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International Socialism, Summer 1966


Freedom in Poland


From International Socialism (1st series), No.25, Summer 1966, p.14.
Thanks to Ted Crawford & the late Will Fancy.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


A group at Berkeley University, the Ad-Hoc Committee of 100 on Protest for Polish Political Freedom, has issued an appeal that demands the support of all IS readers and socialists generally in Britain. The statement reads:

We would like to bring to the attention of the Berkeley campus community and others across the nation and around the world the existence of a left-wing, radical opposition movement in Poland, members of which have been recently brought to trial by the Polish government. We feel that the attempt by the Polish government to repress free political protest, as manifested by its imprisonment of these individuals, demands protest from Americans concerned with resisting authoritarianism everywhere. We feel also that our protest can have a practical effect in aiding the political prisoners and furthering the fight to broaden political freedom in Poland. The Facts

In April 1965 some twelve to fifteen individuals in Warsaw, most of them young members of the Communist Party, were arrested by the Polish government for “possessing and distributing pamphlets ... detrimental to the interests of the Polish state and dealing with political and social relations in Poland.” Their alleged offence was the preparation and distribution of a 128-page pamphlet.

Six of these individuals were tried in July 1965. Two of them received three and three and a half years imprisonment respectively. The fate of the other four is unclear in the news reports, although they may have been released. Three of the remaining defendants were tried on 12 January 1966. All three received three years in prison.

The defendants were convicted under Section 23 of the so-called “Small Penal Code” of the Polish government, enacted on 13 June 1946. The law subjects to penalties those who distribute or those who “prepare for the purpose of distribution” literature which “contains false information that may bring essential harm to the interest of the Polish state or bring prejudice to the authority of its chief offices.” The law provides a minimum penalty of three years. This law aroused much discontent in Poland which erupted into open criticism during 1956 and for a short time afterward.

One leader of the group is Ludwik Hass, sentenced to three years in the second trial. Hass, in his late forties, joined the Polish Trotskyist Party in 1938. For his Trotskyist activity he was imprisoned in the Soviet Union from 1939 to 1957, the first 8 years of which were spent in the Vorkuta slave labour camp. He returned to Poland in 1957. The others are considerably younger than Hass. One, Karol

Modzelewski, sentenced in the first trial to three and a half years, is a young Communist of 27 years whose father was a Minister of Foreign Affairs in Communist Poland. Jacek Kuron, a young Communist intellectual, was sentenced to three years in the first trial. The historian Romuald Smiech and the economist Kasimierz Badowski were the others who, with Hass, were sentenced to three years in the second trial. The pamphlet which: caused their arrest was a manifesto of 128 pages. Its exact content is uncertain although the programme it enunciated apparently bore out Hass’ definition of himself – asserted at the trials – as a Trotskyist and revolutionary socialist. The document was also apparently influenced by the theory of the. Communist regime as a new ruling class. It characterised the Polish regime as a “bureaucratic dictatorship” and called for a return to “proletarian internationalism,” and workers’ democracy based on workers’ councils. According to Le Monde, the protesters accused the bureaucracy of having usurped the workers’ property. The pamphlet also attacked the Polish clergy for playing what it termed a “reactionary role.” The strength of these oppositionists is believed to be limited, due in part to the repression of the manifesto before it attained wide circulation. It is reported however that a demonstration of protest occurred in the courtroom at the time of the first trial, in which spectators joined the defendants in the singing of the International and in giving the clenched fist salute. Some of the courtroom demonstrators are believed to have been subject to reprisals after the trials.

These facts have been compiled from the following sources: AP (13 January 1966); Kultura (Polish émigré monthly, October 1965); East Europe (September 1965, November 1965, February 1966); New York Times (29 July and 5 November 1965); Le Monde (26 May 1965); The Militant (14 February 1966, reprint from World Outlook). Further corroborative reports have been received from a former associate of Hass’ currently in the US and from a letter from a Polish eyewitness.

IS and Labour Worker have issued a leaflet explaining the facts and supporting the demonstration outside the Polish embassy in London on 15 May. But this is only a preliminary skirmish, and continuous pressure is required – draw up your own petition forms for despatch to the Polish embassy, write directly to the Embassy and to the Polish Government, to the British press and to Left Labour MPs, and support demonstrations campaigning outside offices of the Polish State. The Polish Government must not be allowed to get away with its ruthless brutality towards political opposition – the responsibility for stopping it is ours.

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