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

By Richard Hiscocks | Go to book overview

X. THE RESULTS AND SIGNIFICANCE OF 'OCTOBER'

WHEN Gomułka became First Secretary of the United Workers' Party on the 21st of October 1956 and resumed the leadership of Polish Communism he had behind him the overwhelming majority of the nation. Poles inside and outside the Party united to give him their support. Just as during the 'thaw' Marxists and non-Marxists joined in criticizing the régime and it was not always clear to which category the critics belonged, so after the Eighth Plenum they joined in supporting the new leadership.

Within the Party the Natolinists were a formidable group. They had influence in the Party apparatus, counted amongst their members the commander-in-chief of the army, and had reason to expect support from Moscow. But they were greatly outnumbered by the advocates of change, who included three leading personalities, each with a following of his own. The least of them, Cyrankiewicz, still had influence with former members of the PPS. Ochab had previously been persona grata with Moscow and now enjoyed the prestige of a First Secretary, who had led the Party with skill and disinterestedness in an exceptionally difficult period. Gomułka had the support both of many old followers and many new ones, who now saw in him the main hope for Communism and for Poland. The reformist cause was further strengthened by the agreement of the three men on a common aim and by the loyal support which Ochab and Cyrankiewicz gave to Gomułka as the new leader.

Party members, however, had never been more than a small percentage of the people, and in October Gomułka's strength rested largely on a non-Communist foundation. The statement in a Trybuna Ludu article of October the 24th that the Party was united with the nation was not to remain true for long, but at the time it was largely true. Most Poles, had they had time to think, would have approved Gomułka's leadership with

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