The Polish Government in Exile and Poland After Martial Law
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 10 Mar 1983, p. 269-279
Sabbat, Dr. Kazimierz, Speaker
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The Polish Government in Exile: what that is, and its history; the legacy of the Second World War. The Polish Government in Exile today: purpose and tasks. The history of Poland since the end of the Second World War. What Poland, the real Poland, expects from Western countries. The Helsinki monitoring meeting from 1980. Conditions put forward by Western governments for the normalization of relations with Jaruzelski's Poland. Economic sanctions against the Jaruzelski regime. Poland's critical economic situation. Poland's need for co-operation of Western economies. Prospects for Poland after the suspension of martial law.
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10 Mar 1983
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Full Text
MARCH 10, 1983
The Polish Government in Exile and Poland After Martial Law
CHAIRMAN The President, Henry J. Stalder


Distinguished members and guests, ladies and gentlemen: The constitution of our club sets out that we should be addressed by prominent men and women who can speak with authority upon the issues of the day, and the issue of today is the interpretation of intellectual and material liberties.

In the last few years, problems in Poland have been much in the news. However, this country has been the site of discord for many generations.

Our guest of honour today was among the Poles who escaped after the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany in 1939. He now heads the government in exile that found sanctuary first in France and then in the United Kingdom. Mr. Sabbat is a law graduate of the University of Warsaw. He was an officer attached to the Polish general staff in London until the end of the war. He then established a manufacturing business in London, where he and his family still live.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome our guest of honour, Kazimierz Sabbat, Prime Minister of the Polish Government in Exile.


Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen: What is the Polish Government in Exile? It is the legacy of the Second World War which began, you will remember, on September 1, 1939, when Hitler attacked Poland. At the time, Poland had a long-established treaty of mutual assistance with France and a treaty of mutual assistance with Great Britain which had been hastily concluded in August 1939 in the face of the growing threat from Germany. Shortly before the invasion, a treaty had been concluded between Hitler and Stalin. It divided Poland and the Baltic States between Germany and Russia. Poland resisted German aggression and France and Great Britain declared war on Germany in our defence two anxious days after the invasion. I remember those crowds of people waiting in front of the British embassy in Warsaw, and the enthusiasm which met the announcement by the British ambassador.

On September 17, Stalin's armies poured through Poland's long eastern frontier--Poland was overwhelmed. The President of Poland and the government fled to Rumania. The government was re-established in allied France under the premiership of General Sikorski. The Polish Army was recreated in France. Thousands of young Poles--I was amongst them--were leaving their country, occupied by Germany and Russia, and trying to join this army. Many perished as they attempted to steal through foreign countries. After the French debacle in June 1940, the Polish government left France for Britain, where it was established again as a senior allied government. The Polish armed forces were recreated again, the navy was already in Britain, the army soon took part in the North Africa campaign, and, within weeks, the Air Force had to be ready for the Battle of Britain. In this famous battle, about which Churchill said, "never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few," Polish airmen accounted for one out of every seven enemy planes brought down.

In 1941, Hitler's armies invaded their former partner, the Soviet Union. Russia, by this time, had incorporated the eastern half of Poland into her territories. More than two million people had been deported from these provinces to the Soviet Republics, and tens of thousands were imprisoned. In Katyn alone, over four thousand Polish officers had been murdered--shot in the back of the head. A further eleven thousand are still unaccounted for. All over the world, Katyn memorials are rising in remembrance of the victims of this crime. One stands in this city. In 1952, an American Congressional Commission published evidence proving Soviet responsibility for the Katyn murders, but Khruschev would not admit responsibility. The Katyn crime is still awaiting its judgement.

Our new and unwilling ally, the Soviet Union, had to recognize the first allied government--the Polish Government in Exile in London. Our agreement provided for the release of Polish prisoners and for the organization of a Polish army in the Soviet Union, under the government in London. Soon, thousands of former gulag inmates from all over Russia had forged a disciplined army. This army was transferred to Iran, Palestine, Egypt, and it eventually fought in the Italian campaign under British command. To it went the honour of capturing Monte Cassino under the command of General Anders. Many of these Poles are now living in Toronto.

The Polish armed forces in the West constituted the third largest fighting force after the Americans and British--it was about 250,000 strong. In Poland, an underground resistance sprang up. The underground Polish "Home Army," under the command of the Government in Exile in London, covered the entire country, forcing the German army to use large contingents in order to safeguard the security of vital communications lines. In spite of the cruel occupation, there existed a true underground state, complete with armed forces, schools, and law courts, all under the authority of the Polish government in London.

The price Stalin demanded in return for his crucial part in the defeat of Germany was very high--the eastern half of Europe: Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Rumania, the Baltic States, and eastern Germany--but he got it. President Roosevelt agreed to it in Teheran in 1943 during a secret conversation with Stalin. He only asked Stalin to keep it secret because he was facing another presidential election, and in the United States Polish votes mattered. Then, in February 1945, the three leaders, Stalin, Roosevelt, and Churchill, signed the infamous Yalta agreements which formally abandoned Poland and her neighbours to Stalin's mercy. A few months later, three foreign ambassadors in Moscow appointed a government for Poland, which was already under Soviet control. It was based on the puppet Communist committee established by the Soviets. This new body was hastily recognized by the Western allies.

The allied Polish government in London was abandoned. No wonder the Polish armed forces in the West, the Polish civilian population, and numerous communities of Polish origin in the Western countries could not accept such a tragic outcome to this glorious chapter in their history. The Polish government in London protested before the whole world and decided to continue the fight for self-determination, freedom, and democracy in Poland. A small number of servicemen with family commitments decided to return to Communist-run Poland. The majority decided to stay in the free world and continue their work for Poland. The Polish armed forces were dissolved and ex-servicemen settled in many countries--Canada being one of the most hospitable.

The Polish Government in Exile has continued to this day. Its purpose is to preserve the continuity of a sovereign Polish state. The Communist government, sponsored by the Soviet military rulers and appointed by three foreign ambassadors, did not allow for free and unfettered elections. Its rule is based on Soviet power, not on the will of the people who have never accepted its legitimacy. It is therefore only a de facto administration. Moreover, it does not represent the true interests of the

Polish nation, especially in the field of foreign relations where it represents the voice of its Soviet masters. The Communist regime is based on force and it governs by force. The Communist economic system, based on the exploitation of workers, has brought endless misery to people and has resulted in an economic collapse. Poland is now in economic ruins and unable to pay its foreign debts.

The task of the Government in Exile was to present to the world the true voice of Poland and the true interests of the Polish nation. This we have been doing for years by attempting to influence public opinion in the free countries of the world. We have also taken a keen interest in developments in Poland. We have always been convinced that the Polish people will never accept Soviet domination and the alien system imposed on them. After a decade of Stalinism, when people in the war-ravaged country were rediscovering their roots, a cycle of upheavals followed. October 1956 brought Gomulka to power, but he was a disappointment. In 1968, in the year of the Prague Spring and the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, upheavals in Polish universities took place. The Communist regime, looking for a scapegoat under Soviet pressure, started an unfounded and very damaging wave of anti-Semitism, forcing thousands of people out of Poland.

In 1970, workers' revolts in Gdansk and Szczecin brought down Gomulka; Gierek took over. His main achievement was to accumulate a huge foreign debt of over $20 billion, borrowed from the West where petrodollars were available. The money was wasted in ill-conceived industrial developments under Party management. It is true that the general standard of living was improved, but the country's economy was brought to the verge of bankruptcy. Poland is unable to service such a huge foreign debt.

Since 1976, after further workers' riots in Radom and Ursus, there was a new development--that of opposition and freedom movements. First and best known among them was KOR (Committee for Workers' Defence). It acted openly within the limits of the legal system, taking recourse to recent Helsinki Final Act regulations. Many publications appeared, at first typed and eventually in printed form, all outside official censorship. Intellectuals, writers, and filmmakers were becoming more and more courageous. In 1980, workers throughout the country organized spontaneous strikes. Those on the Baltic coast, especially in Gdansk, gave birth to the Solidarity movement. Solidarity grew in numbers, soon reaching about ten million Polish workers; rural Solidarity added a further two million. The whole nation stood behind Solidarity, which was more than a workers' organization and more than a trade union. It was a real national movement, representing the true ideals of the nation and attempting to revindicate the fundamental rights of the individual. In this endeavour, Solidarity found support not only among intellectuals, but within the Church. The Church in Poland has been waging a struggle for the rights and dignity of human beings for years, ever since the imposition of Communist rule. Its leader, Primate Cardinal Wyszynski, spent over two years in a Communist prison. The election of the Polish Cardinal Wojtyla of Krakow as Head of the Catholic Church gave new dimensions to Polish problems. His visit to Poland in 1979 gave the people new strength. Now Poland was changing. It appeared that peaceful change was possible in the largest captive country in Central Europe. Repeated Soviet threats somehow did not materialize. The attitude and warnings of the Western powers restrained Russia from intervening.

However, it appears that changes in Poland could not be tolerated by the Soviet leaders. On December 13, 1981, Jaruzelski, First Secretary of the Communist Party, Prime Minister and Minister of War, declared a "state of war" in Poland. Many thousands of people from all walks of life were interned, many were arrested and sentenced, many injured or mutilated, and a number killed. Solidarity was suspended and then dissolved by decree. After a year, the "state of war" was suspended last December. However, most of the restrictions were maintained, this time as ordinary rules of public order. The inhuman treatment of people, the brutality of the police forces, and the beatings did not stop.

Did Jaruzelski achieve his aim of forcing the people into submission? No! The people did not accept the new order, Solidarity was not abandoned. Its charismatic leader, Lech Walesa, did not submit. The Church calls for the right of workers to have their own free and independent trade unions. Solidarity went underground. Its secret co-ordinating committee, composed of five well-known regional leaders, elected before martial law, still operates. It does not tolerate terrorism. It enjoys the support of the workers and of all people who have not been broken by the repressions. Solidarity is a force which must be reckoned with. There will be no internal peace and no return to normalcy, until and unless the aspirations of the people are met. It may take a long time, but the determination of the people is such that there will be no return to conditions as they were before August 1980.

What does Poland, the real Poland, expect from Western countries? The West should insist that the situation in Poland not be viewed as an internal problem of the Soviet bloc under the control of the Kremlin. Unfortunately, this was the attitude of Western powers in the case of the Hungarian uprising in 1956 and the Czech Spring of 1968. This time the Western countries warned the Soviets about the grave consequences of Soviet intervention in Poland. These warnings probably saved Poland from a direct Soviet military invasion. The Soviet rulers had to resort to indirect intervention. They trusted Jaruzelski, Deputy Commander of the Warsaw Pact Forces under Marshal Kulikov. Clear statements that Western countries support the rights of captive nations to self-determination are of primary importance. The Western powers should also support the struggle for human rights based on International Conventions to which both they and Soviet bloc countries are signatories. These rights are embodied in the Final Act of the Helsinki Conference of 1975, but they are not respected in the Soviet bloc. Signatories to the Final Act have a special contractual obligation to monitor the implementation of the Helsinki stipulations.

The Helsinki monitoring meeting which began in Madrid in 1980, and which will be resumed soon for its final session, is a good opportunity for voicing unequivocal support for the rights of the captive European nations. The problem of Poland should not be considered closed. The Afghanistan problem is still open and it plays an important role in international politics--Polish problems are no less important. While appealing for a clear attitude towards the Polish question, which obviously antagonizes the Soviets, I must add that in my opinion this is not a path that leads towards another war. On the contrary, the Polish experiment has shown the way to a peaceful solution to the present conflict between Communist East and Democratic West. The Soviet leaders are hard bargainers, but they are also realists. They will take advantage of weakness and vacillation, but they do not take risks and they appreciate strength.

Pressure should also be brought to bear upon Jaruzelski's regime in Poland. Western governments put forward the following conditions for the normalization of relations with Jaruzelski's Poland:

1. the abolition of martial law;
2. the release of all internees and prisoners sentenced for martial law violations;
3. the opening of a dialogue with Solidarity, with the Church as mediator.

Martial law was suspended, not abolished. Internees were released, but there are still thousands of prisoners who were sentenced during martial law. Solidarity was dissolved while its supporters are persecuted. It makes sense to think back to the original principles laid down.

In agreement with the Solidarity leadership we are also in favour of economic sanctions against the Jaruzelski regime. Poland is in a critical economic situation, being unable to solve its problems without the co-operation of Western economies. This offers an effective leverage. We approve of the "stick and carrot" policy. Political and economic sanctions should first of all be directed against the Soviets. Economic co-operation and credit facilities in particular, should be extended to Poland in response to measures that lead towards improving the internal situation. Massive economic help should be promised if and when democracy is restored. In the meantime, charitable help should continue to be provided to those who suffer deprivations--the needy, infants, the old, and the families of those who are imprisoned. Distribution should continue to be done through the Church, as it has been during the last year. This charitable help has indeed been remarkable. I wish to thank those numerous agencies, institutions, committees, and individuals who have done so much to help the Polish people to survive this recent period of hardship and deprivation.

While speaking about hardship I must briefly refer to another group of victims of the Communist regime in Poland. There are at present about two hundred thousand Polish refugees outside Poland who are unwilling to return to their homeland. Most of them are young people and generally well educated. They wish to settle in the free world. Canada has a very good record for accepting its fair share of these unfortunate people, who languish now in Austria and Germany. Resettlement, however, develops slowly; more effort and more generosity are required to solve this difficult problem. There is still another problem looming. More than four thousand people from all over Poland, mostly Solidarity leaders, are being pressured to leave the country. This policy contradicts any civilized standards of behaviour, and we are opposed to such an exodus of actual and potential leaders. On the other hand, we feel that those who find life impossible under the present regime in Poland should not be refused help.

Finally, what are the prospects for Poland after the suspension of martial law? Poland is a large country, the largest of all Russia's satellites. She has a proud tradition: a thousand-year history, a tradition of fighting for her independence (including a military victory over the Soviet army in 1920), a tradition of military achievements during the Second World War as an allied country, and a tradition that includes the underground Home Army. It is a Christian country with a very strong and independent Church which has successfully resisted the Communist onslaught. There is a Polish Pope in Rome and it is expected that he will repeat his visit to his homeland in June this year. This will lift the spirit of the people again. The Solidarity movement remains unbroken. The working class is strong and independent--it rejects communism. In the countryside, collectivization has not succeeded and individual farming has survived. There is harmony and co-operation between different sections of the community, especially between workers and intellectuals. The whole nation stands in passive resistance against Jaruzelski's military and police rule.

On the other hand, people understand the limitations resulting from Poland's geographical and political position. They trust their leaders, they are courageous but not reckless. The Solidarity chapter is not closed. The dramatic contest between the Polish nation and the Kremlin has not ended in defeat. It constitutes a big step on the road to freedom and democracy in Poland and in the other captive nations. It is also an important development in the most important conflict of the twentieth century--the conflict between dictatorial, totalitarian, and atheistic communism, and Christian, freedom-loving democracy.

The appreciation of the audience was expressed by Brigadier General Stephen Andrunyk, o.M.M., C.D., the Immediate Past President of The Empire Club of Canada.

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The Polish Government in Exile and Poland After Martial Law

The Polish Government in Exile: what that is, and its history; the legacy of the Second World War. The Polish Government in Exile today: purpose and tasks. The history of Poland since the end of the Second World War. What Poland, the real Poland, expects from Western countries. The Helsinki monitoring meeting from 1980. Conditions put forward by Western governments for the normalization of relations with Jaruzelski's Poland. Economic sanctions against the Jaruzelski regime. Poland's critical economic situation. Poland's need for co-operation of Western economies. Prospects for Poland after the suspension of martial law.