|Economics in communist Poland in 1949−1989 as a Pseudoscience
In this article, drawing upon the contemporary philosophy and sociology of science, I analyse political economy in Poland in 1949−1989. I start with a presentation of pseudoscience, describing views of Robert Merton, Karl Popper, Imre Lakatos, Paul Thagard and adherents of the so-called multicriterial approach (e.g. Anthony Derksen) on criteria of demarcation between science and nonscience (including pseudoscience). Next, using Merton's sociological approach and Derksen's multicriterial approach, I try to prove that the PRL political economy fulfills the conditions of pseudoscience. I present also additional arguments for recognizing this economy as a pseudoscience. In the last part of the article, I describe the main functions of pseudoeconomics in communist Poland. It provided the true knowledge of economy, it satisfied the natural need for a simple explanation of complex phenomena, it legitimized the power of authorities, and it served material interests of its creators. The analysis demonstrates the applicability of the concept of pseudoscience as an efficient tool of description and analysis of activities and knowledge aspiring to be an empirical science.
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Affiliation: Warsaw School of Economics, Department of Economics II, Poland,
Address: Poland, 00-653 Warszawa, Aleja Niepodległości 21a, m. 17.
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Abstract for the Journal of Economic Literature
I analyse political economy in Poland in 1949−1989. I start with a presentation of pseudoscience, describing views of Robert Merton, Karl Popper, Imre Lakatos, Paul Thagard and adherents of the so-called multicriterial approach on criteria of demarcation between science and nonscience (including pseudoscience). Next, I argue that the PRL political economy fulfills the conditions of pseudoscience. At the end, I describe the functions of pseudoeconomics in communist Poland. The analysis demonstrates the applicability of the concept of pseudoscience as an efficient tool of description and analysis of activities and knowledge aspiring to be an empirical science.
Economics in communist Poland in 1949−1989 as a Pseudoscience
In this article, drawing upon the contemporary philosophy and sociology of science, in particular the methods it offers to research pseudoscience, I analyse political economy in Poland in the years 1949−1989. I start with a presentation of pseudoscience. Next, I argue that the political economy in the Polish People's Republics (Polish acronym 'PRL') was a kind of pseudoscience. In the last part of the article, I describe the functions of pseudoeconomics in communist Poland.
Pseudoscience (empirical) is a notion usually depicting activities (or knowledge resulting from it), which respectively: a) refer to a general theory; b) pretend to be science (the prefix ‘pseudo-’ (ψευδο-) comes from Greek and means 'false'); c) are not science. Condition (a) excludes a single fraud (e.g. falsification of experiment results). Condition (b) excludes e.g. religion. Understanding condition (c) requires the specification of a demarcation criterion of science from nonscience (including pseudoscience) (Hansson 2014, pp. 19−20).
For example, proposing such a criterion, Robert K. Merton resorts to sociology and indicates epistemic norms guiding scientists (Merton 1942). Following these norms endows the emerging knowledge with scientificity. First, statements aspiring to truth are assessed in terms of empirical and logical adequacy, and their acceptance does not depend on characteristics of their supporters. Merton calls this science universalism. Second, statements accepted by science are common property of researchers and may not be appropriated, which contributes to the progress of science (communism). Third, scientific statements are subject to collective control, so they are free from the impact of human interests (disinterestedness). Fourth, science verifies beliefs considered important by other institutions such as religions and ideologies (organized scepticism).
Karl R. Popper, however, focuses not so much on scientists’ behaviour as on qualities of scientific knowledge. As a demarcation criterion, he suggests falsifiability of statements or systems of statements (theories), i.e. their ability to be contradicted by evidence or conceivable evidence. Pursuant to this reasonably interpreted criterion, only falsifiable statements, which resist numerous attempts to contradict them, make for scientific knowledge (Popper 1962, p. 39; see also Boudry 2013, p. 83).
Imre Lakatos and Paul Thagard propose a synthesis of the sociological approach of Merton and the knowledge analysis of Popper. Lakatos is interested in sequences of theories altered under pressure of observed anomalies. Those 'scientific research programs' are 'theoretically progressive' when new theories explain anomalies and result in forecasting new facts. Once forecasts are confirmed, the program is 'empirically progressive'. Research programs degenerate if theories are altered ad hoc, merely to explain anomalies (Lakatos 1974, p. 118). Then, they are referred to as pseudoscience. Thagard, however, is of the opinion that a degenerating research program can be considered a pseudoscience only when its supporters cease to seek explanations of observed anomalies, ignore inconvenient facts and do not try to evaluate the program against other programs (Thagard 1978, pp. 227−228).
By the end of the 20th century, under the influence of, among others, the criticism of Larry Laudan who emphasized heterogeneity of science (Laudan 1983), numerous authors ceased attempts to indicate the necessary and sufficient conditions of being pseudoscience. They were satisfied with an enumeration of standard characteristics or identifiers of pseudoscience (not every pseudoscience exhibits them all) (Mahner 2013, p. 40). Sven O. Hansson calls that a 'multicriterial' approach (Hansson 2014).
For instance, Anthony A. Derksen lists (in a different order) the 'seven sins of pseudoscience' (Derksen 1993): a) conviction that only the chosen ones (those able to overcome their own limitations) are able to spot the truth; b) belief in the significance of the theory and its ability to explain numerous diverse phenomena; c) a 'magic' method of gathering observed results; d) overestimating seemingly spectacular event relations; e) insufficient confirmation of the theory with observed facts; f) nature of pseudoscientific theory eases its compliance with many various events; g) immunizing the theory with ad hoc hypotheses.
More or less similar sets of identifiers of pseudoscience are offered among others by: Langmuir (1953), Gruenberger (1964), Dutch (1982), Bunge (1982), Kitcher (1982), Grove (1985), Lugg (1987), Thagard (1988), Vollmer (1993), Ruse (1996), Kuipers (2001), Mahner (2013). Some of these identifiers are loosely related to economics because of its peculiarities as a social science.
2. Was political economy in communist Poland a pseudoscience?
Political economy1 in Poland in 1949−1989 met the first two conditions of pseudoscience put forth by Hansson. Polish economists referred to Marxism as a general theory and took pride in the scientificity of their theories. A justification of the thesis that Polish political economy was not a science (the third condition) requires separate arguments.
2. 1. Sociological approach
The PRL political economy did not meet the criteria of scientificity. In order to prove that, I shall first apply those of Robert K. Merton.
a) On 'science partyness' or destruction of the ideal of truth
Merton claims that researchers are driven only by cognitive interest and that in the process of evaluating their theories they follow the criteria of the correspondence theory of truth. Acceptance of their theories is not author-, religion- or ideology-dependent.
However, Marxist economists did not so much strive for truth as they served the communist party (PZPR), pursuant to Emil Adler’s2 idea of 'science partyness' formulated in the article published by the Polish Academy of Sciences (PAN) in Nauka Polska (Adler 1953, pp. 248−250). Adler claimed that the objective of philosophy and science (including economics) is not truthfulness but agitation (Vladimir Lenin was the first to formulate the science partyness rule in 1909). Adler then wrote:
The demand of partyness requires a clear declaration of the philosopher and the scientist whether they are for war and imperialism, or socialism and peace
Partyness (...) of science means its participation in a strife for the fundamental objectives of socialism, for liberty, peace and construction of socialism. (ibidem)
Oskar Lange also accepted the rule of 'economics partyness' and, like Adler, in a way reconciled it with the demand for truthfulness (Lange 1980, pp. 274−288). Lange, who was a member of the Editorial Board of Nauka Polska in the early 1950s, claimed that 'social sciences are … by their very nature ideological,' and that 'only the workers’ movement pursues the unrestricted strife for truth' and 'any mystification is alien to it' (ibidem, pp. 274, 284).
Later, in the 1970s, the same principle of partyness of science was put forth, among others, by Henryk Chołaj, a long-time editorial board member and deputy head of Ekonomista, the oldest Polish scientific journal for economists, taken over by Marxists in 1949 (see Czarny 2014b, pp. 95, 98). Chołaj wrote that 'economic science … is ideological in all respects' and its partyness requires, among others, proclaiming 'superiority of the socialist economic system over the capitalist' (Chołaj 1977, pp. 297−327).
That the Polish economist community founded by the party (PZPR) by means of administrative and police methods at the turn of 1940s and 1950s found truthfulness to be of minor importance is proven by rapid changes of opinions adjusting them to the current political situation. For example in 1953 following Joseph Stalin’s publication of Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR, Edward Lipiński condemned his earlier statements on economic laws and considered them 'anti-Marxist' as they did not sufficiently stress the objective character of those laws (Lipiński 1947; cf. Lipiński 1953, p. 51). In the same article, Lipiński described the 'law of planned (proportional) development of socialist economy' as opposed to the anarchy of capitalism, which he also retracted three years later (Lipiński 1953, pp. 47, 49; cf. Lipiński 1956, pp. 28, 32).
In 1953, Włodzimierz Brus (jointly with Maksymilian Pohorille) condemned Władysław Gomułka, the leader of the communist party in Poland. He claimed that "gomulkowszczyzna's attempts … under the guise of its ‘own road to socialism’ set Peoples’ Poland against the USSR and led to the rebirth of capitalism most seriously threatening the building of socialism." Similar was Brus’s assessment of the communists in Yugoslavia, to whom he referred as 'Tito-Nazi agents' and 'Tito Fascists.' However, after 1956 Gomułka came back to power, Brus described him as an economic reformer and insightful party leader, and the 'Yugoslavian model' as one of the varieties of socialism (Brus, Pohorille 1953, pp. 35, 148; cf. Brus 1961, pp. 155, 244).
In 1952, Gabriel Temkin argued for the existence of the 'basic economic law of socialism'. The law stated that the objective goal of the socialist economy is 'to continuously grow and improve production based on leading technology in order to best address constantly growing needs and ensure comprehensive development of society members'. (J. Za. [Józef Zawadzki – B.Cz.]). (Mała Encyklopedia…, 1961, p. 514). It was objected by Temkin in 1962 (Temkin 1952, p. 26; cf. Temkin 1962, p. 41).
In 1966, Janusz Górski wrote that Polish economic science had made a major contribution to the development of the socialist economic growth theory, primarily thanks to Professor Michał Kalecki and his coworkers. Two years later, after the anti-Semitic campaign of 1968, Górski claimed that the same studies were overly formalized, detached from reality, did not account for 'social factors', promoted excessive investment, and their authors were 'influenced by bourgeois ideology' (Górski 1966, p. 6; cf. Górski 1968, p. 5).
The discussion on the so-called 'well-developed socialist society' initiated by Henryk Chołaj in the 1970s was abruptly terminated after the massive economic crisis of the 1970s and 1980s.
In the 1980s, Józef Pajestka first claimed that the PRL economy is fully rational on the 'macro' scale, only to change his opinion in the face of the collapse of real socialism in Poland, claiming that it is totally irrational (Pajestka 1980, p. 290; cf. Pajestka 1982, p. 353 and Pajestka 1988, pp. 282–283).
The destruction of the ideal of truthfulness in 1949−1989 also resulted in Polish political economists claiming explicit untruths. For instance, in 1949, Bronisław Minc wrote about the 'basic law of capitalism' allegedly proven by Karl Marx, proclaiming 'absolute impoverishment' of the working class:
The phenomenon of absolute impoverishment is expressed in … the decline of workers’ real wages … Data from medical examinations in recruitment to the US Army prove that one half of … those young people were considered … not fit for military service … mostly because of …poor nutrition of the American worker, Negros in particular. (Minc 1949, pp. 187−189)
In the 1955 'official' textbook of economics by Soviet economists translated into Polish, the authors (Ostrovityanov and others 1955, p. 734) claimed that:
Socialist industry and big socialist farms are the most heavily … mechanized in the world, and are constantly developing at a pace unattainable for capitalism.
In 1958, Dimitr Sokolov announced that the industrial output of the US and the USSR would align 'surely no later than in the seventies' while:
Alignment … in farming will undoubtedly take place earlier, in many areas still before 1960. Alignment of living standards will take a little bit longer. (Sokolov 1958, p. 41)
Likewise, in 1959, Andrzej Karpiński wrote that 'Poland is among the fastest growing economies in Europe and across the world'. As a result, 'it is completely realistic' to expect that the country will reach the same living standards as the most developed European countries until 1975 (Karpiński 1959, p. 20).
Józef Sołdaczuk also claimed in 1961 that 'socialist countries will shortly overtake capitalist states in global industrial output.' (Sołdaczuk 1961, p. 68)
In 1968, Bronisław Rudowicz wrote in justification of repressions against Michał Kalecki and his coworkers: 'some of our theoreticians … with all determination and deliberation have made efforts to blur the differences between bourgeois and Marxist economic science' (Rudowicz 1968, p. 44).
In 1974 four years after the riots on the Polish coast caused by price increases, in which dozens of people were killed and more than a thousand were injured, the following entry was inserted in Mała Encyklopedia Ekonomiczna (The Concise Economic Encyclopedia):
The law of conformity of productive forces and relations of production … applies also in the socialist formation. Emerging … discrepancies between … production relations and new production forces do not result in serious social-economic conflicts … They are removed in due time by purposeful socialist state activity. (A.R. [Adam Runowicz – B.Cz.]). (Mała Encyklopedia…, 1974, p. 514)
In 1984, Aleksander Łukaszewicz announced the existence of a 'Polish Economic School' dealing with problems of economic rationality (Łukaszewicz 1984, p. 1174). The School, however, is not mentioned in any reliable world sources (Czarny 2014a, pp. 14, 122).
b) The disappearance of scientific criticism
Pursuant to Merton, scientific theories are subject to control and institutional criticism, which makes them free from the impact of individual interests and beliefs. However, in the case of the Polish political economy, the collapse of the idea of truthfulness was accompanied by a lack of scientific criticism of the official economic doctrine.
This scenario was encouraged by incentive schemes. Career promotion in science and state administration required compliance of opinions with the official doctrine. Disappearance of scientific criticism was also caused by restriction of access to economic information (almost total in 1949−1956 and gradually fading in 1956−1989). Censorship (by the state administration, editors and peers) had a similar function. As a result, after 1949, it was impossible to publish dissident texts in the party and state controlled press (e.g. Ekonomista) and publishing houses (e.g. Polgos, the largest Polish economic publisher, renamed Polish Economic Publishing House, or PWE, in 1961).
As late as 1988, Józef Nowicki reported in his illegally published monograph 'inner censorship' in Ekonomista, where 'every article contrary to the theory of class is rejected, preventing its verification by an official censor' (Rafa 1988, p. 70; see also p. 134).3 I know of similar editorial practices in Ekonomista from my own experience of the 1990s. As a result, articles on the basic economic law of socialism and the advantages of socialist ownership of the means of production were easy to find in Ekonomista from the 1950s until the 1980s. Articles on game theory or hidden unemployment in Poland were published extremely infrequently.
As regards publishers, for instance, the 1949 by-laws of Polgos stipulated that the so-called Political Editor
[e]nsures competent political direction of the editorial process; analyzes and evaluates politically: complete editorial plans, outlines of papers delivered for publication, papers submitted by authors and translators, publication series programs, and publication programs of individual magazines; ensures political correctness of editions; develops ideological training programs for editorial staff. (Regulamin organizacyjny..., APW, PWE, 1/1, pp. 10−11)
In the few cases of articles and books critical to the official doctrine which were still published, they were subject to informal censorship as the economist community ignored them.
The confirmation of the monopoly of Marxism at the Second Congress of Economists in 1956 was symbolic. Out of 41 discussion participants, only Wincenty Styś, a pre-war professor of economics from Wrocław, supported Stefan Kurowski’s postulate of freedom of science. The others, while supporting the idea of broadening the scientific discussion, restricted its context to Marxism only. Kurowski's proposal was not even mentioned in the proceedings of the Congress (see Kurowski 2007, p. 43).4
A good example of the collapse of the ideal of truth and scientific criticism was the lack of serious local reviews of the 'Bible' of PRL economists, Ekonomia polityczna by Oskar Lange. Polish reviewers were enthusiastic, contrary to the world opinion. Peter Wiles, an outstanding Sovietologist from the City University of New York, was very critical in his opinion of the book (Wiles 1965). Wiles enumerated cardinal weaknesses of Lange’s monograph, namely, presenting a bogus picture of real socialist economies; ignoring the Keynesian revolution; leaving unsaid that a continued growth of real wages in capitalist countries refutes Marxism and that surplus value is not an empirical category; ignoring the issue of market competition as a mechanism conducive to rational allocation of resources in capitalist countries; omitting services in the calculation of national income (ibidem, pp. 119−122). Other reviews, published outside Poland, were vague and appeared mostly in socialist journals (Lange 1986, pp. 761, 801, 864, 907, 915−916). Journals such as American Economic Review kept silent about Lange’s opus magnum. The concept of economic rationality, considered by Lange to be his most important theoretical achievement, was taken as an explicit apology of real socialism (see e.g. Godelier 1972, p. 20).
c) Distorted selection of theories and their authors
Merton writes that scientists are not guided by their own interests, and science verifies beliefs (e.g. ideological beliefs). Thus, science is characterized by constant selection of theories and their authors. Opinions that do not survive criticism give way to new interpretations of observed facts.
In the case of the PRL political economy, this process was degraded. I have already mentioned that publishing dissident economic texts in Poland was not possible after 1949 and that state censorship was supported by editorial and peer censorship. Thus, no theories competitive to the official doctrine emerged. Similarly, career promotion was subordinate to criteria other than cognitive. Those were, among others, party membership, acceptance of Marxism, willingness to promote it publicly, usefulness for superiors, and even racial criteria.
For example, the creator of Polish political economy Włodzimierz Brus defended his doctoral thesis in September 1951 and was promoted to SGPiS Professorship already in January 1952. For comparison, after being deprived of the title of Doctor Habilitatus in 1963 for criticism of socialist economy and after obtaining the title once again, Stefan Kurowski waited more than 20 years before receiving the Professor title.
As usual, the revolution devoured its own children; after 1968, Brus left Poland in midst of a PZPR-inspired anti-Semitic campaign. The March purge of 1968 deprived universities of eminent personalities. Not only economists of Jewish origin, like Brus, were affected, but so were those not who did not blend into the environment because of their independency and creativity. Among them was Janusz Zieliński, fired from SGPiS in Warsaw and forced to emigrate, 'in 1960s probably the most eminent Polish economist from the post-war generation' (Beksiak, Grzelońska 1990).
After March 1968, the position of Associate Professor was created at Polish universities and higher schools (also higher schools of economics). Those without habilitation could apply. This allowed the filling of vacancies left by those fired with appointments for outstanding merit, as recommended by the school’s PZPR organization. Those 'March Docents' were to ensure among others political correctness of teaching.
The symbiosis of Marxist economists with the PRL power elite, contrary to the idea of scientific career promotion guided by cognitive success, was symbolic. The symbiosis is demonstrated by the list of Presidents and Vice-Presidents of Polish Economic Association (PTE), as well as the members of the editorial board and the editorial committee of Ekonomista in 1950−1989, which abounds in names of the then party and state dignitaries.5 As a reward for political economists’ services in support of the totalitarian system expressed in 'scientific' books, articles, expert opinions and all sorts of public statements, as well as academic titles awarded to party apparatchiks, these experts received well-paid jobs, foreign trips and career opportunities in science and administration.
2. 2. Multicriterial approach
Now I shall verify the PRL political economy pursuant to Anthony A. Derksen’s criteria, providing respective examples of his 'seven sins of pseudoscience'.
a) Conviction that only the chosen ones (those able to overcome their own limitations) are able to spot the truth
Derksen refers to ideas of Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis. Only the initiated ones, those already analyzed, may see the truth, provided that they overcome their own limits. Only initiation releases one from prejudices and neuroses (Freud says that he achieved that condition thanks to self-analysis). Opponents of psychoanalysis do not grasp childhood sexuality as they suppress their own childhood sexuality. Those not initiated do not understand the theory, thus they may not criticize it. Derksen argues that initiation often endows pseudoscientists with an almost religious zeal (Derksen 1993, pp. 32−33).
In Poland in 1949−1989, the Marxists were the initiated ones. Initiation came in many forms. In the case of the founding fathers of Polish political economy (e.g. Włodzimierz Brus, Maria Dziewicka, Bronisław Minc, Maksymilian Pohorille, Józef Zawadzki, Seweryn Żurawicki), it was usually about commitment to communism before and during World War II, endorsed with however brief economic studies e.g. in the USSR. Then, the initiated ones initiated their followers; for that purpose, graduate programs were organized at the beginning of the 1950s at the Chair of Political Economy at IKKN (the later Institute for Social Sciences, INS), at SGPiS and in the Soviet Union. That was the way in which Włodzimierz Brus and his team initiated at IKKN (INS) some PRL Professors: Zofia Bartel, Henryk Fiszel, Jerzy Kleer, Tadeusz Kowalik, Jędrzej Lewandowski, Kazimierz Łaski, Mieczysław Mieszczankowski, Marian Ostrowski, Edward Wiszniewski, Władysław Zastawny. Graduate students (aspiranci) Henryk Chołaj and Józef Pajestka were initiated at SGPiS, and aspiranci Zofia Myszkowska (Morecka) and Czesław Prawdzic, in the USSR. The composition of the group of initiated political economists later changed.6
Criticism of political economy by outsiders was considered irrelevant as Western economics was rejected in whole. At the inauguration of the Congress of Economists in December 1950 Oskar Lange said:
In order to meet the challenges, Polish economic science must be Marxist and Leninist. For that purpose, it must wholly overcome the remains of bourgeois thinking ... (Lange 1951, pp. 4–5)
Włodzimierz Brus, the convention keynote speaker, described that overcoming as follows:
[T]he most prominent characteristic of the past period … in economic science was the fierce struggle of Marxist and Leninist economic theory against false bourgeois theories. (Brus 1951, p. 32)
As an example of 'false bourgeois theories,' Brus pointed to the monograph of the 'ultra-reactionary representatives of American behaviourism in economic science,' John von Neumann and Oscar Morgenstern’s 1944 Theory of Games and Economic Behaviour (ibidem, p. 22).
Descriptions of quasi-religious zeal of political economists can be found in witness reports. Henryk Słabek (IKKN graduate) writes about the behaviour of IKKN's aspiranci at conferences (Słabek 1997, p. 58): '[t]heir manifested passion close to ideological fanaticism impressed the old and was met with mixed feelings of anxiety and appreciation at times.'
b) Belief in the significance of the theory and its ability to explain numerous diverse phenomena
Derksen writes that pseudoscientists believe in the importance of their own theories. Freud claimed that his theory explained the daily conduct of man; his dreams and neuroses; religion, formation of myths and fairy tales, creation of culture; even slips of the tongue. No wonder that he compared himself with Copernicus and Darwin. After all, like them, he questioned our high self-esteem. Copernicus deprived us of a central position in the universe; Darwin made us part and parcel of the animal world; Freud destroyed our belief in being at least master in our own house (Derksen 1993, p. 36).
In turn, political economists in Poland were positive about the importance of political economy. Thus, economic processes took a special place in the hierarchy of human activities described by Marxists. Namely, in Marxism, economic processes drive events and are decisive for other social processes as well.
According to Polish Marxists, economic factors are in particular the driving force of society towards communism. For instance, in his Ekonomia polityczna, making reference to Joseph Stalin, Lange declared the existence of the so-called law of progressive development of productive forces. Societies develop continuously and that leads them through subsequent steps to socialism (Lange 1980, pp. 35–38, 42−44, 46, 52; see also Historia WKP(b)… 1949, pp. 118–150).
One of the most influential Marxist sociologists in Poland wrote in 1967:
Specifically, economic motives are characterised by the power to condition and transform not only the form but also the content of cultural needs and satisfaction of preferences including their most subjective aspects. Indirect impact of social relations, institutions and groups driven by material interests extends (often unconsciously) to all, with no exception, areas of culture, and reaches even the most subtle shades of aesthetic and religious emotions. (Kozyr-Kowalski 1967, p. 215)
In other words, according to Stanisław Kozyr-Kowalski, economic factors determine almost all aspects of social life.
c) "Magic" method of gathering observed results
Derksen describes Freud’s methods of free associations, analysis of dream symbols, and interpretation of dreams. The method of free associations can be applied as long as the desired sexual associations appear in the patient’s responses. The method of analysis of symbols allows for freedom of interpretation of dream images. The method of interpretation of dreams ensures the freedom to interpret the whole dream. Those methods usually allowed to discover the sexuality of past events in the childhood of the patient, supposedly decisive to their subsequent behaviour (Derksen 1993, p. 31).
Polish political economists had their own 'magic' method of creating empirical evidence for their theories, that is, concealing or ignoring observed results. For instance, after 1949, economic statistics almost ceased to be published. Statistical yearbooks of the Central Statistical Office (GUS) in Warsaw were no longer released. Eugenia Krzeczkowska (Szyr), the wife of Eugeniusz Szyr, one of PZPR leaders, a trusted IKKN's aspirant, still before completing her candidate dissertation in 1954, was appointed to supervise key departments of GUS and later she also supervised the unclassified GUS publications on the PRL economy including the statistical yearbook. The situation began to change after 1956. More and more statistical yearbooks began to appear. However, some economic information, e.g. data on foreign debt, remained confidential at least until the late 1970s.
As an example of ignoring observed results, descriptions of unemployment and its social consequences in market economies were rampant while hidden unemployment in socialist countries was held in total disregard. That usually provided the author with arguments proving the superiority of the socialist economy over the capitalist one. Already in 1988, Józef Nowicki pointed to that common practice (Rafa 1988, p. 25). He estimated that hidden unemployment in Poland accounted for 6 million i.e. 35% of all employed.
d) Overestimating seemingly spectacular event connections
Derksen describes Freud’s arbitrary interpretation of patient behaviour (e.g. their sexual preferences, memories, dreams, associations, etc.). In Freud’s opinion, all those behaviours often supplemented each other in a spectacular way, forming a logical whole, supposedly confirming the psychoanalyst’s concept. What Freud omitted, however, was their alternative interpretation. In Derksen’s opinion,
[i]t is Freud's spectacles through which the data were seen, and the lax rules of interpretation, which brought about those spectacular connections. With other spectacles other connections come into existence. (Derksen 1993, p. 30)
In the case of the PRL political economy, an example of similar intellectual manipulation is the idea that societies develop undergoing subsequent 'social formations' from primitive community through slavery, feudalism, capitalism to socialism and communism (Lange 1980, pp. 35–38). Lange claimed that this sequence is warranted by the aforementioned law of progressive development of production forces.
To prove their point, political economists referred to numerous arguments and examples, bringing them into a coherent logical structure. They claimed that technology constantly develops through the millennia, as evidenced by countless ever-new technological and organizational improvements. Technology development forces, in turn, further advancement in economy and organization of society. In short, the windmill creates feudalism and the steam machine creates capitalism.
This vision of economic history was contested e.g. by Max Weber’s concept of rationalization (Rationalisierung), left unmentioned by political economists. Historians point to examples of societies living in stagnation for millennia. In creating their own historiosophy, Marxist economists generalized the experience of some European countries, ignoring others. However, as writes e.g. Kołakowski: "[t]here is no rational method of predicting the ‘future’ of humanity in a substantial time scale, nor forecasting future ‘social formations’" (Kołakowski 1988, p. 1208).
Nevertheless, until the fall of socialism in Poland, in their lectures and textbooks, Polish economists used to copy the Stalin/Lange theory prophesying the inevitable arrival of socialism and communism. Examples include among others: Mieszczankowski 1987, pp. 22−31, Rutkowski 1987, pp. 62−92, Ekonomia polityczna… 1988, pp. 21−26, 95−97, Sadzikowski 1989, pp. 11−25.
e) Insufficient confirmation of the theory with observed facts
Derksen writes about the unreliability of clinical data referred to by Freud. A psychoanalyst influences their content by asking insinuating questions. Yes, the therapy recommended by psychoanalysts happens to be effective. However, proponents of Freud’s theory do not boast a higher percentage of therapeutic success than proponents of alternative concepts, and the success of their therapy may be only a matter of chance (Derksen 1993, pp. 21−23).
In the case of the PRL political economy, an example of the lack of an empirical base for theoretical generalizations are claims of political economists regarding value, surplus value and exploitation of labour by capitalists. Those theses can neither be confirmed nor falsified due to the non-empirical nature of terms such as 'socially necessary labour time' or 'surplus value'. Value in Marxist political economy cannot be measured as it is impossible to specify the value of any good in terms of socially necessary labour time. First, the value of each product comprises the value of tools and raw materials used for its manufacturing, as well as tools used in manufacturing those tools, etc., ad infinitum. That prevents value measurement. Second, it is impossible to reduce labour with different skills to one common measure. The Marxist opinion that labour is the only value-creating production factor is an arbitrary definition, which can neither be justified nor applied in an empirical description of economic phenomena (Kołakowski 1988, pp. 271−273).
The Marxist definition of value, however, has significant implications. First, it results in differentiation between productive work (processing material objects and creating value) and non-productive work (not creating value). In countries of real socialism, this distinction contributed in turn to inhibition of the development of some 'non-productive' service sectors, which were by definition of minor importance (e.g. trade, administration), and to ignoring services in calculations of national income.
Second, in conjunction with claims that workers do not sell labour but labour power, and that the value produced by labour power is greater than the value of labour alone, Marx’s definition of value results in the ideologically key thesis of exploitation of workers by capitalists.
Nevertheless, until the fall of real socialism in Poland, Polish political economists were teaching the labour theory of value. Examples include Mieszczankowski 1987, pp. 37−51, Rutkowski 1987, pp. 127−135, 224−246, Ekonomia polityczna… 1988, pp. 32−35, 54−62, Sadzikowski 1989, pp. 103−153.
f) Nature of pseudoscientific theory eases its compliance with many various events
Derksen writes about Freud’s explanation of an obsession based on the hypothesis that the patient in his youth was caught masturbating and got punished by his father. When it turned out that the reason for punishment was beating his friend, Freud concluded that the patient’s imagination added sexual context to the punishment. Such defence of the theory was facilitated by the method of determining the meaning of the patient’s dreams based on supposition. In the case of psychoanalysis, observed results depend on the ideas of the observer, which allows him to amend all inconsistent evidence in order to remove the inconsistency (Derksen 1993, pp. 34−35, 40).
In the case of Polish political economy, a respective example is to assume a priori that social conflicts in countries of real socialism are of 'non-antagonist character,' allegedly warranted by 'social ownership of the means of production.' In the opinion of political economists, that is the difference between countries of real socialism and countries with private ownership of production means, where social conflicts are 'antagonistic' by principle. This concept was generalized, among others, by Lange in order to account for all the conflicts in countries of real socialism (Lange 1980, p. 49, similarly p. 79). It survived in that form until the fall of real socialism (see e.g. Mieszczankowski 1987, pp. 22−31, 334−335, Rutkowski 1987, pp. 62−92, Sadzikowski 1989, pp. 20−21, 23).
The a priori assumption of an antagonistic character of conflicts in capitalism and their non-antagonistic nature in countries of real socialism allowed for considering any conflict in countries of real socialism as non-antagonistic. This led political economists dealing with observed anomalies to, among others, downplay massive and bloody protests in Poznań in 1956 and at the Baltic coast in 1970. The very content of theory (i.e. in this case classification of conflict types into antagonistic and non-antagonistic) provides for the desired interpretation of the results.
g) Immunizing the theory with ad hoc hypotheses
In psychoanalysis, the ad hoc hypothesis of suppression of emotions often saves the theory from falsification. Indeed, such is the case of Little Hans, often referred to by Freud to justify the thesis that the Oedipus complex is the essence of psychosis. In the psychotherapist’s opinion, the 4.5-year-old Hans is jealous that his father can make love to his mother. For several weeks, the child stubbornly displaces his feelings. Freud claims that this is easily understandable, as Hans has suppressed those emotions. Eventually, as a result of long-lasting pressure, Little Hans confesses his alleged desires (Derksen 1993, p. 24).
In the case of Polish political economy, a good example of similar adhokeria is the grotesque (evolving under the conditions of the collapse of the ideal of truth and the lack of scientific criticism) PRL counterpart to Lakatos’s 'scientific research program' in the form of Lange’s and his epigones’ discussion of economic rationality. Successive ad hoc hypotheses allowed the disputing parties to fend off the more and more numerous observed anomalies. They gradually took such anomalies into consideration to protect themselves from being compromised. The effect was a surprising evolution of the 'program' resulting in the final version of the theory being exactly opposite to its original version (Czarny 2014a, p. 134).
Specifically, according to Lange’s 1959 opinion, socialist economy was rational both micro- and macro-economically (Lange 1980, pp. 156−158). Confronted with the obvious wastefulness of socialist enterprises, after Lange’s death his followers made use of an ad hoc hypothesis, pursuant to which the PRL economy was microeconomically irrational but rational at the macro-level (see e.g. Baka 1980, p. 194; Łukaszewicz 1980 pp. 54, 58). After the major social and economic crisis at the turn of the 1980s and 1990s, Józef Pajestka suggested another ad hoc hypothesis pursuant to which Polish economy was macro- and micro-economically irrational, however, at the initial phase of the cycle i.e. when building the foundations of socialism, it was (presumably) macroeconomically rational (Pajestka 1983, pp. 63−64, pp. 142−143; 146−148). Thus, the debate of Polish political economists had features of the Lakatosian degenerating scientific research program. In the late 1980s, in view of the fall of socialism in Poland, the evolution of the program was ended with another ad hoc hypothesis by Pajestka, claiming that the PRL economy was totally irrational throughout the whole real socialism period (Pajestka 1988, pp. 282−283).
2. 3. Other arguments. Comment
The PRL political economy was thus a pseudoscience in the meaning of Robert K. Merton and Anthony Derksen. This does not exhaust the issue.
a) Additional arguments
Polish political economy in 1949−1989 had further characteristics of pseudoscience. First, Hansson points out that proponents of pseudoscience often unconditionally believe in the authority of some chosen persons (Hansson 2014). A good example is Polish economists’ massive quoting of Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Vladimir Lenin and (until 1956) Joseph Stalin, considered to be conclusive evidence in favour of the quoting party. This specific way of argumentation was described, among others, by the pre-war professor of Warsaw SGH Jan Drewnowski (Drewnowski 1974, p. 51).
Second, Thagard points out that proponents of pseudoscience are often unaware of the existence of theories alternative to theirs (Thagard 1988). The Polish counterpart to this feature of pseudoscience was common ignorance of the basics of Western economics. The reasons included, among others, the rejection of the whole 'bourgeois' theory of economics and destruction of the pre-war economic education system, the lack of Polish translations of academic textbooks published in the West, poor competences in foreign languages, as well as the lack of motivation to study Western economics.
One of the results was the so-called 'Columbusism'. At the Second Congress of Economists in 1956, Andrzej Brzeski referred to the re-discovering of elementary economic theories (as examples, he quoted the re-discovery by Polish political economists of the comparative advantage theory and the income elasticity of demand) as 'Columbusism' (Dyskusja na II Zjeździe... 1956, pp. 104−105). However, the phenomenon of 'Columbusism' was limited in scope. I recall that notions such as the prisoner’s dilemma, the Pareto optimum, the ISLM and ADAS models, the Mundell-Fleming model were almost non-existent among Polish economists in the 1980s.
Third, pseudoscienitists often use persuasive language, as Artur Woll observes (2011, p. 9). Indeed, already IKKN's (INS's) graduate students (aspiranci) wrote in their seminar papers and candidate theses about 'working people' in socialist countries who are 'actual masters of production', which results in their 'socialist competition' (Łaski 1952, p. 70); about 'exploitation' of the rural 'poor' by 'kulaks' 'maliciously avoiding statutory supplies,' who should be treated with administrative measures including imprisonment (Lewandowski 1954, pp. 13, 250−260); and about 'lies' of pre-war 'bourgeois economists,' e.g. 'apologetic' opinions of the pre-war professor of economics Edward Taylor 'glorifying Nazi Germany', whose 'machinations' serve the 'class interests of the most reactionary of the bourgeois' (Kleer 1954, p. 22). Similarly persuasive terms were applied by Polish political economists even at the end of PRL.
For instance, Wiesław Iskra in 1974 Mała Encyklopedia Ekonomiczna claimed as follows:
Under the conditions of capitalism … [the m]eans of production, concentrated in the hands of a small group of capitalists make the basis for exploitation of contracted workers … In socialist economy, production of commodities … is not based on private but on social ownership, not on exploitation of man, but on mutual cooperation and assistance of cooperating producers. (Mała Encyklopedia… 1974, p. 252)
Just before the fall of socialism in Poland, Wiesław Sadzikowski wrote in a popular textbook for higher schools of economics (11th edition) (Sadzikowski 1989, p. 19):