Socialist Affairs follows the life of the new Prime Minister of Poland - Leszek Miller
Issue 3, Volume 49, 2000
There are few Poles who have a more intimate knowledge of their country's politics than Leszek Miller, Poland's new Prime Minister and an important figure in the victory of the Sojusz Lewicy Democratycznej, the Democratic Left Alliance, SLD, an SI member party, in the September elections.
Miller was born at Zyrardów, a town not far from the capital Warsaw, in 1946. The country was in ruins after the Second World War and times were hard. He found his first job in his hometown, working as an electrician in the local flax factory but at the age of 23 he decided to seek a career in politics. He joined the Polish United Workers’ Party, PZRP, led by the Communists, in 1969.
He attended its Academy of Social Sciences from which he graduated with a degree in 1977 and joined the full-time staff of the Party where he worked for the Central Committee till 1982. From 1986 to 1989 he was secretary of the Party's provincial committee in his native province of Skierniewice and was appointed a secretary of the Central Committee during his time there and soon afterwards he entered the Party's Politburo where he was prominent on youth issues.
As the Cold War was coming to an end, politics in Poland were changing fast and by 1989 the PZRP was no more. Miller became the Secretary General of the new Polish Social Democratic Party, SdRP, its successor, and became its Deputy Chairman in 1993.
He aided the work of the Sejm, the national assembly, on a number of issues. He was a member of its committees on culture, mass media and social policy and helped shape policy on the elections and the future of the state industries. He went on to become a member of its Sejm's foreign affairs committee.
He was Minister of Labour and Social Policy between 1993 and 1996 in the coalition governments of Social Democrats and Peasants.
These administrations were headed by Waldemar Pawlak and Józef Oleksy and when Oleksy gave way to Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz in 1996, Miller became head of the Council of Ministers’ Office and then Minister of internal affairs and administration. In doing those jobs he was involved in negotiations with the powerful Catholic church.
He was also prominent in the campaign which resulted in the leader of the SdRP, Aleksandr Kwasniewski, winning the 1995 presidential elections. Kwasniewski went on to win a second presidential term in October 2000.
When he took over as Interior Minister in 1997 he was careful in his first public address to demand a change in the way police and local officials treated citizens insisting they become "friendly to the citizen". If they did not improve their conduct they would be dismissed, he warned.
When the SdRP was dissolved and the SLD coalition was transformed into a unified party in 1999 Miller was chosen as its first Chairman.
As Prime Minister he will have the chance of acting against many of the ills of Polish society he criticised. He has highlighted the fact that, despite the strong growth that the economy achieved over the last decade, many Poles still live in conditions of great poverty in a society where the gap between rich and poor is widening.
He will be on hand at a time when Poland will move towards - and perhaps even into - the world's largest and most populous unit. "We cannot be outside a European civilisation that is prosperous and democratic", he says of the European Union.