Polish cab drivers have a patron saint, but the dialectic and a Five-Year Plan prevent the Polish government from believing in a fairy godmother. Which is to say that, despite President Kennedy's hopes for increasing U.S. economic aid to Poland, there are few areas in which such aid would really help the Poles.
Most of this country's trade with Poland at present is in surplus foodstuffs, which the Poles need desperately in their agricultural crisis. But in a year, the demand for surplus grain will slacken, and the U.S. won't be needed. Then what will Kennedy do with the $360 million in Polish currency he will have collected as payment? Many of the suggested American projects in Poland--building another hospital, rebuilding Warsaw Castle--would actually hinder the Polish drive for production in heavy industry and mass housing, by consuming both labor and materials, scarce items in Gomulka's Poland.
The Poles themselves would like to see Kennedy work out an amendment to the Johnson Act, which has prevented the floating dollar loans from U.S. banks and private industry. But such an amendment is not likely, in view of how tightly the U.S. will have to pinch pennies in order to cover its development loans to Latin America, Asia, and Africa.
Kennedy must realize that America can't materially aid the Poles and concentrate on devising imaginative ways to spend the U.S. reserves of Polish currency. The best opportunities--especially in the most free-wheeling of People's Democracries--lie in the realm of cultural exchange. Exchange of books, artists, exhibits and, if possible, students, would do more to extend Western influence in Poland than any economic aid program.
Nor is there any need for America to undertake such exchanges alone. Recently the U.S. has been pressuring West Germany to improve its dismal relationships with Poland, and the Germans have indicated a willingness to do more than shake hands. If--as seems likely--the Poles overcome their insistence that the best thing the Germans could do (short of drying up) is recognize East Germany, there is no reason why a combined U.S. and German cultural exchange program wouldn't help renew Poland's ties with the West East Europe is in intellectual ferment, and Kennedy could make better use of America's Polish currency in such an exchange than he could trying to jump on Gomulka's Five-Year Plan bandwagon.