The Fall of Communism in Poland. The Catholic Church Solidarity and its supporters

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Mark Hardcastle P08254387                               HIST3094                                                   Dr Kathy Burrell

HIST3094: Independence & Occupation of Poland since 1918

In what ways do your two chosen topics shed light on the nature of the socialist regime and the extent of its impact on ordinary people?

The Catholic Church

Solidarity and its supporters

The communist regime in Poland in the mid to late 20th Century had many detractors, which took the form of Political movements, social movements, religious groups’ art & literature. Arguably, the two most important in terms of shedding light on just how the Socialist regime impacted Poland during this period are the Catholic Church and Solidarity.

The Catholic Church has been under the grip of Catholicism ever since the Poland officlally adopted the Roman Catholic Church in 966; and it has played an important role in shaping culture and politics in Poland ever since.

However, it only became a legally recognised religion in Poland in 1946 and it only managed to do so upon meeting several criteria that the newly positioned Communist regime had dictated, namely that it defranchised itself from the Western parent to the Polish Catholic Church, the United States based Polish National Catholic Church, headed up by a US citizen, Bishop Franciszek Hodur.

Here we see, at the very early days of Socialist entitlement within Poland, the ruling regime taking a hardline stance on religion operating under its jurisdiction. This would set the tone for the relationship between the Catholic Church and the Polish Government for the next thirty-years, as the Communist regime sought to limit the reach of the Church and prevent a platform for socio-cultural disruption.

Often, new laws and legislation would be introduced on a completely ad-hoc and unplanned manner, Marian S. Mazgaj (2010) support the view that initially over-eager attempts to stunt the power of the Church lead to mass internal confusion for the regime:” Methods of Persecution and law issued at the headquarters of Communism were quite often changed on the Polish battlefield. This resulted in much confusion in the communist camp.”

Author Sabrina Rampet (2004) suggest that the constant legal and political manoeuvrings of the Communist Regime in Poland limit the amount we can infer from their long-term Anti-church plan and even suggests that its possible that there wasn’t a long term goal, simply a constant renewal of attempts to disrupt the religion:” Frequent and abrupt policy change make it difficult to distinguish aspects of basic to the long-term communist strategy from those which expressed only tactical modifications.

Church & State in communist Poland: a history,1944-1989 (2010) Marian S.Mazgaj [pg11,12]

Catholicism and Politics in Communist societies (2004) Sabrina Rampet [pg119]

Rampet goes on to verify the very reason why Religion and hard line socialism could not exist. Marxism and Leninism at their very cores do not recognise religion as legitimate school of thought, they aren’t necessary and cannot survive alongside a school of thought that is built around Atheism and the ruling regime superseding all other power bases, such as religious ones in the Catholic Churches case.

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So how did these regime-imposed agendas affect the people of Poland?  It’s important to note that as with any non-democratic controlled country, that controlling the public’s perception and therefore the press and the materials allowed to reach the people. Rampet also discusses just how disproportionate the amount of Catholic produced forms of media were reaching the public, as of 1986 ‘of 2776 newspapers and magazines in Poland, only thirty-three were Catholic, of fifty-six dailies, none were Catholic.’

What Rampet states supports the claims Thomas Lanford makes in Communism (2007) where he discusses amongst many other facets of the communist era, ...

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