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Book Chapter

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Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc


The political history of Poland since World War II and the Communist takeover has been one in which crisis followed crisis. Even when there was more than a decade before the next crisis, "normalcy" was never fully "normal." Instead, the institutions and their responses were structured by the previous crisis and constantly shaded by storm clouds for the next. In 1956, 1970, and 1980, Poles successfully "voted with their feet" and ousted their leaders. In 1968 and 1976, the crises were less systemic: specific groups revolted over specific policies. As a result, even though Wladyslaw Gomulka in 1968 and Edward Gierek in 1976 retained their leadership for a while, the system was weakened and put on the defensive, so that it fell quickly when Poles returned to the streets in 1970 and 1980.

By 1989, when traditional Communist rule in Poland collapsed, the lessons and legacies of Poland's past crises had made the turnover of power both unbelievable and unavoidable. There was no need for mass upheaval to bring down these Communist Party leaders: mere rumblings signaled to Poland's leaders that they could not hang on any longer. Instead, they tried to preserve some of their power by offering to share the burden of Poland's problems with the men and women they had jailed in 1980 and earlier. When the masses failed to go along with concessions and voted them out, this final set of Communist leaders accepted the inevitable and resigned. This, then, was the final surge in a rush of change that left no traditional Soviet-style communist regime in power by 199 l. It was, for the Polish system, just the final crisis in a nearly forty-year series that had worn away Communist power.

Chapter of

Poland's Permanent Revolution: People Vs. Elites, 1956 to the Present


Jane L. Curry
Luba Fajfer


Copyright © 1995. Reproduced by permission of Rowman & Littlefield. All rights reserved. Please contact the publisher for permission to copy, distribute or reprint.



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