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Poland: Paradox of the Russian Orbit

While People Hate Russia, Leaders Maintain Close Tie Brzezinski Analyzes Recent Trip

By John A. Rava

Poland today finds itself in the midst of a strange, modern paradox, according to Zbigniew Brzezinski, assistant professor of Government, after a six week visit to the newly separate satellite.

The new Gomulka regime is in power primarily because of its symbolic position of opposition to the universally hated Russians, Brzezinski says. Yet it must, and at the moment even wants to, continue close ties with its rejected Kremlin masters.

To Brzezinski, back in his native country after a 19 year absence, the single most striking sentiment evident among the Poles was a strong hate and contempt for everything Russian. In Warsaw, for example, people would not enter the new Palace of Justice simply because it was Stalin-built. And when a person on the street was asked the direction of a certain street or square, renamed by the Communists, he would invariably desist from answering. Or he might say that if so and so street was meant (the original name), it was right over there.

Yet, despite this hatred which the people so outwardly express, and the new found autonomy which they love, their leaders maintain the realistic stand that given Poland's geographical position, they cannot break with Russia. They feel, Brzezinski says, that a complete break would lead to one of two possibilities. One, the Russians would fight to regain complete power, as they did in Hungary, with the West offering no aid. Or two, if the break were successful, and Poland became a member of the Western block, it would then have no support against the danger of Germany swallowing it up again.

It is because of this fear of German aggression--the fear that the Germans will seek to regain the land which was ceded to Poland after World War II as a reparation for Russian gains in eastern Poland--that the Poles feel they have at the moment a greater common interest with the Soviet bloc than with the Western powers. The West has repeatedly backed Germany's claim to the disputed territory.

Brzezinski was in Poland from the beginning of June to mid-July on a Social Science Research Council grant to study the pattern of Polish politics, particularly Gomulka's rise to power. He has already written one article, to be published soon, and will incorporate his findings into a larger study he is pursuing on Soviet-Satellite relations.

While in Poland, he traveled extensively, and interviewed leading Marxists in various parts of the country. He reached the conclusion that Poland is not governed by a totalitarian regime, though it certainly is not a democratic one. Such essential tenets of a totalitarian state as a strong monolithic party organization, a secret police, and above all, a society closed to free discussion and ruled by fear, he found lacking.

The rule is certainly still authoritarian, but rests firmly on the popular support which Gomulka commands. "Gomulka gained his standing by becoming a symbol of national rejection of Soviet domination," Brzezinski said.

Another symbol of this nationalistic hate for the Russians is the church, Brzezinski stated. He related a story currently popular among the Poles. "During the consecration service in a church, the entire congregation save one is religiously kneeling. Others around him ask why he too is not kneeling. 'I am an atheist,' the man replies. 'Why are you here, then?' they ask. 'I am a Pole and I hate the Russians," he replies."

For that reason, and because it was the one resistance symbol remaining during the period of Soviet domination, the church retains "tremendous popularity," Brzezinski continued. Churches are always overcrowded, even with the building of new ones since the end of the war. In addition, the church leadership has reached its highest level ever, because during the repression the church became the haven for many intellectuals.

The leader of the church, which is Roman Catholic in Poland, is Cardinal Wyszynski. He, single-handedly, is credited by many with having averted a Polish civil war. By urging support, instead of opposition to Gomulka's regime, he consolidated the political power in the country, and helped to gain new recognition and prestige for his own institution. The church seems to have gained "relative autonomy" from the state today, but of course is still far from its pre-war position.

The new freedom which the church so clearly demonstrates is merely symptomatic of the general atmosphere which characterizes Poland today. Most of the Soviet barriers to free speech and free thought have collapsed. People can speak their minds at will, and the intelligentsia and youth freely attack the official ideology. The secret police seem to have disappeared.

No Democracy

Poland remains far from being, however, a democrat's paradise. Compared to a New England town meeting, it would still look almost as bad as the Soviet Union. Decisions are of course, made from the top, without approval or consent of the majority. Even though jamming of foreign broadcasts has been stopped, censorship is still very much in effect in the press and radio. Brzezinski reports that toward the end of his stay in Poland, there was a danger sign of increasing censorship, as he learned that a statement of Cardinal Wyszynski had been repressed.

But, with all this, Poland has gained immeasureable freedom since its "self-liberation." Brzezinski says, "There are no outward signs of a police state. Slogans, banners, and flags, which were all over in Russia when I was there a year ago do not infest

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