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Edward Gierek


In office
December 20, 1970 – September 5, 1980
Preceded by Władysław Gomułka
Succeeded by Stanisław Kania

Born January 6, 1913(1913-01-06)
Porąbka, Russian Empire
Died July 29, 2001 (aged 88)
Cieszyn, Poland
Nationality Polish
Political party Polish United Workers' Party
Religion Atheist
Gierek with Romaina leader, Ceauşescu

Edward Gierek (January 6, 1913 - July 29, 2001) was a Polish communist politician.

He was born in Porąbka, outside of Sosnowiec. He lost his father to a mining accident in a pit at the age of four. His mother married again and emigrated to northern France, where he was raised. He joined the French Communist Party in 1931 and was later deported to Poland for organizing a strike. After his military service in Stryj, Galicia, Gierek went to Belgium in 1934, where he joined the Communist Party of Belgium while working in the coal mines of Waterschei. During World War II, he remained activist of the Communist Party of Belgium. He returned to Poland in 1948 and rose through the party ranks to become by 1957 a member of the Polish parliament. As first secretary of the Katowice voivodship party organization (1957-70), Gierek created a personal power base and became the recognized leader of the young technocrat faction of the party. When rioting over economic conditions broke out in late 1970, Gierek replaced Władysław Gomułka as party first secretary. Gierek promised economic reform and instituted a program to modernize industry and increase the availability of consumer goods, doing so mostly through foreign loans. His good relations with Western politicians, especially France's Valéry Giscard d'Estaing and Germany's Helmut Schmidt, were a catalyst for his receiving western aid and loans.

The standard of living increased markedly in the Poland of the 1970s, and for a time he was hailed a miracle-worker. The economy, however, began to falter during the 1973 oil crisis, and by 1976 price increases became necessary. New riots broke out (especially Radom, 1976), and although they were forcibly suppressed, the planned price increases were cancelled. High foreign debts, food shortages, and an outmoded industrial base compelled a new round of economic reforms in 1980. Once again, price increases set off protests across the country, especially in the Gdańsk and Szczecin shipyards. Gierek was forced to grant legal status to Solidarity and to concede the right to strike.

Shortly thereafter, he was replaced as party leader by Stanisław Kania and jailed for a year in December 1981 by the next ruler of Poland, General Wojciech Jaruzelski, who introduced martial law on December 13, 1981.

Gierek was married to Stanisława and they had two sons, one of whom is MEP Adam Gierek. Edward Gierek died of a lung illness in Cieszyn, which is near the southern mountain resort of Ustroń where he spent his last years.

There is a biography by Janusz Rolicki, who also published a book of interview conversations with Gierek.

See also

References

Party political offices
Preceded by
Władysław Gomułka
General Secretary of the Polish United Workers' Party
1970-1980
Succeeded by
Stanisław Kania
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