Leszek Cezary Miller (born July 3, 1946 in Żyrardów) is a Polish left-wing politician, a many-year leader of the Democratic Left Alliance, Prime Minister of the government of the Republic of Poland in 2001-2004.
Leszek Miller comes from a poor, working-class family: His father was a tailor and his mother a needlewoman. His parents broke up when Leszek was six months old; his father, Florian, left the family and Leszek has never maintained any contact with him. His mother brought him up in a religious spirit – following her wish, he was even, for some time, an altar-boy. Due to hard life conditions, after graduation from vocational school, 17-year-old Leszek got a job in the Textile Linen Plant in Żyrardów, while continuing his education in the evenings at the Vocational Secondary School of Electric Power Engineering. He soon completed his military service on the ORP Bielik submarine.
In 1969, Miller married Aleksandra, three years his junior, in church. The Millers have a son, Leszek, and a granddaughter, Monika.
Leszek Miller started his political career as an activist of the Socialist Youth Union, where he held the position of Chairman of the Plant Board, soon becoming a member of the Town Committee. After the military service, in 1969, he joined the Polish United Workers' Party (PZPR).
In 1973-1974, Leszek Miller was the Secretary of the PZPR Plant Committee. With granted Party’s recommendation, he started political sciences studies at the Party’s Higher School of Political Sciences (Wyższa Szkoła Nauk Społecznych), graduating in 1977. After graduation, Leszek Miller worked at the PZPR Central Committee, supervising the Group, and later on the Department of Youth, Physical Education and Tourism. In July 1986, Leszek Miller was elected the 1st Secretary of the PZPR Provincial Committee in Skierniewice. In December 1988, he returned to Warsaw, due to his promotion to the position of the Secretary of the PZPR Central Committee. As a representative of the government side, he took part in the session of the historic “Round Table”, where, together with Andrzej Celiński, he co-chaired the sub-team for youth issues (the only one that closed the session without signing the agreement). In 1989, he became member of the PZPR Political Bureau.
After the PZPR was dissolved, Leszek Miller became a co-founder of the Social Democracy of the Polish Republic (till March 1993, he was Secretary General, then Deputy Chairman and, from December 1997, the Chairman of that party). In December 1999, at the Founding Congress of the Alliance of the Democratic Left (SLD), he was elected its Chairman, holding the function continuously till February 2004. In 1997-2001 he was the Chairman of the SLD’s caucus.
In 1989, he ran unsuccessfully for Senate as a representative of the Skierniewice Province. In subsequent elections (1991), Leszek Miller was a leader on the election list of the Social Democracy of the Polish Republic in Łódź and, following a considerable success in elections, he won a seat in the Sejm, becoming Chairman of the Parliamentary Group of the Social Democracy of the Polish Republic. In three subsequent elections to the Sejm, he ran all the time from Łódź, each time gaining more and more votes (from 50 thousand in 1991 up to 146 thousand in 2001); he held a seat in Parliament till 2005.
Through all that time he remained one of the leading politicians on the left wing. In early 90’s, together with Mieczysław Rakowski, he was suspected in the case of the, so-called, “Moscow loan”. After revealing that affair in 1991, Włodzimierz Cimoszewicz called Miller to abstain from taking an MP’s oath due to accusations laid against him. When Leszek Miller got cleared of the charges, Prime Minister Cimoszewicz appointed him later as the Minister in Charge of the Office of the Council of Ministers and in 1997 the Minister of Internal Affairs and Administration in his government. In turn, Cimoszewicz became the Minister of Foreign Affairs in Leszek Miller’s cabinet. In 1993-1996, Miller was the Minister of Labour and Social Policy in the governments of Waldemar Pawlak and Józef Oleksy respectively. In 1996, he was nominated as Senior Minister in charge of the Office of the Council of Ministers. He then got the nickname “The Chancellor”.
Leszek Miller played an important role in concluding the case of Colonel Ryszard Kukliński. He was severely criticised for that within his political circle. A similar disapproval was expressed after Miller’s support for the Concordat and the candidature of Prof. Leszek Balcerowicz to the position of President of the National Bank of Poland.
During the period of the Solidarity Electoral Action’s government, Leszek Miller was in charge of the parliamentary opposition, leading the political fight with the governing party. He was also consolidating the majority of significant left-wing groups around his person. In 1999, he succeeded in establishing one uniform political party – the Democratic Left Alliance – which turned out to be very successful in forthcoming elections.
Following the sweeping victory of the Left (41% vs. 12% of the subsequent party) in the Parliamentary Election in 2001, on October 19, 2001, President Aleksander Kwaśniewski appointed Miller the Prime Minister and obliged to nominate the government. The new government won the parliamentary vote of confidence on October 26, 2001 (306:140 votes with one abstention). The 16-person cabinet of Prime Minister Miller has been the least numerous government of the Polish Republic so far.
Leszek Miller’s predecessor has burdened him with a difficult economic situation of the country, including an unemployment rate above 18%, a high level of public debt, and economic stagnation. At the end of Miller’s government term, economic growth exceeded 6%; still, it was too slow to reduce the unemployment rate. During his term, the unpopular program of cuts in public expenses was implemented, together with a hardly successful reform of health care financing. The reforms of the tax system and of the Social Insurance Institution were continued, and the attempt to settle the mass-media market failed. Taxes were significantly lowered – to 19 % for companies and for persons running business activity – and the act of freedom in business activity was voted through. A radical, structural reform of secret services was implemented (the State Security Office was dissolved and replaced by the Internal Security Agency and the Intelligence Agency).
Simultaneously, institutional and legal adjustments were continued, resulting from the accession to the European Union. The Accession conditions were negotiated, being the main strategic goal of Miller’s cabinet. On December 13th 2002, at the summit in Copenhagen (Denmark), Prime Minister Leszek Miller completed the negotiations with the European Union. On April 16, 2003 in Athens, Miller, together with Cimoszewicz, signed the Accession Treaty, bringing Poland into the European Union. Miller’s government, in collaboration with various political and social forces, organized the accession referendum with a successful outcome. On June 7th and 8th 2003, 77.45% of the referendum participants voted in favor of Poland’s accession to the European Union. The referendum turn-out reached 58.85%.
Leszek Miller’s government, together with President Kwaśniewski, made a decision (March 2003) to join the anti-terrorist coalition and deploy Polish troops to Iraq, within an international campaign, targeting at overthrowing Saddam Hussein’s government. Miller was also a co-signatory of “the letter of 8”, signed by eight European prime ministers, supporting the US position on Iraq. On the 4th December 2003, Leszek Miller suffered injuries in a Mi-8 helicopter crash near Warsaw.
At the end of its term of office, Leszek Miller’s government had the lowest public support of any government since 1989. It was mainly caused by the continuing high unemployment rate, corruption scandals, with Rywingate on top, and by the attempt of fulfilling the plan of reducing social spending (the Hausner’s plan). In result of criticism in his own party, the Democratic Left Alliance, in February 2004, Leszek Miller resigned from chairing the party. Miller was criticized for an excessively liberal approach and for stressing the role of free market mechanisms in economy. He was reproached for his acceptance of a flat tax, which ran counter to the left-wing doctrine. He was also identified with the “chieftain-like style” of leadership. On March 26th 2004, following the decision of the Speaker of the Parliament, Marek Borowski, to found a new dissenting party, the Polish Social Democracy, Leszek Miller decided to resign from the position of Prime Minister on May 2nd 2004, a day after Poland’s accession to the EU. On May 1st 2004, together with President Kwaśniewski, he was in Dublin, taking part in the Grand Ceremony of accession of 10 states, including Poland, to the European Union.
In 2005, despite the support of the Łódź Branch of the Democratic Left Alliance, Leszek Miller was not registered on the election list to the Parliament. At the same time, he was offered to run for Senate but refused. Retirement of the old activists was presented in media as “inflow of new blood into the Democratic Left Alliance”. After the election, Leszek Miller became active in journalism, writing mainly for the “Wprost” weekly on liberal economic concepts and current political issues. In the first half of 2005, he stayed at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C., implementing a research project: “Status of the new Poland in the Eastern Europe’s space”.
Miller is known for his inclination to witty remarks. He once described his political partner, Aleksandra Jakubowska as "a brave heart in a shapely breast ". Another tag, "it’s not important how a man begins, it’s important how he finishes" stated with regards to a journalist’s question why he had decided to stay in the government after Prime Minister Pawlak left, being later replaced by Włodzimierz Cimoszewicz, with whom he was on hardly good terms at that time, was very often referred to at the beginning of 2004 in various evaluations of Leszek Miller’s accomplishments as Prime Minister. The sentence: "The Kaczynski brothers are not only from the same party but from the same egg" was voted by the internauts of the Wirtualna Polska portal as the Statement of the Year 2005.