100. Memorandum From Philip H. Tresize of the Policy Planning Staff to the Director of the Staff (Bowie)1


  • Further Thoughts on Poland
It seems to me that the crucial feature in the Polish scene is to be found in the forces that brought Gomulka back to power and enabled and pushed him to take the anti-Soviet stand that he did.

I would think it plain, after Poznan, that popular pressures had made the Communist Party itself not wholly reliable as an instrument of administration and control in Poland.

We are much too prone to forget that Communists are human too. It must have been difficult in Poland to be the agent of a regime subservient to the Russians and responsible for a miserable economic situation as well. When the Soviets began to de-Stalinize and to talk of different roads to Socialism, it was inevitable that many of these people should have swung around to nationalist, anti-Soviet attitudes because these were the attitudes of their constituents, and indeed of their Polish selves. The Party officials and activists—the essential nucleus of the control system—probably were ready to be subverted, in this sense, rather quickly. Poznan demonstrated how far the process had gone.

Gomulka, who is a Pole, an anti-Stalinist, and evidently a legitimate party hero beyond that, was trotted out as a response to this intra-Party restiveness, which in turn traces to popular discontents. He is a people’s choice, once removed. His indispensable characteristic, from the point of view of the other party leaders, is that he can be expected to command the loyalty of the all important Communist cadres and thereby to keep the system running.
It is not believable, however, that Gomulka and his nationalist-Communist following will simply be able to carry on a program slightly modified from the past. Everybody seems to agree that the bleak economic situation was the instant cause of popular unrest. And why are living standards so low? Because the Plan requires that they be low. Willy-nilly, the Plan will have to be changed. Pressures within the party will assure that.
In other words, the emphasis in Poland will have to shift, noticeably, from heavy industry and military security to welfare. I don’t suggest that this will take place in one great swoop. There will be heavy transitional costs in changing the economic program and this [Page 267] fact, plus inertia plus the Russians, will limit the pace of change. The direction of change, nevertheless, is for practical purposes given by the situation in Poland. I do not see how it can be stopped or reversed, short of the reoccupation of Poland.

This is of the most far-reaching significance. For one thing, it will have direct effects throughout the Bloc. Polish coal used to warm Polish houses or to exchange for Swedish consumer goods will not be available for, say, East German industry. All of the Plans will need adjustment, downward, as the Poles change their Plan.

More important, the pressures elsewhere to imitate the Poles will be irresistible. We can be sure that Communist officials in the other satellites are similarly susceptible to popular attitudes. They too are going to press for measures to placate the workers and other articulate sections of the population. To keep the domestic Communist parties in control, the shift toward welfare goals will have to be a general one. The alternative will be to make the Soviet armed forces a direct governing instrument in Eastern Europe.

It is useful to remember that the Bloc nations, like all full-employment economies, have no margin for maneuver. If they are to have big housing programs, then investment and labor have to be diverted from industry. If agriculture is to get more investment, some other sector has to get less. Even if total output were to continue in these circumstances to grow rapidly—as could happen—its composition would tend to become more like our own or that of Western Europe and less like that of a single-mindedly military state.
That is a consummation to be welcomed for itself. One might suspect, moreover, that it will carry with it softening tendencies in the political field as well. The main rationale for the terror has always been to repress a population resentful of the privations imposed on it. If the privations become more bearable, the excuse for terror will diminish. Not that Communist regimes will shortly become liberal democracies with effective Bills of Rights. They may become gradually less repressive, however.
I come back to the point that all this will take some considerable time. If we look for the demise of Communism next year we shall be disappointed. If we are patient, and if nothing happens that the Soviets can construe as a new and important threat to their national security, we have good reason to hope for a desirable modification in the internal operations of the European Soviet bloc.
We need not be much concerned, it seems to me, if the Poles come back from Moscow next month with a big Soviet loan. This won’t undo what has happened so far as “independence” from the USSR is at issue. And if the Soviets are willing to finance more consumer goods for the Poles—which is what the loan will amount to—there is much to be said, from our point of view, for privately cheering [Page 268] Moscow on. There will have to be a net deduction from Bloc resources, no matter how one views it. (Indeed, though I would not press the point too far, it may be better the Soviets should help to finance the new course than that we do so. For our aid might help, all things equal, to sustain a Polish program emphasizing heavy industry, without reducing total Bloc capabilities at all.)
Our policy line in this limited sense is clearly enough marked. We should lie low, seek little, and reap the sure rewards of patience. If the Poles should look to us or to Western Europe for economic help, it would be necessary politically to respond, but even in this we ought to proceed carefully. A process is under way that can be checked only by forceful Russian action. Although there might be many gains for us if we could stir things up to the point of causing direct Soviet intervention, that course would carry very sizable risks. We can make smaller but still substantial gains at virtually no risk. I would suppose it to be prudent foreign policy to take these latter gains.
Philip H. Trezise2
  1. Source: Department of State, PPS Files: Lot 66 D 487. Confidential.
  2. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.