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Rothar
 

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post 6/06/2006, 19:42 Quote Post

THE GIEREK YEARS

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I wish to ask you what do you think about this era of Polish history. Many people in Poland still believe, that Edward Gierek (leader of the PZPR) was one of the most effective Polish politicians ever.

Perhaps, his life's history (he was e.g. working as a coal miner abroad) granted him a great credit of confidence, because many people thought that he could better understand problems of a 'common man'. On the other hand, imports of investment and consumer goods during his regime, ruined the Polish Economy (1979-1982 crisis).

His New Development Strategy had been at first quite effective, but after few years of a poor policy it caused a real economic and social catastrophe.

I would like to invite you to discuss this issue.
 
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paulus
 

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post 18/06/2006, 23:29 Quote Post

Personally, I believe that the decade of Gierek’s leadership was undoubtedly remarkable for two main reasons. To begin with the first half of his tenure as First Secretary Edward Gierek spent on the introduction of economic reforms while the latter he simply wasted on tackling the results and consequences of his decisions. Additionally, any assessment of Gierek’s time also has to account for the higly significant political developments that were to exert a profound influence on Poland’s road to freedom: the election of Pope John Paul II, the emergence of powerful trade unions and the Polish-German rapprochement to name but a few. Below I will however focus briefly only on the economic aspects of the Gierek’s era.

If there was anything that worked in Gierek’s favour it was the relationship with the Polish workers that he initially managed to forge. His succession to Gomulka was almost unanimously applauded both in Moscow (which hoped to see an end to public disorder) and the West (which looked forward to political and economic ‘renewal’ promised by Gierek). In France, for example, many commentators seized on Gierek’s past, especially those years he spent in the Pas de Calais working as a coal miner. Back home Gierek was also given a vote of confidence. Why not: he since he replaced his predecessor with such generous promises of a wholly new approach to economic affairs and greater consulatation with the Poles. It was no doubt this Gierek full of promises and cordiality that left a legacy of nostalgia lingering on until the present day.

Unsurprisinlgy, Gierek got off to a good start as he capitalised on the growing social discontent and economic problems of the last years of Gomulka’s leadership. These include..d a rising price index and shortage of consumer goods; both of which had been seriously aggravated by a total lack of any restraint of wages. Poor housing and underfunded health service were two other issues that augured badly for the future of the Polish economy. Gierek somehow, however, promised to solve all these problems. Prices were frozen at pre-December (1970) levels and a new economic policy was intorduced which emphasized consumer consumption instead of the hitherto heavy stress on quick industrial output growth. Manufacturing was also to be reorganised: groups of smaller factories (regardless of their productivity levels) were effectively merged into large industrial units which by 1975, as far I remember, accounted for circa 65% of production in the country, and which were given some degree of self-management.

The immediate results of Gierek’s reforms were spectacular but ephemeral. They were not accompanied by any revamp of the political system and the landmark change in the economy ie. the big industrial organisations did not prove entirely beneficial. While they clearly reduced the level of party influence within the factories, they at the same time were replced not by genuine self-managed units driven by a market economy but by the state administration which only made them more inefficient and expensive. What’s more, Gierek failed to stop the expansion of heavy industry; petro-chemicals and oil production were increased mainly due to the availability of cheap oil from the Soviet Union and Saudi Arabia. It goes without saying that Gierek’s worst offence was his heavy reliance on western credit. It was the western capital that was to stimulate the stagnant economy, and Gierek, prehaps more inclined to placate the workers rather than to reform the country, decided to gamble everything on western loans. There’s no need to explain how expensive Gierek’s gamble has been to the future generations. The effects of his pampering of heavy-industry workers can be seen presently when they barricade themselves in Warsaw and other places demanding regular wage increases.

In conclusion one can certainly say that Gierek’s achievement was that of scale but not quality. His reforms did not produce any tangible results; they didn’t go deep enough. In the latter part of Gierek’s years the economy slowed down and the Poles had to struggle as ever before. This time, however, they had to deal with one extra problem – mountains of foreign debt.
 
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Net_Skater
 

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post 19/06/2006, 3:16 Quote Post

Mr. paulus, I can only second your opinion ! Credits obtained from the West by Gierek and also a number of licenses necessary to start production of consumer goods, created impression that Poland will be able somehow to catch-up or at least get closer to the Western standard of living, therefore creating an illusion that centralised communist system of power can benefit the masses. First unpleasant sign that things do not look rosy happened after 1973 OPEC oil embargo and worldwide rise of energy prices. Second "surprise" was a fact that durable goods created on the base of licenses and loans lacked - for a number of reasons - atractiveness to Western consumer's market and therefore could not be a source of hard currency desperately needed to pay-off the loans. It was obvious that income from selling coal, ham and vodka will be not sufficient. Signs of strain on state's budget became visible in the middle of seventies.

N_S
 
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Rothar
 

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post 27/12/2006, 3:21 Quote Post

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.

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?

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.
 
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lbugajski
 

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post 25/02/2008, 17:25 Quote Post

I think that Gierek was the most popular politician since 1970 for today. He did many good things for our country for example harden our economy.
 
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post 25/02/2008, 17:56 Quote Post

QUOTE
I think that Gierek was the most popular politician since 1970 for today. He did many good things for our country for example harden our economy.


Oh well, very specific kind of people mentioning good, auld Gierek times was shown in movie 'Pieniądze to nie wszystko'. smile.gif

Anyway...
He was rather a symbol of previous system with generous social system. Furthermore, the propaganda has created his image as self-made man(former miner in Belgium and France) and modest politician who was abandoned after 1980 and then lived his days in his house in mountains. Actually, that's not truth. It's been proved how he had funded mansions of his family.
The question about Gierek's era should be preceded with a question about 'virtues' of planned economy.
 
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lbugajski
 

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post 25/02/2008, 18:36 Quote Post

Ok, I agree. Propaganda has created a kind of Gierek's image, but he wasn't so "bad" as you say.
 
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post 25/02/2008, 21:31 Quote Post

QUOTE
but he wasn't so "bad" as you say


Virtually, I haven't said anything about Gierek apart from proving fakery of image, that propaganda created. Nothing about Gierek himself.
 
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lbugajski
 

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post 25/02/2008, 21:44 Quote Post

Ok, right I'm wrong. Sorry. Here we talk about The Gierek Years, so here we can talk about Polish Army at Gierek Years smile.gif Who want start? I can write something tomorrow. I think that Gierek was the most popular and the best First Secretary in People's Republic of Poland.
 
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Kaden
 

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post 12/06/2008, 9:38 Quote Post

Gierek asked: "Will you help?" and people answered: " Yes, we will".
Why? Because they were able to buy oranges and lemons and banana in late 70' and it was a positive shock for them at that times (for me too as I was a kid). However in the same time peple who were outside PZPR were killed and send to prison because tey weren't allowed to think in other way. What's more there weren' allowed to believe in independent Poland rather than in USSR.
 
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krzystofer
 

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post 12/06/2008, 10:25 Quote Post

The famous slogan you mentioned was ascribed to him during Accidents of 1970 in Gdańsk. Probably the shipments of bananas and some other fruit came through later. Therefore you cannot depending his popularity on temporary 'welfare'.
 
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Kaden
 

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post 12/06/2008, 10:32 Quote Post

"Probably" make a difference.
 
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post 15/06/2008, 15:19 Quote Post

One has to acknowledge certain differences in the style Gierek represented when we compare with the Gomulka period of time. As I remember wery well, sixties were marked by resentment toward supplying society with consumer goods. Main output of Poland's industry was directed in haevy industry sector, probably because of the directives from Moscow. Also, Gomulka personally was not interested, more, he was quite resentfull in diverting of any portion of state budget into development of light industry. As a example, I can recollect his behavour during vhis visits at annual Poznan International Trade Fare, where his attention was directed only to visit booths with industry equipment. Gierek recognized that society needs such a simple things as household goods, therefore this demand needs to be taken under consideration. Also, during a first few years of Gierek regime, society had a spare cash and there was a need to channel this spare cash to government treasure. Market started offering certain ammount of unknown before consumer goods. This created a feeling that ruling class takes care of working man and that after frugal years with previous leader, present rulers represent more contemporary, pragmatic approach. But down the line there was a price to pay for this artificial boom. Supplying market with consumer goods had to go with fulfillment of Soviet Bloc contractual obligations in area of haevy industry. Trying to complement both demands needed investment and new technologies. Gierek knew that nothing can be obtainable from Moscow or other Soviet block countries, the only solution was to start dealing with West. And he did. But life on credit has one unpleasant aspect: when you borrow, you have to pay back with interest. But this is separate subject.

N_S
 
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Kaden
 

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post 16/06/2008, 7:56 Quote Post

That's true: when you borrow you have to pay it back. And now my generation is paying back loans and that's whyI can't stand with opinions that Girek was a "hero". What hero? Mayby for people who took advantage from that times yes (e.g. those from SB, MO, ZOMO, ORMO etc.) but not for me!!!! I cant't believe that anybody can adore comunistic leader.
 
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Rothar
 

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post 20/06/2008, 16:31 Quote Post

QUOTE(Kaden @ 16/06/2008, 7:56)
That's true: when you borrow you have to pay it back. And now my generation is paying back loans and that's whyI can't stand with opinions that Girek was a "hero". What hero?
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Maybe it's not an excuse but present foreign debt is not caused by Gierek. Governments after 1989 were much more generous. The Gierek's foreign debt was partially forgiven but politicians still try to blame former first secretary for deep debt. The truth is, democratic governments are responsible for today's situation.
 
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