Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

'Historical materialism is the theory of the proletarian revolution.' Georg Lukács

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

28 June 1956, Poland: The Poznan Uprising

'We demand Bread'

28 June 1956 in Poznan

Fifty years ago today, Polish workers at the Zispo locomotive manufacturing plant in the city of Poznan led a heroic uprising against Stalinism.

'The factory siren was sounded to announce a strike and workers went out onto the streets. They formed flying pickets, going from factory to factory bringing more workers out. Workers in the print, transport, textile and cigarette industries made their way to Stalin Square in the city centre. Some 100,000 workers and their families gathered on the streets. A police station was taken over and the city’s Communist Party headquarters were trashed. Groups of demonstrators headed for the most hated symbols of oppression – the secret police headquarters and the prison. Workers stormed the prison, released more than 250 inmates and armed themselves with weapons from the prison armoury. When the Polish army was sent in to restore order, workers fought back with petrol bombs, forcing or persuading soldiers to abandon their tanks.

By the next day most of Poznan was on strike. Workers demanded bread and freedom. They also raised slogans such as "Russians go home". Poland was no colony, but Russia dominated the country and had tens of thousands of troops stationed there.
On the second day the workers of Poznan and their families were overwhelmed by military force – 10,000 troops and 400 tanks and armoured vehicles were needed to put down the revolt. It is thought that almost 80 people were killed.'

One of the leaders of the revolt, Karol Modzelewski recalls that 'Poznan had all the features of a classic revolutionary uprising – from general strike to armed uprising. I later met a young worker who had been in the officers’ school during the Poznan events. He was ordered to patrol the city. In his patrol one person had a machine gun and two pistols. They came across some civilians, workers, one person with a machine gun and two with pistols. They saluted and went past.'

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