2.11 Internationalism: Poland

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2.11.0 Poland . (Scroll Below)
2.11.1 World War II . (Scroll Below)
2.11.2 Dictatorship: 1945-1956 . (Scroll Below)
2.11.3 Organizations . (Scroll Below)
2.11.4 Theology . (Scroll Below)
2.11.5 Activities
2.11.6 Socialists

2.11.0 Poland . Poland's 35 million people (12.5 million workers) are mainly Catholic. Many have made positive contributions to the working class movement, as historian Adam Piekarski has documented:

The religious commitment of Polish Catholics does not interfere with their socialistic civic commitment. The people who fill the churches every Sunday participate in the construction of socialism everyday at various posts, from the highest positions in the council of state and the sejm to those of workers and peasants. [Adam Piekarski, The Church in Poland: Facts, Figures, Information (Warsaw: Interpress, 1978), p. 206].

In the early part of the century Feliks Dzierzynski (1877-1926) was a leader of the movement. In 1900 he helped found the Social Democratic Party of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania (SDKPiL), which became the Communist Party of Poland in 1918. As a youth he wanted to attend a seminary and be a priest. [Robert Blobaum, Feliks Dzierzynski and the SDKPiL: A Study of the Origins of Polish Communism (New York: Columbia University Press, 1984), p. 24.] But he dropped out of school early and joined his fellow factory and railroad workers in fighting for the eight-hour day, safe working conditions, a living wage, full employment, old age security, health care, free public education and the elimination of racial and religious chauvinism.

Like Polish communists down to the present, Dzierzynski opposed the nationalism and class collaboration of the Polish Socialist Party ( Polska Partia Socjalistyczna, PPS ) and was one of the internationalists who went to Moscow in August 1917 to help with the Soviet revolution. From 1795 to 1918, Poland was divided into three parts, which were controlled by Russia, Germany and Austria. Reunification of Poland in Dzierzynski's view was a distraction from the proletariat's class responsibility. He wanted Poland to be part of the Soviet Union and he campaigned against the concept of Poland's right of self-determination as a negative concession to the bourgeoise. In May 1920 he helped lead the Red Army on the southwestern front in defending the Soviet Union against the military offensive of the Polish capitalists. Besides Dzierzynski, from 60 to 100 Poles served as Soviet officials in the 1920s and 1930s, including Jozef Unszlicht, Dolecki, Krajewski, and Bogucki. [Richard Staar, Poland: 1944-1962, The Sovietization of a Captiive People (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1962), p. 77].

During the 1930s Henryk Dembinski (1908-1941) was among the Catholics jailed for several years by Poland's capitalist government and later executed by the Nazis for their activities in the 12,000 strong communist party ( Komunistyczna Partia Rabotnicza Polski, KPRP ). [Adam Michnik, The Church and the Left (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993), pp. 36-37, 276]. Dembinski, who was part of a Catholic youth association in the early 1930s, was critical of the Catholic hierarchy, which occupied a prominent place in the machinery of state. Patrick Michel comments on the reasons for the anti-clericalism of working-class Catholics such as Dembinski:

Regarded as the tool of the monied classes and felt to be violently opposed to progress, the church was identified with anti-semitism, fascism, obscurantism, fanaticism and with all anti-progressive and anti-cultural phenomena. And indeed, in the multinational Poland of the inter-war period Catholicism often served as a distinguishing mark from Jewishness. [ Patrick Michel, Politics and Religion in Eastern Europe: Catholicism in Hungary, Poland and Czechoslovakia, trans. Alan Braley (Oxford: Polity Press, 1991), p. 80].

The Polish communists were frequently called atheists by the hierarchy, but as Michel notes concerning Dembinski, "It is clear from many of his writings that despite his vehement attacks on the clergy and on the scandalous church connections of the Endek paramilitary cutthroats, Dembinski never stopped being a believing Christian." (Michel, Politics and Religion, p. 36). The hierarchy likewise attacked the Catholic comrades of Dembinski who went to the defense of Republican Spain from 1936 to 1938. Characterized by working class (Catholic) internationalism, the KPP helped bring 5000 Polish antifascists to the struggle.

2.11.1 World War II. During World War II Catholic communists and their allies worked with the Soviets in fighting the Nazis. This included the Polish volunteers in (1) the People's Guard, which did guerilla warfare starting in 1942, (2) in the T. Kosciuszko Division, which was formed on May 20, 1943, (3) and in the First Polish Army, which was established in March 1944. The Kosciuszko Division and the First Polish Army were initially formed in and based on Soviet territory and led by Polish communists such as Wanda Wasilewska (1905-1964), Alfred Lampe and Aleksander Zawadzki. Wasilewska had been a Catholic high school student in Krakow in 1918 when the nationalists gained power and started to promoted anti-semitism. Once when the students were told to separate into groups of Jews and Catholics, she became indignant and stood with the Jews. ["Biography of Wanda Wasilewska," Current Biography (New York: H. W. Wilson, Co. 1944), p. 719]. In the 1930s she joined the KPP and during World War II she was a colonel in the Red Army. The Kosciuszko Division that she helped organize had its first fight against Hitler's forces near Lenino in October 1943.

One of the priests who served as a chaplain in the Kosciuszko Division was Fr. Antoni Lemparty. After the war he headed Caritas, a social service organization. [Lucjan Blit, The Eastern Pretender, Boleslaw Piasecki: His Life and Times (London: Hutchinson, 1965), pp. 158, 166]. Chaplains in the First Polish Army were Fr. Wilhelm Kubsz, Jan Rdzanek and Lieutenant Colonel Antoni Lopacinski. Fr. Edward Zarzycki of the Fifth Armored Division in the Second Polish Army was killed in battle at Budziszyn in the final days of the war and was awarded the Cross of Virtuti Militari. (Piekarski, The Church in Poland , p. 81). The Nazis were pushed out of the Ukraine and Poland in 1944 and 1945, at the cost in lives of three million, mainly working class Poles and 600,000 Soviets. In the class war that followed between 1945 and 1948, 15,000 communists were killed. (Staar, Poland, p. 166).

2.11.2 Dictatorship: 1945-1956 . Even as the Nazis were being destroyed, Catholics helped in the political and armed class struggle against the landlord and capitalist class. Starting on Sept. 6, 1944, the Polish Workers Party ( Polska Partia Rabotnicza, PPR/PWP ) established state ownership of industry, transportation, banks, insurance, and mines in the areas it liberated. The PWP had been established on Jan. 5, 1942. Among its founders were: Pawel Finder (d. 1944), Marceli Nowotko (1893-1942), and Marcjanna Fornalska (d. 1944), all of whom were executed by the Nazis. Between 1942 and 1947 the party grew from 4,000 to 820,000 and leveled off at 1.3 million after the socialist-communist fusion in 1948. The primary party unit consists of from 3 to 50 members in 60,000 clubs organized at institutions (factory, mine, railroad yard, military, government agency, hospital, university), villages (agrarian workers) and neighborhoods. (Staar, Poland, p. 167). About 75% of the party members have a primary school education; 20% are high school graduates and 5% college graduates. Many are Catholics ( Staar, Poland, p. 172).

From Jan. 19, 1947 when a referendum on the nationalization was approved by the majority of voters, the communists established, in the words of P. Kuzmin and Vitalii V. Iasnov, "a dictatorship of the proletariat, that emerged in the form of a people's democracy." [P. Kuzmin and Vitalii V. Iasnov, "Poland," Great Soviet Encyclopedia , ed. A. M. Prokhorov (NY: Macmillan, 1975), vol. 20, p. 277]. The dictatorship lasted until 1956. Its three year (1947-1949) and six year programs (1950-1955) focused on the central planning of the economy, heavy industry (steel, copper, and aluminum smeltering, shipbuilding, machine tools), a high investment rate, collectivization of agriculture, elimination of small businesses, expansion of economic, political and cultural ties with the Soviets and other communist nations and the reduction of ties with capitalist nations. The country's industrial growth rate of 11% per year soon made it the world's 10th leading producer of industrial goods. An end to its economic backwardness was felt to be a necessity in order to defend against west Germany, which was re-armed by U.S. and English capitalism as soon as it gained control. [Vincent C. Chrypinski, "The Movement of Progressive Catholics in Poland," Unpublished PhD dissertation, University of Michigan, 1958), p. 160].

Poland coordinated its international economic planning with the Council of Mutual Economic Assistance (COMECON) and its political planning with the Communist Information Bureau (COMINFORM). Having 30% of the population in agriculture, the party emphasized rural class struggle. The enemies of the revolution in the media, education, politics and the pulpit were rooted out, sometimes by armed struggle. On Nov. 23, 1949 church hospitals were nationalized and on March 20, 1950 375,000 acres of church land were confiscated. (Chrypinski, "The Movement of Progressive Catholics," p. 134). By 1956 the communists had eliminated such chronic capitalist problems as unemployment, illiteracy, lack of health care for the poor, and unsafe work conditions. In the 1930s when education was controlled by the Catholic hierarchy, 23% of the population had been illiterate and one million school-age children had not attended school. (P. Kuzmin and V. Iasnov, "Poland," vol. 20, p. 286). With the communist dictatorship there was free education at all levels, universal literacy, free health care, cheap transportation, food and housing, a more equitable distribution of goods and an improved standard of living for those on the bottom. (Chrypinski, "The Movement of Progressive Catholics," p. 161).

2.11.3 Organizations . Catholics established several organizations in support of the dictatorship. One organization is the Movement of Progressive Catholics, founded on Nov. 25, 1945. It changed its name to the PAX Association in 1950 and has a membership of 4,000 in 200 local clubs. Among its activities are the sponsoring of 70 libraries, of hundreds of yearly lecture series, and of a book publishing house. (Blit, The Eastern Pretender , pp. 136, 159, 213; Piekarski, The Church in Poland , p. 173). It also publishes newspapers and magazines:

  • Dzis i Jutro: Katolicki tygodnik spoleczny (Today and Tomorrow, Warsaw, a weekly, Nov. 25, 1945-1956), in 1956 its name became Kierunki (Directions, a weekly);
  • Slowo Powszechne (Universal Word, Boleslaw Piasecki, founding editor, Warsaw, a daily, Nov. 28,1945-1993);
  • Tygodnik Katolicki (The Catholic Weekly);
  • Tygodnik Powszechny (Weekly Voice, Cracow, a weekly, 1953-1956);
  • Wroclawski Tygodnik Katolikow (Catholic Weekly of Wroclaw);
  • Zorza (Dawn); and
  • Zycie i Mysl (Life and Thought, a theoretical journal).

    Historian Abraham Brumberg maintains that through its publishing house, the Pax Association has made a "serious contribution to Polish cultural life." [Abraham Brumberg, Poland: Genesis of a Revolution (New York: Random House, 1983), p. 59].

    In addition to its educational work, PAX Association members focus on trade union and political work. They have served as popularly elected council members in the 23 unions that compose the nation's trade union confederation and in the national legislature. (Piekarski, The Church in Poland , pp. 190, 205; Blit, The Eastern Pretender, p. 213). Among the PAX Association trade unionists have been:

    Witold Bienkowski (Sejm member)
    Aleksander Bochenski
    Anna Borowaska (journalist)
    Zbigniew Czajkowski
    Janice Kolendo
    Zygmunt Kubiak
    Zygmunt Lichniak
    Boleslaw Piasecki (1915-1979)
    Zygmunt Przetakiewicz (b. 1917)
    Mikolaj Rostworowski
    Jerzy Rutkowski

    The Krakow weekly newspaper, Tygodnik Powszechny (Weekly Voice), which had been anti-communist and dominated by the hierarchy in the years after World War II, was finally taken over by Catholic working people between 1953 and 1956. (Brumberg, Poland , p. 97). The takeover came after it refused to print an obituary of Stalin on its front page. PAX Association members who helped with the takeover were:

    Jan Dobraczynski (a writer)
    Mieczyslaw Kurzyna
    Tadeusz Lehr-Splawinski
    Andrzej Mycielski (a professor)
    Anna Morawska
    Wieslaw Pawel Szymanski
    Jan Prokop
    Jacek Susul
    Kazimierz Szwarcenberg-Czerny (a professor)
    Wlodzimierz Wnuk

    PAX Association members who have contributed to the monthly Wiez (The Bond, established in 1958), are:

    Stefan Backinowski
    Rudolf Buchala
    Zygmunt Drozdek
    Tadeusz Mazowlecki
    Tadeusz Myslik
    Wojciech Wieczorek
    Janusz Zablocki (in Sejm, member of Znak group)

    The Caritas Association of Catholics ( Zrzeszenie katolikow "Caritas" ) is a second organization around which Catholics who supported the communist system have functioned since Jan. 23, 1950. Fr. Antoni Lemparty was initially Caritas's chair. Later Fr. Stanislaw Owczarek became chair and Josef Sawajner was its general secretary. They published a weekly, Mysl Spoleczna (Social Thought). Caritas's 6,000 service workers staffed 194 hospitals and institutions for seniors and those with physical and mental disabilities. Four thousand of the Caritas workers were monks and nuns. Some 10 percent of the clergy also belonged to it. (Staar, Poland, p. 260; Piekarski, The Church in Poland, p. 157).

    A third organization established by Catholics in support of the dictatorship was the Committee of Priests and Lay-Catholic Activists. Between 1946 and 1949, 600 clergy out of Poland's 11,000 joined it. (Blit, The Eastern Pretender , p. 149). Calling themselves the Patriotic Priests, they established on Jan. 30, 1950 a committee within the 650,000 strong Association of Fighters for Freedom and Democracy ( Zwiazek Bojownikow o Wolnose i Demokracje , ZBoWiD), a World War II partisans' and army veterans' organization, [Andrzej Micewski, Cardinal Wyszynski: A Biography (San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovenovich, 1984), pp. 59, 96, 111, 173, 271; Piekarski, The Church in Poland, p. 157; Blit, The Eastern Pretender, pp. 159, 211, 213]. The Patriotic Priests Committee included:

    Fr. Filip Bednorz
    Fr. Jan Czuj (1886-1957)
    Fr. Dr. Stanislaw Huet (general vicar
    Fr. Jozef Keller
    Archbp. Michal Klepacz (1893-1967
    Fr. Jan Kroczek
    Fr. Piotr Kowolik (general vica
    Fr. Boleslaw Kulawik
    Fr. Kazimierz Lagosz (from Lower Silesia)
    Fr. Jacques Leclerq
    Fr. Antoni Lemparty
    Bp. Wojciech Owczarek
    Fr. Pancer
    Fr. Jan Piskorz (dean of Wroclaw) from Upper Silesia
    Fr. Waclaw Radosz
    Fr. Roman Szeming
    Fr. Werynsk
    Fr. Bonifacy Wozny
    Fr. Mieczyslaw Zywczynski (professor, Catholic Univ. of Lublin)

    Starting in February 1950, the Patriotic Priests committee published a bi-weekly, The Voice of the Priest, later called The Citizen Priest ( Ksiadz-Obywatel ), which changed its name to Priest Smithy (Kuznica Kaplanska) in 1951. (Chrypinski, "The Movement of Progressive Catholics," p. 20; Micewski, Cardinal Wyszynski, p. 74; Blit, The Eastern Pretender, p. 159). One of their priests (Fr. Cruz) served as a delegate to the World Peace Council. Patriotic Priests were strong in the diocesan governments of Slask Dolny (Lower Silesia), Katowice, Warmia (the southern part of former East Prussia), Krakow and Pomorze Zachodnie (western Pomerania). (Chrypinski, "The Movement of Progressive Catholics," p. 250).

    A fourth Catholic organization supporting the dictatorship is the Main Commission of Intellectuals and Catholic Activists ( Glowna Komisja Intelektualistow i Dzialaczy Katolickich ). The commission was established in 1950 by the theological facilities at the Universities of Warsaw and Krakow, representatives from the the Catholic University of Lublin and church workers. It became part of the Polish Commission of Peace Partisans with Rev. Professor Jan Cruz the chair. The commission supports communists candidates in local and national elections, the six-year economic plans, the movement against a new war and the suppression of counterevolutionaries. It carries out its work by organizing conferences and participating in international congresses. [Staar, Poland, pp. 260-261; Chrypinski, "The Movement of Progressive Catholics," p. 41; Micewski , Cardinal Wyszynski, p. 125].

    2.11.4 Theology . The theology of Poland's working class movement celebrates the Catholic-communist tradition. It begins with the labor theory of value: labor creates value and labor should enjoy the full value of what it creates. God in creating the universe was a laborer creating value. Workers in creating a decent society build on God's work. Working people are just as serious as God about work and society. (Chrypinski, "The Movement of Progressive Catholics," pp. 73-76). Solving problems such as recurrent unemployment, anti-Sovietism, national chauvinism and racism, violations of the Fifth Commandment (murder) and the improvement of labor conditions, is God's work. The solution is in returning to labor the value it creates, that is, in justice, class struggle and internationalism; the solution is not in the charity preached by capitalism. [Rev. Josef Keller, "Zagadnienie Wlasnosci a prawo naturalne," Zycie i Mysl , vol. 3 (1954), pp. 25-47; Chrypinski, "The Movement," pp. 58-59, 64, 76]. Political-economic systems are judged by how well they serve the spiritual and material needs of working people and their families. (Chrypinski, "The Movement," pp. 66, 76, 79-80). God, the first internationalist, is on the side of the Soviets and revolutionary struggle throughout the world. (Chrypinski, "The Movement," p. 68). Communist revolution is "Catholic revolution." (Chrypinski, "The Movement," p. 98).

    In celebrating their Catholic-communist traditions, Polish working class publishers such as PAX Association brought out hundreds of works, including 5 editions of the New Testament, 24 prayerbooks, and the works of earlier Catholic communists like Thomas More and Thomas Campanella. (Chrypinski, "The Movement," p. 38). The Catholic-communist publications are critical of world-slandering capitalist religion and its reduction of work to punishment for original sin, its minimization of social goals and its focus on pie-in-the-sky redemption. Pax Association worker Zygmunt Przetakiewicz comments on the decadent theology of Thomas Aquinas:

    Labor, intended by God to become a continuation of the act of creation, was depicted by Aquinas as punishment for the original sin, the value of time was closed within the limits of individual life, societies and nations were disregarded and real existence was acknowledged only in the individual. Religion and social progress were artificially contradicted. Christianity was made to passively accept earthly injustice as a permanent feature of the world. [Zygmunt Przetakiewicz, "Oruch w obronie cywilizacji ludzkiej," Slowo Powszechene (July 22, 1954), p. 1].

    PAX Association activists such as Rev. Jacques Leclerq, Boleslaw Piasecki and Danuta Gostynska trace the roots of Aquinas to Greek slavery and the church hierarchy's servility to landlord and capitalist governments. Under the influence of Aquinas, the ideas of Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics came to pervade the teachings of the hierarchy, leading to the supremacy of the individual over social ethics and causing the obliteration of social elements in Catholic doctrines--elements strongly articulated in the Gospel and in the practice of the first centuries of the church's life. About the hierarchy's servility at the expense of the working people, Gostynska writes:

    The desire for doctrinal inviolability led the Catholic hierarchy to another important action, causing even greater resignation from the social mission, mainly to the seeking of protection from civil authorities, which granted it in exchange for the hierarchy's blessings for the socio-political system they represented. Thus the hierarchy estranged itself first with feudalism and then capitalism. It became an ideology which disabled justified resistance and commanded passive waiting through temporalness for other-worldly happiness. [Danuta Gostynska, "Wokol Zagadnien Istotnych," Tygodnik Powszechny, no. 22 (May 22, 1958), p. 3; see also, Jacques Leclerq, "Perspektywy odradzajacego sie chrzescijanstwa," Tygodnik Powszechny, no. 10 (Mar. 6, 1955), p. 1; Boleslaw Piasecki, Zagednienia Istotne (Essential Problems) (Warzawa: 1954), p. 25].

    Poland (continued)
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