2005 | 65 | 229-268
Article title

From Research into the Attitude of the Authorities of the People's Republic of Poland towards the Meat Shortage

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The article describes the attitude of the communist authorities in Poland towards the shortage of meat and their methods used to prevent this situation while simultaneously retaining the principles of the ruling system. The analysis is based on documents of the central Party authorities as well as those of the not a few state ministries and central offices. The ensuing findings show that food shortages were universal in post-1945 Poland and an analysis of documents indicate that there was not a single period in the history of the People's Republic of Poland when social needs relating to the consumption of meat and meat products were met. It does not mean that the shortages had not been tackled and the measures taken may be divided into two groups: those which increased meat supplies and those which limited the demand. The socially 'more lenient' versions consisted predominantly of creating conditions for the development of agricultural production and the food industry which included a gradual departure from the system of obligatory supplies of farm produce, including livestock (from 1972), a periodic increase in the price of contracted pigs and cattle, and the import of means necessary for farm and meat production. The socially more burdensome versions entailed primarily the introduction of compulsory supplies and penalties for refusing to fulfil this duty. The most moderate method of limiting demand for meat and meat products was to stimulate the consumption of other food commodities and industrial articles.The accompanying administratively-restrictive measures included meatless days (introduced already in 1946) and the so-called meatless Mondays in the Gomulka-era (from 1959). Direct rationing of pertinent supplies proved to be much more effective. The most onerous method of reducing demand for meat involved raising its price, which frequently became one of the direct causes of social unrest in Poland (December 1970, June 1976, July-August 1980). The shortage of meat and meat products encouraged the commitment of crimes and abuse. The tendency to penalise the perpetrators was expressed most spectacularly in the period from 1963 to 1965. One of the accused, Stanislaw Wawrzecki, was sentenced to death and executed on 19 March 1965. This leads to the conclusion that meat shortages in the People's Republic of Poland generated particular tension in relations between the authorities and society. The communist authorities considered the accessibility of staple foods to be a condition for social peace.The doctrinal impossibility of introducing a free-market mechanism compelled them to resort to the steps analysed in the article.
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  • D. Jarosz, Instytut Historii PAN, ul. Rynek Starego Miasta 29/31, 00-272 Warszawa, Poland
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