Poland: Behind the Crisis (1982) : YALTA AND THE POLISH ANTI-FASCIST MOVEMENT
YALTA AND THE POLISH ANTI-FASCIST MOVEMENT
DECEMBER 27, 1981
If you are a worker, Black or white, Latin or Asian, gay or straight, young or old, you are affected by the crisis in Poland. Surely you must know that the headlines in the newspapers and the stories in the media are dominated by the events in Poland.
This diverts attention from important news which workers are concerned with most immediately and directly -- insecurity on the job, layoffs, and the rising cost of living. There is also the fear underlying everything else that the events in Poland may lead to military conflict which would involve all of us in a new, terrible conflagration.
It would be no good at all to close our eyes to what is going on in Poland.
If you heard President Reagan's Christmas Eve address, you surely would have noticed how emotional he seemed to be about the Polish workers and their hardships. By contrast, he never said a word about the nearly 10 million unemployed workers here in this country.
Again, while he seemed so deeply moved by the hardships of Polish workers, he never said a word about the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) strikers whose union he broke illegally, whose members the government has harassed, fined, and imprisoned.
Reagan mourned the loss of life in Poland, but the four who committed suicide during the PATCO strike as a result of hardship and harassment are passed over in silence.
Again, he talked about the many refugees coming out of Poland. Again, by contrast, he never said anything about the thousands of refugees from Haiti who are in U.S. concentration camps, many dying of hunger and living in dread of being deported to one of the most brutal dictatorial regimes in modern times.
Okay, you agree on that. But do two wrongs make a right? This question must be answered.
It cannot be properly answered unless we take into account how the Polish government was created. No understanding of the Polish problem can possibly be arrived at unless we first ask ourselves this question again and again.
The Polish government is the product of the Second World War. It was created in 1945. The manner in which it was created is of supreme importance to understanding what is happening now.
It was created as the result of an agreement at the close of the Second World War between, on the one hand, the Soviet Union represented by Stalin and, on the other, the United States represented by President Roosevelt and Great Britain represented by Prime Minister Churchill.
This agreement was reached at the Yalta conference in the spring of 1945. You can look this up in any book, newspaper, or magazine of the time and you will find these facts to be true.
Yalta has since become a dirty word in the jargon of all the right-wing reactionary elements in the U.S., especially those in the Pentagon. Roosevelt himself has since been vilified in terms of near treason.
Why? The Yalta agreement constituted the basis of a compromise between the Soviet Union as a socialist state (or communist state, however you wish to call it) and the principal Western allies -- Great Britain and the United States -- as capitalist states.
What kind of a government could possibly emerge if the Soviet Union was concerned with establishing a socialist government in Poland and the U.S. and Great Britain were interested in reestablishing a capitalist state in Poland?
Can there be a state which is half capitalist and half socialist? That was one of the questions presumably settled by the Yalta agreement.
There were many other questions left open. There were, however, certain pertinent facts that had to be taken into account if there was to be a new Poland erected as a result of an agreement between the USSR and the capitalist West.
It was agreed by the powers participating in the Yalta conference that Poland should have a democratic form of government. Both sides agreed to that.
Elections were to follow and a parliament set up. All this did subsequently take place.
The Yalta agreement was therefore responsible for having set up, or helped to set up together with the Polish people, a new Polish republic.
TWO CURRENTS STRUGGLING FOR LEADERSHIP
Inside of Poland, however, there were two divergent political currents struggling for leadership of the future government.
On the one hand there was the Lublin group which was supported by workers and by the strong resistance forces organized in the struggle against the Nazis. The Lublin group was in support of and alliance with the Soviet Union.
On the other hand there was the group headed by Stanislaw Mikolajczyk which had its headquarters in London and was called the Polish Government in Exile.
Note this very important fact. The Lublin group, composed of the progressive resistance forces allied with and cooperating with the Soviet Union, had their headquarters located directly in Poland during the entire war. Mikolajczyk and his principal supporters fled and established themselves in their headquarters in London. The difference is important.
The strong, indigenous anti-Nazi forces were clearly lined up with the Lublin government. Mikolajczyk's group was small, weak, and his armed supporters negligible.
Toward the close of the war, while the Nazi forces were still strong in Poland, the Soviet Red Army launched the final offensive to liberate Poland. Yes, it was the Red Army that liberated Poland. This, too, you can find in any book, magazine, or newspaper of the time.
It cost the Soviet Union 900,000 men and women -- nearly twice as many dead as the U.S. suffered in World War II Korean war and the Viet Nam war combined.
That's the measure of concern the Soviet Union had in guaranteeing the establishment of a new, independent Poland.
The Yalta agreement had to take this into account in arriving at the compromise between Mikolajczyk who was in alliance with the U.S. and Britain, and the broad anti-fascist, progressive and socialist resistance movement of Lublin. The compromise agreement was for Mikolajczyk to join the Lublin government and thereby form a coalition of both the socialist and capitalist political interests.
It would be a coalition government. A parliament was established in 1946 as a result of a referendum vote of the people.
Opposition parties were legalized, especially what was called the Peasant Party which was the name Mikolajczyk chose for his party. He became a vice-premier of the coalition government and was put in charge of the ministry of agriculture.
Thus far, the Yalta compromise agreement was carried out. A referendum vote was held, a parliament established, an opposition party legalized.
The Lublin supporters won an overwhelming majority. The Mikolajczyk opposition also scored heavily in the elections, but as a minority party.
What happened to this compromise which was aimed to maintain stable, peaceful relations between the Soviet Union and the Western capitalist countries after the war against the fascist powers?
This agreement, as we said, was a compromise in which both sides gave some ground. Among those in the Left, many thought Stalin gave too much ground in Poland (and elsewhere) when in fact the Red Army with the native resistance forces could have easily taken all of Poland and established it as a full-fledged socialist government.
The reactionary Polish exiles' forces under Mikolajczyk were negligible and were composed mostly of right-wing and ultra-rightist forces who before the war had supported the fascist dictatorship of Pilsudski.
The attacks on the Yalta agreement from the Left were negligible and had little effect.
The Yalta agreement, it must be remembered, was signed, sealed and delivered by Stalin for the USSR, Winston Churchill for Britain, and President Roosevelt for the U.S. Whether this was a viable agreement that could stand the test of history was left to the Polish people to decide.
The antagonistic internal class forces were left to work out their own destiny without interference from either East or West. And for a brief period, very brief indeed, it seemed that it might work.
SHARP REVERSAL OF U.S. FOREIGN POLICY
But something happened early after the agreement was signed which smashed it to bits. It began with the death of Roosevelt and the sharp reversal of foreign policy during Truman's and succeeding administrations in the U.S.
The attacks, which began against Roosevelt after the Yalta agreement, took on a wild momentum during the Truman-Acheson period and reached a crescendo in the following years. Nothing less than repudiation of the agreement was called for.
By the time of the Potsdam conference, which took place between July 17 and August 2, 1945, the U.S. had perceived that the balance of world forces between the imperialist powers of Great Britain and the U.S. on the one hand, and the USSR, on the other, had greatly changed militarily to the advantage of the U.S.
It should be remembered that by this time Truman had succeeded Roosevelt at the conference and Prime Minister Churchill was succeeded by Prime Minister Atlee. The conference agreement resulted in a long but vague statement that the U.S. at the time no longer had any military reason to honor its commitments.
Certainly that's the way it was perceived four days after the ending of the conference. Four days after the conference was over, the U.S., which had long prepared the development of the atomic bomb, dropped it on Hiroshima.
This was mostly an attempt to intimidate the USSR, the militant working class of the world and the impending upsurge of the oppressed people of the world. It was not at all an attempt to save U.S. lives, as Truman claimed at the time.
It was an attempt to present U.S. military dominance with the aid of the atomic bomb, which the U.S. held in monopoly, and, in the jargon of the right-wingers, "roll back the red carpet in all of Eastern Europe."
Thereafter, a vicious anti-Soviet offensive was opened up in the U.S. on foreign policy along with a domestic witchhunt of frightening proportions against the progressive movement and the trade unions that were in any way sympathetic to the struggle for workers' rights, civil liberties, or socialism.
Overturning the Yalta agreement became a cardinal principle of all the ultra-rightists McCarthyites, Birch Society neo-fascist, and others. Thus, no sooner had this agreement really been signed than the U.S. administration attempted to undermine it, repudiate it, and commence covert as well as overt operations to undermine the existing legal government in Poland.
Mikolajczyk, who had become a vice-premier of the coalition government then saw a new opportunity for the possibility of the U.S. and Britain openly intervening to establish a capitalist government. He therefore resigned from the coalition government and came to the U.S. to organize all the reactionary Polish exile groups in the U.S. and try to coordinate all the Polish-Americans behind a "liberate Poland" campaign.
As the New Columbia Encyclopedia (one-volume 1975 edition) states, "He left behind him nationalists rightists and some other opponents operating as underground forces in 1946, a year after Yalta."
The slogan of "liberation," by which they meant overthrow of the existing Polish government, became the battle cry not only during the Truman but also the Dulles-Eisenhower period. In addition to these overt and covert measures of subversion, the Western capitalist powers took advantage of the devastated conditions resulting from the Nazi invasion and war to withhold not only economic assistance but trade in general, unless the Polish government agreed in the first place to certain so-called liberal reforms.
Such reforms were understood everywhere in the progressive world to mean the rejection of socialist construction and the establishment of capitalist relations.
WHAT WEST MEANS BY 'REFORMS'
When the word "liberal reform" is used in the West, it means a capitalist reform. It does not at all have anything to do with free speech, freedom of religion, and so on.
What they mean by "liberal reforms" are the introduction and strengthening of capitalist private property in industry, in agriculture, and in all other phases of life.
The communists, socialists, and Progressives were for socializing Poland with production for use, not for profit. But they were willing to compromise on a live-and-let-live basis if the Western capitalist powers would agree not to intervene by subversion, economic blockade, or the deprivation of financial credits for commerce badly needed as a result of the country's economic status resulting from the war.
This is the ABC of the Polish crisis today.
What the U.S., British, and later the German and French imperialists did over the years was a continuation of the same subversion by covert means and economic penetration. The inability of succeeding communist leaders to put Poland's economic house in order is due basically to the intransigence of the capitalist powers in not letting Poland get economically on its feet to build socialism. They used both overt and covert subversion through the medium of financial penetration.
Poland may have disappeared from the headlines for some years, but the effort to destabilize it and return it to the capitalist camp was never abandoned. Therein lies the basic cause of the recent crisis in Poland.
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