& Tornado Alley
The Political Economy of Poland
The Economic History and Economy of Poland|
Ekonomiczna Historia Polski
A Brief Chronology of the Polish State
- 1914-1918: World War I results in the political demise of the empires of Russia, Germany and
Austro-Hungary. Marshal Józef Pilsudski forms Polish legions to help drive the Russians out of Poland.
An independent Polish Republic is created and given a corridor to the Baltic Sea
through German territory.
- 1919-1921: Marshal Pilsudski tries to capture disputed territory in the Ukraine.
The newly formed Soviet Russia tries to reassert control over Poland. The invasion
is defeated by Poland.
- 1926: Marshal Józef Pilsudski carries out a coup d'etat and rules through
a newly created sanacja (national cleansing) government.
- 1935: Marshal Józef Pilsudski dies leaving military figures to run an increasingly
- September 1939: National Socialist Germany invades Poland from the west
and Communist Soviet Union invades Poland from the east. Germany and
Russia partition Poland.
- 1940-1941: Soviet authorities imprison over a million Poles in
camps and executes many thousand prisoners of war such as at Katlyn Forest
to deprive Poland of potential postwar leaders.
- 1941-1945: Germany occupies all of Poland. Poles are killed in vast
- 1945: Soviet troops take Poland away from Germany. A puppet government
representing a political coalition but dominated by Polish Communists is installed.
- 1947-1949: A monopoly of power by the Communist Party is created after
fraudulent elections. Opposition political leaders are jailed. Major industries
are nationalized. Businesses are
nationalized. Stalinist-style central planning is implemented. The
Catholic Church is suppressed.
There was an attempt to collectivize Polish agriculture as
had been done in the Soviet Union in the 1930s. The problems of collectivization
proved to be too great and agriculture remained private but with heavy
state control and regulation.
- 1956: Worker rebellion occurs in Poznan and is put down by the military
with thousands of people killed. Wladyslaw Gomulka is made head of Polish
Communist Party and he asserts that he will seek reform and liberalization
of the economic system.
- 1970: Government price increases spark protests which are put down
with the loss of hundreds of lives. Gomulka is deposed as head of Polish
Communist Party and is replaced with Edward Gierek.
- 1976: Gierek-decreed price rises bring protests and labor strikes.
- 1980: A national strike results in the occupation of the state shipyards
in Gdánsk. Government agrees to Gdánsk Accords which give
recognition to the Solidarity labor union movement.
- 1980-1981: Solidarity confronts the Polish Government. The Soviet Union,
through the Warsaw Pact, threatens intervention.
- 1981: General Wojciech Jaruzelski becomes head of the Polish Communist Party.
He declares martial law, bans Solidarity and imprisons its leadership.
- 1981: The State Enterprise Act gives some degree of autonomy to the
management of state enterprises.
- 1985-1988: Mikhail Gorbachev's policies in the Soviet Union prompts
some reduction of government control in Poland. There is still widespread
opposition to the Communist Party.
- 1988: Widespread labor strikes lead Jaruzelski to open negotiation with
the political opposition.
- 1989: Negotiation between the Communist Party leadership and the political
opposition leads to a formula for power-sharing. Jaruzelski expects to
remain the government leader under the power-sharing arrangement but a
partially-free election resulted in a landslide vote for Solidarity candidates.
- 1989: A coalition government under Tadeusz Mazowiecki takes power.
- 1990: Finance Minister Leszek Balcerovicz announces a program of
reform for the economy which is labeled Shock Therapy. The Communist
Party of Poland is dissolved and reorganized as the Social Democracy of the
Republic of Poland Party (SDRP).
Lech Walesa is elected President of Poland, the head of the Polish State.
The Privatization Act provides for several routes to privatization of state
enterprises including: 1. Corporatization followed by privatization 2. liquidation.
- 1991: The Warsaw Pact and Comecon, the military and economic alliance
of eastern European Communist governments, are dissolved. The elections
to the Polish legislature, the Sejm, result in a fragmented politics.
Jan Olszewski is elected Prime Minister, the head of government.
- 1992: The Sejm passes a strict anti-abortion law to replace the
law inherited from the Communist era. This reflects the political intervention
of the Catholic Church. Polish politics becomes further fragmented on
the issue of Church political activity.
- 1992: Prime Minister Jan Olszewski's economic reform plan is rejected by the Sejm and
and his government falls.
Hanna Suchocka is chosen as Prime
Minister of a coalition government.
- 1993: Hanna Suchocka's government loses a vote of confidence and her
government falls. Waldemar Pawlak of the Social Democracy Party (SDRP), the
reformed Communist Party, is chosen as the new Prime Minister.
Recent Performance of the Polish Economy
The European Business Journal for the summer of 1999 in an article
entitled, "Poland's tiger economy," says that Poland's economy grew in
excess of six percent in the previous three years and that such growth
came in part from its strategic position. Poland is the meeeting grounds
for the Russian east and the German west, but is also the meeting grounds
for the Scandinavian north with the countries of Central Europe such as
the Czech Republic and Hungary.
Poland in the early 1990's had 9,000 companies which the reformers sought
to privatize. As of 1999 there were still a good many enterprises that had not been privatized.
There were 3000 state-owned enterprises and 1300 other enterprizes in which
the State owns substantial shares.