Justice Cannot Be Appeased
ALL NATIONS MUST BE TREATED AS EQUAL BEFORE THE LAW
By JAN CIECHANOWSKI, Polish Ambassador to the United States
Delivered at a meeting of the United American and Polish Societies, Commemorating the 154th Anniversary of the Adoption of the Polish Constitution, Baltimore, Md., May 6, 1945
Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. XI, pp. 466-469.
NO American commemoration of an event in Polish history has a symbolic meaning as deep as that of Poland's Constitution Day. By commemorating the founding of the liberal Polish Constitution, unanimously introduced by the Polish Nation on May 3, 1791, the great-hearted American people show their deep understanding of the real, fundamental closeness existing between our two nations. In the latter part of the 18th century the civilized
nations of both hemispheres founded their constitutions upon what was then considered the novel trend of liberalism, and what later led to the modern conception of democracy.
This has forged a special link between them.
The yearly manifestations of the American people all over this great United States on Poland's Constitution Day, the numerous speeches in the United States Congress, the press comments and, last but not least, such splendid celebrations as the one we are privileged to attend today, are the living proofs of the intensity, the sincerity and the depth of American-Polish friendship, founded upon a community of ideals and aims.
This year's anniversary of the Polish Constitution takes on an exceptional meaning, for after many years of bitter fighting and of the greatest sacrifices, the victory of the United Nations over the forces of German totalitarian imperialism has been finally achieved. The defeat of Hitler's Japanese ally can be regarded as a not too distant foregone conclusion.
Hence, the time has come for all freedom-loving nations in both hemispheres to start readjusting their thoughts, so tensely concentrated on war problems and war requirements, to the great task of winning a peace which will open a new era of freedom, justice and democracy, a peace worthy of the sacrifices of the millions of lives of our best men and women, worthy of the toil and suffering of innocent peoples and, above all, worthy of our Christian civilization; a peace which will unite the world by inspiring all human beings with mutual confidence, with faith in principles of morality, justice and decency, and will reassure them that henceforth laws and treaties will be respected and security will become a reality.
In this unprecedented total war Poland was the first actively to resist German invasion. Though defeated in the initial campaign by Hitler's overwhelming forces, supported by a Soviet invasion of Poland in September, 1939, the Polish Nation remained unconquered. Poland never ceased actively to fight throughout this war by means of her Underground Home Army in Poland and the Polish Army, Navy and Air Force abroad. These forces have fought valiantly, shoulder to shoulder with Poland's Allies. They fought in France, in Norway, in the Battle of Britain, in North Africa, in Italy, in Normandy, in Belgium, in Holland, inside Germany, as well as on sea and in the air.
When Hitler attacked Soviet Russia in June, 1941, the Polish Underground, acting on orders of the Polish Government in London, gave its fullest active support to the Russian forces by means of increased guerilla warfare, sabotage of German communications and transports, and later, when the Russian offensive through Poland started in 1944, the regular Underground Army of Poland came out into the open and greatly helped the Russian forces in their advance on the entire territory of Poland.
Throughout this war, Poland alone among the European countries overrun by Germany, never produced a Quisling.
Poland's war record is clear and blameless.
I am not enumerating these facts in order to "blow" Poland's trumpet. In acting as she did, Poland fulfilled her duty to her own people and to the common cause of freedom which she had always defended in the past, I mention these facts because, unfortunately, it appears to be necessary to restate them in view of the spread of a propaganda campaign hostile to Poland which attempts to vilify the Polish Nation and its legal Government by so grossly misrepresenting facts and issues, that the true picture of pre-war Poland, of her war effort and of her conduct in this war is being deliberately distorted and falsified.
The Polish Nation is too sincerely attached to its traditions to allow such misrepresentation of its character and aims to go unchallenged. The Polish Government and people have been exceptionally patient and long suffering, being sincerely desirous of preserving Allied unity, so essential in war time. However, at this crucial moment when Allied unity should be reaffirmed in relation to the constructive principles of justice, which alone can become the sound basis of collaboration in a world security organization, it is urgent to rectify misconceptions endangering the establishment of a just and durable peace.
Contrary to allegations of hostile propaganda, Poland is not a feudal oligarchy where opulent and arrogant aristocrats subjected and exploited the poor. Nor is she a country of great landed estates and of miserably small peasant holdings. This is proved by official comparative statistics on agricultural holdings in various countries.
In Poland 76.3% of the total area of farmland was broken up into farms of less than 100 acres. Only 23.7% constituted farming estates of 100 acres and upwards, while in England large farming estates over 100 acres represented 50.9% of the total farmland, in Czechoslovakia 43.4%, and in France 29.2%.
Social legislation in Poland, the care of working women and child welfare were considerably more advanced than in France or England. They comprised compulsory social insurance, paid vacations, medical assistance and old age pensions. This labor legislation and educational facilities extended not only to industrial labor, but to farm labor and domestic servants as well, and was efficiently applied.
It is therefore a gross injustice to attempt to misrepresent Poland as a socially backward country.
Since the restoration of Poland's independence after the first World War, Polish Governments have never been composed of large land owners and aristocrats. The land reform was quite effectively carried out and was increasing the number of small holdings at the cost of the larger estates. Nor were the co-called wealthy classes really rich in the American sense of the word. Our country, unfortunately situated in a most precarious geographical position between two mighty empires which had thrice partitioned it, was forced to maintain a considerable military establishment for its defense. This cost the nation 43% of its budget and weighed heavily on the Polish taxpayer.
And yet, after regaining our independence, in the short twenty years during which it lasted, Poland had become a semi-prosperous country, hard-working, and almost self-supporting, increasing its industrialization, the number of its schools, developing its road and railway systems, its air transport, and gradually re-occupying its place among the civilized nations of Europe, after having been partitioned under foreign domination for one and a quarter century.
All the hard work of rehabilitation accomplished after the first world war in that short time of independence has now been ruthlessly destroyed by German invasion, war, looting and wanton destruction. No nation has suffered such oppression, humiliation, persecution and methodical extermination. Our population of 35 million people has lost in this war about 8 1/2 million peoples—in fact, nearly one-fourth of its total. And yet, the spirit of the nation remains undaunted, its national consciousness and patriotism have survived. It has never sought to alleviate its sufferings by any compromise with German totalitarianism which for over five years has done its utmost to enslave and destroy it.
And now, after what that nation has gone through, after all its sacrifices in its effort to do its part for the commoncause of humanity and to preserve its soul, the restoration of Poland's independence appears once again to be placed in doubt. And because it would be impossible, after this unprecedented war fought by the United Nations against totalitarian oppression and enslavement, to justify the denial of freedom and independence to the Poles—a campaign of vilification has been launched in an attempt to prove what can never be proved, namely, that the Polish People, who so relentlessly fought Fascism, are themselves fascists; that Poland, who never ceased to fight the Germans, is pro-German, "undemocratic", and disloyal, although her outstanding Allied loyalty is unquestionable.
One of the methods of this propaganda campaign consists in spreading the impression that there is no Polish-Soviet problem but that internal differences and political strife between "rival Polish factions" stand in the way of an understanding. This is untrue, intentionally misleading and obviously calculated to turn the attention of public opinion from the complex problems now existing between Soviet Russia and Poland. These Soviet-Polish issues call for direct contact and frank discussion between the Polish and the Soviet Governments in an atmosphere of peace and mutual good will. Hitherto the Polish Government has met with no encouragement on the part of Poland's Eastern neighbor in its endeavors to discuss these matters directly.
Poland's constitutional Government is accused of being "unfriendly" to Russia. That is entirely untrue. Although Russia stabbed Poland in the back on that fateful 17th of September 1939, when Poland was fighting the German aggressor on her territory, and partitioned Poland with Germany for the fourth time in history—as soon as Hitler had double-crossed Russia and attacked her in June, 1941, the Polish Government resumed diplomatic relations with her Eastern neighbor and pledged itself actively to support the Russian war effort against the common enemy.
It is noteworthy that in 1941, when it took Germany only a few days to drive Russia out of Eastern Poland, the Soviets did not accuse the Polish Government, with whom they concluded an agreement on July 30, 1941, of being unrepresentative of Poland or "unfriendly" to the Soviet Union. On December 4th, 1941, the Polish-Soviet agreement was further strengthened during the Moscow visit paid by the Polish Prime Minister, General Sikorski, to Marshal Stalin, which resulted in a Declaration of Friendship and Mutual Assistance between the two countries signed by General Sikorski and Marshal Stalin in person. During this visit details for the formation of a Polish Army to be recruited from Poles deported to Russia during the Soviet invasion of Poland, were agreed upon between the two statesmen. Later, the Soviet Government accused Poland of having withdrawn this army when Russia needed it most. The truth is that Marshal Stalin decreed that this army was to leave Russia, saying that he could neither feed nor equip it. This army was later trained and equipped in the Middle East with the aid of Poland's Ally Britain and, under General Anders, it has proved most useful in the Allied campaign in Italy.
Nor is it true that the Polish Government became "unfriendly" to Russia after the death of General Sikorski. His successor, the prominent Polish Peasant Party leader, Premier Mikolajczyk, made every effort and undertook two journeys to Moscow to work out an understanding and to conclude a treaty with Soviet Russia. His efforts failed because he was asked to sign away 43% of Poland's territory before any agreement could be discussed, and other conditions incompatible with Poland's independence and sovereignty were placed regarding the composition of a Polish Government.
Nor is the present Polish Government presided by his successor, Mr. Arciszewski, the venerable leader of the Polish Socialist Party, "unfriendly" to Russia. Mr. Arciszewski did not spend his time in this war outside Poland. For five years he was one of the most active leaders of the Polish Underground State inside Poland and one of the Party chiefs in the Polish Underground Parliament. He risked his life daily alongside of the other Underground fighters and was finally brought out of German occupied Poland at the special request of the President of the Polish Republic to take part in the Polish Government. During his work in the Underground he was one of those leaders who carried out the determination of the Polish people to fight the Germans and to help Russia. Even now, regardless of rebuffs and vilification, of being called a fascist and reactionary, this venerable Socialist Party leader has repeatedly issued statements on behalf of the Polish Government expressing his readiness to open direct negotiations with the Soviet Government and has declared that the Polish Government will accept any one of the methods foreseen by international law for the just and fair solution of the controversy with the participation of both parties concerned.
How then should one interpret the term "friendly" government: A Soviet-sponsored committee formed in Moscow, without consultation with the people of Poland and in which former Comintern agents, some of whom were until recently Soviet citizens, occupy the key positions, has been imposed upon the Polish Nation and recognized by Soviet Russia as the provisional "Polish Government", Are we to conclude, that a "friendly" government of an independent Poland must be constituted in Moscow and mainly composed of Communists? In what way is such a government representative of the Polish people, as deeply attached to their constitutional rights of choosing their own governments, as any other Democracy? How can such a government be representative of a people, among whom Communism constitutes at most 1 1/2 to 2% of the population? How is this method of creating governments compatible with the repeatedly declared formula of Marshal Stalin that he is determined that Poland shall be strong and independent?
As regards the accusation that the legal Polish Government in London is unrepresentative of the Polish people,—the following irrefutable facts suffice to disprove this accusation.
From the very outset and up to this day the Polish Nation has never questioned the constitutional legality or the authority of that Government. No rival Government has been formed in Poland by the Polish people. On the contrary, the Polish Underground State organized in the closest understanding with the Polish Government, has always followed all its directives. The Polish Army, Navy and Air Force abroad, as well as the Polish Home Army of Underground Poland have fought under its direct Command.
Most recently twelve representatives of the Polish political Parties in Poland and four Ministers of the legal Polish Government, resident there, in understanding with the Polish Government undertook to enter into direct negotiations with the Soviet authorities. There sixteen Polish leaders who throughout this war have headed Poland's Underground State in its active resistance to the German aggressor, established contact with the Soviet High Command in the latter part of March. They were promised their personal safety by the Soviet authorities and facilities for going to London in order to consult with their Government prior to further negotiations in view of concluding an agreement Notwithstanding these promises, the intrepid leaders ofPolish Democracy disappeared and the Soviet Government refused to give any explanation regarding their fate.
The press has just carried the news that the Soviet Government has now informed the British and American Governments that these Delegates have been arrested by the Soviet authorities under the ludicrous accusation that they were responsible for a plot which allegedly resulted in the death of "more than a 100 Red army officers and enlisted men.
I must leave it to the sound good sense of American public opinion to form its own judgment regarding this violation of international law and procedure in the case of a delegation of leading officials and political representatives who have in good faith sought to open negotiations on behalf of Poland in the sincere hope of reaching an understanding with Soviet Russia.
Reliable information from Poland conclusively proves that a rapid process of political, economic and social communization is being carried out in Poland against the will of the people. Contrary to democratic practice, legal chaos and irresponsible economic experiments are being arbitrarily introduced. The heroic fighters of the Polish Home Army, the same who did their utmost at the cost of untold sacrifices to help the Russian forces in their fight against the common German enemy, are being arrested, deported and executed. They are accused of being traitors and, most ironically, of being German collaborationists and fascists.
These are the grim facts of Poland's "liberation" from Nazi tyranny. There is no enmity in Poland against the Russian nation. But the Polish people are determined to regain their freedom and to remain free. They are determined to regain real independence, which they consider to be their birthright as it is that of other less precariously situated nations.
Throughout its history the Polish People have always fought for freedom. They will never give up that fight.
The Allied countries liberated by the British and American forces are being turned over to their legal governments as soon as this is feasible. Most of these governments have by now been reinstalled and reconstructed. A different pattern is followed in the countries now liberated from German occupation by Soviet Russia. In the case of Poland, not only is the legal Government prevented from returning to that country and placing itself at the disposal of the Polish people, who alone have the right to decide what Government they want to have, but Poland has been entirely barred from any free contact with the outside world, and neither Britain nor the United States have as yet been able to send any military missions or observers of any kind to Poland.
The Polish Nation is deprived of the means of free expression. Freedom of speech, freedom of the press have been abolished. For eight months now the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration has been unsuccessful in obtaining the necessary visas from Soviet Russia for its mission to proceed on its Samaritan work to Poland.
In these circumstances, it is permissible to have serious apprehensions regarding the situation inside Poland under Soviet occupation.
Painful as it is to have to state these facts at this time when our common victory over Nazi tyranny and the rule of might over right has finally been achieved,—it is necessary to do so, not with any intention of disrupting Allied unity or of endangering the all important task of establishing security and peace. On the contrary, it is necessary to realize the existence of such situations and to face them boldly while there may still be a chance of using persuasion to rectify them with a view of creating an atmosphere of harmony necessary for the successful work of establishing a secure peace.
Victory has been achieved by united force. In war, power is the dominant factor. However, power alone cannot be the foundation of peace. Without justice, no peace can endure. And a just peace is what the world is yearning for and has a right to expect.
In a civilized world, all nations must be equal before the law and juridically equal amongst themselves, regardless of size, importance or power.
The inequality which exists between the Big and Small Powers should not be measured in terms of power supremacy, but only in terms of power responsibility. The Big Powers cannot escape responsibility for the maintenance and the defense of a just peace settlement, even by force, if the necessity should arise.
However, to be just and durable, a security system should be operated on the firm basis of the collaboration of all nations concerned, the Big and Small, as their joint responsibility, in direct proportion to their respective possibilities.
Wartime thinking tends temporarily to relegate to secondary importance fundamental principles, moral and cultural forces, and spiritual ideals, so indispensable to the establishment of a just and durable peace.
In erecting the structure of a peace settlement on a world scale it is indispensable boldly to turn our minds to the principles and human ideas without which mankind, profoundly disturbed by war, cannot be restored to normal ways of thinking and democratic living. How can one establish unity in a world if one hemisphere is to enjoy the rule of justice and individual freedom, while the other is to be partly free and partly oppressed and enslaved.
Much is being said at present about realism as opposed to idealism. We are frequently told not to attempt to strive after perfectionism. Recently we have even been told that one cannot sacrifice agreement to ideals.
The gallant soldiers who fought and fell for these ideals which alone are considered by true Democrats as worthy of fighting a total war in the XX-th century of our enlightened civilization, would not accept such cynical slogans. Have these heroic fighters sacrificed their lives in the cause of freedom and the ideals of justice to allow the world they have saved, once more to revert to the tyrannical power-political concepts of the Congress of Vienna, or rather to help establish in the post-war world the noble principles of the Atlantic Charter, which inspired them to fight?
It is time that the statesmen who were wise enough and bold enough to lead the freedom-loving nations to victory, should realize that no just and honorable system of security can be established by the United Nations on any compromise with democratic principles. It is time to admit that peace can never be based on appeasement and that one can never appease justice. In a modern world there can be no realism which does not take the human element and its rights into account. Hence, there can be no settlement which disregards the self-determination of peoples. There cannot be durable peace based on injustice. There can be no justice if nations are not treated as equal before the law. There can never be real peace if power-political concepts, allowing some powers to extend their domination over others are permitted.
To establish an indivisible peace in a united and undivisible world it is both indispensable and logical to apply the same civilized norms of justice to international relations in both hemispheres.
All freedom-loving nations yearn for American leadership in establishing a just world peace. This mighty Democracy has preserved and maintained the principles of true democratic ways of living. It is both powerful and disinterested. It has learned by experience gained in two world wars that in modern times its own security is indissolubly bound to that of all other nations. It has grown to an unique position as a world power. Its responsibility has grown in direct proportion.
The greatest opportunity in human history is now given by Providence to the American people: The unique chance of using their powerful influence to restore security, just peace and happiness to suffering humanity.
God bless America and help her in this her greatest mission.