Poland December 1970: A Clarification

In an article that appeared in the SOCIALIST STANDARD in May this year we stated that “hundreds” of workers were shot and killed by government troops during the unrest over price rises that took place in Poland’s Baltic sea ports in December 1970. A previous article in September 1976 had stated that “at least six workers” had been shot dead in Gdansk (Danzig). The discrepancy between these figures is to be explained by the former being based on the highest unofficial estimates while the latter refers to the number officially admitted as having been killed on December 14, the first day of the unrest in Danzig alone.

The precise number, in the other ports as well as Danzig — and even one death would prove the brutal anti-working class character of the Polish state capitalist regime — is unknown. Keesing’s Contemporary Archives says:

“No definitive figures of the total number of casualties were available at the time but official spokesmen in Warsaw said early in January 1971 that 27 people had been killed in. Gdansk. Gdynia and Elblag and 346 injured, including 265 policemen; no official figures were given for Szczecin and Slupsk. On January 20, however, Polish newspapers revealed that 44 people had died in the December riots — 18 in Gdynia, 16 in Szczecin, nine in Gdansk and one in Elblag. It was also stated that there had been 120 injured, many seriously in Gdansk, where about 100 people were under arrest charged with looting, arson or attacking police. Unofficial estimates put the total casualties as considerably higher than those officially given (January 16-23 1971. p.24391).”

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