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The Polish Workers' Party (Polish: Polska Partia Robotnicza, PPR) was a communist party in Poland from 1942 to 1948. It was founded as a reconstitution of the Communist Party of Poland, and merged with the Polish Socialist Party in 1948 to form the Polish United Workers' Party. [1]



The fate of Poland's Communist Party was decided by Joseph Stalin. In 1938, Stalin had the Communist Party of Poland purged of Trotskyites, just as was done in the All-Union Communist Party (bolsheviks) in the Soviet Union. He executed or imprisoned 5,000 of its members.

After the German invasion of the Soviet Union, Stalin was persuaded by Wanda Wasilewska (a Soviet politician from Poland) to aid to the communists in Poland. In January 1942, an initiative group of Polish Communists which included Marceli Nowotko, Paweł Finder, and Bolesław Mołojec gained Stalin's permission to form a communist party for Poland, the Polska Partia Robotnicza, or PPR. They avoided using the word "communist" in the title to stay clear of the connotation of a party controlled by a foreign power. They were also aware of the broad unpopularity of communism among the Polish citizenry, especially among people who had experienced the Soviet system during the 1939–1941 Soviet occupation.

After Nowotko's death, and Finder's arrest, Władysław Gomułka became secretary of the Central Committee of the PPR from 1943 until its end in 1948.


The PPR struggled to establish itself with Stalin and the Polish people. Stalin, suspicious of foreign communist parties, preferred to rely on institutions and people directly under his control. Although all decisions in the PPR required Soviet approval, there were no direct orders issued from Moscow.

In Poland, the party was unable to attract members because the old political parties maintained a hold on popular support and were well established in the underground government. The PPR's policy of recognizing the Soviet Union's new possessions in Eastern Poland antagonized nationalistic feelings of the people.

In November 1943, the PPR set out to gain legitimacy by appealing to the nationalist cause with the publication of the manifesto What Are We Fighting For. This outlined the party's goal of alleged independence and an alleged socialist revolution. This recognition of the nationalist cause and the willingness to join in governing with the other parties was a break from the old communist party's unpopular policy of hostility towards participating in the bourgeois state and parliament. Neither Stalin nor orthodox Polish communists wanted to implement the propaganda goals.

Government in exile

The internationally recognized representative for Poland was the government in exile in London. Its Delegatura - Home Delegation - headed the administration of the unique underground state in Poland. It consisted of the major political parties and was led by Stanisław Mikołajczyk, the leader of the popular People's Party (Peasant Party). Their underground armed militia, the Armia Krajowa (AK), or Home Army, had a large activist membership dwarfing the small military wing of the PPR's Armia Ludowa, or People's Army.

The PPR wanted to gain political recognition by joining in with the Delegatura and the AK; however, their attempts were unsuccessful because they were seen as Soviet spies. They saw as unacceptable the condition that they renounce membership in the Communist International and they refused to object to the loss of the Eastern territories to the Soviet Union. Thus the Polish Workers' Party refused to join the structures of the Polish Underground State and would create an alternative, communist and eventually successful (with the support of the Red Army) government structures in Poland.

A propaganda photo of a citizen reading the PKWN Manifesto, issued on July 22, 1944


There was conflict within the communist movement over the methods needed to implement power. It was a difference of opinion between the Polish émigrés trained in the Soviet Union represented by Bolesław Bierut strictly following Stalin's policy, and the Polish Communists such as Gomułka. Stalin, mindful of appeasing the Western Allies, negotiated with them in forming an acceptable provisional government for Poland. With the prospect of the Red Army liberating Warsaw, the Polish communists favored a more aggressive approach of forming a parallel separate shadow government.

Gomułka wanted to broaden the party's political base by including other leftist and populist parties. As there was difficulty in communicating with Moscow, this step was taken without Stalin's approval and therefore met with Bierut's objection. The refusal of the major parties to join the PPR necessitated the formation of various subsidiary organizations and parties with parallel names of existing workers and peasant parties. This gave the façade of broad political support.

Unable to negotiate with the Delegatura, Stalin changed his tactics and forged ahead with forming a provisional government for the liberated territories that excluded them. On 22 July 1944, Stalin announced the creation of the Polish Committee of National Liberation, Polski Komitet Wyzwolenia Narodowego, the PKWN.

Consolidating power

The PPR benefited from various powerful institutions and events that enhanced its position. The failed Warsaw Uprising decimated the AK, removing a popular and powerful opponent. The Soviet army liberation of Warsaw increased the political standing of the PPR. In January 1945, they benefited from Stalin's recognition of it. The Western Allies found it difficult to fully support the Delegatura's interagency and refusal to recognize the new Polish border, and Stalin succeeded in removing them from the negotiations by refusing to negotiate with them as the sole representative of Poland.

Power destroyed

The power and coherence of the Delegatura was destroyed when Stalin manipulated its sacked leader Stanislaw Mikolayczk, the leader of the powerful People's Party, into joining the PKWN. This led to the creation on 28 June 1945 of a new Provisional Government of National Unity, Tymczasowy Rzad Jednosci Narodowej, TRJN, which was eventually recognized by the Western Allies as the new government of Poland. It consisted of the PPR, the Polish Socialist Party, the Polish People's Party, the Stronnictwo Ludowe and the Democratic Party. The PPR and communists from other smaller parties controlled the direction of the new government policies by controlling seventeen out of twenty one ministries.

PPR methods

The PPR used totalitarian methods similar to the ones used by communist parties in Eastern Europe: the provisional government did not wait for elections to be held; they instituted land reform to win over the peasants. They offered amnesty to wean away soldiers from the opposition AK militia. In April 1946, a new volunteer citizen militia ORMO was formed to help the criminal police (Milicja Obywatelska), political police (UBP), internal troops (KBW), army and Soviet police (NKVD), and army to eliminate any armed opposition to the government. The Soviet security force, the NKVD, killed, arrested, harassed, and used propaganda to discredit popular opponents. The AK, seen as representing the Delegatura, was discredited with accusations of fratricide for the failed Warsaw uprising. After it had eliminated all the legitimate opposition outside the government, the PPR concentrated on gaining power within the coalition of the provisional government.

The PPR was weak, faced strong opposition from the Socialist and People's parties, and unlike the other communist parties in Eastern Europe could not win enough votes in an election to be a strong partner in an elected coalition. Using arguments of preventing civil war in society, it suggested an alternative to freely held elections by presenting a "Democratic Bloc", a unified list of candidates to the electorate. The Socialist Party agreed to join in the Democratic Bloc, the popular People's Party refused. The PPR adopted the strategy of delaying elections by holding a referendum which gave it powers to change the political structure of the Senate. It targeted the People's Party by arresting its candidates, harassing, denying them access to publicity by organizing workers to refuse to work for them. The referendum result was falsified to give the Democratic Block a majority.

After each successful stage of establishing its power, the PPR relied less on the facade of cooperating with political opponents and more on demonstrating its power using threats and intimidation. The Democratic Block won 80% of the votes in the July 1946 election. The election results eliminated the popular People's Party from the political scene and demonstrated to the public that there was no political route left for opposition. The PPR dominated the government through their control of placing communist deputies in all ministries. Although the Socialist Party held ministerial portfolios, they had no voice in formulating policies; the work was accomplished by the communist deputies. The PPR strengthened its monopoly by removing any perceived threat, and closing ofo any avenues for opposition. It pressured the Socialist Party to agree to unification in order to save their party from destruction. It increased fear in society by introducing new criteria of offences such as the concept of "whispered propaganda": this made it a crime to disseminate any news that could threaten the regime.

The Yugoslavian split with the Soviet Union resulted in a change of policy. Gomułka's criticism of Soviet policy for a united Germany was seen as narrow minded and inappropriately nationalistic. Gomułka's "Polish road to socialism", adapting to conditions specific to Poland, was no longer needed. Stalin tightened his control on the PPR. In August 1948, the Politburo installed Bierut as the general secretary of the PPR. The Socialist party was liquidated and fully merged with the PPR. It signaled the emergence of a new Communist party, the Polish United Worker's Party, (Polska Zjednoczona Partia Robotnicza), PZPR. It differed from its predecessor, for now a fusion of western ideas with communism was no longer possible, but it would follow the strict Soviet lead of true communism and transform Polish society on the Stalinist model.

See also




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