Questions to the narrator
- 00:08Why did you, as a young man, think that communism was the solution to the problems of Poland?
- 02:49But the Polish communist party was… the communist movement was actually quite small in Poland. And after the war, the Polish communist party effectively took over and, some people say, describe the Polish communist party as the Soviet cuckoo in the Polish
- 07:04But are you saying that, in fact, the Poles, people like yourself, decided that only the Soviet Union could help Poland, that the West had abandoned her in the war? So after the war you looked to the Soviet Union alone as the only power that would save yo
- 08:16I understand this anti-German feeling but I was, what I was trying to get at was whether you’d decided to…
- 10:13So you decided after the war the Soviet Union was the only hope for Poland.
- 11:18After the war, why did the Polish communist party effectively decide to take the leading role, to take complete power and, in fact, merge with or abolish not only the right wing parties but also the left wing parties, the Peasant Party?
- 14:56But how did… Let’s just take it sort of further in to beyond the post-war world, beyond the post-war period or the immediate post-war period. Why, in ‘46, did you decide that… I mean, essentially what I’m saying is didn’t you really decide that only…
TranscriptPlease note that this transcript is based on audio tracks and doesn't have to match exactly the video
Why did you, as a young man, think that communism was the solution to the problems of Poland?
It was in the 30s when I joined the communist student organisation. I think that the main reason for this was the crisis of the 1930s, which in Poland was especially very hard. I couldn’t bear the absurdity of the situation when, on the one hand, we had millions of people thrown out of work in our country and, on the other, such a poverty, so many needs of our country. And it seemed to me that the communists showed the solution — revolution — which could change everything. And the Polish crisis was a part of a world crisis, we thought is crisis of capitalism. There is only one country in Europe which shows that it could be immune to crisis — it was the Soviet Union. I remember a booklet published in Warsaw in the 30s under the title “Wyścig pracy,” which means in English “A Race in Work,” something like that. And there was a chart on the front page showing some black lines going down for capitalist countries and only one line — red — going upwards, very steeply upwards — that of the Soviet Union. It was another convincing argument, you know. Very, maybe, amusing stories that when I told just that to a meeting of students some time ago, they burst into laugh because they couldn’t imagine that there was a time when there was such a difference, you know, that the Soviet Union was this country showing, you know, the way also, something like that. And this is very interesting because it was, after all, after years of, as you call it, communist indoctrination of those students in Poland.
But the Polish communist party was… the communist movement was actually quite small in Poland. And after the war, the Polish communist party effectively took over and, some people say, describe the Polish communist party as the Soviet cuckoo in the Polish nest. It was a Soviet implantation, essentially, in Poland. What is your view of that?
Well, I must say at first that, already before the war, I withdraw from the communist movement in ‘37 when I was shocked by the Soviet purges and also by this absurd cult about Stalin. And I wasn’t the only one who reacted so to those Soviet events. But then came war. At the beginning of the war the Soviet Union seemed to us no better than junior partner of Hitler’s Germany in attacking Poland, partitioning our country and persecuting Poles. Well, we didn’t know at that time about these so-called secret protocols in pacts between Germany and the Soviet Union. But we saw the results of those protocols on ourselves, so to say. By the way, they are not published yet in my country and also in the Soviet Union. But I rejoined the communist movement during the war. This was not an easy decision. I remember the summer of 1940, after the fall of France. This was perhaps the most glum and tragic time in our life. We had our hopes on Britain. I still remember those famous words “We shall never surrender.” We hoped, of course, that United States will come, one day, to the rescue. But I must say that most Poles, not only on the left but also in centre or right organisation in the Polish underground, were certain that there will be war in the East. Europe was at that time divided between two superpowers, one could say, Soviet and German spheres of interests. But we were certain that there will be this conflict and it was at that time when I started to realise that for Poland, which is so squeezed between the two powerful neighbours, the only future is — when I speak about what I remember from those time — the only possible future is when these two neighbours are fighting each other.
But are you saying that, in fact, the Poles, people like yourself, decided that only the Soviet Union could help Poland, that the West had abandoned her in the war? So after the war you looked to the Soviet Union alone as the only power that would save you from Germany and…
Well, at that time Hitler’s Germany seemed almost invincible. What Germany did in Scandinavia and in France, what it almost did against Britain. And, you know, the whole tone of the German propaganda at that time, which was influencing after all. Not only that: the tragic situation was that German soldiers at that time, in the occupied Polish territories, dazed by their military victories, behaved really like they were believing they are a master race. And Poles are a troublesome tribe.
I understand this anti-German feeling but I was, what I was trying to get at was whether you’d decided to…
Yes, I’m just trying to answer your question that one had to ask oneself: Where could you find, you know, these forces which could oppose Germany. Well, United States, of course, but they are far away. One doesn’t know when and how long will it take. And this war, this deadly German war machine, which was quite literally destroying Poland, its people, its culture, everything Polish with gathering momentum. So well, you can of course hope for a future but the deciding problem is to survive. Well, and so, you know, the hope that Germans will have another opposing force to fight against and the Russian territories. And, well, something which history says about Russia, which wasn’t conquered. So these were, I think, I couldn’t say hopes but still some thoughts that it might be helpful for us.
So you decided after the war the Soviet Union was the only hope for Poland.
No, it wasn’t, and as you well know, there was something like three powers alliance, which decided about Polish questions without the Poles. This is another problem which maybe we could discuss. But the question was that it wasn’t the Poles who decided that they will find themselves in the Soviet sphere of interest, so on Soviet-dominated territories. It was Britain, the United States and the Soviet Union who decided it together.
After the war, why did the Polish communist party effectively decide to take the leading role, to take complete power and, in fact, merge with or abolish not only the right wing parties but also the left wing parties, the Peasant Party?
To answer this question, I am afraid we have, again, to go a little back. There is not so well known fact that the communists in Poland tried during the war to reach an agreement with the parties of the so-called Exile Government alliance. It was at the beginning of ’43, when Gomułka, on behalf of the Polish Workers’ Party, started negotiations with those four big parties of the Polish underground, which supported the London Government. And he proposed them to create something like cooperation in the common struggle against Germans. And there were protracted talks; three or four times they met. I know something about those talks because I was at that time close to Gomułka. I just worked in — as one of the editors and Gomułka was responsible for the press, underground press of the Party. Anyway, after these protracted talks, we got the answer “no.” The proposal was rejected. And, of course, one can understand suspicions and other reasons for our opponents because they were opponents at that time. But it seems to me that it was the turning point in our modern history. I mean, in the modern history of Poland. For two reasons: one that such a cooperation between the communists and the four parties supporting the London Government would change the internal situation in Poland, would make the Polish underground stronger, would create a situation which might influence even bigger things. I’m just trying to think that the fact that Poles were isolated, I mean London Poles, in ‘44 from all the Allied political councils was also connected just with that what we are we are talking now.
But how did… Let’s just take it sort of further in to beyond the post-war world, beyond the post-war period or the immediate post-war period. Why, in ‘46, did you decide that… I mean, essentially what I’m saying is didn’t you really decide that only…
First of all, the Polish communist party changed because it hadn’t the chance to cooperate with those London supporting parties.
And this is perhaps the most important part. Secondly, Stalin, at the beginning of ’43, being still in a very desperate situation (it was still before Stalingrad), was perhaps not so sure of himself as he was half a year or a year later. Thirdly, there was no attempt to negotiate directly between Poland and the Soviet Union, questions of which could divide us. And then came this problem of Polish Eastern Territories. And, unfortunately, the position taken by the Allied Government, by Britain and the United States, which went, well, just as Stalin wanted it — you know that.
Yes, I understand that, yes.
And it was already in October ‘39 when the British government gave the Soviet government to understand — the Soviet government, which at that time just, well, abused the British that they are the imperialist but the Germans were friends at that time but the British government gave them to understand that, well, maybe if you would change your policy, maybe we could acquiesce to your gains of eastern Poland.
Jerzy Morawski (1932–2008)
Jerzy Morawski ( born on March 6, 1932, – died February 4, 2008) - Polish communist politican, one of the leading figures in the Polish communist party PZPR Central Committee in 1955-1960, a member of the PZPR Central Committee Political Office in 1956-1960, the Ambassador of Polish People’s Republic to Great Britain in 1964-1969. Deputy Chairman of Highest Control Chamber, Member of the National Council and Polish People’s Republic Parliament 1952-1965.