Professor Tadeusz Kowalik (1926-2012) was a noted Polish economist who played a major role in Polish economic debates for more than a half century. A graduate of the University of Warsaw, Kowalik was a student of the distinguished Polish Marxist economist Oskar Lange and like his teacher, was a prominent advocate of market socialism in Poland. For Kowalik, market socialism offered an alternative to both the inhumanities of capitalism, with its boom-bust cycles, its exploitation of workers and its extreme inequalities, and to the kind of centrally planned socialism that was characteristic of the Soviet bloc countries, which he criticized for its inefficiencies and bureaucratization. He was also perhaps the world’s leading authority on the work of Lange, and he was also a leading authority on the work of Michal Kalecki and the economic writings of Rosa Luxemburg. He remained to the very end of his life a committed advocate of a democratic market socialism and, after having spent many years as an advisor to Solidarność, would later become a leading critic of the embracing of capitalism by Poland’s post-Communist governments. He was a founder of the leftist Labor Union in 1992.
Tadeusz Kowalik joined the Polish United Workers Party (Communist Party) in 1948. He became associated with the reform faction within the Party which had gathered around economists like Oscar Lange, Michal Kalecki, and others, who sought to reform Poland’s centrally planned socialist economy, to make it more efficient and democratic. He was editor of a weekly, Economic Life, which provided an important forum for debate on the reform of Poland’s socialist economy. Like Lange and Kalecki, he had high hopes for economic reforms in Poland during the period of unrest in 1956 which had led to Gomulka’s return to power. And he suffered disappointment when the regime was able to avoid implementing the reforms that Kowalik and other economists were advocating at that time.
From 1956-1962 he was a member of a discussion group, Krzywe Koło (KK – Crooked Circle), which promoted discussions critical of the policies of the Polish government and the Communist Party. In the crackdown that took place in 1968 following the outbreak of student unrest, Professor Kowalik was among the intellectuals expelled from the Party. During the period of 1978-1981, he was active in Poland’s growing democratic opposition. He taught classes at illegal underground schools that were organized by dissident groups. When Polish workers at the Lenin Shipyard in Gdansk went on strike in 1981, he acted as an advisor to them, including their leader Lech Walesa. He remained active in Solidarność until 1992.
He was the author of many important books — including the monumental History of Economics in Poland,1864-1950 and Universal History of Economic Thought 1870-1950. He wrote about Polish socialists like Ludwik Krzywicki, Oskar Lange, Michael Kalecki, and Rosa Luxemburg. One of his last major books was published in 2006, Disputes About the Socio-economic System in Poland: The Years 1944-1948, concerning the beginnings of a socialist economy in Poland. Very recently, the English translation of his book From Solidarity to Sellout: The Restoration of Capitalism in Poland was published by Monthly Review Press.
In his later years he was the recipient of many honors and awards. In 2006, Polish President Lech Kaczyński awarded him the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Polish Rebirth.
At this point, it should be noted that one of the authors of this obituary, Mark Lindley, had known Professor Kowalik. Mark met him at a conference several years ago and had remained in contact with him ever since. In December 2004 he told Mark that, in regard to recent political developments in the Ukraine, he was “furious that Walesa went there, trying to fuel enthusiasm of people in a completely different situation than in Poland 1980. They (the Ukrainians) already [have] polarization, impoverishment [and] unemployment. [It is a] great illusion that [by] joining the West they will get a welfare state.” While in regard to India ten years ago, he said, “Even if the chances are now slim in India — and elsewhere — for a Scandinavian-type development combining a full-employment policy, welfare-state provisions and proper care of the environment, we can at least try to mitigate the excesses of the current type of globalization and create a long-term trend toward a better civilization.”
James Farmelant (B.S., Physics, University of Massachusetts) is a software engineer by profession. His main interests are natural and social sciences, technology, philosophy, and political science. Click here to read his article “‘Neuer Atheismus’ (und ‘Neuer Humanismus’) in den USA.” Mark Lindley is a noted musicologist and an historian of modern India. Among his most recent publications is J. C. Kumarappa: Mahatma Gandhi’s Economist. Click here to read his article on Kumarappa: “Kumarappa: A Giant or a Midget?”