Poland: Behind the Crisis (1982) : THE NEW POLISH CRISIS


DECEMBER 16, 1981

The world capitalist press is trying to project the image that Poland is menaced by the military -- by Polish or Soviet tanks.

The reality of the situation is altogether different. Poland is, and has been, menaced for longer than two decades not by Eastern tanks, but by Western imperialist banks. Everything else said in the capitalist press is of a superficial character. They concentrate on phenomena which are the effects and not the profound causes of the economic and political crisis in Poland.


On the very day of the pronouncement of martial law and the military takeover, the capitalist press was forced to publish in its inside financial pages the fact that the previous Polish government had heavily indebted itself to the tune of between $26-30 billion to almost 500 banks. The largest banks are from the U.S., West Germany, Britain, France, and Switzerland.

The estimates of the debt vary from country to country and almost from day to day. But on the very day of the imposition of martial law the government was faced with $500 million due merely for interest on the debt! (Reported in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Christian Science Monitor, December 14, 1981.)

How is it possible for such a small country, in so short a time, to have piled up such an enormous debt and to have to pay the kind of interest that amounts to the annual wage bill of a fifth of the industrial work force of Poland?

Did Poland get all this money -- $26 billion to $30 billion -- in the form of industrial equipment and goods? Or is it the product of "rollovers," an infamous practice of international finance capital? A rollover takes place when instead of paying the principal on the debt, the debt is "rolled over" and interest is added on at higher, more extortionate rates -- and so it goes from year to year to year.

How did Poland get itself in such a situation? How does a country which began socialist construction -- the abolition of the private ownership of the means of production, the collectivization of much of the land, and the creation of a state monopoly of foreign trade -- find itself paying ever-higher interest payments at the current rate of 20% without sufficient food to supply the population, with many of its factories idle, with inflation increasing, and with industrial production declining?


It happened because following a reactionary uprising in 1956, which overturned the then-existing leadership, Poland turned to the West. The country was opened up slowly and gradually to Western capitalism. The leadership thought this would gain Poland a normal, fair, and reasonable relationship with the capitalist West.

The new Polish government virtually abolished collectivized agriculture and decentralized some of the important industries in order to be able to trade with the West. Above all they opened wide the gates to the penetration of finance capital under terms and conditions imposed by the Western banks.

It was understood by the Polish authorities that Western capitalist markets would thus be opened to Polish products and that the import of necessary technology and materials would be made available on fair and equitable terms. It was also thought that the restrictions of a political character, like the so-called blacklists which the imperialists impose against other socialist countries such as Cuba, Viet Nam, etc., would be lifted against Poland, assuring it of being treated as an "equal partner" in capitalist trade and commerce.


What followed, however, is part of the same undeviating pattern -- the merciless, ruthless, and avaricious entanglement of all industrial Poland into the vortex of imperialist finance.

For a few years, while the debts were piling up, the small amount of Polish exports to the capitalist West increased. Beginning with the early 1970s, however, the trend toward increased exports from Poland to the Western capitalist countries on a basis where they could compete and be sold diminished as a result of deliberate political measures taken by the imperialists.

This made it more and more urgent, if the process of continuing the relationship with the West were not to be halted, to further increase the debts in order to facilitate exports and continue the purchase of needed commodities.

This orientation made the economy of Poland completely dependent on Western markets, Western imports, and Western financing.

The socialist sector in Poland was being steadily squeezed out and replaced by the relentless so-called market economy. A market economy, which means more capitalist commodity production, always generates greater and greater inequality. This results in a polarization between those who are better paid, those closer to the market, the bourgeois technocrats, those in the higher echelons of the officialdom engaged in running the economy, those involved in selling, purchasing, and general business dealings with the West, in a word the neo-bourgeois elements on the one hand, and the general working class on the other.

Capitalist commodity production, both of a hidden as well as of an open character, was gradually replacing most of the socialist economic arteries that are the lifeblood of Poland. Only the legal right of public ownership and nationalization remained but this was merely like a skeleton, the last economic barrier to capitalist restoration.

In the meantime the ravages of the world capitalist economy -- inflation and unemployment, the invariable concomitants everywhere and every place of the penetration of international finance capital -- while they had begun to envelop Poland much earlier, took on a galloping momentum and brought about the strike struggles of August-September 1980.

There is no question that bankers throughout the capitalist world now openly acknowledge that the great crisis in Poland is at bottom an economic crisis and moreover admit having virtual economic control over the Polish economy as a result of their extraordinary financial stranglehold.


Workers World newspaper was the first in the workers' movement here and abroad to call attention to the great danger that the penetration of Western capital posed for Poland and other socialist countries. The New York Times made this penetration public in a front-page story on January 26, 1979, in the kind of article which was more a boast by the banks than the release of a news item.

"As part of an effort to obtain a major, new loan," wrote the Times, "Poland has agreed to permit Western banks to monitor its economic policies, American bankers say. They regard the concession as a historic breakthrough in the financial relations with the communist world.

"To persuade the banks to agree to the new financing, Poland has already had to announce a strict, new budget for 1979 and provide its creditors with comprehensive new information on its financial situation.

"The banks involved in the new credit will henceforth track the progress of the Polish economy much as the International Monetary Fund monitors the economies of non-communist countries in financial distress."

This article was also a none too gentle hint that if further economic reforms in the direction of capitalism were not made, the stranglehold of the banks would become tighter.

Indeed, Poland thereafter purged its chief banking executives and replaced them with personnel more amenable and accommodating to the Western imperialist bankers.

The truth of the matter was that along with economic control went economic destabilization and political infiltration, a process which had been going on throughout the 1960s and 1970s.


As is usual with the international banking consortiums, and the U.S. banks in particular, bribery and corruption went hand in hand in the negotiation of the loans.

The Reagan administration, it should be remembered, has gone to the extent of urging the lifting of legal and perfunctory restrictions on multi-national corporations against bribery of foreign officials, as is practiced by Lockheed and hundreds of other multi-national corporations. American multi-nationals, they propose, should have the unrestricted right to bribe and corrupt.

Of course, the current legal restrictions against bribery have resulted in fines which for the corporations are equivalent to traffic violations. A $50,000 or $100,000 fine for bribes that run into the millions of dollars involving transactions of hundreds of millions of dollars is a mere irritant to the multi-nationals. But even this the Reaganites consider too heavy a burden on the "delicate" financial structure of the corporations and the banks.


The steady and consistent purging of the officialdom in Poland and the bureaucratic inner struggles among the technical and industrial managerial groups were the result of pursuing a contradictory process with no satisfactory solution insofar as the needs of the mass of the workers were concerned. This contradiction is the attempt to construct socialism while at the same time surrendering the most vital aspects of economic life to Western capitalist interests. It led straight back to the very same ills that prevail in any capitalist country: high prices, shortages, concealed (as against open) unemployment, and the diversion of necessary productive facilities for marketing and exporting purposes.

Attempts to recoup its financial losses have driven Poland deeper and deeper into the economic morass. The cause is not socialist planning, not so-called centralization of the economy, of which there has been little in Poland in the last two decades. It is the lack of socialist planning, the lack of self-reliance and self-sufficiency, the lack of socialist cooperation with the socialist community of which Poland is formally an integral part that has resulted in the precipitous decline in industrial production.


Look at any underdeveloped country. You will see that Poland's situation differs little from any of the poor, oppressed, Third World countries where the Western imperialist banks are dominant.

Listen to Daniel Ortega, the Nicaraguan representative who spoke at the UN General Assembly on October 7, 1981:

Despite the Third World countries' efforts to restructure their foreign debt and pay its servicing with untold sacrifice [that's just the way it is in Poland now -- SM] the present economic outlook is so dark that it calls for serious reflection. Unless formulas corresponding to our countries' economic realities are found, the only way out will be to waive the foreign debt, including its servicing. Otherwise the day will come when all the poor countries in the world, acting in common agreement, will have to say that we aren't going to pay because we have nothing to pay with.

Poland's situation differs in only one respect from the other oppressed countries which have become indebted as a result of imperialist financial control over their destinies. This difference is that Poland has a strong industrial base. It has a tremendous coal industry. It is considered one of the ten most industrialized countries in the world.

What happened was that it put its economic lifeblood, what the workers built up over decades, in hock to the banks.

How did this happen? Was it merely the result of corruption of leadership, gross negligence, bureaucratic practices, and alienation from the mass of the people? In part, and only in part, this is true. But the historical roots for this are just as significant.


Poland was never a socialist country in the generally accepted definition of that term. Poland from the very beginning of its development after the Second World War was a compromise between world imperialism and the Soviet Union as well as between the conflicting class forces internally.

The U.S., it must be remembered, emerged from the Second World War as the paramount victor with a nuclear monopoly and with the least amount of military casualties. The USSR, on the other hand, had been inflicted with untold destruction and lost over 20 million lives -- almost a million in the defense of Poland against the Nazis.

These circumstances and the entire preceding historic period -- the reign of political reaction in Poland, the hold of the Catholic hierarchy over the peasantry, the leanings of the petty bourgeoisie toward Western imperialism, and the divisions in the working class -- made a full-scale socialist revolution in Poland impossible at the time.

What did occur was the revolutionary intervention of the Soviet Red Army in alliance with the working-class and democratic, anti-fascist resistance movement. The bourgeois resistance movement, which in reality had been putting up a mild and token resistance to the Nazis, was, under the prompting of imperialism, veering in the direction of the restoration of a bourgeois republic as a satellite of Western, particularly U.S., imperialism.

Under these conditions, a historic compromise took place. Poland was established as a socialist republic in form, but in reality it was a halfway house between two social systems which at bottom were irreconcilable because they were based on diametrically opposed class interests and veering in different directions.


The compromise could last only if the imperialist powers were content to at least let things in Poland work themselves out automatically on the basis of the internal class relations and class contradictions without imperialist economic and financial intervention.

This was at bottom the understanding between the USSR and the imperialist powers when Poland was finally recognized as an independent and sovereign state.

However Poland like the other socialist countries, was diplomatically, politically, and economically ostracized by the new imperialist cordon sanitaire when the Cold War began in earnest. At the same time, the pro-bourgeois, pro-imperialist internal forces, which under the compromise agreement were to have a voice and be part of the new regime, continued an uninterrupted, undercover war against Poland's pro-socialist course.

It need hardly be stated that grave and serious mistakes of the leadership facilitated the course of the bourgeois restorationists. That. however. is another chapter in the history of the Polish workers' movement and of the world communist movement in general.

The outstanding fact of Polish history since the 1956 reactionary uprising is the reemergence of the pro-capitalist elements, their infiltration into the workers' movement, and the corruption of the leadership -- all as the result of the penetration of imperialist finance capital on such a huge extraordinary and utterly untenable basis. The latter was welcomed with open arms by the Polish Communist Party leadership.

The day of reckoning had to come. The massive strikes, which began more than 16 months ago, are not the effect of socialist planning and socialist construction, but the lack of it. Malignant finance capital was riding roughshod over the Polish economy.


Sheer delight over the imperialists having so much sway in Poland prompted then-President Gerald Ford to proclaim in 1976, in a nationwide debate with then-Presidential candidate Jimmy Carter that "Poland is an independent state." Ford made his remark to an excited nationwide public, and a good part of the world was listening. It was prompted by Carter's goading of Ford on allegedly being "soft on communism" in Eastern Europe.

This remarkable admission by Ford was not some hasty, thoughtless statement. Otherwise, he would have corrected it later, since he was certainly asked about it. Ford was merely stating publicly what was then understood politically in the U.S. capitalist establishment. This was particularly made clear by the briefings Ford got from Kissinger, his secretary of state, who in turn was, and is, an intimate of David Rockefeller. Rockefeller's immense financial control in the banking consortiums which deal with the Eastern European countries particularly Poland is well understood everywhere in the capitalist financial world.

Ford, however, was slightly ahead of himself. He and the bankers, diplomats, and White House strategists at the time too hastily equated economic control with more or less general political control. It is true that political infiltration had already taken an enormous toll on the state structure in Poland. But automatic economic processes do not so easily translate themselves into full political control, even where political infiltration is very serious. There were still other progressive forces, hostile to imperialist control, available to the people of Poland.


Soviet interventionm which the imperialist press has saturated the public with day in and day out, may be a last resort. But what the imperialist banking fraternity had not counted on was that the Polish military establishment would, at least for now, stand up, if not for a regeneration of socialist construction in the Marxist sense, at least as a barrier to the reestablishment of Poland as an imperialist satellite. That is what has happened since martial law was established in Poland.

The real issue is not whether the military under present conditions is capable of, or is fully united in, resuscitating Poland on a socialist basis. The issue is whether the army, general staff and its commanding strata, aided by loyal soldiers and militia can help the working class stave off a counter-revolution under the phony flag of "Solidarity," which is a mask for covert, imperialist intervention. That is the real issue.

A victory for the counter-revolution would be a victory for world imperialism. It would reinforce imperialist oppression and exploitation on a terrifying scale everywhere. It would embolden all the most reactionary elements in the capitalist world. It would darken the prospects for socialist struggle elsewhere. It would encourage the unbridled militarists in the Pentagon to move on Eastern Europe and lay the basis for an eventual confrontation with the USSR.

In all of this, what has to be remembered is that the world capitalist crisis -- intractable, pervasive, and malignant in its effects -- has enveloped some of the socialist countries. Like a malignant disease, wherever it spreads its tentacles it tears down the healthy foundations. Over the last 70 years it has brought about dozens of counter-revolutionary insurrections, military dictatorships, two imperialist wars, atomic annihilation in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the current nuclear saber-rattling over Western Europe. A Polish counterrevolution would facilitate the deployment of U.S. missiles in Europe and make the struggle against imperialist war that much more difficult.

The workers of the world and the workers in the United States have nothing to gain and a great, great deal to lose by supporting, encouraging, or promoting the cause of this counter-revolutionary, fink outfit misnamed Solidarity. The latter, under the influence and direction of imperialist agents, has captured a formidable part of the Polish workers, and on the morrow of its victory would hand them over lock, stock, and barrel to the imperialist powers, above all the U.S.

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