Stanisław Mikołajczyk

(b. 1901)

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(b. Holsterhausen, Westphalia, Germany, 18 July 1901; d. Washington, DC, 13 Dec. 1966)

Polish; leader of the Peasants' Party 1931–45, head of the government in exile 1943–4, leader of the Polish Peasants' Party 1945–7 Mikołajczyk was born in Westphalia, the son of an émigré miner. He moved to Poland in 1918, entering politics soon after. From 1931 to 1939 he was head of the Peasant Party, the most powerful political group in inter-war Poland. From 1940 he was a minister in the Polish government in exile in London and its Prime Minister after the death of General Sikorski in 1943.

Mikołajczyk returned to Poland in autumn 1944, resigning as head of the government in exile on 24 November. His arrival stopped Communist attempts to set up the Peasants' Party as a puppet party of their own. In 1945 he became Deputy Premier in the new coalition government in Warsaw. In August 1945 he left the government to launch the new Polish Peasants' Party (PPP). His hope was that with peasant support he could make Poland ungovernable for the Communists and that the Soviet Union would accept Polish neutrality. By January 1946 the PPP had 600,000 members, making it the largest political party in Poland, and demanded free elections in 1946. The Communists pressed Mikołajczyk to join a ‘Democratic Bloc’, but he demanded that the PPP should have three-quarters of the seats in any coalition. The Communists thereupon set about the intimidation of the PPP. The PPP's struggle against the Communists was fatally weakened in November 1946 when the Socialists agreed on an electoral pact with the Communists. In the rigged elections of January 1947 the Democratic Bloc won just over 80 per cent of the vote at the elections while the PPP obtained just over 10 per cent. Hearing that he was about to be arrested, Mikołajczyk fled to the West, settling in the USA.

Subjects: Politics.

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