Constitution of the Polish People's Republic
The Constitution of the Polish People's Republic (also known as July Constitution or Constitution of 1952) was passed on 22 July 1952. Created by the Polish communists in the Polish People's Republic, it was based on the 1936 Soviet Constitution (also known as Stalin Constitution), and it superseded the post-war provisional Small Constitution of 1947 which, in its turn, had declared null and void the pre-war April Constitution, defined as fascist. The Russian text of the Constitution was reviewed and corrected by Soviet premier Joseph Stalin and later translated into Polish. It legalized the communist legislature and practices as they had been introduced to Poland with the Polish Committee of National Liberation in the wake of Red Army progress in 1944.
The constitution of 1952 broke the tradition of separation of powers, and introduced instead the Soviet concept of "unity of the state's power". While the ultimate power was reserved for the dictatorship of the proletariat, expressed as "the working people of the towns and villages", the Sejm, the legislative branch of the government, had the paramount authority in government as per the 'will of the people', and oversaw both the judicial and executive branches of the government. But as Warsaw law professor Rozmaryn expressed it, there is a big difference between the "law in books" and the "law in action, explaining that from 1952 through at least 1956 the Sejm exercised no real power, while the State Council (the executive committee of the Sejm) exercised it all instead.
The constitution was amended twenty-four times, with the most contentious amendment being that of 10 February 1976. Following the revolutions of 1989 it was significantly amended between 1989 and 1992, and after 29 December 1989 it was known simply as the Constitution of the Republic of Poland. It was superseded by the new Polish constitution on 2 April 1997.
In the Polish people's referendum, 1946 the Senate of Poland had been abolished with the Sejm remaining the sole legislative body in Poland. Under the 1952 constitution the Sejm officially became the "supreme organ of state power" under article 20.
The Sejm of the People's Republic of Poland started with 425 members in 1952, set so that one deputy represented 60,000 citizens. However, as the population grew the number of deputies expanded, so that by 1960 the constitution was amended, dropping the calculation and stabilizing the Sejm at 460 deputies. An article in the constitution stated that deputies were responsible to the people and could be recalled by the people, although this article was never used. Instead of the five-point electoral law, a four-point version was used (not proportional).
Legislation was passed by majority vote. The Sejm voted on the budget and national plans as proposed by the executive. The Sejm deliberated in sessions, but the sessions were called by the State Council.
The Sejm would also choose a 'Prezydium' body from its members, with the marshal of the Sejm always being a member of the United People's Party. During its first session the Sejm would also nominate the Prime Minister together with other ministers (Council of Ministers) and members of the State Council. The Sejm would also choose many other government officials, including the head of the Supreme Chamber of Control (Najwyższa Izba Kotroli, NIK), members of the State Tribunal (Trybunał Stanu) and Constitutional Tribunal (Trybunał Konstytucjny) as well as the Ombudsman (Rzecznik Praw Obywatelskich) (the latter three institutions were created in the 1980s).
Article 29 provided that State Council members were elected at the first session of the Sejm for the term of the Sejm (established at four years by Article 28), and could be composed of both deputies and non-deputies; they were usually chosen from the dominant party (that party being the Polish United Workers' Party) although occasionally it contained non-party members. The council acted as the Head of State (in practice usually through the Chairmen of the Council of State). Article 30 of the constitution set out the authority of the State Council, including representing the Polish People's Republic in foreign relations and the ratification of international treaties. The Council also had the vote in matters related to the military. It granted citizenship and could invoke pardon. The council not only had legislative initiative under Article 25, but could issue administrative decrees under Article 31. However, those decrees had to be confirmed by the Sejm in its next session. The council also defined the interpretation of laws, which in many countries is reserved to the judiciary.
The deputies of the Council of Ministers also had legislative initiative under Article 25. The composition of the Council of Ministers was set forth at Article 39. The Council of Ministers developed the state budget and the socio-economic plans and presented them to the Sejm for approval. After approval the Council of Ministers oversaw the execution of the plans and the budget.
The Supreme Court was the overseer of all other courts, which were divided into regional, voivodeship and particular (administrative and military). In 1980, the Supreme Administrative Court was introduced, and in 1982, the State Tribunal (which also existed in the Second Polish Republic), Constitutional Tribunal and the Ombudsman were introduced.
During its forty-five years of service, the Constitution of the Polish People's Republic was subject to many changes, with its text amended 24 times.
The most known amendment was that of 10 February 1976. First suggested by the government in 1975, the amendment declared that Poland was a socialist country, the PZPR was the leading force in the building of socialism and Poland shared "unshakable fraternal bonds" with the Soviet Union. This amendment caused the protest resulting in the Letter of 59 asking for inclusion of human rights as stated in the Helsinki Accords. The government backed off somewhat, and the final amendment deleted the phrase "citizens' right depend upon fulfillment of civic duties", changed "unshakable fraternal bonds" to "strengthen friendship" and made other conciliatory changes, but after the revised amendment passed there were still protests from the Catholic church and intellectuals.
The constitution was heavily amended in the years after the Revolutions of 1989. The amendments purged the document of its Communist character. Among the more important changes:
- In April 1989, the April Novelization (nowela kwietniowa) was passed, restoring the Senate of Poland and the office of President of Poland. The first president of Poland since 1952 would be Wojciech Jaruzelski, elected in 1989.
- In December 1989, the Contract Sejm changed the name of the country (from the Polish People's Republic into the Republic of Poland) and removed references to Poland being a socialist state.
- On 17 October 1992, much of the constitution was replaced by the Small Constitution of 1992.
As in most other communist countries, the constitution was based on the 1936 Soviet Constitution and thus failed to regulate the main source of power - the communist party, which was the Polish United Workers' Party in the case of Poland. See also the statute of the Polish United Workers' Party. The constitution also served as a propaganda tool proclaiming the "People's Republic of Poland", and in theory establishing human rights.
Notes and references
- "Poprawki nanosił Stalin, ostateczną wersję opracował Bierut ("Amendments traced by Stalin, the final version developed by Bierut")". Polskie Radio (Polish Radio) (in Polish). 22 July 2012. Archived from the original on 25 May 2014.
- Cieplak, Tadeusz N. (1972). "Section 4. The Government: Introduction". In Cieplak, Tadeusz N. Poland Since 1956: Readings and essays on Polish government and politics. New York: Twayne Publishers. p. 206.
- Rozmaryn, Stefan (1959). "Parliamentary Control of Adminsitrative Activities in the Polish People's Republic". Political Studies. 7 (1): 70–85. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9248.1959.tb00893.x.
- Cieplak 1972, p. 208
- "Article 1, Section 1", Ustawa z dnia 29 gruduia 1989 r. o zmianie Konstytucja Polskiej Rzeczypospolitej Ludowej (An Act of 29 December 1989 to amend the Constitution of the Polish People's Republic), Dz.U. 1989 Nr. 75, pos 444 (in Polish), Sejm, Government of Poland
- Simons, William B., ed. (1980). The Constitutions of the Communist World. Alphen ann den Rijn, the Netherlands: Sijthoff & Noordhoff. pp. 294. ISBN 978-90-286-0070-6.
- Cieplak 1972, p. 207
- Simons, William B., ed. (1980). The Constitutions of the Communist World. Alphen ann den Rijn, the Netherlands: Sijthoff & Noordhoff. pp. 295–296. ISBN 978-90-286-0070-6.
- Sakwa, George (1976). The Organisation and Work of the Polish Sejm 1952–72. Birmingham, England: Centre for Russian and East European Studies, University of Birmingham. p. 7. OCLC 4330848.
- simons 1980, p. 298
- Pełczyński, Zbigniew A. (1980). "Chapter 16. Poland under Gierek". In Leslie, Robert Frank. The History of Poland since 1863. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. pp. 431–432. ISBN 978-0-521-22645-5.
- Paczkowski, Andrzej (1995). Pół Wieku Dziejów Polski, 1939–1989 ("Half a century of Polish history 1939–1989"). Warsaw, Poland: Państwowe Wydawnictwo Naukowe. p. 429. ISBN 978-83-01-11756-6.
- Zirakzadeh, Cyrus Ernesto (2006). "Chapter 5. A World to Be Remade: Sociopolitical Circumstances of Solidarity". Social Movements in Politics, Expanded Edition: A Comparative Study. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. p. 85. ISBN 978-1-4039-6376-5.
- See Article 1, Section 4, paragraph 1 and Article 1, section 8, "Ustawa z dnia 29 gruduia 1989 r. o zmianie Konstytucja Polskiej Rzeczypospolitej Ludowej (An Act of 29 December 1989 to amend the Constitution of the Polish People's Republic)". Dz.U. 1989 Nr. 75, pos 444 (in Polish). Sejm, Government of Poland.
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- Bierut, Bolesław (1956). O Konstytucji Polskiej Rzeczypospolitej Ludowej (in Polish). Warsaw, Poland: Książka i Wiedza. OCLC 236235145.
- Rozmaryn, Stefan (1964). Ustawa w Polskiej Rzeczypospolitej Ludowej ("Statutory law in the Polish People's Republic") (in Polish). Warsaw, Poland: Państwowe Wydawnictwo Naukowe. OCLC 831357713.
- Wasilkowski, Jan, ed. (1954). Zagadnienia prawne Konstytucji Polskiej Rzeczypospolitej Ludowej: materialy sesji naukowej PAN, 4-9 lipca 1953 r. (in Polish). Warsaw, Poland: Polish Academy of Sciences (Państwowe Wydawnictwo Naukowe).
- Wojtkowiak, Zbigniew S. "Okres stalinowski a powstanie ustawy zasadniczej" (in Polish). Archived from the original on 10 January 2007.