June 25 marks the anniversary of the workers protest in Radom. PolandIN interviewed a local researcher Dr Agata Morgan on the protests.
In June 1976 the communist government announced steep rises in food prices to balance the budget. The move came as a big surprise to a population that for over five years of the reign of Edward Gierek had experienced a rise in living standards and perpetual ‘propaganda of success’.
The price rises led to spontaneous protests. Some workers from the tractor plant in Ursus, Warsaw blocked the Warsaw-Berlin railway line. In the city of Radom, just to the south of Warsaw workers took to the streets and burned down the HQ of the local communist party.
According to Dr Agata Morgan the protest in Radom wasn’t just about the price rises but also about the local political situation. The local communist chief was deeply unpopular and refused to engage in any dialogue with the protesting workers.
The Radom born and bred researcher believes that the most important thing about the protests wasn’t that they led to an alliance of workers and intellectuals that emerged after the protests, but that they succeeded in making the communist party withdraw the price rises.
Dr Morgan acknowledges that local people paid a price for the protest as hundreds of people lost their jobs and some were detained. Intellectuals who formed the Workers Defence Committee (KOR) provided those repressed with legal and economic aid.
However, since the collapse of communism the city has been marginalised. Those responsible for repression after the protests have rarely been brought to book. The city has faced industrial decline and unemployment.
Dr Agata Morgan feels that it is noticeable that the city has still not come to terms with the events of 1976 as no statue has been erected in commemoration of the protests. This many people in Radom find ‘upsetting’.
See full interview here.