This June 4th in Warsaw, I had the dubious pleasure of trying to ignore two nauseating events in one day: the Orwellian holiday called “Freedom Day,” a new initiative of the current Polish government, and the appearance of President Barack Obama in Warsaw, whose presence cannot but remind Americans such as myself that their country is now a bankrupt administrative state whose policies resemble the little third world nations which Americans once pitied. Mr. Obama was here to do what American foreign policy does best: promise other countries billions in taxpayer dollars in order to buy imperial allegiance, and help the local magistrate pretend to look powerful and important. Given that American conservatives do not need me to explain why a visit from President Obama is something unpleasant, I shall leave that contention for the platitude it is and instead focus a bit on explaining why “Freedom Day” in Poland is, at best, a joke in poor taste. At the same time, I should like my fellow Americans to contemplate who was just promised one billion dollars in United States foreign aid and wonder whether this does anything to advance peace on Earth, let alone American interests or ideals.
A good place to begin would be only a few days prior to June 4th, 2014. Had President Obama appeared in Warsaw a bit earlier, he would have seen three Polish Presidents bidding farewell to the deceased communist dictator, General Wojciech Jaruzelski, praising the General as a patriot, a man of conscience, wisdom and—Catholic virtue even. For those who do not recognize the man in question, General Jaruzelski was the head of the Polish communist state who initiated Martial Law in 1981, jailed Solidarity members, whose government murdered the Blessed Martyr Father Jerzy Popieluszko, and who later oversaw the rehabilitation of Polish communist Jews, when it served his purposes, and their placement in influential posts after helping to purge them from Poland in 1968, when it served his purposes.
In fairness to the General (and as a Catholic, I cannot but try to give justice to a human being), his story was—like that of most Europeans caught up in the twentieth century—not a simple one. In his youth, before the second World War, the General’s family had been landed aristocracy. He was home-schooled, as was (and is) the habit amongst well-off Poles. During the War, he was imprisoned by the Soviet Union and sent to Siberia where he suffered from snow blindness (thus the characteristic dark glasses he wore for the remainder of his life). Like many Poles deported to Siberia during the war, the General was converted to atheist communism and eventually ended up fighting against Hitler and the Nazis as part of Stalin’s Polish People’s Army. Following the war, he served the Warsaw Pact armies, moving slowly from military to political leadership. In 1968 he aided the Polish government in its efforts to purge the nation of Jews (real and imagined).
Real and imagined Jews, seen as Bolshevik enablers before World War II, were, by 1968, considered Imperialist enablers. Israel was, after all, an ally of the United States, and therefore the real and imagined Jews within the academic, military and administrative apparatus of the state made for an easy scapegoat that could explain away the economic failures of Socialism: it was all because of the Jewish element. By the 1980s, with few real or imagined Jews left to purge, the General instituted Martial Law, claiming that it was necessary to save Poland from Soviet invasion. According to this perspective, Solidarity, by conducting strikes and inciting civil unrest, was leading the nation towards anarchy, and this inevitably (given Poland’s geopolitical situation at the time) would invite a Soviet response not unlike the ones in Prague and Budapest.
This entire line of reasoning is predicated on the notion that the Polish nation had, following World War II, retained statehood, but not necessarily sovereignty. Patriots, according to this line of reasoning, were obliged therefore to accept the geopolitical realities of the Cold War and work within the confines of the Warsaw Pact in order to broaden the scope of Polish national soveriegnty to the maximum extent possible. By this view, the de-Sovietization of the Polish communist army in the 1950s, the expulsion of the Jewish element in 1968 and the initiation of Martial Law in 1981, even the murder of the Blessed Father Jerzy Popieluszko in 1984, were all steps taken on the road to “Freedom Day;” the first partially free elections since World War II on June 4th 1989.
By the end of his life, the General had taken to reading conservative periodicals, granting interviews to young Polish conservatives associated with the New Right, and slowly awakening to the Catholic faith. If we are to believe public accounts, he died having taken his Last Rights, after Confession and at peace with God. Those close to him in his final years have noted that he was a deeply pessimistic man, that he viewed all human life as determined by the forces of history. “Had I not been exiled to Siberia, perhaps I would have joined the National Army and died fighting in the Warsaw Uprising?” he reportedly mused. Instead, the forces of history saw to it that his government murdered the Blessed Father Jerzy Popieluszko, and sent soldiers to pacify citizens protesting communism—all in a prudent effort to maintain order, because order guaranteed statehood for Poland, and statehood guaranteed a practical path towards sovereignty.
If this sounds as if the Polish communists were the ones to actually bring down Communism and usher in freedom and democracy, then it is because that is in effect the argument maintained by Presidents Kwasniewski, Walesa and Komorowski: the three Polish Presidents at the General’s funeral. President Kwasniewski, a former communist himself, explicitly called the General a patriot. President Komorowski, who is intellectually shallow and tied to the former communist infested Military Information Services, probably did not have anything interesting to say, and President Walesa, whose true allegiances are une secrette de Polichenelle, had long ago become good friends with the General. The only contemporary Polish President not in attendance, who had a very different view of things, was Poland’s one conservative President Lech Kaczynski—conveniently dead—and therefore unable to irritate the efforts of Minister Radek Sikorski and his friends in constructing an Orwellian fantasy holiday called “Freedom Day” with “Freedom dances” and other festivities directly following the burial of the first President of the supposedly free III Republic of Poland, General Jaruzelski.
The present Polish regime and its’ Western allies would like to pretend that the newly established “Freedom Day” in Poland celebrates the victory of the people, embodied by Solidarity, over Tyranny. This view, propagated in the West primarily by people like Anne Applebaum and Norman Davies, who did not live in Poland and were not involved in the political struggles of the 1950s, 60s and 70s, is useful if one wishes to live in a world of fiction. It is particularly useful now when efforts are under way to paint the war in Ukraine as a Solidarity-like struggle against tyranny. The whole concept is predicated on the notion that an American woman from Washington D.C. and a British fellow know more about Poland than the Polish men and women who were in the thick of the turbulent history of the communist era.
That so many in the Polish political and intellectual elite credit Anne Applebaum and Norman Davies while ignoring their own countrymen, marginalizing them, persecuting them, and belittling them, is testimony to how hard old habits die. Poland, historically occupied by outside powers, has always bred a certain class of colaborationist: the satrap. The satrap, be he political or intellectual, believes deeply that his nation cannot exist without permission from the Great Powers, and thus tailors political policy or intellectual activity to the wishes of said Great Powers, be they Moscow, Washington D.C. or London. One of the forgotten heroes of Solidarity, a conservative gentleman who was close friends with President Lech Kaczynski, but is a persona non grata in the Polish academia, press and in political life, has a very different view of the history he helped shape. Of General Jaruzelski he writes:
“General Jaruzelski is not Petain. Petain submitted to the verdict of the law. The Judges who sentenced him, the Prosecutor who who accused him, had previously sworn oaths of loyalty to him in his capacity as the President of Viche France. He was sentenced to death. He refused to testify, but his defense attorney argued that Marshal Petain sacrificed himself to defend France. France did indeed benefit from having two de facto leaders during World War II. Petain secured the preservation of the people and of the economy, and de Gaulle managed to secure the place that Poland should have, by right, occupied amongst the victors in the postwar order. While Poland was occupied by the Soviet Union, France began the occupation of Germany.
But General Jaruzelski was not Marshall Petain. He was not Wallenrod. He was a common Soviet knave. Such is the difference between the French nation, which collaborated, which sentenced Petain to death because it was required for the good of the state, knowing full well how much it owed to Petain and the Polish nation, which displayed unparralled courage and sacrifice, but which was betrayed by its own leaders and incapable of effectively cleansing itself of communism.
Polish national interest did not require General Jaruzelski and his co-conspirators in treason to be sentenced to death, because Poles did not need to silence their moral conscience, nor demonstrate to the world how they opposed Nazis following World War II. Petain returned to France of his own free will, whereas General Jaruzelski should have been banished from Poland. Poles should have banished all communist traitors to their true motherland: Russia. Russia should have been compelled to deal with their presence, pay their pensions and suffer embarrassment for them. For them, as for Dzierzynski, Marchlewski and Kon, there ought not not be even a grave in Poland.
General Jaruzelski consistently committed treason against God, Honor and the Fatherland, and was never held to account for it. The III Republic has never even attempted to take him to trial. There is only one benefit from this: French collaborators and opportunists effectively hid behind Petain. France thus effected a symbolic de-Nazification and uprooted treason, after which it could return to its goal of dominating Europe alongside the Germans, beginning with the Coal & Steel Union. In Poland, General Jaruzelski and Kiszczak are like litmus papers which indicate who has what view of national values, national interest and of fellow Poles. Since they live amongst us, let’s forever remember who their comrades are.
General Jaruzelski, in cleansing the army of Jews in 1968, was a servant of Russian chauvinism, determined to wipe away the stain of Jewery in the Soviet Imperial structures located in Poland. The preferred method of justifying this purge by Polish advocates of the Soviet cause is the claim that it was aimed at Jewish [Bolsheviks] who had murdered Poles in the 1940s and 1950s. This justification helps hide Soviet motives under the phraseology of Polish patriotism. It was not Polish or Russian Jews who forced General Jaruzelski to serve the Soviet Occupation forces with distinction. He did it himself, on his own initiative.
In 1968, General Jaruzelski purged the Jews because it benefited his career as a satrap of the Soviet occupation. In 1989, General Jaruzelski placed decendants of Jews at the head of Solidarity because such a political gambit was in the interest of maintaining Soviet control of Poland. The careers of Michnik and Geremek were not, after all, the result of their strong anti-communism, nor their patriotic leadership, but was the result of a conspiracy in Magdalenka, a gambit meant to scuttle Polish national interest. Just as Stalin placed Minc and Berman at the head of the Polish communist state, so his pupil, General Jaruzelski used all of his power to help Geremek and Michnik.”
This man, and the conservatives who think like him, are, according to Dr. Norman Davies, part of a “cult.” Their analysis, Dr. Davies tells us, is the result of emotions and a failure to benefit financially from the post-communist transformation. Dr. Davies knows this because the Poles fixing his house or doing garden work in England told him so. Dr. Davies finds it odd that these “cultists” seem to have the support of thirty to forty per cent of the population on any given election year, not to mention that these “cultists” elected one President in 2005 and then came a few thousand votes from electing another in 2010.
Of course, Dr. Davies can be excused for not understanding Polish conservatives. Polish conservatives tend not to understand British conservatives, which given how low the Tories have fallen since Thatcher, is not a vice. Conservatives from different countries rarely understand one another. This is because conservatism is not a universal political ideology for an abstract universal man, but a predisposition to recognize, retain and perfect the best in ones’ national heritage. Nations differ, like individuals, so no two conservative parties will adhere to the same goals for their people. What is inexcusable, however, is that Poles appear to take the word of a British historian over and above the word of other Poles who actually struggled for national independence under communism. We can, of course, always learn from those who see us from the outside, but only a deficient sense of Polish national conscience–developed by years of training Poles into a habitual inferiority complex—can make half the nation take the word of a British historian who talked to some Polish workers fixing his hoise rather than taking the word of the man who founded the Solidarity Trade Union.
Poles will have to settle this debate amongst themselves, hopefully without recourse to or interference from the Applebaums and Davies of the world. Personally, my heart is with the Polish New Right conservatives who consider General Jaruzelski’s last years on Earth to have been—hopefully—a time when the General found Christ, and rediscovered the beauty of the lost glory of the pre-War II Republic where he came of age. Before he died, General Jaruzelski even mused that he considers himself a nationalist Catholic conservative. As a Catholic convert myself, I am incapable of judging General Jaruzelski. Every single interview of his that I read since 2005 appeared to me to be judicious, intelligent, somber, and full of a resignation that is the lot of a man who has discovered at the end of his life that all of his passions and calculations were for naught, that History’s tides carry us places unimagined, and we are not the masters of our fate, but merely playthings of the gods. The last twenty-five years, and the extent to which the West continues to remind Poland that she is on her own and ought not count on Western guarantees for her security, have also convinced me that the claims of certain Polish conservatives regarding the geopolitical necessity for reconciliation with Russia and acknowledgement of Russian views of history are a matter of highest priority. The present war in Ukraine is, after all, a destructive war on lands that were once Polish, fomented by American and German interests who care little for whether this region of the world will be engulfed in flames yet again, if only they make their profits. As bad as the Warsaw Pact was, it never resulted in the violence we see now.
On the other hand, my head tells me that the Old Polish conservatives who have been around longer and seen a thing or two, are right to denigrate General Jaruzelski, to recall his sins, and to point out the fact that the current government is a government of collaborators and traitors, enabled by the General’s machinations. The New Right agrees, and contrary to Dr. Davies, I see nothing strange about hating the current government more than the Soviet occupation. The Soviets, in traditional Russian fashion, were extremely honest: they never pretended that some sort of legitimate process brought about their rule: they were tyrants without hypocrisy. They ran things in Poland because Poles stupidly believed British and French war guarantees and lost their freedom. General Jaruzelski was a tyrant in the classical sense: a cruel man who bled his nation to save it from being wiped off the map as a state and then relinquished power to underlings whose silence was bought and who were legitimized by Western money. The last opportunity for a clean break with communism died in Smolensk. The generation for whom all of this was important, the Solidarity generation, is passing away. The new generation is liberal and historically ignorant.
Dr. Davies compares the Smolensk disaster to the deaths of some British football players on German soil, once again demonstrating his deficient powers of historical analysis. In fact, the tragedy in Smolensk is comparable to the imaginary death of Charles de Gaulle, just when he was in the process of restoring French national greatness, cleansing fascist collaborators from office, defying the Cold War bipolar geopolitical hegemony of the United States and Soviet Union and steering France—peacefully but forcefully—to a third way leadership of non-aligned states. Imagine what France and Europe would have looked like without Charles de Gaulle. That terrible black hole in history you should now be seeing in your minds eye, sucking in the very fabric of Being, is the very thing that exists in Eastern Europe now due to the loss of President Lech Kaczynski. Like de Gaulle, he was not without fault, but he represented an enormously important moment in the movement of Polish national history. Unlike the current Polish leadership, which forgives and forgets because such is their financial interest, President Kaczynski forgave, but did not forget because Poland’s moral and national interest demanded that historical truth accompany any policy of reconciliation or forgiveness. Thus, the polish government can have their “Freedom Day.” One day soon, the collaborators and beneficiaries of communism who run it will all wake up to “Truth day”—when Polish conservatives of the New and Old Right sweep them not only from power, but from history. On that day, Polish history will not be based on Norman Davies chatting with Polish workmen fixing his roof on the British isles, but on academic scholarship, the witness of the people who actually experienced the events others merely talk about and a political class determined to build a national culture rooted in historical truth rather than public relations and convenience.
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