Poland: Behind the Crisis (1982) : POLAND'S STRUGGLE FOR INDEPENDENCE


DECEMBER 21, 1981

For longer than a century, the European people have been passionately devoted to the struggle for Polish independence.

It was Karl Marx himself who in connection with his organizing effort for the North during the American Civil War, also organized a public meeting in Britain on behalf of Polish independence. This meeting was attended by many Polish workers and workers of other nationalities, especially from the London area.

The Polish working class in Europe understood Polish independence one way.

But the clamor for "independence" by the capitalist powers was something else again.

When the German bourgeoisie spoke of Polish independence they had in mind an annexation of Poland. When the French bourgeoisie spoke of independence, they meant an alliance under which Poland would be subjugated and used as a battering ram against both the Germans and the Russians. And when the British spoke of independence they had in mind the extension of the British Empire to the gates of Warsaw.

They haven't changed much at all today.

It is no wonder that revolutionary Marxists have always been suspicious about the clamor for "Polish independence" when they see that its cheerleaders come from the Bourse, Lombard Street, and Wall Street.


Of all the dramatic events arising out of the Polish situation, that which has surprised and stunned the bourgeoisie most is the fact that it was the Polish Army, not the Soviet Army as the capitalists had been predicting, which opened up the offensive against the counter-revolution.

It also stunned the bourgeois elements in Poland. The New York Times on December 19, 1981, carries a Warsaw dispatch with a December 17, 1981, dateline by Henry Kamm, which states: "There were no Soviet tanks in Warsaw today. That, to many Poles, was the hardest thing to take about the crackdown which began Saturday."

Why was it the Army that initiated and is carrying through the struggle against the counter-revolution, apparently without any visible opposition from within?

Shouldn't the Army above all be in favor of an "independent" Poland as defined by Solidarity? Shouldn't the Army be for breaking its ties with the Warsaw Pact, and the Soviet Union in particular, and be "independent"?

The answer to these questions is that the Army leadership has demonstrated that it understands the real meaning of independence for Poland.

That was once understood here in this country among certain elements of the capitalist establishment. It was a short-lived period.

That was around the time when the Soviet Red Army had just broken the back of the Nazi war machine and Poland was about to be fully liberated from the Nazi yoke. The question of the future of Eastern Europe was still considered an Eastern European and Soviet affair, in which negotiations would end with a peace treaty between East and West.

The Yalta agreement, which came about a year later (1945), was considered to be such an agreement. It recognized the independence of Poland.


One of those close to the U.S. State Department at the time and who best understood the real meaning of Polish independence was the well-known foreign affairs commentator and so-called dean of the U.S. journalistic community, Walter Lippmann. He was also an adviser to more than a half a dozen presidents, including Kennedy, Johnson, and Eisenhower.

Needless to say, Lippmann was an able exponent of U.S. imperialist policy and reflected elements within the imperialist establishment.

Ronald Steel, who has written the authoritative book on Lippmann Walter Lippmann and the American Century , had this to say about Lippmann's view on Poland:

"Lippmann thought Prime Minister Churchill's plan for a pro-British government in Warsaw entirely fanciful. An independent Poland could survive 'only if it is allied with Russia,' he wrote as early as January 1944. If the Poles annex territory that was German [that territory was returned to Poland a decade later -- SM] they would need outside help to hold on to that territory. Only Russia could provide that.

"Therefore, he underlined, Poland had to come to terms with Russia, 'to terms which make Russia the principal guarantor of the Western boundary.' Stalin knew this, the Germans knew it, and so did the moderate [bourgeois -- SM] Poles. There could be 'no future for a Poland governed or even influenced by those Poles who even before they are liberated from the Nazis conceived themselves as the spearpoint of a hostile coalition against the Soviet Union.' "

That's how it was understood for a short period in most of Europe and in the U.S. And that's how the Polish Army understands it today. It understands that there can be no guarantee for any real independence except, as Lippmann wrote, by alliance with the Soviet Union.

The attempt by the U.S. government, in secret alliance with other imperialist powers, to influence, promote, and financially support "those Poles who conceived themselves as a spearpoint of a hostile coalition against the Soviet Union" is what lies at the bottom of the struggle between Western imperialism and the socialist countries, particularly Poland. It is the attempt by the U.S. and its imperialist allies, ever since the Polish People's Republic was established, to undermine and destabilize the Polish economy, undermine the state, nullify the Yalta agreement and reestablish Poland as a satellite of imperialism, particularly U.S. imperialism.

What is happening now is in some ways a rerun, with far more serious international implications, of what happened after the death of Roosevelt the coming to power of the Truman administration the pronouncement of the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan and the opening up of the vicious Cold War.


The way the U.S. destabilization against Poland began is sometimes told in their own words, which are occasionally released in official documents of the U.S. In the State Department document entitled 1948 -- Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, Volume 4, there is considerable material which indicates how the new post-Yalta policy of U.S. imperialism began to take shape.

For instance, it says on page 528 that on March 26, 1948, "President Truman issued a proclamation which redefined arms and implements of war so as to include a category of exports which had not been subject to licensing control in 1947 and included categories of equipment previously not requiring clearance."

This dealt with purchases by the Polish government of industrial equipment necessary to put the Polish coal industry back into operation following its destruction under Nazi rule.

The U.S. government suspended the shipments even though Poland had already paid a considerable amount of money for them, which included a blooming mill, a slabbing mill and other equipment necessary for the coal industry. However, the U.S. government insisted on first settling the nationalization agreements with the Polish government.


The Polish government had said that the nationalizations, some of which included U.S. businesses, were another matter and should not be linked up with purchases of necessary equipment and technology which were made by other agreements. The Polish position was that the nationalizations were an internal affair.

But the U.S. regarded the nationalization of industry in Poland, that is, the taking of the means of production into the hands of the state for purposes of socialist construction, and also the collectivization of the land, as "undemocratic" measures and opposed them.

Its opposition took the form which was outlined in Truman's memorandum quoted above. In accordance with that directive, the U.S. put an embargo on most exports to Poland pending an agreement concerning the nationalizations of industry and finance, collectivization of the land, and other matters.

This is the way the U.S. attempted to block Poland's progressive measures toward socialist construction. It abrogated agreements by which Poland was to purchase urgently needed technology to rebuild the devastated coal industry after the ravages of the Nazi invasion.


The reader should examine the current negotiations between the U.S. and Nicaragua and it will be easily seen that the U.S. is taking just about the same position in relation to Nicaragua as it took to Poland in that earlier period.

First, it insists upon stopping the socialist reconstruction of Nicaragua and insists upon supporting and promoting the so-called private sector for the purpose of undermining socialist construction. It places political conditions on any credits for the purchase of much-needed technology to rebuild the destruction caused by the Somoza regime.

Nicaragua's unwillingness to agree to internal "reforms" demanded by the U.S., which the latter labels "democratic reforms," is what lies at the bottom of the U.S.'s denial of export licenses to ship much-needed supplies to Nicaragua. This puts the country in a virtual state of embargo and blockade.

This is what the U.S. began with its Cold War against Poland, other East European countries, and especially the Soviet Union.


A memorandum of conversation cabled by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Economic Affairs Thorp to Washington on April 9, 1948 (see document above) quotes then-Polish Ambassador to the U.S., Joseph Winiewicz, as saying:

"While Poland has made purchases approximately up to 60% of the total credit ... the Poles are unable to obtain vitally needed equipment such as bulldozers, shovels, etc., in addition to the blooming mills and slabbing mills, Poland fears that the American export policy might amount to a virtual embargo of shipments to Poland and that the members of the Polish government have been extremely reluctant to proceed any further with negotiations of the nationalization agreement."

The U.S. government was holding back export licenses and vital equipment and technology in order to first wrest a nationalization agreement. Under the terms of such an agreement, the U.S. would attempt to stop socialist ownership and control of the productive forces of Poland and the collectivization of land. It was a clear attempt to put the economic squeeze on Poland, dictate its economic and foreign policy, and make it capitulate on its internal social structure.

Some in the State Department at the time were against this linkage.


The term linkage was recently revived with the new Cold War that Jimmy Carter and his National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski inaugurated and which Reagan is carrying to extremes. The term had its origins in the Cold War and specifically as it applied to Poland.

Just as the Reagan administration is now saying to Poland, "If you want food shipments and extension of loans and technology, you better not abolish those very, very, democratic reforms" (those "reforms" which have virtually led Poland to the abyss and which are completely bourgeois-restorationist in character), the Truman administration was saying in 1948, "If you want the blooming mill and slabbing mill and other technology to put the coal industry in shape, then give up the socialist reconstruction of Poland"!

What was demanded of the Polish people during that period, and which ended in a compromise, at least on paper, is now being revived on a more dangerous scale. In truth, it never was abandoned. It was continued on the basis of economic penetration via the huge loans and in collusion with a corrupt officialdom which saw great merit in opening up Poland completely to Western capitalist financial and economic penetration.

The question of linkage, that is, of using U.S. and Western economic weapons as a means for political control by the imperialists, was never abandoned.


On April 3, 1948, then-U.S. Ambassador to Poland Griffis, who was for linkage, wrote to the U.S. Secretary of State in a secret cable (see document quoted above) which concluded with this observation: "I might go along with this theory [of linkage]. This is not the time for a showdown. But the time must come and we should not, without serious consideration, give up any trading elements which may appear for us." [Our emphasis -- SM] (Signed by Griffis, page 530, Volume 4.)

Indeed, the U.S. has never given up its so-called trading elements, its economic weapons, its billion-fold loans as weapons for economic and financial penetration.

The time for the showdown, the U.S. imperialists apparently thought, had come with the secretly cultivated and now highly publicized Solidarity organization and its eventual evolution to the point where it openly plotted for a counter-revolutionary coup. The showdown came when this organization, under the guidance of U.S. agents, pro-imperialist bourgeois elements in Poland, prepared to call a national referendum for the purpose of overturning the government.

It was then that the Polish Army asserted its right and its revolutionary duty to hurl back the bourgeois pro-imperialist attempt at a counter-revolution. Such a counter-revolution would have meant restoring Poland to its pre-war status as a satellite of imperialism and destroying the real independence of Poland. That in essence is what the struggle in Poland is all about today.

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