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Dialogue: Polish Women and Polish Politics Since World War II Renata Siemienska AU over the world only smaU numbers of women partidpate in politics. The existing differences between the various countries in this respect do not alter this generalization.1 Even more interesting is the fad that the absence of women from pofitics is found in countries with very different histories and basicaUy different paths of economic, sodal, and political development. Legal equafity between men and women is presently guaranteed by practicaUy aU the world's constitutions. Most countries are now proud of having given equal rights to women, but many of them did not grant legal guarantees of poUtical equality until after World War Π. And even though it is a fundamental step toward opening the way for women to run for elective office and be nominated as candidates for governmental positions, legal equality by itself does not necessarily lead to the participation of women in politics, and the number of women and the role they play is far removed from that which was envisioned in the fight for legal rights. Widespread analysis of the source of existing inequalities in poUtical partidpation may be considered under the foUowing headings: biological, cultural, social, economic, and political. The experience of Polish women since World War Πdemonstrates that rising educational levels and mass employment do not bring concomitant changes in political partidpation. Political Structure and Political Leaders in Postwar Poland FoUowing the Second World War the United Peasant Party (UPP), made up of farmers, and the Democratic party (DP), composed primarily of craftspeople and smaU producers, were urged to cooperate with the Polish United Workers Party (PUWP) as the hegemonic party in a spirit of understanding and accord. The PUWP was defined in the constitution as playing a leading role in the life of the country. According to a reform carried out in 1972-75 the commune became the basic administrative unit. Under the new People's Councils Art of 1975, the presidium was changed from an executive body to a policy-making and supervisory one. The people's councils and the commune head and his staff are organs of state power acting within the commune. Local party units provide ideological and political guidance and play roles of leadership and control vis-à -vis elective self-government organs and their staff. Commune committees of the United Peasant Party were expected to cooperate with the © 1991 Journal of Women's History, Vol. 3 No. ι (Spring) 1991 DIALOGUE: RENATA SlEMIENSKA 109 PUWP committees. Local organs of power have only some prerogatives, because, in the highly centralized Polish system, they are subordinated to higher-level party authorities that had considerable powers of their own. The leading role of the PUWP was reflected in institutional structures and personnel poficy. Most ranking officials in the economy, adrninistration, education, judidary, etc., were PUWP members. Three periods can be distinguished in Poland's postwar history until the 1980s, sirrular to that of other sodalist countries: a struggle for power, an intensive industrialization phase, and a period of economic modernization . During the first period, there was a fierce power struggle between the PUWP and other groupings and parties. Loyalty to the new authorities was the chief recruitment criterion. Little or no attention was paid to the candidate's education, skills, job experience, etc. What counted above aU was prior active membership in the wartime Communist party, in the resistance movement, or in an army unit that had fought alongside the Red Army during World War Π. It also helped to have a working-class or peasant background. These same criteria were strongly emphasized in the second period, also. Since the mid-1950s, because of priority given to socioeconomic development, leaders were pressed to adapt to the new situation by seeking more education. At the same time, a new generation of recruits was also brought into the party system who could not meet aU of the irnmediate postwar criteria. Many generalizations on strategy and tactics for the introduction of women into poUtical life garnered from studies of Western countries do not apply to Poland, because of these specific postwar conditions. AdditionaUy , the Polish poUtical system created specific barriers hindering the active partidpation of women...