Obituary: Piotr Jaroszewicz

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The Independent Online
Piotr Jaroszewicz, politician, born Nieswiez 1910, Deputy Prime Minister of Poland 1952-70, Prime Minister 1970-80, married Alicja Solska (died 1992), died Anin Poland 2 September 1992.

Piotr Jaroszewicz, who was found dead with his wife yesterday in still unexplained circumstances, was the main architect of the disastrous economic policies of Edward Gierek, First Secretary of the Polish United Workers Party (PZPR) in the 1970s. It was Jaroszewicz who, as prime minister of Poland, a post he held from December 1970 to February 1980, carried out Gierek's ambitious plans to double the country's national income and create a 'second Poland'.

These plans, which had the support of the Soviet Union, whose homme de confiance Jaroszewicz was reputed to be, were certainly bold. They rested on Poland making use of the climate of detente to borrow money from the West, awash with petrodollars, to transform its economy. They were in marked contrast to the much more cautious and penny-pinching policies pursued by Gierek's predecessor, Wladyslaw Gomulka. They rested on the assumption that, by modernising its industry, Poland would be able to export on a large scale to the West and thus repay the money it had borrowed.

Some initial success was experienced - the standard of living rose rapidly and Western consumer goods became much more widely available. But very soon the measures' limitations became apparent. Much of the money was incompetently invested or merely wasted, leaving Poland with vast unrepayable debts. The West, in the throes of recession, was unable to absorb Polish goods in significant quantity, particularly since they were anyway not always of the highest quality. The availability of large sums of Western capital also greatly increased corruption within the Communist elite. Moreover, in order to convince the Soviet Union that the economic opening to the West would not have political consequences, Gierek and Jaroszewicz introduced a new constitution which explicitly tied Poland to the Soviet Union and asserted the permanence of the socialist system, arousing widespread resentment in Poland.

The combination of economic mismanagement and political maladroitness led to disturbances in 1976 and to the rise of a broad- based opposition which was to culminate in the emergence of the Solidarity movement. Jaroszewicz was dismissed in February 1980 in a vain attempt to quell the growing unrest. In February 1981, along with Gierek, he was expelled from the PZPR and was indicted by a parliamentary committee for his responsibility for the disasters of the 1970s. These accusations were not pursued and in July 1984 he was amnestied. He played no further role in political life.

Jaroszewicz was a teacher by profession. He was born in 1910 in Nieswiez, now in Belarus, where his parents were also teachers. Between 1934 and 1939, he was head of a primary school. He spent the Second World War in the Soviet Union, where he rose rapidly in the Communist-controlled 1st Polish Army, created after the departure from the Soviet Union of the Polish Army commanded by General Wladyslaw Anders and the break in relations between the Soviet Union and the Polish government in London.

Between September 1944 and May 1945, Jaroszewicz was a deputy commander in the 1st Polish Army with responsibility for political education. In 1945, he was promoted to lieutenant-general and in 1950 to brigadier-general. From 1944, he was a member of the Polish Workers' Party (PPR) which subsequently, after the incorporation of the socialists, became the (PZPR. Between April and December 1947 he was a deputy member of the PPR Central Committee and between December 1948 and February 1980 of the Central Committee of the PZPR. Between April 1964 and December 1970 he was a deputy member of the Politburo, and a full member during his term as prime minister, from 1970 to 1980.

As an orthodox Communist, trusted by Moscow, Jaroszewicz held a number of important posts before becoming prime minister. Between February 1946 and November 1950 he was Deputy Minister of National Defence and between November 1950 and November 1952 Deputy Chairman of the State Planning Commission. From November 1952 to December 1970, he was Deputy Prime Minister, and from 1955 to 1970 the Polish representative at Comecon. Between April 1958 and June 1970 he was Chairman of the Committee for Economic Co- operation with Foreign Countries attached to the Council of Ministers.

Jaroszewicz's wife, Alicja Solska, worked as a journalist for the official Communist newspaper Trybuna Ludu. She fought in the Warsaw uprising of 1944 and was sent with several other emissaries by one of its commanders to inform the commander of Soviet troops outside Warsaw, General Rokossovsky, of the situation in Warsaw. As is well known, this intervention had no effect on the Soviet policy of allowing the Nazis to crush the uprising.

(Photograph omitted)