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An evaluation of the Manifesto of the Polish National Liberation Committee (PKWN) and the achievements of the People's Republic of Poland

Monika Karbowska

An evaluation of the Manifesto

of the Polish National Liberation Committee (PKWN)

and the achievements of the People’s Republic of Poland – first attempt to build a Polish socialist state

 

 

The Manifesto of the Polish Committee of National Liberation (PKWN) and its implementation by the Polish People’s Republic is a realisation of the political program for which the Polish left had fought for decades: agrarian reform by confiscation without compensation of the large land holdings of the aristocracy, access to education, social security, building housing for the people, building a Poland with stable borders and good relations with its neighbours. The most important transformations implemented in the Polish People’s Republic also concern the emancipation of women and children and the end of the traditional patriarchal family. For the Poles of 1989, including the Solidarity opposition, the PKWN Manifesto was an important milestone in the history of modernization of the country. The agrarian reform and the destruction of the feudal class, the rapid reconstruction of the country, the social rise of hundreds of thousands of peasants called to build the new industry, urbanization and the education of the masses, led in two decades to shaping Poland as we know it today — a country of some importance whose development index in 1989 was quite honourable. The Polish People’s Republic, however, had a major flaw: it was instituted as a state and system by the Soviet Union government in accordance with the decisions of the Western Allies. It was precisely the USSR’s compromise with the Western powers that brought Poland to its present borders, these “ideal” borders for the national interest of the country, borders that neither the West nor the Polish capitalists question. However, if all Poles have benefited from modernization, the Polish People’s Republic was ultimately based on fragile premises, that is, on the compromise developed by the Soviet Union and the Western powers in the years 1943-46. The Polish United Workers Party made a series of mistakes by carrying out a repressive policy in the crucial moments of crisis and sabotaging its own popular legitimacy. Thus, when the USSR withdrew from its domination of the territory west of the Bug and the West recovered its political and economic hegemony over these same territories, Poland found itself again dependent on the West. In the end, the Poles have not been able to sustain a vision of a truly sovereign state. In particular the ideological weakening of the P.O.U.P. has been an important cause of this through the rapid abandonment of the teaching of Marxism in party structures and in social structures. One of the notable achievements of the Polish People’s Republic was the development of an original foreign policy in the 1960s: the Polish contribution to the UN peacekeeping missions, the Rapacki plan for the denuclearization of Europe, cultural, technical, scientific and economic cooperation with the countries of the Arab World, Africa and China, and support for the Non Aligned movement. Among the mistakes of the Polish People’s Republic that led to its downfall was agreeing to pay the pre-war debt of Poland towards the West, as well as the increasing borrowing of the 1970s that led to the final crisis in 1980.  In the same way, the persistence of nationalism and anti-Semitism in the Polish population undermined the authority of the Party, while the lack of democratic legitimacy was fatal to it when the West once more took over  political control of Eastern Europe, following the withdrawal of the Soviet Union.

 

Keywords: Polish People’s Republic, agrarian reform, stable borders, industrialization, modernization, education, reconstruction, nationalism, Western powers, USSR

 

The role of the Polish National Liberation Committee Manifesto in the founding of the People’s Republic of Poland.

 

It is a tragic paradox that the implementation of a modern leftist program in Poland could only happen following the catastrophe of the Second World War and because a foreign army, that of the Soviet Union, was stationed on the territory of that country. The Manifesto of the Polish National Liberation Committee of July 1944 is the symbol of this paradox. It is an essential programmatic document of the Polish Left. The whole history of the People’s Republic of Poland can be summed up as the implementation of the actions announced in this text. But it is also a reminder of the presence of the Soviet Army, the establishment of a communist regime not chosen by the population and the forced integration of Poland into a military and political bloc under Soviet influence.

 

Certainly, the Manifesto is not the only document produced by the Anti-Nazi Resistance movement announcing the creation of a Poland for the people. Even the Home Army was aware that it would be impossible to return to the pre-war capitalist and semi-feudal regime, and formulated a political program of social transformation aimed at constructing a system of “cooperative socialism” (Drwęski 2014). But what is interesting is that the Communists actually achieved what they proclaimed in their manifesto, which therefore was anything but a catalogue of wishful thinking. It included the agrarian reform which gave land to the peasants, the establishment of social security, mass access to education at all levels, building housing for all, and finally “An independent Poland, with stable borders, broad access to the sea, with a foreign policy based on collective security, a pacified eastern border and cooperation and friendship with Britain, France and the United States “(Manifesto text). Who among the Polish men and women of yesterday and today would not have wished to live in such a country? Commenting on this last excerpt, we realize that the Manifesto absolutely did not advocate breaking ties with the West but on the contrary promoted a policy of multilateral cooperation!

The People’s Republic of Poland went further in some areas that are not mentioned in the Manifesto. The separation of Church and State, the equality of men and women in the family and society, civil marriage and the right to divorce (decree of September 25, 1945), the equality of children born in marriage and out of wedlock, and the egalitarian family code of 1960 are not included in the Manifesto. Yet these elements are among the most remarkable achievements of the modernizing policy of the People’s Republic of Poland, and a legacy in which by and large we still live today, despite the attacks of clerical and other conservatives.

 

What did the Poles of 1989 think of the Manifesto of the National Liberation Committee?

In the People’s Republic of Poland the date of the Manifesto of the National Liberation Committee, July 22, was the Polish National Day. It fell in the middle of the summer holidays, and citizens flocked to the funfairs without asking existential questions about the meaning of this historical date. Indeed, a certain consensus prevailed: the Manifesto was seen as the beginning of a new historical era, that of a modern and just Poland. Even the Solidarnosc opposition was careful not to criticize the Manifesto, so much did the achievements of the People’s Republic of Poland seem unassailable. Moreover, leaving on one side the “national Christian” extreme right, which were already attacking the right to abortion as “the destruction of the national substance of Poland”, the Solidarnosc militants saw their struggle as a continuation of the modernization begun in 1945. Freedom of expression and association, and genuinely free elections were to be the culmination of a march towards Polish modernity. It is not so surprising if one thinks that the 1944 Manifesto proclaimed a return to the liberal and democratic Constitution of 1921. It is precisely because the Solidarnosc opposition never openly advocated the destruction of the gains of the People’s Republic of Poland (social benefits, right to housing, right to education, women’s rights …) that the actual takeover of neoliberal capitalism was such a shock, even called by its perpetrators “the shock of transformation”. Even in the early 2000s liberals saw the People’s Republic of Poland as a kind of “enlightened absolutism” preceding the democratic “Revolution” of 1989. The current state discourse imposing the belief that the People’s Republic was a “criminal communist regime” is a new phenomenon, surprising even as we move away from our concrete experience of this historical period.

 

Poland in 1944 and the history of the Manifesto

At the time of the publication of the Manifesto, the Soviet offensive to liberate the Polish territory from the Nazis had just begun. The extent of the material, human and moral destruction caused by the Nazis was not yet known. There was no awareness of the Holocaust, the annihilation of the 3 million members of the Polish Jewish community. The text thus reflected an overly optimistic view on the part of the Polish liberators and communists regarding the nation’s ability to regenerate and build a bright future, even though Nazism was far from being defeated. The second flaw of the Manifesto, the one most criticised today, is that it was written in Moscow for publication in Chelm, the first city liberated by the Soviets, on the Curzon line. The Polish National Liberation Committee emanated from the Polish National Council (KRN), the embryo of a pro-Soviet Polish government wanted by Stalin. But at the time there was nothing scandalous about this; the Allies had indeed agreed, during various negotiations, that the opening of the Western Front on June 6, 1944 would be accompanied by the creation of Liberation Committees in all the liberated countries, involving all the anti-fascist forces of each nation.

 

Similarly, it is obligatory to be scandalized by the fact that the Manifesto proclaimed the illegitimacy of the government in exile in London. But that ignores the obvious fact that for the Poles of 1944 this government in exile was the heir of the April 1935 Constitution imposed by a military coup. The reestablishment of democratic legitimacy meant the reinstatement of the 1921 Constitution trampled on by Pilsudski’s colonels. Moreover, many Poles, while acknowledging the government in exile had the merit of having led the Resistance movement within the Home Army, attributed to the colonels in power in 1939 some responsibility for the isolation and rapid defeat of Poland when she was attacked by Hitler.

 

The PKWN Manifesto already set the borders of the new Poland then under discussion by the Allies: the so-called “Curzon” line to the east, named after the British diplomat who had wanted to impose it on the Poles in the Versailles Treaty, and the rivers Oder and Neisse in the west. The detractors of the People’s Republic of Poland take care not to criticize the borders that we inherited, in which we live and which the European Union finally accepted in 1990 at the signing of the “2 plus 4” Treaty — Reunified Germany plus the four victorious Powers. The silences of today hide the hard struggle led by the People’s Republic of Poland and its allies for the recognition of this border. In 1958 during the first negotiations between Charles de Gaulle and Konrad Adenauer, the German Chancellor outlined for the French President the prospect of a rump Poland, which would become “a kind of protectorate of the United Nations” (French diplomatic documents since 1954, Volume 12, 1958: No. 156, 26.11.1958). De Gaulle never agreed to this program and always defended the Oder Neisse border. It is for this reason that he has been so popular with the Poles, both the leaders and the people. This example shows that communist propaganda on the theme of German “revanchism” was not completely devoid of foundation.

As regards the eastern border, we now know thanks to the work of Ewa and Władysław Siemaszko that the Ukrainian nationalists army (OUN UPA), with a strength of 10,000 men, ruthlessly pursued the genocide of the Polish Wolhynia population, who owned their salvation only to the arrival of the Soviet Army. The USSR took almost 10 years to clear the territory of the Banderist “forest soldiers”. The Polish Republic, whatever its regime, would never have been able to overcome the Ukrainian fascists if it had had to manage that territory. These facts show that the frontiers of the Polish People’s Republic are therefore the best borders Poland has had in its history, borders which at the same time protect Poland from the expansionism of its neighbours, just as they protect the neighbouring countries from traditional Polish nationalism.

The Western Allies conceded that the USSR needed to have as neighbours a “friendly Polish government”. It is within the framework of this compromise that the Provisional Government of the Republic of Poland saw the light of day at the end of July 1944. It was made concrete by the trip to Moscow of Stanislaw Mikolajczyk, leader of the Peasant Party in London who agreed to take part in the government of Osobka Morawski following gentle pressure from Churchill (Czubiński 1992: 21).

While the negotiations in Moscow were taking place, the leaders of the Home Army gave the order for the Warsaw insurrection. For all Resistance leaders in Europe, this insurrection, the aim of which was to liberate the Polish capital alone in order to be in a position of strength when Stalin arrived, had no chance of success and would lead to a real genocide of the civilian population and the total destruction of the city. The Warsaw uprising is a symbol of what not to do, said the head of the French FFIs Jacques Chaban Delmas, for whom it was essential to ensure “Paris does not become Warsaw” (Levisse-Touzé C 2010).

The Compromise Government was formed on December 31, 1944, and was immediately recognized by the capitals of the countries already liberated from Nazism, that is, capitals of non-collaborationist countries, principally Prague and Belgrade, but also General de Gaulle’s France. But the situation on the ground was no less interesting for the future. When the Soviet Army and the Polish Army entered Lublin and the Committee of National Liberation immediately created local structures (called National Councils), very many clandestine structures came out of the shadows: unions, political parties, peasant partisan organizations, peasant youth associations and the Association of Fighting Youth. Civil and political life was reborn despite all the difficulties, fear, destruction and hunger … Hope was present and these are facts, even if the nationalist right see them as “a horrible betrayal of the Polish nation” while the socialist and communist left calls them “a true national and popular revolution”.

After 45 years of the People’s Republic of Poland and 27 years of capitalist Poland it is good to wonder, who were these Polish architects of the structures of the new state? How many and who were those who honestly believed they were building a socialist Poland and saw in it a chance for social and personal emancipation? The Poles of today are mostly not from the nobility but from the peasant families of 1945. Everyone in his family history has a relative who was between 15 and 25 years old in 1945-50 and took advantage of the Liberation to join the Polish People’s Army, youth associations or labour battalions to flee a miserable village and a patriarchal family, and make a life in the city, finish school, get and practice a trade, have an apartment, get married with a partner of their choice and live an independent life. If historical research, free of anti-communist ideology, studied these individual biographies, it would find that the Liberation brought millions of Poles huge, unheard-of social mobility and a better life, whether or not these people believed in communism.

 

Agrarian reform — the greatest achievement of the new People’s Republic of Poland

The most important and historical act of the Polish Committee of National Liberation was the decree of September 6th, 1944, on agrarian reform. This decree organized the distribution of territory belonging to the landed aristocracy to landless peasants by simply stipulating that no family could own more than 50 hectares of agricultural land. This decree put an end to 100 years of intense struggle by the peasant movement and the progressive intelligentsia to end poverty in the countryside and class inequality. At last, those who worked the land had access to this basic means of production. Thus the People’s Republic of Poland first founded its legitimacy on the fulfilment of the oldest peasant demand and on the abolition of the feudal and patriarchal structures still prevailing in this region of Europe.

The founding act of the People’s Republic of Poland was therefore the ending of the political, social and economic role of the nobility, without having to resort to physically liquidating this social class — even if we cannot help but think that the deportations to Siberia of representatives of the feudal class by the Soviet Union at the time of the occupation of the eastern territories of Poland in 1939 undoubtedly played this role and later facilitated the task of the Polish communists. The division of large landholdings is still today the main objective of progressive struggles in Latin America, in countries like India, Pakistan or certain regions of Africa. In Poland the peasants attained historical justice thanks to the People’s Republic.

This fact is both undeniable and shamefully kept quiet. Undeniable because all Poles have in their family tree someone who benefited from the agrarian reform. Consequently, contesting this decree or criticizing it as “a communist crime” has long been taboo. Even the most radical opposition could not announce that it was going to abolish the agrarian reform and give the land back to feudal lords. If this had been the case, the peasants, who still accounted for 30% of Poles in 1989, would have driven away the impudent “reformers” with their legendary pitchforks! Unable to confront the peasants directly, the ultra-liberals destroyed the undeniable political strength of the Polish peasantry by other means: by exposing it to world competition right from the start in 1990 and organizing the bankruptcy of family farms with the Common Agricultural Policy. But the left and the peasant parties bear some responsibility: the People’s Republic of Poland made the mistake of not being proud of its agrarian reform and of not financing historical studies of this political event. The absence of a positive representation of the role of communist policy concerning the peasants led to the erroneous ideas spread in the 80s on the theme that the agrarian reform happened “all by itself” as “an autonomous historical development” . This was not the case, as can be seen with the growing return to feudalism in the Polish countryside — the reconstitution of large landholdings in the hands of oligarchs or Western companies.

It is interesting to note that the Polish nobility did not fight the agrarian reform decree, because it was aware that its historical role of landowner was finished. Even if in the end the families of the landowners did not keep 50 hectares but rather no more than 3 to 6 hectares because of the pressure exerted by the communists in the villages, the cultural capital they possessed largely allowed them to reach enviable social positions in a new society in full mobility. They became university professors, doctors, researchers, cultural figures and in reality it is not from their rank that emerged the greatest challenge to the communist regime. If the capitalist transformation had not been such a brutal and destructive process, it is quite possible that historical class antagonisms may have remained buried in the past after the democratization of 1989 and so Poland could have become a state with indisputable political legitimacy and a relatively united nation.

In January 1945 the government estimated that the agrarian reform was a success, with 262,000 peasant families sharing 900,000 hectares of land. 9327 landholdings were divided between 1.7 million landless peasants. But if the peasants could support a family of 5 to 8 people on a farm of 6 hectares, they were soon dissatisfied with the fixed-price compulsory deliveries imposed to feed the towns and of course unhappy with attempts at collectivization undertaken from 1950 to 1953. (Czubiński 1992: 35). Alas, the peasants therefore never really supported the People’s Republic, despite the creation of public services of which they were the beneficiaries in the 50s and 60s: electrification of the villages, drinking water supply systems, non-fee paying access to school and university for the children of peasants, building of hospitals, medical centres, roads, cultural centres, libraries, public transport … Until 1989 there existed a Polish style program of “affirmative action” with “points for origin” that students from peasant and worker families were awarded to help them access university places and compensate for the lower level of provincial high schools … More than one manager of a large western company in Poland and more than one proud businessman owe their higher education in communist universities to this social program.

 

Construction of the structures of the People’s Republic of Poland and consolidation of its borders

The consolidation of the structures of the new state “friend of the Soviet Union” was not done only by the social reforms to which the Polish population aspired. It was done also by a policy of repression and organized terror against opponents. After the dissolution by decree of all resistance structures not integrated into the Polish People’s Army, those who refused to recognise the power of the Communist led Provisional Government were hunted down as criminals. The “cursed soldiers” living in the woods also lost their aura of resistants by committing crimes against civilians. October 6, 1944, marked the creation of the Citizens’ Militia, the police of the new regime, assisted by the apparatus of the Security Service (UB) trained by NKWD men with their expeditious methods. Stalin did not waste time with the existence of a Polish armed opposition: from July the leaders of the Home Army, Okulicki and Puzak, were invited to Moscow for negotiations and it is in Moscow that they were judged and executed. Add to this that many officers of the repressive apparatus belonged to minorities discriminated by pre-war Poland (Jews, Ukrainians …) and it is easy to understand that the People’s Republic of Poland, right from the start, suffered from an incontestable lack of legitimacy, in spite of the popularity of Gomulka, a Resistant of the Interior, and his early criticism of Stalinist methods (Czubinski 1992: 18-19, Lesiakowski 1996, Friszke 1994).

Successive governments of the People’s Republic of Poland for decades repeated their propaganda centred on the consolidation of Polish borders, the recovery of the “western territories” which the Allies attributed to Poland in concert with Stalin as war damages taken from the Nazis and the development of these “recovered lands” … But none of this could erase the original sin of having been “gained at the point of Russian bayonets”. The myth of Yalta was extensively exploited by the Western media and enthusiastically adopted by Polish nationalists. According to this myth Western leaders at Yalta really believed that Stalin was going to let Poland become democratic and were totally surprised by his betrayal. In reality, sources show that besides the fact that in Yalta nothing special was decided regarding Poland, Western leaders like Churchill were perfectly happy with a semi-dictatorial and authoritarian regime which, in accordance with the racist prejudices of their class, they judged adequate for the barbaric populations of Eastern Europe, like the fascist regime that Churchill installed in Greece in his own sphere of influence. The Yalta Conference shows nothing but the peripheral and subordinate place countries like Poland occupied in the imperialist political system of the West. In 1945 Western leaders simply agreed with Russia on how the Powers would deal with said barbarians. In 1988 one of the actors in the process, the Soviet Union, withdrew from the compromise and Poland regained the place it had never really lost as far as the Western bourgeoisie was concerned: supplier of cheap labour and raw materials, and playing field from which to conquer Russia peacefully or militarily.

The problem is that the Polish elites of 1989, whether communist or Solidarity-born, entertained the illusion of a sovereign Polish people who created a democracy by negotiating around the “Round Table” and so decided in a sovereign manner their own destiny. Nothing could be more false. Today we know much better the influence of foreign foundations, think thanks and lobbyists of western multinationals who poured millions of dollars on these elites to make them accept the imposition of neoliberal capitalism. The Polish working classes have paid a heavy price for this illusion: mass unemployment, destruction of the industrial fabric and of public services, loss of status, poverty and mass emigration. (Kozłowski 2011)

 

Education and culture in the People’s Republic of Poland

Until 2010 the majority of Poles were convinced that education and culture were areas of great success for the People’s Republic of Poland. In the 90s the planned privatization of education was carefully hidden by the new elites, so unthinkable was this prospect to public opinion. Education for all, free, secular and public was a decision of the National Liberation Committee and one of the greatest achievement of the People’s Republic of Poland. In concrete terms, schooling consisted of 8 years of primary education and 3 to 5 years of secondary education, both of which were free and compulsory; 3-year vocational schools; high schools with vocational baccalaureates leading to higher education and high schools with baccalaureates of 4 years duration. To this must be added vocational training for adults and the literacy campaigns of the 50s and 60s, the creation of teacher training colleges for primary school teachers, and the mass opening of crèches and kindergartens. A legacy of this work is the persistence in the current Polish Constitution of the right to a guaranteed education up to the age of 18, whereas this right does not exceed 16 years in Western countries.

The People’s Republic of Poland built schools continuously during the 45 years of its existence, but the growth was particularly spectacular at first: from 300 schools in 1945 to 5666 schools opened in 1946 and 1601 in 1947. (Czubiński 1992: 89). The People’s Republic also opened new universities and polytechnics in the Western Territories but also in the particularly poor eastern regions, by nationalizing a number of buildings belonging to religious orders and castles belonging to the aristocracy. There was great symbolic meaning in the children of peasants studying in the homes of their former masters, so great that the capitalist regime could not take these buildings back in private ownership immediately in 1989. It had to trick public opinion, outraged to see schools thrown out of their premises, by relying on European Union regulations and on declining birth rate arguments in order to close these schools.

The peasant and working classes thus achieved an unprecedented civilizational leap: the departure of peasant children to study in towns was a major improvement in their social status and an important condition for the regime gaining the support of the countryside. For its part the authorities needed specialists for the industry and services that were the engine of industrialization and modernization of the country. Dynamic economic growth thus provided jobs and a significant professional career for young graduates. When the crisis of the 1980s came, children brought up in the myth of continuous social rise in the People’s Republic could not admit that this situation of full employment was an exceptional period that would not be repeated in Europe (Kozłowski 2011).

One of the strengths of communist policies was to accompany the movement of the population from the countryside to the town by the dynamic development of culture and the massive organization of people’s access to it. At the end of the war dozens of periodicals, newspapers and new radio stations were created, and the production company “Film Polski” and Polish Television were founded. Between 1945 and 1970 dozens of publishing houses were born, countless cinemas, theatres, libraries, reading rooms and cultural centres were opened. Pupils, students and workers were encouraged to frequent these places. This active policy of organizing cultural leisure had no equivalent in capitalist states of the same level of development. In places of work, the workers’ committees organized tourist excursions so that the population, who until then had travelled only to look for work, learned to discover the beauties of their homeland, the cities, the monuments and the landscapes. Tourism always had to be linked to culture and discovery. If today we would tend to see in these incentives a “biopolitics” type of mind control, in reality for most Polish citizens leisure, outings, dances, visits of monuments and trips to the mountains and the seaside were something completely new, accessible in 1939 only to the very rich. Today, the number of visitors to cultural places has dropped drastically in Poland, creative leisure activities and holidays are once again the preserve of the most fortunate — proof that only a voluntarist policy can prevent the cultural regression of the working classes, who are now condemned to a diet of video games and reality shows on television.

 

Blind illusions and illusory victories

“This land is ours. Once we have conquered power, we will never give it back “- this sentence pronounced by Wladyslaw Gomulka in 1946 has a very bitter taste today. In 1989, the Communists peacefully handed over their power to their enemies, naively believing that the population, eager for democracy, transparency and honesty, would recognize and preserve most of their achievements. Admittedly, the electoral fraud organized to win the referendum of 1946 appears absurd given the legitimacy enjoyed by the real actions of the authorities, the reconstruction of the country, social reforms and peace. These manipulations as well as the blind repression of the workers’ revolts of 1970 and 1976 discredited the elites of the regime. Today the socialist movements of the countries of the South have analyzed these errors and understood that the construction of socialism cannot be done without democratic legitimacy.

The real tragedy of the People’s Republic is that as long as the generations accustomed to traditional authoritarian political institutions lived, the regime did not face very serious challenges. But when the first generation raised in socialist comfort came to maturity, it demanded “roses in addition to bread” – that is, democracy. In this open breach rushed the enemies of socialism and “the Solidarnosc generation” thus prepared the return of Western capitalists on the banks of the Vistula. Moreover, the Communists of the 1970s and 1980s were in the image of their entire society: their Marxist formation was superficial and their values ​​those of individualism and consumerism. They thus contributed to the return of capitalism instead of defending the achievements of the People’s Republic.

Neither did the Polish communists know how to fight the nationalist ideology rooted in the country. By organizing in March 1968 the anti-Semitic campaign which resulted in the departure and annulment of the citizenship of 12,000 Jewish civil servants and government officials, often the people most loyal to the People’s Republic, the Polish United Workers’ Party opened a breach for its own destruction (Starnawski 2017). In the 1980s the party and the state did not really fight actively against the scourge of racism and anti-Semitism. The state even allowed religious orders and Catholic parishes to print antisemitic texts and to publish them in magazines such as “Rycerz Niepolakanej” (private archives). Similarly, in the 1950s and 1960s, the communist state conceded nothing to the Church in the field of the construction of a secular society (removal of religion from schools, women’s rights, egalitarian family code ..), but at the same time it was able to ally itself with a patriotic fringe of the clergy to accompany the Polish colonization of the territories taken from Germany, because, without the presence of the Church, believers would never have been convinced of the durability of Polish power in these regions. The state at the time managed to consider the religious feeling of citizens without giving up its interests to the Vatican. It was different in 1985-89 when Jaruzelski negotiated with the leaders of Solidarnosc through the mediation of Glemp, the Primate of the Church. This interference of the episcopate became so regular that it was made official by the creation of an institution, illegal under Polish law: the Joint Episcopal-Government Commission. This informal group of bishops and politicians has been meeting every three months since 1989. State representatives inform bishops of all bills concerning women, children and the Church. Thus the latter acquired enormous power over the lives of Polish citizens and took the opportunity to prohibit abortion in 1993, prevent any modern sex education policy, limit the right to divorce and of course get rich by recovering the equivalent of 6 billion Zlotys of nationalized land and property. In 1995 the signature of the concordat by the socio-liberal President Kwasniewski sounded the death knell of the work of the People’s Republic in the field of secularism.

The 1956 Revolution and its Consequences in the People’s Republic of Poland

The popular uprising of October 1956 that brought Wladyslaw Gomulka to power and started a profound destalinization of the system has always had a good press, even after the collapse of the communist system and even among nationalist and ultraliberal historians. Public opinion, historians and journalists praised the criticism of “Stalinism” and even the authenticity of the movement of workers’ committees for self-management. What was not said was that Gomulka was supported by the People’s Republic of China and that Zhou Enlai convinced the Soviet Union not to intervene (Drweski 2011).

The first generation intelligentsia of working class origin demanded freedom of expression, the independence of the state vis à vis its powerful ally, while the workers organized works councils in their places of work. From the 1980s until the end of the 1990s right-wing historians and politicians saw in 1956 a precursor of Solidarnosc because the latter presented itself as a movement in favour of workers control. On the other hand, the analysis of the documents of the Party Branch level Organizations -POP- shows that the members of these mass organizations believed they were building a socialist society by putting workers control into practice (Karbowska 1995: 12-13). From these documents emerges a vision of a people genuinely convinced that Poland could really be a state belonging to the people. In that sense, the Polish October is closer to the Prague Spring than to the anti-communist Hungarian insurrection. What brings October 1956 closer to the 1968 movements is the appearance of a personal discourse: the individual, until now non-existent because integrated into a family or a collective, begins to say “I” and to express what it thinks without worrying about the social role it is supposed to play. It appears that the desire to free oneself from the constraints of social norms and hierarchical domination is the result of the dissolution of the traditional patriarchal society resulting from the industrialization and massive urbanization led by the Polish communists since 1945 (Bratkowski Red 1996, Friszke 1994).

Today, some analysts (Szumlewicz, Fidelis) believe that the 1956 uprising was not a step forward, but a stepping back, especially for women. In fact, the Gomulka government abandoned the goal of women’s emancipation through their entry into “male” work sectors and promoted the segregation of women workers in branches of industry designated as ‘female’, domains with low investment and low pay. Similarly, once “Stalinism” was over, there was no longer any question of a policy of sharing household chores and that is how Polish women found themselves again doing the “triple day” – at the same time keeping down a job, doing the housework and rearing children, until the People’s Republic of Poland came to an end. Unlike in the Soviet Union, the women of the People’s Republic of Poland have never had access to prestigious professions, civil and military honours and positions of high responsibility and great power. Stagnation was particularly visible in this area in the 1980s: just think that in recent decades, when the country did not lack educated and competent women, the Central Committee of PUWP had no women! By forgetting the Marxist principles of emancipation of the individual and therefore of women, the system dug its own grave. These anomalies did not go unnoticed by the younger generations who compared them to Western advanced capitalism and did not fail to draw the conclusion that the latter is more progressive for the individual. Worse, it turned out that women born in the People’s Republic of Poland and beneficiaries of all its advances no longer identified with the State and consequently did not defend it in 1989. By their largely passive attitude Polish women allowed not only the capitalist reconquest but also the return of clerical patriarchy. As a result, they were the first to lose their rights such as the right to abortion, separation of Church and State, secular schools and civil marriage. While some women, including the author of these lines, organized the important movement for the defence of the secular state and against the banning of abortion in the years 1989-1992, their initiative was too weak to stop the bulldozer the “transformations” demanded by the Western powers associated with the Vatican, of which Polish women have become hostages. In addition, our older sisters and prominent leaders of Solidarnosc from 1981 to 1989 like Anna Bikont, Helena Luczywo and Joanna Szczesna paved the way for our defeat by helping the union to survive underground and thereby destroy the achievements of the socialist State (Shana Penn).

 

The achievements of the People’s Republic of Poland in the field of foreign policy

Among the positive accomplishments of the People’s Republic of Poland it is important to point out one area rarely mentioned: foreign policy. Yet it was the “Gomulkist” communists who, under the aegis of Zygmunt Modzelewski, (a prominent pre-war communist militant and father of the leftist dissident Karol Modzelewski), minister of foreign affairs between 1945 and 1951, rebuilt the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and transformed it into a resolutely modern institution. So that they could train the new staff coming, for the first time in the history of Poland, directly from the working and peasant classes, Zygmunt Modzelewski retained former members of the aristocratic diplomatic corps. The experienced diplomats taught the newcomers not only international law, but also the secrets of protocol, the customs and niceties of the milieu, foreign languages ​​as well as diplomatic manners. Another important element of the efficiency of the system was the recruitment into the new ministry of young people from Polish emigration to France and Belgium. These Poles brought high political awareness to the ministry because they were often experienced men and women, militants of Western communist organizations, often formerly active members of the anti-Nazi resistance in those countries. These young French-speaking civil servants showed great loyalty towards the People’s Republic of Poland, which has allowed them to make brilliant careers. Before the People’s Republic of Poland formed its own elite, these “French Poles” were a pillar of the reconstruction of the structures of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Often members of the PUWP, their retirement coincided with the end of the People’s Republic of Poland (Karbowska: private archives — testimonies of Adam Karbowski, Maria Borucka Garstka, Sylwester Garstka, Halina Matejczuk).

When he came to power in October 1956, Gomulka and his government resumed the course of foreign policy begun in 1945 and interrupted by Stalinism and the cold war imposed by the West. Naturally, the bedrock of this policy was based on the vital alliance with the Soviet Union, but this alliance had to be based on reciprocity. Thus Gomulka quickly obtained the signature of a bilateral agreement with the USSR governing the operation of the Soviet military bases in Poland. Under the terms of the agreement, Soviet soldiers were subject to the Polish courts, which would silence the national sensibilities of the Polish people and the intellectual elites who remained in the 1960s in the ideological fold of the nationalist right. The Gomulkists also wanted to strengthen the Warsaw Pact as a multilateral alliance, and COMECON (Czubiński 1992: 333-341).

For the Polish communists, the alliance with other socialist countries was obvious for ideological reasons, but also to defend the interests of the country because only the Soviet Union guaranteed the intangibility of the western border of Poland as well as access to markets of the same level of development of the productive forces. For Poles with nationalist views, Poland in ruins could not survive relying solely on the only Western country favourable to its borders, France, especially since France emerged from the war significantly weakened economically and politically. We must never forget that in the first phase of the Cold War from 1950 to 1955 and the founding of the Federal Republic of Germany, the United States and Great Britain supported the West German point of view and more or less openly questioned the Oder-Neisse border. The evidence of the years 1945-1972 is that the West did not support the vital interests of Poland. As long as on German territory the idea of ​​returning to the borders of 1937 remained alive and was even the basis of the new Germany of Adenauer, Poland could not have defended her interests alone against a country quickly rebuilt and heavily militarized by its Anglo-Saxon allies. The Polish people, including its nationalist component, remained traumatized by Hitler’s invasion and supported alliances with countries that had lived through the same nightmare and sought to guard against “German revanchism”. Wladyslaw Gomulka guaranteed that the alliance with the USSR would not be a mere relation of submission because the Polish leader also sought to maintain and develop relations with Western Europe and, as long as it did not hinder his relations with the Soviets, with China (Drwęski 2017).

The year 1956 began a period of international détente. Khrushchev’s destalinization, the fiasco of the last colonial expedition of the West to Suez, the generational changes of the ruling elites in the West, the rapid progress of decolonization, all these elements contribute to the desire for peace that emerged among peoples of the European continent, forcing Western leaders to compromise. General de Gaulle taking power in France in the dramatic context of the Algerian war of decolonization inaugurated a new French policy of independence via à vis US power. Moreover, de Gaulle was respected in Europe as leader of Free France, having led his country to the position of victors over Nazi Germany, co-founder of the United Nations and permanent member of the UN Security Council. Poland, which had a special relationship with France since the 18th century, could not miss such a special opportunity to renew this old relationship. The rapid improvement of relations between France and Poland, despite their membership of the two enemy military blocs, began in 1956 under the impulse of Gaullist diplomats and French speaking and Francophile Gomulkist politicians and officials.

 

The foreign policy of the People’s Republic of Poland with respect to France 1956-1970

French diplomats close to de Gaulle considered the modernizing policy of Gomulka’s Poland with great sympathy, especially Etienne Burin des Roziers, ambassador of France to Poland from 1958 to 1962. Burin des Roziers, who was General Secretary of the Elysée Palace after 1962, even compared the challenges faced by the regime of the People’s Republic of Poland with the efforts undertaken by the Gaullists to modernize France! In his reports, the ambassador expresses the opinion that French aid would lead to a gradual democratization of Poland. Burin des Roziers was a staunch supporter of intense cultural cooperation with the elites of the new Poland, hoping that peaceful and non-politicized exchanges with France would convince Polish scientists, writers and artists of the benefits of Western democracy. (Roziers Burin, MAE Archives, Europe Series, Poland Series N ° 564 / EU, Poland N ° 220, 27.11.1958). It is interesting to note that this theory demonstrated its correctness when, after 20 years of cooperation, the Polish elites coming from the communist system introduced the Western political system in their country; it has to be said however that it was not the Gaullist and French version of Western democracy, but the Anglo-Saxon and West- German version.

In the 1960s French scientific circles were closely interested in the achievements of Polish science. The Polish school of “revisionist Marxism” had achieved international renown. The use of Marxist methodology in human sciences such as sociology, history, archaeology and, of course, economics led to the formulation of a “Polish School of Social Sciences”. French scientists were inspired by the works of economists Oskar Lange, Czesław Bobrowski, Włodzimierz Brusa, historians Tadeusz Manteuffel, Witold Kula, Marian Malowist, Julia Kurbis, Jerzy Gieysztor, and philosopher Adam Schaff. These researchers were often invited to international conferences in Paris and their work was translated and published in France (Daix 95). They collaborated with UNESCO whose headquarters and publishing house are in Paris. This cooperation with UNESCO was in line with the policy of strengthening Poland’s international position in the United Nations system, which was the mainstay of Gomulka’s foreign policy. The Gomulka government was actively involved in UN agencies and the contribution to the dynamic development of this important agency was part of that vision. The People’s Republic of Poland was then involved in many United Nations peace missions and was seen at the time as a near-neutral state because vitally interested in the maintenance of world peace.

The cooperation with the Polish Academy of Sciences PAN was initiated by a world-renowned French historian, Fernand Braudel, director of the 6th Section of the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, specializing in the social sciences. Braudel started visiting Poland from 1956. He was friends with Tadeusz Manteuffel, Director of the Institute of History of the Polish Academy of Sciences and a well-known and influential medieval historian. The two intellectuals organized an active exchange programme between EPHE and Polish universities and research institutes. EPHE invited Polish scientists to colloquia, translated and published their works and also sent French researchers to hold conferences and courses in Poland.

One of the important areas of cooperation was the trips of archaeologists from the Institute of Material Culture in Warsaw who took part in many common archaeological excavations. French medievalists as famous as Emmanuel Leroy Ladurie and Jacques Le Goff forged their methodology in contact with Polish archaeologists from whom they borrowed the concept of “material culture”. These young researchers also had very close personal friendships with their Polish counterparts such as Andrzej Wyrobisz, Bronisław Geremek, Karol Modzelewski and Henryk Samsonowicz, who came to France at that time for scholarships and scientific meetings (Karbowska 1995: 26 -29).

The French government supported Fernand Braudel’s actions by awarding scholarships to PhD students and young researchers from Poland. In the years 1956-1962 France granted up to 300 scholarships a year, scholarships of 6 months or a year, not to mention support for linguistic stays given to students learning French (Archives MAE, Series Cultural Relations, Teaching 1948-59, series Poland, No. 142-147). This was a much larger number of scholarships than during the time of the famous capitalist “democratic transition” of the 1990s during which the French government did not grant more than 50 scholarships per year … Furthermore France facilitated Polish students obtaining scientific visas and scholarships for visits to other European countries whose governments were not friendly with Poland — to Italy, Federal Germany or the Netherlands. It is interesting to remember that in the 1960s a major scientific research project was launched around the Polish diaspora, which still counted a million people. This research was to be conducted by young scientists familiar with Marxism and the use of Marxism in social science research — Pierre Bourdieu, Henri Mendras and René Girard. In the end the project was buried because of the hostility of the Ministry of the Interior whose objective was the swift and smooth assimilation of Polish migrants.

Many beneficiaries of the French-Polish scientific exchanges of this period have enjoyed brilliant political and scientific careers. A notable example may be the life of Bronislaw Geremek. Geremek was awarded a French Government scholarship for his doctorate in the field of medieval history. He lived six years in Paris; first from 1956 to 1958 as a student and then as Director of the Center for Polish Civilization at the Sorbonne from 1962 to 1965. This politician, who was subsequently an active adviser to Solidarnosc and a gravedigger of the People’s Republic of Poland, was in his youth a beneficiary of the foreign policy of the 1960s. The life of Geremek remains emblematic of this elite promoted by the Polish United Worker Party—Geremek was until 1968 secretary of the Party Branch of the Scientific Agency of the Polish Academy of Sciences at Paris, rue de Lauriston—who in the 1980s turned wholeheartedly to capitalism and helped to build the Western system in their country, at whatever cost to the Polish people and for the future of the country. Friend of Jacques Delors, builder of the Liberal and Federal European Union, Geremek ended his career as Minister of Foreign Affairs, where he completed the entry of Poland into the European Union. He was later Member of the European Parliament and promoted the European Constitutional Treaty which the French people democratically rejected in 2005! Geremek died in July 2008 in a suspicious car accident as he was beginning to question the perverted political system he had so much helped to build.

The French were at the time also interested in co-operation with the higher education sector which was developing very dynamically in Poland. France offered the Poles an opening to the Western world through the French language. The Gaullist objective of making French the first Western language in the Eastern Bloc came together with the project of the Gomulkists to quickly open Poland to a world in full transformation. Since 1956, the Ecole Supérieure Pédagogique in Sèvres had been home to Polish students, future teachers of French, interpreters and translators, as well as diplomats. Teachers of French were there given support and teaching materials to facilitate their teaching work in many Polish cities, universities, teacher training institutes and Polytechnics. The purpose of these exchanges was to make French not only the language of literature or the social sciences, but also the language ​​of technology, exact sciences and new technologies.

French universities and research centres invited mathematicians, physicists, chemists, biologists, geologists, geneticists and agricultural specialists from Poland. These exchanges led in particular to the foundation in 1960 of the Institute of Applied Linguistics at the University of Warsaw whose first two working languages ​​were Russian and French. Following the lectures given in 1957 by Professor Jacques Kayser at the Institute of Political Sciences of the University of Warsaw, a project of cooperation between this institute and the prestigious Paris Institute of Political Sciences was born, with the aim of training future Polish diplomats. (Karbowska 1995: 32).

We should also mention exchanges organized by museums, libraries, health agencies, youth organizations, and not just those related to the Communist Party. In the years 1956-58 many French parliamentarians visited Poland while representatives of Polish local authorities led negotiations in France as part of the town twinning movement.

Town twinnings were an important part of the East-West desire for détente in Europe in the 1960s. While the two opposing military blocs had their whole terrifying nuclear arsenal targeting enemy cities, grassroots citizens were working for peace by organizing trips, cultural exchanges and cooperation projects as part of the Town Twinning movement. This initiative began with communist and left wing municipalities in France, Italy and Great Britain, but the twinning movement quickly spread to cities run by Socialists and Christian Democrats. These twin cities still exist and even constitute in the age of globalization an interesting symbol of what intercultural cooperation can be on a basis of reciprocity and equality, far from the values of competition that are the plague of contemporary civilization. Even the European Union, so quick to tax the socialist and communist European legacy of “totalitarianism” supports Twinnings by awarding them a special grant under the “Europe for Citizens” program.

Wladyslaw Gomulka, with Prime Minister Jozef Cyrankiewicz and Foreign Minister Adam Rapacki were conducting an economic policy of active cooperation with France, despite the long-standing problem of pre-war Polish debt. In 1945 the People’s Republic of Poland did not renege on the debt of the Second Polish Republic and thus inherited it. This debt consisted of loans granted in 1918 by France, Great Britain and the United States to create the structures of the Polish state, its army, its central bank, and investments essential to its survival such as the port of Gdynia, railways and roads. The Western powers also demanded compensation for companies owned by Western capitalists and nationalized by the first Gomulka government in 1946. Never mind that these firms were in ruins and their owners had been collaborators of the Nazis. And never mind that Poland had paid her debt in the blood of the Polish soldiers who took part in the Battle of France in 1940 and fought on all the allied fronts during the war. In 1947 the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the first Gomulka government, Zygmunt Modzelewski, agreed to negotiate the payment of the debt. But Poland could not offer France other products than those she needed herself to survive (coal, agricultural products). De Gaulle’s first government, however, did not demand immediate payment of 4.2 billion Francs of debt but merely a compromise formula of taking a fixed sum from the balance of payments between the two countries. Thus, the increase in the sum would depend on the increase in the volume of commercial exchanges between the two countries. This system suited perfectly the communist government — Stalin then demanded that Poland refuse Marshall Plan aid, when the country badly needed funds to recover from the ruins, to build and equip its industry, carry out ambitious educational, cultural, social and economic projects emblematic of the new system. Thus, the Polish government linked its existence to the continuation of exchanges with the West and could hope to loosen the Soviet stranglehold a little bit. In fact, Polish coal was still sought after in these post-war times, while Poland wanted access to the technologies owned by French capital: equipment for the steel and naval industries, road construction, airports, tunnels, and power plants technologies.

It should not be forgotten that at that time there was state planning of the economy and foreign trade in both countries. The 1947 system, renewed in the 1957 agreement, seemed a win-win formula.

As early as 1956, Poland sent specialists to train in French techniques for the construction of roads, highways, bridges, airports, electrification of railway lines, operation of thermal power stations, and coal extraction and steel technologies. An agreement on the construction of an oil refinery was signed between the Petroleum Institute of Krakow and the French company ELF Aquitaine. The Atomic Energy Commission signed an agreement with the Polish Nuclear Institute for the building of an experimental reactor at Swierk. French engineers trained Polish specialists in modern technologies of the agri-business industries, and new building techniques for housing construction. In fact, the mass building of concrete housing progressed rapidly in both countries and was the result of cooperation between the ministries of construction. In both countries, it was necessary to house millions of people and to rebuild cities completely ravaged by war. The French were interested in the solutions invented by Polish architects and town planners and in the discoveries of Polish scientists in the field of agronomy and agrobiology. Cooperation agreements were signed by the Ministries of Industry and Agriculture. In the following decade this cooperation led to the production in Poland under licence of many products made by technological processes imported from France, including for example a whole range of cheeses such as Rokpol, the Polish “Brie” and “Camembert” … (MAE Archives, Europe Series, Poland Sub-Series, No. 247). The inventory of this close co-operation encompassing all aspects of economic life and mass consumption remains to be done.

 

Policy of the People’s Republic of Poland at the UN and vis à vis the Arab and African countries

The elites in power in the People’s Republic of Poland in the 1960s took a close interest in the birth of the European Economic Community, but they supported “the Europe of the nations” dear to de Gaulle, which corresponded to the patriotism of the Gomulkists. However, Adam Rapacki’s vision was not to tie his homeland to the narrow framework of European problems. On the contrary, he was the first Polish statesman to have imagined Poland as an actor on the international stage in the context of multilateral UN cooperation (Czubiński 1992: 333-336). Poland became an important promoter of international economic cooperation within the UN Social and Economic Council. Poland therefore supported the creation of GATT and wished to sign an agreement with this new institution (Karbowska 1995: 41). France supported Poland in this process of inclusion in the new world economic system, but Britain and the US opposed her. Alas, these efforts towards integration stopped with the departure of Rapacki and de Gaulle found in other Eastern countries partners equivalent to Poland, such as Romania. De Gaulle’s very official visit to Poland in May 1967 was the culmination of the decade of Franco-Polish cooperation. But it also marked the beginning of the end of this original relationship. When pro-liberal and pro-American political forces regained power in France in 1970, Poland regained for its Western partner the status it had left only momentarily: that of a politically submissive country, a supplier of cheap labour and raw materials.

The policy of Adam Rapacki had a double objective: to make Poland independent of Western powers, but also to strengthen it vis à vis the all-powerful Soviet Union. It was with this in mind that the statesman involved his country in building the capacity of the United Nations and in diversifying contacts to lay the foundations for new alliances with new partners. Rapacki signed a bilateral cooperation agreement with the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia and the GDR. But he also initiated a rapprochement with Yugoslavia in 1958 and looked with sympathy on the movement of Non-Aligned Countries led by Tito (Kukułka 1994: 151-155).

Unable to join the movement without risking the hostility of the USSR, Poland developed bilateral co-operation with its member countries. It is in this decade that the Arab and African policy of Communist Poland was established. Poland opened consulates and embassies in all the decolonized countries: from 1945-9 in Syria, Egypt, Lebanon, then after 1956 in Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Iraq and Libya, then from 1960 in all the African countries south of the Sahara. Poland sent food and pharmaceutical products to the Guinea of ​​Sékou Touré, victim of sanctions since independence. The establishment of these relations was also the proof that another anti-imperialist policy was possible, a policy of “East-South” cooperation and this despite the need to keep up links with Gaullist France, which remained a neo-colonial power on the African continent. But Polish diplomats managed skilfully to solve this equation, believing that respect for the interests of the peoples would eventually overcome old imperial ambitions. Moreover, to communicate with African and Arab elites, the Poles used … the French language, which had the effect of increasing the influence of la Francophonie! The French language then began to acquire the status of “language of resistance” which would not have displeased the faithful Gaullists …

Cultural cooperation was the fastest growing area: exchanges covered fields as varied as archaeology, history, pedagogy, medicine, documentation and museology. The Polish School of Archaeology and Heritage Conservation was known in all the countries of the Middle East. Polish archaeologists initiated major cultural discoveries such as the excavations of Palmyra, Ptolemaic Alexandria and many other sites. Polish specialists of the Institute of Mediterranean Archaeology were world famous. Their works gave rise to exhibitions, popular science books and films. For Poland and for the Poles these successes were a source of patriotic pride, but also helped to open their country to other cultures and realities than just the West. Books, films and TV shows revealed the cultural richness of Arab countries, the Middle East and Africa. This scientific and technical cooperation thus prepared the ground for the creation of tourism exchanges launched in the following decade.

In the wake of the opening up to the “Third World”, Polish publishers brought out translations of books from the Arab world. For this they needed translators, and institutes for teaching Arabic and African languages were created. These studies were considered prestigious and entry to these institutes was restricted to the best students. Most students completed their course in Syria to study Arabic. Dictionaries were published and literary works such as in 1975 the monumental 11 volumes edition of the tales of the “Thousand and One Nights”, richly illustrated with beautiful miniatures. The People’s Republic of Poland was not a country of Islamophobes and xenophobes — in 1987 queues formed in front of bookstores by enthusiasts eager to buy the first complete translation of the Koran into Polish! Countries of Arabic and Islamic culture were then considered as allies of Poland in its struggle for peace in the world and for social and economic development. Poland welcomed many students from these countries to study medicine or engineering. In the 1970s and 1980s Arabic-speaking students were joined by their counterparts from Africa. Cooperation engineers and technicians went to Algeria, Libya, Iraq and Syria where they built and ran factories. Nurses and doctors continued this cooperation even after the fall of communism. People in the West were surprised by the presence of Bulgarian nurses in Libya, but the citizens of Eastern Europe were not surprised because Bulgarian cooperation with Arab countries in the medical field was well known. . In the popular imagination, going to work in an Arab country in the framework of cooperation was an interesting cultural and human adventure, as well as a good thing economically, because expatriate technicians were then well paid, in dollars. But the long years of cooperation also brought together societies, families, resulting in friendships and mixed marriages … Even today Poland and the Poles have a surprising capital of sympathy among the peoples of this region. This capital is the direct result of the peaceful work of the People’s Republic of Poland. It must be said that the current capitalist regime has long ago adopted the absurd American fundamentalist ideology of “a clash of civilizations”.

In 1990, many Polish companies worked in Iraq, employing Polish staff. The United States caused enormous damage to these companies by demanding an immediate break in diplomatic relations but also by seizing for their own advantage the information that the Polish secret services held on the country. For the Iraqis the submission of Poland to the United States and the transformation of the Poles into American auxiliaries were felt as a great and painful betrayal.

The Arab and African policy of the People’s Republic of Poland has been totally forgotten. No complete historical research has been done on it. In ten years Poland closed its embassies on the African continent one after another, keeping only Dakar, Abidjan and Nairobi. The closure of the Polish embassy in a country as important as Congo DRC in 2006 shows that modern Poland no longer needs diplomatic missions because it no longer has its own foreign policy. Existing missions carry out a policy in line with the interests of the EU and NATO consisting mainly of stopping migration flows and providing information to the true masters of Polish politics under cover of humanitarian activity or subsidies to liberal NGOs. The rare examples of an independent policy on the part of Polish diplomats as in Morocco in the years 2001-2010 were quickly brought back into line.

Adam Rapacki wanted the People’s Republic of Poland to become an actor of peace in the world. This is why he wanted his country to have a strong role in the United Nations and proposed in 1960 the plan for the demilitarization of Europe known as the “Rapacki Plan”. This plan provided for the creation of an area where atomic weapons would be banned and which would include Poland, reunified Germany and Czechoslovakia. Fifteen years after the war, the Poles were fiercely opposed to nuclear weapons. This project was a symbol of Poland’s vital interests for peace in Europe. It was also a step in the direction of a neutral Poland, not a member of any military bloc. It was that peaceful and peace-loving Poland, solid in her friendships and respected by all, that was the ideal of Rapacki — and of many of his fellow citizens, until 1989. (Kukułka 1994: 126).

Unfortunately the Rapacki Plan had no chance of being adopted. Even France did not support it, de Gaulle being on the way to his own atomic weapon that he did not want challenged. Poland remained the object of the alliances and after the departure of Rapacki in 1968 she seemed content with the position of “the freest block in the barracks”. Little by little, she fell back into the dependency of indebtedness and borrowing in exchange for Western technologies. In 1989 Poland merely changed masters, passing from an Eastern to a Western overlord. During the last 20 years the dependent status of Poland was concealed by its entry into the European Union. But renewed tension between Russia and the United States in the wake of the 2014 Ukrainian crisis has revealed the country’s difficult subordinate position.

Caught between American pressures, the visceral Russophobia of the present self-proclaimed elites and the historical repugnance of the people for war, Poland is no longer the stable and prosperous country to which its citizens aspired when they accepted willy-nilly the capitalist transformation. Today we see that the greatest achievement of the People’s Republic of Poland was peace, which lasted 45 years in Europe. This peace is threatened today and we must study the work of our ancestors, and preserve the best of what they have left us, for our own good.

Translation from French by Catherine Winch

 

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Archives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Series Cultural Relations, Teaching 1948-1959, Poland Sub-series, N°142-147

 

Archvies of Ministry of Economy and Finance, Treasury Department, Bilatera Relations, B 556 –B 563

Treasury Department, International Relations – Eastern Europe: B.44.071 – B. 44.075 and B 624, B 625, B. 628, B.629. B.630. B.632

Treasury Department, Bilateral Relations: Poland. B. 556 to 568

 

Archive of the Practical Scholl of High Studies (Ecole Pratiques des Hautes Etudes), Cooperation with Poland: N°36-36, archife of Fernand Braudel and archive of Clemens Heller

 

Archives of the Ministry of Industry – Ministère de l’Industrie.

Department of Iron and Steel Industrie, F 12/11021

Department of Energy and Raw Materials, Directorate of Hydrocarbons : N°900317 art 14, N°890566, art. 35-35, art. 77, N°860177 art.11

Service of Raw Materials and mining ressources, N°810370 art.16-22

Departement of Mecanic and Electric Industries ; N°771530 art.169, N°771528 art.90, N°771526 art.20, N°771524 art.186, N°771522 art.53, N°771520 art.191

Departement of Transport: N°771523 art. 68, art.405

Service of International Relations : N°771385 art.36, N°800116 art.25-42

General Direction of Textile and Leathers: F12/10379, F12/10380

 

Archives of Minstry for Transport – Ministère de l’Equipement et des Transports :

Cabinet of Albin Chalendon N°770813 art.10

Ministry of Merchant Navy: N°78413 art.300-304

 

Archives of the General Directorate of Scientific and Technical Research – Direction Générale de la Recherche Scientifique et Technique : N°770606 art.33, N°820254 art.83, art.111-112, N°810244 art.179, 186 i 188

 

 

Poland:

 

Archives of the Central Committee o the PUWP, section of Foreign Affairs 1956-1970, documents of the Basic Party Organizations in France France: 237/XXII/662-665 ; 237/XXII/675-676 ; 337/XXII/682 ; 237/XXII/702-706 ; 237/XXII/790-791 ; 237/XXII/862