Economic_History_anim.gif (3797 bytes)   POLAND  

 


Industrial Development
in Post World War II Poland


by Jason Paukowits  
 

 

Although Poland became a “richer” country after World War II when it acquired new and more industrialized lands, much of the existing infrastructure within the nation had either been destroyed or acquired by German nationals. The Central Planning Office, which was run by moderate socialists rather than staunch old time Communists developed an ambitious restructuring program that called for heavy industrialization within Poland. The first initiative undertaken, called the “Three-Year Plan of Reconstruction” was a relatively successful plan that was necessitated by a country devastated from years of occupation. However, a second and decidedly more ambitious industrialization plan was eventually put in place by new Communist leaders. Although it was somewhat successful, the plan’s aims seemed to be to boost Poland’s internationally visible economic statistics while it ignored nonproductive industry and the well being of the Polish working class.  

 

The Three-Year Plan of Reconstruction was first decreed in 1946. The aim of the plan was to provide “general recommendations” rather than explicit orders (Montias, 53). The main objective was to improve the standard of living through increased industrialization. Although the levels of production did not reach their prewar heights, the plan was generally successful. This was most likely due to the fact that the plan was fairly balanced. It did not attempt to over-industrialize, and paid special attention not to ignore the large agrarian sector. Thus, assuring farmers that their lands would not be collectivized.

However, much debate ensued between the more moderate socialists in the Central Planning Office and the Soviet influenced members of Poland’s Ministry of Industry and Trade after the Three-Year Plan had gone into effect. The Communist members of the Polish government attacked the Three-Year Plan for being too radical. They felt that the plan undermined basic Marxist principles and was “constructed according to bourgeois methods” (Montias, 54). The Communists felt that the Three-Year Plan had not been specific enough. They thought that a reconstruction plan should focus on boosting the output of consumer goods, which would then increase long run consumption. Eventually, the Communist wing of government gained economic control in Poland. Any additional reconstruction plans from this point on would not be as diversified as the Three-Year Plan, and would be much more Marxist.

 

 After this power struggle in Poland had taken place, the Socialist and Communist parties merged. Stalin tightened Soviet control over the Eastern European satellite countries. Censorship was very prevalent and all economic writing had to be in accord with Soviet doctrine. During this time, the Communist leaders in Poland began to develop another reconstruction plan. This new plan would come to be known as the Six-Year Plan; a longer and more industrially oriented plan. The six year plan was being designed to raise output in Poland substantially. As opposed to the previous plan, this new Communist plan would strip the farmers of their autonomy and collectivize the agricultural industry. 

The Six-Year plan resulted in an increase in gross output by 174% by 1955. National income rose by 74% and basic industry increased by 78% (Montias, 59). Although these figures were slightly below the targeted figures, they are still very impressive. The increased industrialization led to positive labor gains as well. Productivity increased and unemployment was virtually nonexistent. Employment in the socialized sector grew by 61% during this time (Montias, 61). New capital was generated by significantly reducing the amount of subsidies provided to nonproductive industries such as agriculture, housing, and transportation.

 

  Despite the plan’s obvious benefits, there were considerable drawbacks. The Six-Year Plan did not equitably allocate resources. There were many sectors that were not receiving any subsidies from the government. Residential construction was one such sector. The urban populations were growing rapidly, however with little residential construction, there were literally not enough rooms to accommodate all of the new workers. Many other industries were also ignored by the Six-Year Plan. In fact, the limited allocations that these industries were receiving were cut back even further when the Korean War began, and Poland had to set aside a considerable amount of national spending for military and defense purposes. During this time, the agricultural sector was almost completely ignored by the Communist regime, whereas the metal working industry almost tripled in size.

Although a devastated Poland desperately needed a reconstruction program that would build up industry and increase production, the Six-Year Plan eventually did not stabilize the economy. It seems that the Communist drive to build up the productive industry while ignoring other equally important, but less statistically relevant sectors of the economy was the downfall of the plan. A more balanced reconstruction program would have made living conditions better and pacified the urban proletariat. The benefits of the reconstruction plans were offset by worker discontent and resentment of the Communist system.

 

Montias, John, Michael. "Central Planning in Poland". Yale University Press. New Haven, 1962.

 

 

 

 

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