Poland History – The Postwar Period
After the vote expressed by the Yalta conference and the end of the war following the capitulation of Germany (9 May), on 15 June 1945 new negotiations began in Moscow between Mikołajczyk and the men of his group on the one hand and, on the one hand, another, the representatives of the “Lublin Committee” which had meanwhile been constituted (31 December 1944) as a provisional government. An agreement was finally reached and on June 28, 1945 the composition of the new “Polish Government of National Unity” was announced. Edward Osóbka-Morawski is appointed chairman of the council, while the vice chairman of the council is entrusted to Mikołajczyk. The new government obtained the recognition of the great powers a few days later (5 July 1945). On 16 July a Polish delegation was present in Potsdam when the the first post-war conference begins between Churchill, Stalin and Truman. On 2 August, at the end of the Potsdam conference, the great powers officially announced that they no longer recognize the London government of Arciszewski. On the basis of the decisions of Potsdam, the new Polish borders are then established. Pending a final decision postponed to the conclusion of the peace treaty with Germany, all the former German territories east of the Oder and Nisa are assigned to the resurgent Polish republic. On August 16, a direct Polish-Soviet agreement establishes a new frontier (already approved at the Yalta conference) which follows the line proposed in 1919 by Lord Curzon, with a few slight adjustments in favor of Poland. Wilno is definitively recognized as belonging to the Lithuanian Soviet Republic, and Lviv passes to the Ukrainian Soviet republic. The border with the Czechoslovak republic is brought back to the line prior to 1938.
In the field of internal politics, the government of national unity must immediately face a gigantic task. Factories, ports, construction sites are destroyed; the transport system is totally upset; the agricultural economy shows almost total destruction, especially in the Vistula and Narva areas. The shifting of borders to the east and west imposes enormous tasks. Whole populations are transferred from eastern and central Poland to the new western territories from which German citizens are evacuated. At the same time the economic revolution announced and started in 1944 by the Lublin Committee takes place. On the basis of a decree dated September 6, 1944, agrarian reform was implemented throughout Poland, followed by industrial reform. A law approved by the National Council on January 3, 1946 establishes the transfer of state ownership of banks, mines and large and medium-sized industries (factories employing more than 50 workers are considered “medium industry”). In the meantime, the life of political parties is developing and taking shape more clearly. The struggle between the various tendencies immediately reveals the existence of two opposing blocs: on the one hand the forces led by the Polish Peasant Party of Mikołajczyk, on the other the left movements led by the (Communist) Labor Party and the Socialist Party. The presence in vast areas of the country of armed gangs led largely by clandestine political movements hostile to the government contributes to making the battle more bitter. The accusations of connivance with these gangs are often thrown by men of the extreme left at their opponents and in particular at the exponents of Mikołajczyk’s party. In this ardent atmosphere, the popular consultation is being prepared for the election of the new constitutional powers of the state. Before calling the elections, the national unity government decides to question the popular will in a referendum on three political points of essential importance: whether or not to approve the proposed abolition of the senate; economic reforms; of the new western frontiers. On June 30, the majority of the voters voted in favor of all three points. In September, the National Council approves the electoral law. The elections to the parliament (the senate having been abolished following the referendum of June 30) are set for January 19, 1947. The struggle between the extreme left, which the other parties join in electoral bloc, and the party of Mikoiajczyk which presents a separate list, it becomes more and more virulent. From the elections, Mikołajczyk’s party has failed. On 4 February 1947 the new parliament met for the first time and elected the head of the National Council Boleslaw Bierut as president of the republic. The new head of state, after having received the resignation of the government of National Unity, entrusts the task of forming the new cabinet to the general secretary of the Polish Socialist Party (Polska Partia Socjalistyczna) Józef Cyrankiewicz. Socialists and Communists, strengthened by the majority won in parliament (each of the two parties gets 119 deputies out of a total of 444), they are now the decisive force in internal political life. Linked by a “Pact of Unity of Action”, the two formations are moving ever more decisively towards the integral unity of the Polish workers’ movement. Mikolajczyk’s party, having obtained only 27 seats in parliament, is practically isolated from the political struggle. During its first session the new parliament approved on February 13, 1947 the so-called “Little Constitution” in which, confirming the legality of the 1921 constitution (the illegality of the 1935 constitution having been proclaimed by the Lublin Committee as early as 1944). For Poland history, please check historyaah.com.
The orientation of post-war Poland towards the socialist regime is now clear. The Polish regime, still considerably different from the Soviet one, but already distinctly distinct from that of the countries of Western Europe, is characterized by the formula “popular democracy”. Characteristic of this regime established at the same time in other Eastern European states is the coexistence in the economic life of three main sectors: state, cooperative and private. The problem of reconstruction is faced by the Cyrankiewicz government with socialist criteria in the implementation of a “three-year plan of economic reconstruction” (1947-48-49) whose project had already been voted on by the National Council on 21 September 1946. Gradually in Poland the policy of ” December 8, 1948). The regime of popular democracy also underwent a profound evolution in the second half of 1948. In the field of the general economy and of the agricultural economy in particular, radical reforms are announced which aim to bring Poland into a new phase characterized by the transition to the integral socialist economy. As a continuation of the “Three Year Economic Reconstruction Plan” a “Six Year Plan” is announced. The left tendencies that have established themselves in domestic politics are increasingly expressing themselves in foreign policy as well. The basic concept of Polish foreign policy after the end of the Second World War is full cooperation with the Soviet Union (on January 26, 1948, the USSR grants Poland a loan of 450 million dollars) and with the countries of the Eastern Europe governed by “people’s democracy”. An important aspect of this policy is the Polish-Czechoslovakian rapprochement which is proof of the resumption of relations even before the end of the war (31 January 1945) and therefore the signing of a pact of friendship and mutual assistance (10 March 1947). Another postulate of Warsaw’s foreign policy in this period is the defense of the borders with Germany on the Oder and Nisa, on the basis of the Potsdam agreements of 1945. The Anglo-Saxon tendency to review the Potsdam decisions in favor of Germany has aroused reactions notable from the government of Warsaw which, in defending the borders on the Oder and Nisa, obtained the support of the Soviet Union, all the Slavic countries and even France.