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2009 | 24 | 85-104

Article title

THE CENTRE OF POWER IN JULY-AUGUST 1980: DECISION-MAKING MECHANISMS (Centrum wladzy latem 1980 roku: mechanizmy podejmowania decyzji)

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The political crisis of the summer of 1989, which began in a way similar to its predecessors in the years 1956, 1970 and 1976, differed from them most of all in that it ended in a truce and concessions on the part of the authorities. This paper is not guided by an ambition to analyse all the factors and is limited to a description of the PUWP leaders' mode of operating. It is based on little-known source materials of different kinds and provenance (CC PUWP, Ministry of the Interior and the General Staff), as well as on the reminiscences of the main actors of these events. One of the main motives underlying the way they acted was a fear of that the events of December 1970 would be repeated as regards both the casualties and the destabilisation at the top of the power structure. By granting concessions to the wages demand, the authorities had brought about an 'upsetting' of social discipline and when, in the wake of the strike in the Tri-City (from the 14th of August), the movement changed in character and took on a political overtone, they thought that the previous policy may be continued for some time yet. The article focuses on the PUPW leaders' new operating formula; while, in December 1970, decisions were made by a narrow, semi-formal body and, essentially, the 1st Secretary (Gomulka) personally, in summer 1980, the modus procedendi was entirely different; decisions were taken collectively by the entire Politburo sitting in almost permanent session. A permanent team to monitor the events (known as the Kania Commission) was also appointed. This mechanism favoured pragmatism in action and realism in the assessment of situation; it also made it possible to 'cushion' pressure on the part of Moscow, which insisted on solving the crisis by force.


  • Andrzej Paczkowski, Instytut StudiĆ³w Politycznych PAN, ul. Polna 18/20, 00-625 Warszawa, Poland


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