In January 1968, during the performances of Dziadyat the National Theater in Warsaw, the public wanted to underline similarities between Tsarist oppression and the present condition (foreign interference, purely nominal validity of constitutional principles, political censorship). The prohibition that struck Mickiewicz’s drama at the time provoked large student demonstrations, which took on the character of a vindication of the rights of freedom. While the intellectuals joined the opposition movement (extraordinary assembly of the Warsaw section of the Writers’ Union, statements by the PEN Club and some Faculty Councils), the students were confronted by the police and popular militia as tools of ” Zionism “and the propaganda of the West; moreover the official version underlined the family origin of some agitators, children of well-known personalities, mostly of Jewish origin. The student protest thus provided the reason for a singular array of political forces: on the one hand, an opposition front that gathered elements of the university and culture, some workers’ centers and the Church; on the other, the current of “anti-Zionist” nationalism, which at that moment presented itself as an auxiliary of power. However, there was a crisis of the official youth organizations, now without any influence, and of the party itself, which left itself entirely to the security organs. Gomułka intervened with a speech full of personal recriminations and harsh accusations against opponents (March 19, 1968), also trying, weakly, to reduce the scope of “Zionism” and to curb the initiative of the Ministry of the Interior. But the campaign had far-reaching effects: cultural personalities were induced into exile, while the Jewish colony in Poland, valued at 30,000 units, was significantly reduced through emigration to Israel and Western countries. The 5th Congress of the POUP confirmed once again theleadership of Gomułka; but two years later, in December 1970, the announcement by the Council of Ministers of a substantial increase in food prices caused a week of unrest in the Baltic port cities (Danzig, Gdynia, Stettin), with a budget of some hundreds of dead. Also this time the lack of the political center was revealed: the orders of the first secretary were not carried out, episodes of provocation kept the insurrectional state awake to the disadvantage of the party leaders; now deprived of Soviet support, Gomułka was overthrown by the Political Bureau, which had his decision ratified by the urgently meeting Central Committee.
Head of the party organization in the mining center of Katowice, called in 1954 to be part of the Central Committee, the new secretary E. Gierek had pursued a political career completely independent of the rise of Gomułka and his followers. In 1968 he had participated in the anti-revisionist and anti-Zionist campaign, without however identifying himself with the “partisans”. Once he assumed power, he distanced himself from the Moczar current and established a new majority with personalities of various political backgrounds: in December 1971 the power game within the leadership group seemed to end with the ouster of Moczar from the Office. politic. However, Polish life continued to struggle amidst the contradictions matured during the Gomułka years. After initial openings towards the peasant world, action was resumed against individual ownership of the land (which in 1975 still comprised 80% of the cultivated area). During 1976 various decrees accorded preferential conditions to cooperative growers (pensions, credits), while the associative movement was stimulated and the state sector strengthened. In December 1975 a group of 59 intellectuals, including the economist E. Lipiński, raised a protest, substantially followed by the episcopate, against the modification of the Constitution then in progress. A new constitutional text, which summarizes a series of partial innovations, was published in July 1976: on the one hand, the Popular Councils (Rady narodowe) are elevated to the rank of local organs of state power, with an elective character; on the other hand, the party’s leading role in social life is institutionalized, while civil rights are explicitly reserved for those who identify with the National Unity Front. By virtue of Article 6, the Polish People’s Republic, by safeguarding national independence and observing the principle of peaceful coexistence, “strengthens friendship and collaboration with the Soviet Union and with the other socialist states”. After the successes obtained during the implementation of the 1971-75 plan, Poland was hit by the effects of western inflation, which raised the prices of imports and decreased the demand for domestic products, and by the repercussions of the oil crisis, which prompted the USSR to increase the price of oil supplied to the Comecon countries. A new attempt to introduce increases immediately returned following a strike in June 1976 in the Gdansk construction sites, in Radom and in the tractor factory.Ursus. Against the trials and convictions a Committee for the defense of the workers led by the dissident J. Kuroń and the writer J. Andrzejewski appealed to human rights, just ratified by the Polish People’s Republic. In October 1978, the election to the pontificate of the archbishop of Krakow, Karol Wojtyla, and then his visit confirmed the prestige of Catholicism in Polish society.