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1948-1995 Ripasso

The political history of the communist period in Poland is marked by the consecutive, cyclical political and social crises, which gave direction to the events that transpired.
1948—The communist authorities ?nally eliminated all opposition and the remains of democratic institutions, thus commencing a period of repression and terror. At the same time, some of the communist leaders were in prison.
1956—Workers’ protests forced the authorities to end direct terror and to introduce certain measures of political liberalization. However, the ideological principles of the regime were not changed.
1968—Growing discontent among the intellectual elite and students coincided with ?ghting for power between two factions of the Party. As a result, students’ protests were suppressed, and an anti-Semitic campaign was initiated which forced many people to emigrate. Simultaneously, this action was used to divide members of many social groups.
1970—This time riots broke out because of workers’ protests. The social elite, broken after the 1968 crisis, was not able to support the workers. Consequently, the leadership of the Party was changed and it initiated a policy of openness, but the basis of the political system remained unchanged.
1976—Another crisis was caused by workers’ protests. This time the protests were brutally suppressed; however, the democratic opposition consolidated. The Committee for the Defense of Workers’ Rights (KOR) was established. It provided the basis for cooperation among members of the political elite of the opposition and working milieus.
1980—As a result of another wave of workers’ strikes and protests, which this time were fully supported by the democratic elite, the authorities were forced of?cially to recognize “Solidarnosc,” the independent trade union and to introduce a number of reforms. The constant provocation on the part of authorities destabilized the situation in the country, which provided justi?cation to impose Marshal Law in December 1981.
1989—Continuing political and economic crises in the country forced the leaders of the Party to initiate contacts and discussions with the opposition about changing the political system. Ongoing changes in the USSR diminished pressure and external threats. In February, talks of a “Round Table” were initiated between the communists and members of the opposition. In June, partially free parliamentary elections took place and resulted in an overwhelming victory for the opposition. In September, a coalition government was formed under the leadership of a noncommunist prime minister. Basic economic reforms and the process of rebuilding local democracy were initiated, commencing the process of the country’s transformation.
1990—Lech Walesa was elected president, and in 1991 in completely free parliamentary elections the former opposition con?rmed its earlier victory. In the governments that followed, members of the postcommunist parties did not participate.
1993—In the parliamentary elections the postcommunist party of the United Left was victorious and formed a government in coalition with the Farmers’ Party. The defeat of the Right—the political successor of the former opposition—was mainly caused by the break up of the party into many small factions which could not gain enough votes for its members to enter the Parliament. In the 1995 presidential elections, the leader of the Left, Aleksander Kwasniewski became president.

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