75. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs (Wilcox) to the Acting Secretary of State1


  • Arguments Re UN Action on the Polish Situation

Pursuant to your request, IO has examined the arguments that can be adduced with respect to possible UN action on the Poznan riots. As was indicated in our meeting with you today,2 the reasons why it is not feasible to seek United Nations action at this time on the Polish situation are more suitable for private discussion with members of the Congress most directly interested in the Polish situation than for use in public statements. However, should it become necessary for the Department to issue a public statement, I believe we can reexamine the arguments and adapt them to this purpose.

As you requested at our meeting, I am undertaking, in collaboration with H, to telephone certain key members of the Congress. Following are the arguments that we plan to use with members of the Congress: [Page 198]

Article 2(7) of the Charter states that the United Nations is not authorized to intervene in matters essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state. A majority of Members, including the colonial powers who desire to maintain intact the application of Article 2(7) to colonial issues, could be expected to regard the Polish situation as essentially a domestic problem. Their position would be modified only if we could show conclusively that the situation in Poland actually threatens international peace and security. Moreover, even if we could successfully overcome their arguments in this instance, it would open the way to requests from the Communist bloc and from the Afro-Asian states to consider other matters also of a domestic character, such as the Negro question in the United States, lynchings, or potentially embarrassing domestic situations elsewhere. The Latin American states, for example, frequently have to cope with mob action and would be unlikely to favor any action suggesting UN competence in such cases.
Many Members are reluctant to have the UN consider what they regard as propaganda issues in the cold war on which no constructive action can be expected. They fear that, if the UN deals with matters of this character, its prestige will suffer and its ability to deal with problems outside the East-West conflict may be reduced. At this time particularly, even though the Geneva spirit is somewhat tarnished, it would be extremely difficult to obtain support for what a majority of Members would regard as a cold war maneuver.
If we nevertheless succeeded in getting the Polish case before the UN, we must anticipate a strong counter-attack from the USSR and its satellites on the ground that the US played a role itself in instigating the riots. Certain aspects of the Mutual Security Program would be cited in support of this allegation. Despite our ability to refute such baseless charges, UN discussion would create enough doubt to deprive us of a decisive moral verdict.
If we sought UN action unsuccessfully or with inconclusive results, it could adversely affect continued US support for the UN. Indecisive UN action might also give the USSR a propaganda advantage in the present situation it would otherwise not enjoy.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 748.00/7–656. Confidential. Drafted by Elizabeth A. Brown (IO/UNP). Also sent to Murphy; a note on the source text indicates it was seen by Hoover and Dulles. This memorandum is a reworking of a previous memorandum from Wilcox to Hoover through Murphy, July 5, in which Wilcox argued against positive action in the United Nations on Poznań on the grounds that many members would see it as interference in Poland’s domestic affairs and would be reluctant to involve themselves in essentially a propaganda issue where constructive action was unlikely. Wilcox suggested the more limited approach of raising the issue in ECOSOC and sending a note based on the ECOSOC statement to the U.N. Secretary-General for distribution. (Ibid., 748.00/7–556)
  2. Apparent reference to the Acting Secretary’s Staff Meeting of July 6, 9:15 a.m., during which the matter was briefly discussed. (Ibid., Secretary’s Staff Meetings: Lot 63 D 75) At the Acting Secretary’s Staff Meeting of July 5, 9:15 a.m., IO was directed to “prepare for the Secretary’s information a memorandum setting forth our views with regard to UN action on the Poznan riots.” (Ibid.)