Choose period
March 14, 1964

The Letter of 34

Historical context

In October 1956, when Władysław Gomułka became the First Secretary of the Polish United Workers’ Party (Polska Zjednoczona Partia Robotnicza, PZPR), the society started to hope for the liberalisation of the communist system and more social freedom. Such hopes, expressed mainly by the intelligentsia, proved to be vain.

In the autumn of 1957, the relations between the communist authorities and the intelligentsia deteriorated due to the closure of the Po prostu magazine and the withdrawal of permission to issue the literary monthly Europa. In the face of this ban, a group of writers left the party, including Jerzy Andrzejewski, Paweł Hertz, Adam Ważyk or Mieczysław Jastrun. It was also the time when a purge in the communist party was organised in order to “cleanse” its ranks from too liberal members who were called revisionists.

Another “victim” of the system was the Crooked Circle Club (Klub Krzywego Koła), an informal association established by the representatives of the non-communist left and revisionists and centred around Jan Józef Lipski and philosophers Maria Ossowska and Stanisław Ossowski. The club’s name referred to the name of the street in Warsaw Old Town where evening discussions had been organised since 1955. The communist authorities did not approve the independence of this environment; therefore, with time, it was recognised as opposition and disbanded in 1962.

In March 1964, Antoni Słonimski wrote the Letter of 34 to Prime Minister Józef Cyrankiewicz. It was signed by 34 outstanding representatives of Polish culture and science. The letter was an expression of opposition to the restrictions on the allocations of paper for the publication of books and periodicals and the tightening of press censorship. The signatories included people who in the 1950s were members of the Polish United Workers’ Party or had connections with the government (Jerzy Andrzejewski, Maria Dąbrowska, Jan Kott, Adam Ważyk), people who were independent left-wing intellectuals (Jan Józef Lipski, Maria Ossowska), not left-wing intellectuals (Stanisław Cat-Mackiewicz, Paweł Jasienica, Melchior Wańkowicz) and Catholics (Stefan Kisielewski, Zofia Kossak-Szczucka, Jerzy Turowicz). The content of the letter was widely spread in Western Europe by Radio Free Europe. As a result, some of the signatories were exposed to harassment and repression. For example, prominent writers Melchior Wańkowicz and Stanisław Cat-Mackiewicz, who had returned from the emigration a few years before, were arrested.

The Letter of 34 was the first group protest of intellectuals after 1945 and started the tradition of writing open letters to the authorities of the Polish People’s Republic criticising the violation of civil rights and liberties.

Document text

To: The Prime Minister, Józef Cyrankiewicz, Warsaw:


Restrictions on the allocations of paper for the publication of books and periodicals and the tightening of press censorship create a situation which threatens the development of our national culture. In recognition of the existence of public opinion, the right to criticize, the right of free discussion and honest information, as the necessary elements of progress, the undersigned, motivated by civil concern demand that Polish cultural policy be altered conforming to the rights guaranteed by the Constitution of the Polish state and conducive to national welfare.
 

The letter has been signed by:

1. Jerzy Andrzejewski
2. Maria Dąbrowska
3. Stanisław Dygat
4. Karol Estreicher
5. Marian Falski
6. Aleksander Gieysztor
7. Konrad Górski
8. Paweł Hertz
9. Leopold Infeld
10. Paweł Jasienica
11. Mieczysław Jastrun
12. Stefan Kisielewski
13. Zofia Kossak-Szczucka
14. Tadeusz Kotarbiński
15. Jan Kott
16. Anna Kowalska
17. Julian Krzyżanowski
18. Kazimierz Kumaniecki
19. Edward Lipiński
20. Maria Ossowska
21. Stanisław Cat Mackiewicz
22. Jan Parandowski
23. Stanisław Pigoń
24. Adolf Rudnicki
25. Artur Sandauer
26. Wacław Sierpiński
27. Antoni Słonimski
28. Jan Szczepański
29. Władysław Tatarkiewicz
30. Jerzy Turowicz
31. Melchior Wańkowicz
32. Adam Ważyk
33. Kazimierz Wyka
34. Jerzy Zagórski

 [Congressional Record: Proceedings and Debates of the 90th Congress First Session, volume 113, part 2 (Washington: United States Government Printing Office, 1967) p. 2113]
Do Prezesa Rady Ministrów
Józefa Cyrankiewicza,

 
Ograniczenia przydziału papieru na druk książek i czasopism oraz zaostrzenie cenzury prasowej stwarza sytuację zagrażającą rozwojowi kultury narodowej. Niżej podpisani, uznając istnienie opinii publicznej, prawa do krytyki, swobodnej dyskusji i rzetelnej informacji za konieczny element postępu, powodowani troską obywatelską, domagają się zmiany polskiej polityki kulturalnej w duchu praw zagwarantowanych przez konstytucję państwa polskiego i zgodnych z dobrem narodu.


List podpisali:

1.Jerzy Andrzejewski
2.Maria Dąbrowska
3.Stanisław Dygat
4.Karol Estreicher
5.Marian Falski
6.Aleksander Gieysztor
7.Konrad Górski
8.Paweł Hertz
9.Leopold Infeld
10.Paweł Jasienica
11.Mieczysław Jastrun
12.Stefan Kisielewski
13.Zofia Kossak-Szczucka
14.Tadeusz Kotarbiński
15.Jan Kott
16.Anna Kowalska
17.Julian Krzyżanowski
18.Kazimierz Kumaniecki
19.Edward Lipiński
20.Maria Ossowska
21.Stanisław Cat Mackiewicz
22.Jan Parandowski
23.Stanisław Pigoń
24.Adolf Rudnicki
25.Artur Sandauer
26.Wacław Sierpiński
27.Antoni Słonimski
28.Jan Szczepański
29.Władysław Tatarkiewicz
30.Jerzy Turowicz
31.Melchior Wańkowicz
32.Adam Ważyk
33.Kazimierz Wyka
34.Jerzy Zagórski.
Download the original text