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> The Gierek Years


post 23/06/2008, 8:49 Quote Post

What's about destruction of infrastructure in Poland by Girek's government? Do you really like houses that were biult in his times? I can't agree that democratic governments are mainly responsible for today's situation because they were only successors of prevoius comunistic leaders. Look at the German history: the same nation and two different quality of life: NRD and RFN - you can't say that worse economic situation in east Germany is now caused by their democratic governments.
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Krzysztof Bylinowski
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post 23/06/2008, 13:33 Quote Post

I meant present situation with foreign debt - not all the problems of the Polish state. It's obvious that economic performance of the People's Republic of Poland was very poor - I don't want even to discuss it...
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post 24/06/2008, 10:53 Quote Post

Nowdays if you want to earn more money you just have to work harder or more. During Gierek's years there was no need to work hard enough to posess values. It was enaugh to be at the "proper" side (in the only true party PZPR) to have plenty of privilidges such as: good salaries, holidays in Bulgaria, be able to buy goods abroad (e.g. in Czechoslovakia or NRD) at that was it.
Thats why polish people (older generation) don't understand what is work, and it was Gierek who destroyed their way of thinking.
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post 24/06/2008, 13:26 Quote Post

Did Gierek make people so lazy?
That's not necessary. Actually, he cannot be paid responsible for all the faults of communists. Although, something such as 'Postcommunist mentality' can be bound to Polish society in general, he was only among people taking over the control of Poland. Unfortunately, among the people, whom we can thank for shaming Polish soil.
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post 16/01/2009, 17:57 Quote Post

And the next thing: you mentioned the poor health service in 70. Frankly, I heard nothing about this aspect of The Gierek Years. It may be interesting. Could you add some extra information? Was the situation in Polish hospitals indeed much worse than for example today?

First things first… My apologies for keeping you in the dark for so long about the sources of my information. In my previous post I referred to The State of the Republic: Reports by the Experience and Future Discussion Group (DiP) Warsaw, ed. M. Vale, London, Pluto Press, 1981, pp. 62-3:

‘Inequality and injustice are everywhere. There are hospitals that are so poorly supplied they do not have even cotton, and our relatives die in corridors; but other hospitals are equipped with private rooms and full medical care for each room. We pay fines for traffic violations, but some people commit highway manslaughter while drunk and are let off with impunity. In some places there are better shops and superior vacation houses, with huge fenced-in grounds that ordinary people cannot enter. People see all this, and they know that high-ranking officials drive luxurious cars, although they have also heard stories about prime ministers riding buses. People cannot excuse the injustices associated with anyone these days in Poland who has any connections with power. It is not a question of money so much as a whole range of informal benefits that accrue from having a share in power. This state of affairs is totally at variance with the basic principles of our system, yet it is painfully common knowledge. Worst of all is the feeling of helplessness, the impossibility of changing the system that produced all this.

Mr. Paulus, you wrote that "Gierek failed to stop the expansion of heavy industry". I even didn't observe his strong wish to stop this expansion. The beginning of the decade stopped this trend for a while, but it was rather a way to calm down the society after earlier crisis and an attempt to strengthen the political power in the country. It was the part of the so-called quasi-cycle, which appeared in Poland after every change of the first secretary. After small political thaws, expansion of heavy industry was again natural. Maybe the perpetual investing in this branche was the consequence of fixed guidelines from Moscow

Personally I believe that it was a mistake (more on that below). Gierek’s promise of stability rested solely on his promise of the price stability i.e. a steady increase in living standards and job security. Yet, in order to achieve it, Gierek also demanded that the Poles should be excluded form any participation in the political process, which in turn meant that there would be no real political reform or economic change that would pose a threat to the communist rule. A vicious circle whose spectre haunted the regime until the collapse of communism.

Few other thoughts concerning the problem with loans: correct me please, if I'm wrong, but in early 70. Edward Gierek didn't have many rational alternatives. He couldn't change the whole economic policy, because for sure he had orders from USSR to maintain the strong heavy industry sector. This kind of business is more than other branches dependent on returns to scale, so the bigger producing units should have been more effective. And loan... it was maybe not the worst solution, but the scale of this action was too big. It disorganized Polish economy and was a really risky manoeuvre. Gierek ran the risk and failed, but his actions were rational. So the main defect of his policy wasn't the matter of choosing bad goals, but depending too much on luck

As for your comment on Gierek’s apparent lack of alternatives, I would like to stress the fact that many changes which may have influenced the economic programme pursued by Gierek and his policy makers were clearly observable at the very time when they were being introduced. In particular, attention should be drawn here to the changing economic situation between the USSR and the satellite states of the eastern bloc in the post-Khrushchev era. It has been recently pointed out that Brezhnev era saw a switch in imperial economic strategy on eastern Europe from subsidisation to economic ‘self-reliance’. As noted by R. Pearson, ‘if the East was no longer prepared to underwrite the eastern economy, then the regimes were reduced to the stark choices between stagnation and going West (The Rise and Fall of the Soviet Empire, Longman, pp. 91-2). As we know Gierek did resort to the latter, yet his strategy failed because the western markets dried up after the crisis of 1973 and because Poland, despite the expansion in various sectors, was structurally unprepared to absorb such large amounts of funds and use them rationally. Unless we assume that he did not know what he was doing, it is therefore logical to question the philosophy behind Gierek’s reforms. If we assume that rationality, as you suggested, made Gierek embark on a series of reforms, it seems very likely that himself or his advisers clearly envisaged the dangers associated with the policy of reliance on foreign loans.

Yet, point taken Rothar!

Best wishes,
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