2.11.5 Activities. (Scroll Below)
2.11.6 Socialists. (Scroll Below)
2.11.5 Activities . The focus of Poland's Catholic-communist organizations has been to put religion in the service of working people. In earlier times the clerical hierarchy had had a hand in Poland's educational, health care and welfare system. These had been run more for the benefit of the hierarchy than the working people for whom they were intended and by whom they were financed. There was wide-spread illiteracy and poverty. The hierarchy was upset that the communist Catholics, as Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski put in it 1950, presumed "to teach the bishops" about Catholicism. (Blit, The Eastern Pretender, p. 164). The Patriotic Priests helped in rooting out those who, in Fr. Antoni Lemparty's words, were using the church "to serve the interests of reaction and hinder the work of the people's government." (Blit, The Eastern Pretender, pp. 166, 178).
Typical of the Patriotic Priests was their work to bring the revolution to the seminaries where future priests are trained. These institutions have a tradition of teaching contempt for work and working people. The Patriotic Priests, working with the ministry of education, required seminarians to do manual labor, like the repair of roads and clearing of ruble, as part of their studies. (Micewski, Cardinal Wyszynski , p. 125). They were made to do compulsory military service. This gave students an insight into the lives of those who were footing the bill for their education. Rev. Dr. Marian Michalshi, rector of the theological academy in Warsaw in the 1950s, was a Patriotic Priest. He commented that the seminaries had to get closer to the working class because the people were demanding it. They were not standing for anti-communism: "Theological studies do not pertain to some pure abstraction, but to the concrete and live relationship between God and humanity." [Rev. Dr. Marian Michalski, "Letter," Tygodnik Powszechny, no. 48 (Nov. 28, 1954), p. 3].
In addition to bringing working class considerations to seminary education, the Patriotic Priests promoted service in the 325,000 member Volunteer Citizens Militia Reserves. This was a parapolice force directed against counterevolutionaries. It was not unusual for Patriotic Priests to make "concordats from the bottom" with the communists over the heads of the hierarchy. (Chrypinski, "The Movement," p. 129). The church for them was not the hierarchy and the capitalist gospel; the church was the working people. [Jerzy Krasnowolski, "Wobec przemian," Dzis i Jutro, no. 38 (Sept. 19, 1954), p. 1]. The Patriotic Priests sometimes testified in court proceedings against those hierarchy who took bribes from or spied for Anglo-American intelligence, such as Bishop Czeslaw Kaczmarek of Kielce in 1953. (Blit, The Eastern Pretender, p. 172). Ignacy Rudkiewicz, editor of The Catholic Weekly (Tygodnik Katolicki), voiced his low opinion of this capitalist hierarch:
I have no doubt that the trial of Bishop Kaczmarek is directed against the use of the priest's cassock and his high church office for purposes which clearly collide with the real good of the Faith. Priests headed by Bishop Kaczmarek are taking advantage of the trust the faithful have in them. It is painful to me that the persons who occupy such high positions in the church hierarchy in Poland have committed such a betrayal both of Catholic doctrine and of obligations evolving from the fact of belonging to the Polish nation. (Blit, The Eastern Pretende, p. 177).It was the class struggle of communist Catholics like Frs. Kazimierz Lagosz Stanislaw Huet that brought a crackdown in 1953 on the anti-communism of Cardinal Stephan Wyszynski. (Chrypinski, "The Movement," p. 40). He was forced to live in a monastery.
Putting religion into the service of working people for Patriotic Priests has meant using the pulpit and church organization for internationalism and to oppose anti-Sovietism, racism and national chauvinism. The Soviet Union has been pictured as "the moral and material power" that protects the people from imperialist plunder; anti-Sovietism is an attack "against the Polish people." [Boleslaw Piasecki, "Dwie Drogi Katolicyzmu," Slowo Powszechne (Mar. 2, 1953), pp. 2-3.] On June 17, 1950 500 members of the Patriotic Priests Committee made a pilgrimage to the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz. There they signed the Stockholm Peace Appeal, which was directed against U.S. capitalism's re-arming of Germany, its nuclear blackmailing of the Soviets and its pervasive violation of the Fifth Commandment. (Chrypinski, "The Movement," pp. 20, 148, 160). In the pulpit the Patriotic Priests fought for a strong industrial economy: this meant the collectivization of agriculture, the national austerity of the 3 and 6 year plans, and the struggle against the consumerism fetish of the capitalist system. [Boleslaw Piasecki, "Poglebianie argumentow," Dzis i Jutro, no. 48 (Dec. 2, 1951), p. 1; Chrypinski, "The Movement," p. 134]. At the international level, the Patriotic Priests demanded that papal encyclicals -- directed at correcting the errors of capitalism by condoning more capitalism -- address the communist state reality. (Chrypinski, "The Movement," p. 78). Some of the internationalist priests during the 1950s volunteered their services along with medical workers, engineers and technicians in Vietnam and Africa to assist in the fight against French and U.S. imperialism. (Blit, The Eastern Pretende, p. 169).
2.11.6 Socialists . In October 1956 Catholics were part of the Natolin movement which fought to keep Nikita Khrushchev and his ally Wladyslaw Gomulka from, in the communist view, turning back the clock. (Blit, The Eastern Pretende, pp. 136, 138-139, 183-186). On December 15, 1948 the PWP had forced the Polish Socialist Party to combine with the PWP to form the Polish United Workers Party (Polska Zjednoczona Partia Rabotnicza, PZPR/PUWP). With the consolidation, large numbers of anti-worker, anti-communist socialists entered the PUWP. (Staar, Poland, p. 176). But at least prior to 1956 the working class dictated the party program. [Richard Staar,Yearbook on Communist Affairs: 1979 (Stanford: Hoover Institution, 1977), p. 51].
After Khrushchev, however, the socialists, not the communists, often have had the upper hand. The Catholic-communists complained that Gomulka and his socialist successors have more in common with the reactionary politics of the Christian Democrats in Italy, France, Western Germany and the Vatican than with working people. (Chrypinski, "The Movement," p. 94). The communists and the working class are second-class or non-citizens. The socialists' first 5 year program (1956-1960) and those that followed focused on decentralization of the economy, consumer goods, a moderate rate of investment, capitalist agriculture, the expansion of economic ties with capitalist nations and the minimization of ties to communist nations. To trade with the capitalists the socialists borrowed heavily. Between 1957 and 1962, Gomulka borrowed $407 million from the U.S. at he same time he ran a deficit of $310 million/year. (Staar, Poland, p. 117). By 1980 40% of Poland's trade was with capitalist countries. This trade resulted in a negative balance of payments. After 1956 rural class struggle was brought to a halt and the 10,000 farms that had been collectivized, were privatized. Because capitalist farming was not viable, the government subsidized it. This resulted in hoarding, speculation, erratic food supplies, a black market and the diversion of grain and potatoes for the distillation of illegal spirits. The the 1970s the nation was spending 40% of its annual budget to import grain.
National chauvinism, anti-Sovietism and disrespect for work and working people became commonplace. The socialists released from prison 100,000 capitalists, landlords, agents of foreign imperialism and their puppets in the media and education (including 500 clergy). They forced the Association of Fighters for Freedom and Democracy (ZBoWiD) to allow veterans of the Home Army and Peasant Batallions to join. Earlier these groups had been excluded because they had fought more against the Red Army and the First Polish Army than against the Nazis.
Finally the socialists pushed to increase the number of clergy and their real estate holdings. From 1956 to 1990 planning permission was granted to build or rebuild 1900 churches--a rate of construction unequaled in the thousand-year history of Polish Catholicism. [Carl Tighe, "Render Unto Caesar: Church and State in Poland." Monthly Review, vol. 38 (Dec. 1986), 20-30, 21]. In 1937 there were 14,000 priests; by 1990 there were 19,000. Beginning Dec. 8, 1956, the clergy were paid 700 to 1000 zlotys/month from the government treasury (ministry of education) to teach in 18,000 catechism centers. The pay rate was almost equal to that of workers. In 1937 the hierarchy owned 7,200 buildings; by 1990 they owned 14,000. In 1937 there were 23,700 monks and nuns; by 1990 there were 36,000. (Staar, Poland, p. 252). During the post-Vatican period when the role and number of clergy was in decline and the laity on the rise in the rest of the church, the 45 Polish seminaries were producing such a surplus that their only employment was in foreign countries. It should not be surprising that in the uprisings of 1968, 1970, 1976, 1980 and 1981, the hierarchy took the side of the socialists. In 1980 Cardinal Wyszynski condemned Solidarity and the strike at Gdansk. (Tighe, "Render Unto Caesar," p. 25). When martial law was imposed in 1981, Cardinal Glemp used the pulpit to support it. When John Paul II visited Poland in 1982, he preached support of the PUWP and the established order.
Working people often did not benefit from the PUWP, but they carried the burden of paying for its program. After 1990 PUWP was re-named the Democratic Left Alliance (Sojusz Lewicy Demoratycznej, SLD). The SLD increased the attack on working people. For example, from January to October 1990, 500,000 Polish women lost their jobs and 10,000 became government-licensed sex workers. [Gerald Stine, Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome: Biological, Medical, Social and Legal Issues (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 1996), p. 323]. Prostitutes made in three hours what factory workers made in three months. During the same period 10,000 physicians left the country and 400,000 working class Poles became injection drug users. Of these a third became HIV positive.
From 1956 to the present, Catholic communists and their allies have helped in the defense of their class. In electoral politics they have worked to defeat the worst candidates by mounting campaigns in which the names of such candidates have been crossed off the ballot by the voters. When the government has sought to increase the subsidy to farmers by increasing food prices (paid by the working class), PAX Association members as in February 1971 have been among the strikers and rioters who have forced the government to back off. Similarly when the socialists sought to increase working class housing and transportation costs, in order to repay the nation's debt to foreign capital, PAX Association has been on the picket line in opposition. (Staar, Yearbook on Communist Affairs, p. 52). A socialist journalist commented about PAX Association's militancy:
PAX often tried to be more consistently communist than the party itself. It was strongly despised--perhaps more than the party--both by the Catholic intelligencia and the all intellectuals opposing the totalitarian system. [Leszek Kolakowski, "The Intelligencia," Poland: Genesis of a Revolution, ed. Abraham Brumberg (New York: Random House, 1983), p. 59].
Return to Top
Return to Poland Page
Return to Internationalism Page
Return to Home Page -->