89. Telegram From the Embassy in Poland to the Department of State1

323. Department’s A–288 June 292 and Embassy despatch 80 August 21.3 Embassy’s views on “liberalization” Poland basically those transmitted Embtel 8924 even though subsequent developments have resulted some shift of emphasis by Polish regime.

Polish regime thoroughly shaken by unexpected Poznan riots which must have raised urgent questions both here and in Moscow re feasibility and potentialities control liberalization program Poland and world-wide repercussions following therefrom. Simultaneously, regime apparently felt forced go all out in attempt redress worker grievances and woo general public. After admitting loss contact with masses and indifference their demands, party and government pronouncements stressed importance raising standard living, upping wages, and providing more and better housing, producing and importing [Page 245] more consumer goods, and took some immediate steps relieve common burden Poznan workers involved June 28 demonstration. On country wide basis, regime also wooed masses by vaunting allegedly increasing “socialist legality” (release 36,000 under amnesty, guarantee non-recurrence security police “deviations”, etc.), “rehabilitating” former leaders dead or alive (principally erstwhile party wheels Gomulka and Kliszko), putting stamp approval on and even building monuments to previously castigated wartime underground army AK, reducing armed forces and claiming defense industries gradually converting to civilian production since 1954, granting substantial number passports for temporary and permanent residence abroad, aiding small private business for purpose boosting production consumer goods, fostering “criticism” of numerous aspects life Poland, decentralizing political and economical structure, give more responsibility lower echelons, and stressing “ruling role” masses in all organs particularly Sejm which hailed as increasingly true representative body.

These developments not always what they appeared at first glance. In important respects, word was far ahead of deed and, in other cases, unstated but real limitations robbed above factors of most their apparent value. For example, economic distress of masses understandably could not be liquidated over short period, with result economic millenium probably appeared far away as ever to Polish worker. Similarly, “rehabilitation” some former leaders and AK group appeared well controlled move and seemed unlikely in foreseeable future have much significance as real liberalizing factor. Selection type of men such as Gierek, Roman Nowak and Rapacki to fill Politburo vacancies indicates no liberalization in personalities. Gomulka reinstatement in party has as yet revealed no active participation in affairs.

Further, “socialist legality” and related developments such as increased issuance passports for travel continued hold potential sudden reversal and were usually implemented in limited way (e.g. passports for visits abroad usually not issued to persons without relatives remaining Poland). Finally, praise for Sejm (which still nothing but rubberstamp), alleged “ruling role” of masses, and invitation “criticize” all transparently spurious. Criticisms still well under control not only as result Ochab April 6 warning not criticize basic policy but because Bulganin in July 22 national holiday putch [speech?] Warsaw warned press not misinterpret right criticize. Consequently, during period under review, criticism generally remained within limits desired by regime.

Authoritative manner and conduct Bulganin July 22, continued presence large numbers Soviet troops Poland (reportedly increasing), fact Moscow stooges remain powerful in regime, fact UB though regimented still potent, fact Polish armed forces controlled by Russophile Rokossowski, plus number other factors, indicate clearly Poland politics [Page 246] and economy still at mercy USSR. Polish propaganda organs, however, appeared be purposely soft-pedaling usual praise USSR in effort make Poles feel control by Soviets declining. Similarly, in economic field, same purpose possibly served by having Soviets desist somewhat, at least on surface, from bleeding Poland economically. Actually, new CEMA arrangements and Polish-Czech agreements tie Poland into Soviet orbit more closely than ever. Politically, Polish leaders parrot Moscow’s statements and policies—in UN and other international organs on international questions such as Suez, disarmament, atomic energy, etc.

One of principal Soviet stooges, Ochab, said July 6, that Poznan riots could not justify deviation from process democratization. Moreover, seeing relatively favorable results earlier relaxation in terms greater personal satisfaction masses (which, regime hoped, would be reflected in increased productivity) regime probably wishes, within confines Communist doctrine, liberalize life much as possible in hopes greater returns for regime. Significant criticism by press now rare, legislative processes September Sejm meeting not even as bold as April session, two western chiefs mission, both very hopeful about liberalization, believe trend now away from liberalization and high Foreign Office official has privately indicated he disheartened by difficulties selling liberalization program to officials.

Above connection, often rumored since Poznan that regime split on how handle liberalization and other matters. While this not confirmed, “private” statements high representatives regime (e.g. Ambassador Gajewski Paris) plugging line somewhat different from official one, plus traditional nationalism Poles, raises possibility regime less monolithic than historic Communist would desire. These statements could, of course, be inspired plants but Embassy inclined believe regime leaders not in agreement among selves on liberalization and other important issues. Some observers even speculate Polish overtures to India and Yugoslavia, though made in keeping with Moscow’s policies, may have been willingly entered into in hope those countries might eventually support Poland if conditions ever made it possible for Poland enter upon independent course. In any event, mental confusion and frustration Communist minds following denigration Stalin likely not yet resolved and must contribute substantially to indecision this and other problems.

Embassy has impression western journalists and western groups various kinds have begun take somewhat more realistic view developments Poland although some still see only outward appearances of liberalization and some even profess believe Poland has begun assert independence from USSR (e.g. Coblenz article in Herald Tribune Paris Edition September 11, Bonn dateline, re alleged views five million displaced Oder–Neisse Germans).

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While Embassy feels no evidence liberalization has developed into anything like “irreversible trend”, it is still too early assess extent recession is in process. Several months ago, when liberalization was new thing, all experiencing it closely probably felt considerable excitement at possibility this was beginning real evolution toward democracy in accepted sense word. With liberalization now in somewhat static state and first flush hope fading a little, Poles and observers alike may find difficulty evaluate potentialities properly. Some Embassy Polish sources seem depressed re prospects significant improvement saying life hard as ever and de-Stalinization merely reshuffling old pack cards. Others, chiefly semi-official contacts in fields science, agriculture, education, etc., continue be excited about possibilities professional contact with colleagues in US but agree life Poland will be difficult for long time.

Such relaxation and change as there has been and will be in foreseeable future is, in Embassy view, designed solely perpetuate regime in power. Making life more bearable for masses is only means to this end.

Department pouch as desired.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 748.00/9–2156. Confidential.
  2. See footnote 5, Document 63.
  3. In despatch 80 the Embassy enclosed a copy of a despatch written by the British Ambassador in Poland and originally transmitted to London. The British Ambassador provided the Embassy with the copy and had no objection to it being sent to Washington. In the despatch, the British Ambassador argued that great changes had occurred in Poland during the last 2 years, and that Poland was pursuing a more independent policy and had taken advantage of the relaxation of Soviet domination to go their own independent way. The British Ambassador recommended that the West take advantage of this trend. The U.S. Embassy disagreed and stated that the changes in Poland were only surface; it promised its own view of the situation. (Department of State, Central Files, 748.00/8–2156)
  4. Document 63.