the contrary, it brought the petrification of the peasant nature of Polish agriculture and arrested the process of transformation of peasants into farmers. In the beginning of the 1990s, no more than one out of ten private farms in Poland could be termed as farmer type. In this regard, Poland remains a curious phenomenon among the European countries.
The rural population constitutes a very large portion of the total population in Poland, as indicated in Table 11.1. Peasants operating private farms constitute the majority of the rural population. This is also reflected in the structure of farmland used by different sectors (private, state, and cooperative), as shown in Table 11.2.