„Masy członkowskie” Związku Młodzieży Socjalistycznej na tle społeczeństwa polskiego lat 1956–1976
“Membership masses” of the Socialist Youth Union (ZMS) in the context of the Polish society, 1956–1976
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The number of the Union of Socialist Youth [Związek Młodzieży Socjalistycznej, ZMS] members reached a maximum of 1,5 million young people, whereas throughout its twenty-year existence this number amounted to 5 million. In fact, this made the ZMS the biggest youth organization of the PRL’s era. Many various categories of young people belonged to the Union. High, trade and vestibule school students, probably more interested in sports, entertainment and in problems of their age than in politics, comprised nearly half of the Union members. Whereas university students were in minority. The others, were mostly young employees – mainly workers, adult, already formed people, having their own families. The youth of Gomułka’s and Gierek’s era, occupied with nothing but school, work and personal matters and fascinated by the developing, basing on western patterns, youth culture, was very little interested in boring politics and aggressively promoted ideology. Therefore they decided very rarely to join in the ZMS for ideologically-motivated emotions. Those who became the ZMS members, one could divide into two different categories: the first – people who had the need to be involved in activity and the ZMS was the only organization which made it possible. The second one – people willing to join in the ZMS to derive particular benefits only (such as: their supervisors’ satisfaction, access to many attractive leisure activities, establishing social relationships) whereas they were not interested in carrying out a range of activity at all. Those of the first category became activists which was very often a prelude to the political or professional careers, while the others were simply a “membership mass”. Rank and file ZMS members considered themselves to be as ordinary as their peers – having a similar world-view, interest and attitude towards life. Even their political views were not clearly shaped. Therefore it seems that the most appropriate description referring to the majority of the ZMS members would be a statement saying that they were persons who did not mind about the political face of their organization. Moreover, they were not engaged in its activity – some of them did nothing, others – used to attend the meetings and from time to time got involved in particular actions. For most of the average members, the ZMS was either a youth association formed only to fill their free time for a price of participation in boring mass rally or an insignificant enrollment in the membership card.
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