This contribution examines the Polish experience of de-Stalinisation and its consequences. In 1956, Polish communists first acknowledged that society could no longer be ruled without listening to its voice. Khrushchev's ‘secret speech’ denouncing aspects of Stalin's rule was published in full. During the ensuing October crisis, Gomułka persuaded the Soviet leadership to restore the outward semblances of national sovereignty. The Polish Party admitted that domestic campaigns against private agriculture and the Catholic Church had failed, and both were promised a permanent place within the ‘socialist order’. But workers' hopes for economic rationality and intellectuals' aspirations for a freer public life were soon disappointed. They did not revive until the 1970s.