Saturday, April 29, 2017
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Work Ethics in Poland: Work Heroes and Party Actions

There were some spectacular actions especially in late forties and early fifties to improve the work efficiency. The communists were looking for young, healthy, strong and indoctrinated men and women who would follow an example of Aleksei Stachanov. Stachanov was a famous Soviet miner who initiated socialistic working competition in 1935. Stachanow was achieving incredibly high production figures. He was considered a communistic hero. "Many years later, Soviet authorities admitted that Stachanov was assisted by a team of miners when he performed his heroic feats. Workers who were following Stachanov example exceeding the norms many times were called Stachanov workers." (Ref. below)

PosterPolish equivalent of Stachanov was Wincenty Pstrowski, a miner who initiated the socialistic competition in 1947. While Stachanov lived over 70 years, Pstrowski died from leukemia a year later, in 1948.

The mechanism of creating of Stachanov workers is presented in detail in an excellent movie entitled Man of Marble made by Oscar winner Polish film director, Andrzej Wajda. The movie was a winner of the International Critics Prize at Cannes, 1978. It shows the mechanism how the future work champions were selected, how they were treated and specially prepared for the one-day show when they were able to achieve these incredible production figures by help of some assisting workers.

Party DaySmaller enterprises of this type were done in 70-es. The first secretary of the PZPR*, Edward Gierek, initiated so-called Party Actions (in Polish "Czyn Partyjny"). These spectacular deeds done usually on Sundays were going to show the bond of Party with the nation. It was showing the highest figures in Communistic Party (but all party members had to take part in it) working in their neighborhood. In 70-es Poland was still a country were Christianity, especially Catholicism was dominating. The communists wanted to change it. Ignoring the religious tradition they proclaimed Sunday as a "Party Action Day" or "Communistic Party Day" when people should voluntarily work rather than have a holiday and a holy day. On TV screens in the main propaganda news program one could see our dignitaries to dig in a ground with their spades when the camera was rolling. Nobody had any doubts that this was rather a spectacle than a real work.


* There were three official parties in Poland, a Polish United Workers' Party (PZPR, Polska Zjednoczona Partia Robotnicza) was the highest in the rank. The other two parties, Democratic Union (SD, Stronnictwo Demokratyczne) and the United Farmers Union (ZSL, Zjednoczone Stronnictwo Ludowe) had very similar programs but much less power. In common language "Party" means only the leading PZPR.

Recommended reading(s):

Here is a magnificent film on the subject, about the work heroes and fallen angels, by Oscar-winner Andrzej Wajda, entitled Man of Marble

I also recommend one-volume histories of Poland in English: Heart of Europe: A Short History of Poland (Oxford Paperbacks) by Norman Davies


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