Od ruchu fabrycznego do biurokratycznej neutralizacji Walka o rady robotnicze w Polsce w latach 1956–1958

  • Paweł Szelegieniec Uniwersytet Jagielloński


The aim of the article is to present the creation and the decline of workers’ councils as
democratic bodies in post-Stalinism Poland. The period analyzed starts with their formation
in 1956 and ends with the 1958 final neutralization of the councils by the ruling party-state
bureaucracy of the Polish People’s Republic and the incorporation of workers’ councils into
a pseudo-democratic collective body called the “Working Class Self-government Convention”
(Konferencja Samorządu Robotniczego – KSR). The new law on the “working class selfgovernment”
successfully absorbed the workers’ councils under crisis, resulting from the
obstacles posed by the bureaucratic system, into the economic system and factory regime
controlled by the “nomenklatura”. In the beginning, workers’ councils represented the working
class’ aspirations in establishing democratic control over the work process and assuring the
improvement of factory work conditions, however, thanks to the KSR they became a part of a
three-part decision-making committee, whose aim was to manage the factory, thus replacing
the workers’ councils in their original role. In KSR ranks the only democratic organization
were the workers’ councils and their representatives constituted a minority. Representatives
of the ruling bureaucracy held the majority of votes allowing them to reject any decision in conflict with the ruling party’s arrangements, agreements, and social relationships. The
final result of the KSR existence was a decline of interest in workers’ councils exhibited by
workers and bringing their meaning down to that of a substitute of a trade union and not a of
a powerful ruling body in a workplace.
Key words: workers’ councils, working class self-government convention, PZPR, work
process, bureaucracy.