The Path to Socialism: The Program for Fostering Cooperatives and Socializing Public System

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Jan Wolski


The paper by Jan Wolski — a Polish theoretician and cooperative activist — constitutes the third section of the book Spółdzielczy samorząd pracy [Cooperative Labour Self-Management], which he wrote over the years of 1943-1956, but which was never published as a whole. The manuscript, from the author’s family archives, includes the information that this piece was ―written in 1943 for the Inter-union Cooperative Committee (functioning underground in Warsaw during II World War) and the Socialist Planning Commission‖. Entitled Cooperative Labour Self-Management, this section of the planned book was published in the monthly magazine Więź [Bond], issue no. 2 of 1972, and in 2011 on the website It contains Wolski’s deliberations regarding the functioning of cooperative labour self-management under the conditions of a social and economic transformation heading towards a classless society. Wolski believed a universal labour-based political system to be one of the essential conditions of socialism, supplanting the old organisational forms originating from the capitalist period. As such, universal labour self-management together with other forms of popular self-government, and particularly user self-government, constitutes a transmission belt between the populace’s grassroots activity and top-down political organisation. Mindful of Edward Abramowski’s teachings, Wolski considered that only having the state based on self-governing cooperative institutions consisted the true realisation of universal will, and thereby the realisation of socialist ideals.


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Wolski, J. (2018). The Path to Socialism: The Program for Fostering Cooperatives and Socializing Public System. Praktyka Teoretyczna, 27(1), 85-97.
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Jan Wolski

was an activist, theoretician, and organizer of labor cooperatives. From 1909 he belonged to the Polish Socialist Party, and from 1915 he was engaged in secret educational activities for the workers’ association ―Wiedza‖ [―Knowledge‖]. In November 1915 he was arrested by the German police and interned. In 1917 he entered the People’s University, where he became acquainted with Edward Abramowski. Under Abramowski’s influence he began to work actively in the cooperative movement. During the war in 1920 he served in the Legions, organizing a network of cooperative army canteens at the front. Later he was active in the Union of Labor Cooperative Associations. In 1928 he initiated the establishment of the Section for Labor Cooperativism in the Polish Society for Social Policy, and in 1937 he was one of the participants of the founding meeting of the Democratic Club in Warsaw. From 1945 to 1948 he was director of the Central Educational Center of Labor Cooperativism; from 1956 to 1959 he was a member of the Central Council of the Union of Labor Cooperativism and the Main Cooperative Council. Harassed by the communist authorities, from 1956 he was an opposition activist of the Krzywe Koło Club. To the end of his life he tirelessly proclaimed Abramowski’s ideas of brotherhood.