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Władysław Gomułka

In office
21 October 1956 – 20 December 1970
Preceded by Edward Ochab
Succeeded by Edward Gierek

In office
1943 – 1948
Preceded by Paweł Finder
Succeeded by Bolesław Bierut

Born 6 February 1905(1905-02-06)
Died 1 September 1982 (aged 77)
Nationality Polish
Political party Polish United Workers' Party
Religion Atheist

Władysław Gomułka (6 February 1905, Krosno - 1 September 1982, Konstancin) was a Polish Communist leader. He was a member of the Communist Party of Poland (Komunistyczna Partia Polski, KPP) starting in 1926.

Gomułka with Leonid Breznev in East Germany

In 1934 Gomułka went to Moscow, where he lived for a year. Upon his return to Poland he was arrested and spent most of his time in prison until the beginning of World War II. During the war, Gomułka became an influential Polish communist and in 1943 convinced Stalin to restore the Polish Workers' Party (Polska Partia Robotnicza). He was a Deputy Prime Minister in the Provisional Government of Republic of Poland - Rząd Tymczasowy Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej, from January to June 1945, and in the Provisional Government of National Unity (Tymczasowy Rząd Jedności Narodowej), from 1945 to 1947. Using his position in the government, he assisted the Communists in winning the 3 x Tak (3 x Yes) referendum of 1946 and winning the Polish legislative elections, 1947 and became, as he said, "the hegemon of Poland". However, between 1951–1954, skirmishes between various Party factions led to Gomułka's imprisonment, denounced as right-wing and reactionary, and expelled from the Polish United Workers' Party.

After the death of Stalinist Prime Minister Bolesław Bierut in 1956, a brief period of destalinization began, raising popular hope for reform. In June 1956, an insurrection began in Poznań. The workers rioted to protest shortages of food and consumer goods, bad housing, decline in real income, shipments of commodities to the Soviet Union and poor management of the economy. The Polish government initially responded by branding the rioters "provocateurs, counterrevolutionaries and imperialist agents". Security forces killed and wounded scores of protesters. Soon, however, the party hierarchy recognized the riots had awakened nationalist sentiment and reversed their opinion. The rioters became "honest workers with legitimate grievances". Wages were raised by 50% and economic and political change was promised.[1][2]

Gomułka with Nicolae Ceauşescu after the official visit to Romania

Edward Ochab, the Polish Prime Minister, invited the now-rehabilitated Gomułka to serve as First Secretary of the Party. Gomułka insisted that he be given real power to implement reforms. One specific condition he set was that the Soviet Marshal Konstantin Rokossovsky, who had ordered troops against the Poznan workers, be removed from the Polish Politburo and Defense Ministry, to which Ochab agreed. On 19 October, the majority of the Polish leadership, backed by the army and also the Internal Security Corps, brought Gomułka and several associates into the Politburo and designated Gomułka as First Secretary of the Party. The Soviet leadership viewed events in Poland with alarm. Simultaneously with troop 'maneuvers' on the Soviet-Polish border, a high-level delegation of the Soviet Central Committee flew to Poland. It was led by Khrushchev and included Mikoyan, Bulganin, Molotov, Kaganovich, Marshal Konev and others. Gomułka made it clear that Polish troops would resist if Soviet troops advanced, but reassured the Soviets that the reforms were internal matters and that Poland had no intention of abandoning communism or its treaties with the Soviet Union. The Soviets yielded.[3] Gomułka was confirmed in his new position. Information about events in Poland reached the people of Hungary via Radio Free Europe's news and commentary services during 19 - 22 October 1956. A student demonstration in Budapest in support of Gomułka, asking for similar reforms in Hungary, soon sparked the Hungarian Revolution of 1956.

Initially very popular for his reforms and seeking a "Polish way to socialism",[4] and beginning an era known as Gomułka's thaw, he came under Soviet pressure. In the 1960s he supported persecution of the Roman Catholic Church and intellectuals (notably Leszek Kołakowski who was forced into exile). He participated in the Warsaw Pact intervention in Czechoslovakia in 1968. At that time he was also responsible for persecuting students as well as toughening censorship of the media. In 1968 he incited an anti-Zionist propaganda campaign, as a result of Soviet bloc opposition to the Six-Day War.[2] This was a thinly veiled anti-semitic campaign designed to keep himself in power by shifting the attention of the populace from stagnating economy and communist mismanagement. Gomułka later claimed that this was not deliberate.

In December 1970, a bloody clash with shipyard workers in which several dozen workers were fatally shot forced his resignation (officially for health reasons; though he had in fact suffered a stroke). A dynamic younger man, Edward Gierek, took over the Party leadership and tensions eased. Gomułka was forced to retire. After his death in 1982 of cancer, his negative image in Communist propaganda was modified and some of his constructive contributions were recognized. His memoirs were first published in 1994.

Party political offices
Preceded by
Edward Ochab
General Secretary of the Polish United Workers' Party
Succeeded by
Edward Gierek

Also has a niece by the name of Melanie Gomulka


  1. ^ Rothschild and Wingfield: Return to Diversity, A Political History of East Central Europe Since World War II OUP 2000
  2. ^ a b "The defection of Jozef Swiatlo and the Search for Jewish Scapegoats in the Polish United Workers' Party, 1953-1954" (PDF). Fourth Convention of the Association for the Study of Nationalities. Harriman Institute, Columbia University, New York City. April 15-17, 1999. Retrieved 2007-10-27.  
  3. ^ "Notes from the Minutes of the CPSU CC Presidium Meeting with Satellite Leaders, October 24, 1956" (PDF). The 1956 Hungarian Revolution, A History in Documents. George Washington University: The National Security Archive. November 4, 2002. Retrieved 2006-09-02.  
  4. ^ "Rebellious Compromiser". Time Magazine. 10 December 1956.,9171,808728-1,00.html. Retrieved 2006-10-14.  

See also



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