71. Telegram From the Embassy in Poland to the Department of State1
14. Department pass Defense. Reference: Embassy telegram 9 repeated Moscow 3, Bonn 2.2 Following is Embassy’s estimate basic and immediate causes Poznan demonstrations, subject change as additional information becomes available.
Workers J. Stalin Metal Factory Poznan planned demonstration Thursday, June 28 (Embassy telegram 9) as protest economic conditions and possibly against imprisonment workers delegation. Demonstration as economic affair apparently planned considerably in advance, culmination long brewing dispute workers over decreased pay scales (even previously low), bad working conditions, lack overtime pay and alleged ineptitude management. Possible that workers intentionally scheduled demonstration during Poznan Fair to impress foreigners with economic facts of life Poland. While bread shortage mentioned among slogans during demonstration, Embassy believes this merely symbolic inability workers procure necessities life with low pay scales, prevailing high prices. Other food items such as fruits, vegetables, dairy products currently in equally short supply and high priced (seasonal situation this time year before crops). High prices clothing, shoes also frequent cause grumbling. (Embassy believes no basic food shortage exists; problem is rather gap between food prices and wage level urban dwellers and workers.)
Demonstration by workers re economic grievances fanned into riot with hastily improvised political slogans by combination circumstances cited Embassy telegram 9.
Moreover, presence many foreigners Poznan and contrast Polish austerity with foreign wealth (apparent in foreign cars downtown as well as in foreign consumers goods exhibited at fair), Polish export consumers goods exhibited at fair but not available domestic consumption, all likely serve increase dissatisfaction Poznan residents this time. No concrete indication this second phase demonstration planned in advance. Banners with political slogans apparently hastily prepared as demonstration gained headway; arms in hands demonstrators reportedly obtained police, army or Stalin Factory after rioting began.[Page 188]
In short Embassy believes demonstration began as workers grievance meeting but soon developed into opportunity display not only dissatisfaction economic conditions but also display such basic sentiments as hostility USSR and Poles desire independence.
Some diplomats (recalling Communist strategy and tactics in past) speculating regime elements planned riots one or other ulterior purposes, viz: (1) Anti-Ochab elements instigated disturbance as means discrediting Ochab and forcing him and cohorts from regime; (2) regime itself fostered riot to provide excuse for repressing public which was getting out of hand as result “liberalization”; (3) security police (UB) purposely tantalized crowd in order convert peaceful demonstration into riot giving UB chance reinstitute more repression and regain its former prestige and autonomy which suffered under de-Stalinization.
Since Ochab apparently hated even by regime colleagues and tainted brush Stalin, he and followers could well lose positions as immediate result riot. It does not follow, however, that his enemies would resort to highly dangerous expedient fostering riot which might easily get out of hand in country like Poland where majority people bitterly anti-regime.
Moreover, even if Ochab’s enemies willing take this chance, Poznan would not likely be chosen as locale at time when hundreds Western businessmen there to carry back eyewitness reports very damaging to regime.
Similarly, regime itself unlikely take risk serious riots and unfavorable publicity only to provide excuse reinstate more repressive measures. Regime has probably learned past 11 years that repression is one principal factor antagonizing public whose resentment clearly evident many ways, including lethargic response contribution to failure economy operate. Government may, of course, institute more repressive measures, if they appear necessary but Embassy believes this would be done only as last resort. In any event, it would not signify that regime planned riots to provide excuse reinstate more repression.
Thesis number 3 somewhat more plausible. UB probably does resent loss former power and autonomy and some of its more irresponsible elements might have provoked crowd purposely. However, such action would be spur of moment spark rather than planned cause per se.