Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line: Revolutionary History, Vol. 6 No. 1
The Hass Group
‘Any contemporary of ours who wants peace and comfort above all has chosen a bad time to be born.’ – Leon Trotsky, Hitler’s Victory, 1933 
THE BEGINNING of the 1960s in Poland is associated with the ‘little stabilisation’ – living in a flat with a kitchen without windows, driving a Syrenka , and being overpowered by inertia, but with a longing for the lost ideals of October 1956. There was, however, some life under this shell.
Many people – writers, scientists, students – tried to fight the system. The most important event in the mid-1960s was Letter 34 of the spring of 1964, in which well-known intellectuals demanded some liberalisation from the authorities of the policy on Polish culture. Repression quickly followed. Many people had their passports withdrawn. Kazimierz Brandys , Adolf Rudnicki  and even Antoni Slonimski , amongst others, were not allowed to leave the country. A number of loudly-publicised political trials took place. Melchior Wankowicz , Stanisław Cat-Mackiewicz , January Grzedzinski  and Jan Nepomucen Miller  were accused and sentenced for publishing ‘seditious’ articles in the Western press.
A number of political groups were started in this period. People of a left wing orientation were often active in them because of their disappointment at the abandonment of the October reforms. At that time Jacek Kuron , Karol Modzelewski  and Adam Michnik  began their careers as oppositionists. Maoist, nationalist and Christian Democratic groups came into being. They all had one thing in common – sooner or later they ended up in prison.
One of the more interesting was a Trotskyist group which was very little known at that time, and is now completely forgotten. It was active for less than two years, and numbered fewer than 20 people. The leading members were Ludwik Hass, its informal leader and a theorist, a person who ‘said openly what others were afraid even to think’, Kazimierz Badowski, a veteran of Polish Trotskyism, and a young historian and sociology student, Romuald Smiech. Their activity ended with arrests and a court trial which was exceptionally well publicised in Western Europe because of the number of protest activities, letters and petitions to the government of the Polish People’s Republic, and publications in the Polish emigrÃ© press such as Kultura  and Wiadomosci. 
Many myths and misunderstandings have grown up around this group, its membership and the trial itself. For many people, even the most infrequent contacts with the Trotskyists soon became very inconvenient, and many of them suddenly ‘lost’ their memory. Until today the Polish Trotskyists have rarely been alluded to for this reason. They get a small mention in Jacek Kuron’s memoirs, Karol Modzelewski spoke about them a few times, and, in passing, Jerzy Eisler alludes to them in his monograph on March 1968. The accounts by the leading characters were also missing. Today, after nearly 30 years, they have decided to speak out.
Ludwik Hass : I was born and brought up in a civil service family in eastern Galicia in a kind of apolitical atmosphere of government loyalty. When at the gymnasium [grammar school] I first noticed the generally prevailing ‘cult of the state’. Even before my matriculation I found myself in the circle influenced by the Union of Polish Democratic Youth, and later its left wing. In the summer of 1936 I made the amazing ‘discovery’ of historical materialism – at last I had found the key to understanding the march of history. This happened thanks to Stanisław Piech, who was a few years older than me and a former medical student from Prague. He had some links with the Communist Party of Poland, and was a faithful Stalinist. I began to share his views.
In the autumn of 1936 I began my university studies in LwÃ³w. The left wing of the Union of Polish Democratic Youth was by then a very small group, without even its own office. Then I joined the Independent Socialist Youth Union, which was a joint organisation of all sorts of Socialists and Communists (Stalinists). This was the period of the Moscow Trials (1936-1938), and in Poland the period of the Comintern and the CPP’s attempts to form a Popular Front. My own reading and meeting with Michal Zawadowski ; an outstanding person, a graduate in philosophy from LwÃ³w University, at the Independent Socialist Youth Union, were responsible for my criticisms of Stalinist policies which gradually became sharper, and which were made at meetings of the Independent Socialist Youth Union. We had begun to notice the Stalinist bureaucracy’s machine methods and way of functioning, even when it was illegal, as it was in Poland at that time.
The Stalinists in the Independent Socialist Youth Union began, of course, to call us Trotskyists, as that was how they then characterised all their left wing critics. However, we only had a very vague idea of what Trotskyism was, and were even critical of it. But the ‘guru’ of the Stalinists in the union, Adam Schaff , used to tell us such unbelievable and fantastic stories about Trotskyists, vouching for these with his authority as a Comintern functionary in Western Europe, whilst at the same time being so unbearably big-headed that he achieved the opposite effect: we began to doubt him.
To some extent a coincidence decided my further political (and personal) development. It was in January 1938 in LwÃ³w when a young worker (he gave me his details, which I checked) introduced himself to me as a person linked with the Bolshevik-Leninist centre (the name of the Trotskyist organisation in Poland at that time).  He proposed that I, Michal and a few others close to us, join their organisation. Michal’s reaction, as soon as I told him, was straightforward and principled: if something like this exists, then we should join it, and possible small differences should not stop us. We began to receive the papers of the movement: from Paris the Russian language Byulletin’ Oppozitsii and from Belgium Lutte Ouvrière. This was a new world of ideas, views and information. It explained what was happening around us, without scholastic falsification, and without saying that black was white, even if ‘not entirely perfect’.
The outbreak of war and the entry of the Soviet army into Poland meant my arrest. We had already known about Stalinist repressions and the gulags. I remember reading a report from a deportee – at that time I wondered whether it was a literary fiction or not. When I found myself being transported, and later in a gulag, I saw that the reality was even more unbelievable than anything we had known about the system. From then on I lived with only one thought – to survive all this at any cost, to return and look in the eyes of all those who called us liars.  Much later, when I was preparing to return to Poland, an old member of the Communist Opposition, Borysov from Odessa, who had been three times on trial (even he was surprised that he was never shot), said to me: ‘Remember – you are one out of tens of thousands who has managed to leave. You have a duty to speak for all those who can no longer speak. You have to tell how the Communists, including also the Polish Communists, lived and fought on in the camps.’
I returned to Poland with a feeling of triumph. Life had shown me that the ideas in which I believed were correct.
Remaining true to the convictions for which I had spent eight years in prisons and death camps in the far north (1939–47), following which I was sentenced to ‘life banishment’, I returned home in January 1957, and then began to look around for some activity. My first improvised speech was made straightaway at the railway station – to the students’ committee who were welcoming all those returning home. I said then that I did not regard myself as a victim of Stalin. I was a soldier of the army fighting against Stalinism, and was taken a prisoner. Now I am returning home to continue my fight. I realised that here, in Poland, Trotskyism had been physically liquidated, but I knew that it was my duty, as one who had survived, to start again. In the prewar organisation I was, using a military term, no more than a corporal, but, in a situation when every officer in the battalion has been killed, an ordinary soldier must take command and save the colours. This was precisely my situation.
I began to look around for new contacts and any possibilities of reaching a wider audience. From Trybuna Ludu  I found out that there was a discussion club at the Warsaw Committee of the Polish United Workers Party. I went there, and it turned out that you had to be a party member and have an entrance ticket. I did manage to get in and spoke a little, but this was not it. Later I went to the Club ‘Life’ where all the prewar members of the student left, almost exclusively Stalinists, used to meet. I still felt a stranger in that environment. It turned out that I had overestimated the change of mood in society. Returning to Poland, I had the illusion that it had become clear to many people that we were correct. In those days, after all, Polityka  asked Isaac Deutscher to write an essay about the Polish Communist Party. I was convinced that our ideas would find fertile soil, especially then when the whole Stalinist reality was totally exposed. Later, in the autumn of 1957, I managed to make contact with the Crooked Wheel Club.  I was formally accepted as a member of this club thanks to Witold Jedlicki , who proposed me on behalf of the Club executive. For the first time I had a chance of speaking to a wider audience who listened carefully and could understand. Soon I became one of the leaders of the left wing in the Club. In the discussion on the twentieth anniversary of the dissolution of the KPP, I made my first serious speech.
Witold Jedlicki: As a participant in discussion Ludwik Hass was unbearable, aggressive, intolerant, and lacking in restraint in his outbursts ... What’s more, as a matter of principle, he quite consciously ignored certain parliamentary customs in the conduct of debates. But for all this he was, by any account, a remarkable person. As a historian, his knowledge was impressive, all the more so considering his biography, as he had spent 17 years being re-educated, eight years in a death camp, and nine years in forced resettlement within the Arctic Circle. An excellent speaker, he could electrify the audience ...
I remember, for example, when responding to the claims of the supporters of ‘raison d’état’, he said: ‘Be careful with this raison d’état, because when the integrity of two states clash, people have to be deported.’ He was not afraid of being contradicted, but he formulated his ideas in a most extreme way, and avoided a middle-of-the-road approach. In a discussion on the death penalty, he expressed the view that death sentences could sometimes be justified when carried out by real revolutionary people’s tribunals or by the revolutionary crowd in the street hanging people on lamp-posts, but totally disagreed with death sentences carried out with all the majesty of a state judiciary. (Thus Hass caused horror amongst the Americans present there, for whom this position meant a defence of anti-black lynching.) The fundamental weapon used by Hass in his polemics was Marxism in its classical form.
I must admit that from this man I learnt to appreciate Marxism as a means of political polemic against some other Marxists. Before I met him I thought of it as a by now completely ossified intellectual creation, and useless for anything except deliberate mystification. His Marxism always led to the most sensational conclusions, surprisingly original, being in complete contrast with all the miserable nonsense and truisms which were often presented to an audience under the name of Marxism. Hass was able to achieve the impossible, to give this philosophy, by then a shameless apology for the social and even political status quo, its original form of a philosophy of social revolt. And he showed a great talent in doing this. Outwardly, formally, he kept himself within the tradition of party polemics. For instance, he very much liked to quote the classics, usually in such a way that sent cold shivers down one’s spine. He very much liked to pick on words, and tirelessly probe into some of the details. But most of all he felt satisfaction when, in his opinion, he unmasked and embarrassed his opponent. He was never tired, always ready to polemicise, to argue and to clash ideologically.
Ludwik Hass: Unfortunately even this attempt ended in a fiasco – but only to some extent. The Club tried to be a political pressure group – a discussion club acting as a pressure group! A dream of a hanged man! It all ended when the Crooked Wheel Club was banned in the spring of 1962 on the orders of the Warsaw Committee of the Polish United Workers Party. 
I remember when Marian Marek Drozdowski , then still an employee working in the Party History Office of the Central Committee of the PUWP and ‘our man’ in the Science Department of the Central Committee of the PUWP, met me in the hall of the office, and said: ‘Ludwik, what does the executive of the Club want? The District Committee is still waiting for someone [from the Club] to come to discuss it. The matter is still open.’ I replied: ‘Marek, you know what the conditions are: a guided discussion, and the removal of the most inconvenient speakers. I can’t take part in this because I will be the first to be expelled.’ The outcome of the discussion was of course decided beforehand. The Club was closed, and I began my search all over again.
A rather important opportunity for me to speak about Trotskyism was at a meeting in Professor Stanisław Ossowski’s house. At first, the professor wanted to invite me to his seminar, but in the end he decided that it would be better to meet in his house. This lecture meant I had another contact with young students at the University.
Soon, by chance, I made new contacts. Once I was sitting with my friends in the Bristol café when I met Leszek Kolakowski.  On one occasion Kolakowski, having recognised my friend, came over to our table. The subject of the Fourth International came up in our discussion. It turned out that Kolakowski maintained informal contacts with the Fourth International, and had the recent Trotskyist documents, which he promised to deliver to me. I was sure that now, at last, I would achieve my aim, but weeks passed and nothing happened.
In 1962 Witold Jedlicki decided to leave Poland, and before leaving he asked what he could do for me. I had one request – to find the Secretariat of the Fourth International in Paris, and inform them that I was alive and living in Poland. After a few weeks I received a postcard with the news: ‘I was at Peter’s [that is, Pierre Frank, one of Trotsky’s secretaries – LH], and they were pleased to get your greetings.’ This was a very important moment for me; I was not politically isolated.
After some time Jacek Kuron visited me. I knew him previously from the ‘Life’ Club. He brought news that a Fourth International courier had arrived in Poland and was looking for me, so he arranged a meeting with him. I was to wait in a café. At a pre-arranged time Kuron appeared, and we went to Karol Modzelewski’s flat. I only knew the latter by sight, and, I must admit, I was surprised that the meeting was held at his place. The courier, Georges Dobbeler, was a teacher from Belgium. We discussed the situation in Poland and what could be done. Kuron spoke about the existence of a students’ organisation of 500 members, and insisted that the Fourth International publish something especially for Poland, naturally, as he stressed, giving the name of the ‘firm’. I did not say anything about this because I did not see any possibility of a mass distribution. We arranged a further meeting. In May and the beginning of June Dobbeler planned to come to Poland with a group of Belgian students as a part of an official youth exchange with the Socialist Youth Union.
Jacek Kuron: In the autumn of 1963 an activist of the Socialist Youth Union from Belgium came to Warsaw on the invitation of the SYU. He contacted Karol Modzelewski , said he was a courier of the Fourth International, and asked to be put in touch with ‘Monsieur As’. We guessed he meant Ludwik Hass, a prewar Trotskyist from Lwów, who after the Russians crossed into Poland had spent years in the gulag, and only managed to return to Poland from banishment somewhere in the faraway territory within the Arctic Circle after 1957. He came with his little son and Russian wife, a girl from a kolkhoz ...  I knew Ludwik a little from the History Department , so I told Karol that this guy from Belgium had arrived and wanted to meet him. I went to Hass, who was working at that time in the History Office of the Trade Union Centre, and together we went to Karol. That was the first time I met this Belgian, who used the pseudonym ‘Philippe’. Soon afterwards a group of tourists arrived from Belgium who brought a duplicator in a suitcase together with several thousand copies of a document of some Congress of the Fourth International translated into unbelievably bad Polish.
Ludwik Hass: May passed, then June, and I still had no news. In July, by total chance, I met Kuron on Marszalkowska Street, and to my surprise I found out that Dobbeler had actually come and brought the documents, which, he said, had been taken to Cracow, to the ‘Old Man’ (Kazimierz Badowski).  As I found out later, Kuron showed complete ignorance of any conspiratorial practice. He sent a student from France, who did not know even one word of Polish, to Cracow, just giving him Badowski’s address. In those days this was complete madness. Badowski told me later that this young man did the only sensible thing, he left the parcel in the left luggage office, and came to him with just the receipt. Fortunately Badowski spoke French fluently, and they managed to communicate with each other. This mysterious document was the Polish translation of the Resolution of the Fifth Congress of the Fourth International in 1957, The Decline and Fall of Stalinism. 
At the same time I found out that Kuron’s group had stopped distributing copies of the resolution because one of their members had been arrested, and they were negotiating conditions for his release with Władysław Bienkowski.  I asked Kuron about this [resolution] a number of times, and his answer was always ‘tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow’.
I also found out that Jacek was in discussion with Kolakowski and Jan Strzelecki. I was surprised at his choice of company because wider circles, ranging from Wiez  to ourselves, did not hold Strzelecki in very high regard, as he was considered an opportunist, a zealous supporter of unity between the Polish Workers Party and the Polish Socialist Party, and well known for changing his political views and attitudes. Kuron’s argument was that it was necessary to unite the opposition, but he convinced nobody.
About the same time a Parisian solicitor  visited Warsaw, and, at the request of Pierre Frank, the Secretary of the Fourth International, found me in order to establish contact. He was an elderly man, born in Warsaw and brought up in Moscow, had been a member of the Cadet Youth Organisation , who after 1917 had come to Warsaw, and in 1924 had emigrated to France. I gave him my article about the present political situation in Poland, and we arranged ways to keep in touch. This article never reached Paris. This person imagined he was under observation on his way to the airport, and destroyed the text.
Around 1963 I established close relations with 23-year-old Romek Smiech, an historian and a reader in the sociology department of Warsaw University. We began to work together. He invited me to probably the first meeting of the political club of the Socialist Youth Union at the university, whose chairman was Karol Modzelewski. I spoke at that meeting. From then on I was invited to every meeting by the other members of the executive of the club, too. These meetings enabled me to make the acquaintance of young people. Some of them became our sympathisers.
We never established formal structures. There were too few of us. Our strength lay in the influence we exerted in circles of the young intelligentsia, and through our activity in all sorts of discussion clubs. Of course this was not ideal, but we had to do it. Despite our activity and many attempts, we could never reach the workers. The whole of the apparatus of the Polish People’s Republic carefully sealed off the intelligentsia from contact with the working class.
On the other hand, we realised that we needed a professional team of agitators – people dedicated to the idea, but also steeled in political activity. We did not have such people. We took the road of Ludwik Warynski , small conspiratorial circles, although we hoped the effects would appear more quickly.
Romuald Smiech: In 1957 I had begun my historical studies at the University of Cracow, just at the time of students strikes over the dissolution of the journal Po Prostu,  and also the dissolution of the Revolutionary Youth Union. At our department we initiated a group of the Union of Socialist Youth, which had nothing in common with the later official USY. We wanted to be more radical than the Polish Students Union, which we thought was a bourgeois organisation and full of careerists. These were my political beginnings.
Zygmunt Jan: In some circles of the university intelligentsia, Romek found friends who, to his surprise, thought in a very similar way to him. They were students, readers and even older intellectuals, specialists in every field. Sometimes discussions were organised at the university ... For some time in the Polish Students’ Union building, under the name of the Language Club, there was a permanent discussion centre. It became so well known in Warsaw that foreigners started coming. Soon afterwards the Language Club was closed down, but it was still possible to give lectures. In the discussions after the lectures there were criticisms, demands were formulated and proposals to solve some of the burning social and political problems were discussed ... No-one demanded the liquidation of the party, or the building of new parties alongside the Communist one. No! The demand was for a return to, or rather for the creation of, inner-party democracy. One demand was to end the privileged position of the members of the Central Committee, from both an economic point of view as well as their monopoly of decision. The party structures outside the centre needed to have some autonomy, and to be able to influence the political line of the whole of the party. Free discussion inside the party organisations was demanded with the possibility of grassroots initiatives as well as the freedom to criticise constructively directives coming from the top.
Romuald Smiech: My acquaintance with Ludwik began on a professional level. I came into contact with him whilst preparing my thesis on the history of the Polish Socialist Party left wing’s paper Robociarz [Worker]. Our contacts became closer after I moved to Warsaw, where I began studying sociology at the University, and where I was also a reader. Ludwik Hass is a person with whom it is impossible just to have social contacts; quite gently and almost imperceptibly I became drawn into what he was trying to do.
We all felt the need for people who would be able to put forward a political analysis. Hass was such a person. After a discussion with him you would leave with new horizons. He would pay attention to events which we would not have noticed. Publicly he said things which others at that time were afraid even to think. This was his strength, both in contact with individuals as well as in public appearances. I admired him. To come from a small town to Cracow and then to Warsaw was a big qualitative jump for me. To come from Vorkuta to Poland was incomparably greater for Hass, yet it was he who was dissatisfied and tried to struggle, and not me.
Witold Jedlicki: Hass felt nothing but contempt for the rotten, party regime of Gomułka, corrupt to the core. He never had any illusions in October 1956. He saw more clearly than others that October did not dislocate the existing power structure of the Polish People’s Republic, and that the party still retained full freedom of manoeuvre to use the stick or the carrot, depending on its whim. He loved freedom, real freedom, not some other meaning secretly smuggled in under the name of ‘freedom’, he wanted no ‘understanding of necessity’ or ‘freedom to criticise constructively’...
Hass’s sensitivity to the problems of power was also expressed in another way by his stubborn posing of the paradox of a great dignitary of impeccable manners teaching the ‘plebs’ the advantages of Socialism. Thus he raised the issue of the social distance between the ruling group and the rest of the nation, and the issue of the ruling group’s morality. There was the question of the division of the national income and ‘who is best off in Poland’. There was the issue of the ‘new class’. Hass spoke of all these things, in crowded halls, under the noses of the government officials snooping all round him.
Romuald Smiech: The group’s activity was above all Ludwik’s activity. Badowski was not an activist type, but it was impossible to exclude him because of his wide contacts with the Western Trotskyists. I, on the other hand, was active in the university’s Union of Socialist Youth, and especially in the discussion club. I had contacts with Karol Modzelewski, and I met Jacek Kuron. At that time I went to Cracow several times to see Badowski to deliver papers, and once or twice I contacted him about the duplicator.
Was I a Trotskyist? I have always been someone with left wing views, but I cannot say that I was a Trotskyist. My membership of the group was a choice of a man, and not a political choice. Above all, it was Ludwik who was the Trotskyist.
Witold Jedlicki: Hass always maintained that of all the anti-Stalinist oppositional groups inside the Communist movement only the Trotskyists showed any ability to build some sort of a permanent movement, some kind of permanent forms of organisation on the international scale. All the other groups were ephemeral, and sooner or later they fell apart ...
Hass was attracted by the romanticism of the situation in which the Trotskyist movement existed. I think of it as being completely enveloped by provocation and banditry, and as a movement decimated by secret murders ... I think that for Hass, Trotskyism was, more than anything, a great longing – a great longing for a revolution which had not yet been turned into an inept and dishonest administration, for fraternity amongst people which had not yet become mutual spying and denunciation, for some elementary honesty which had not been fucked up by inter-party personal intrigues, for an individuality which was not yet nationalistic. And above all, he was for a truth which is not relative, for using the same measure for the same things, and for calling things by their proper names.
Ludwik Hass: At that point we began to get the Fourth International journal, Quatrième Internationale. We tried to translate the essential things into Polish, to type out a few copies and to distribute them. We expected some readers would also type a few copies of this material and distribute it. Our circle began to grow. I also organised a small discussion group. We used to meet in the flat of an employee of the University Library, Zosia Kowalska. Amongst others Władysław Bartoszewski, Wojtek Ziembinski and Jan Józef Lipski  used to come. We studied the documents of the International and distributed them. At one of our meetings, Lipski told us about the proposal which later came to be known as ‘Letter 34’. We decided to take part in distributing the letter.
In the end Romuald Smiech and I decided that we should distribute The Decline and Fall of Stalinism ourselves. Looking back I think I made an inadmissible mistake because I promised the Belgian that I would act 100 per cent legally, meaning that we could not be accused of anything. And here I got carried away. Karol Modzelewski gave me the address of Badowski. I had only met him once before. I sent Romek to Cracow to see him. He came back with 100 copies of the document.
After some time, Kuron informed me that they had begun to formulate a programme, but I did not know whether this was that of a party opposition or a new party. I doubted if the situation was right for this. I realised that to write a programme you need more than a few good ideas and a number of intelligent members. One day Kuron told me that the programme was ready, and they wanted me to read it. I read it in his flat. We arranged to meet again to discuss this material in another flat in the same building belonging to some other young man. Karol Modzelewski was also there. I remember that the document had 130 pages which, considering that it had to be distributed secretly, seemed to me to be complete madness. I tried to persuade them to shorten it considerably.
In the first days of October 1964 I suddenly learnt that Kuron, Modzelewski, Stanisław Gomułka  and someone else had been suddenly seized and arrested. It happened like this: one evening they were sitting with their wives – it must have been around 11 o’clock in the evening – when the security forces rang the doorbell. Instead of saying that at such a late hour they would not let anyone in, and meanwhile burn the documents, they completely lost their heads. The security forces took all the men and left the wives. Later on, the reason for the arrests became known. Modzelewski was having an affair with the daughter of one of the assistant secretaries in a department of the Central Committee of the PUWP. The assistant secretaries’ telephones were bugged – to protect them against any threats ... In a telephone conversation Modzelewski wanted the girl to spend a weekend in Zakopane with him, but she wanted to fix another date to which Karol answered that it would be too late then. Modzelewski was then already under surveillance, and so they concluded that they were preparing some action, and gave the signal to arrest them all. They were released after 48 hours.
By the time they were arrested we were already distributing The Decline and Fall of Stalinism at full blast. Kuron and Modzelewski did not take part in this, but when they found out about it Kuron came to me for a copy. Later on this copy became one of the threads which led to our group, and was responsible for our arrest. It was found during a police raid on a home of a ‘Maoist’ to whom Kuron had given it with a great pride.
After some time I met Modzelewski again, and he told me that they intended to duplicate the shortened version of the ‘programme’ confiscated by the security forces, and were going to Cracow for this purpose. Immediately after this conversation I sent Romek Smiech to Cracow to explain to Badowski that it was an inopportune time for this sort of activity, and he should not give the duplicator to anyone from Kuron’s group. A mass distribution at that time made no sense – not because it was risky, but because there was no audience for these sort of texts. In my opinion we should work in small groups. Badowski had a slightly different point of view. He had known Modzelewski a number of years, which was why he was willing to give him the duplicator and the printing blocks. And he did just that. He thought that even if they published something incorrect, we could polemicise with them in the press.
Kuron and Modzelewski came to me to find out why I was against the distribution. I repeated my arguments. It was then that Karol made an accusation which, in conditions of illegality, is the worst thing you can say because there is no answer to it: ‘Perhaps you’ve had a fright and are scared you may go to prison again?’ After this psychological blackmail, not even the most sensible argument had any effect. They left.
A few days later Jacek came in the evening. It just happened that one of my distributors was there. When Kuron saw him he called me into the bathroom and gave me two copies of the Open Letter to the Party  by Karol and himself – one, he said, for the International and the second for me. He then informed me that tomorrow at 11 o’clock we would start the distribution. He presented me with the accomplished fact. Nothing more could be done. Two days later, on Thursday, Kuron and Modzelewski were arrested. On Saturday the security forces came to arrest me.
There were three or four of them. The search was very thorough. I remember that one of them kept saying how surprised he was that I managed to write so much. They did not find anything incriminating, but only took a photocopy of an article about me by Janusz Kowalewski  and a German edition of the history of Russia by Pokrovsky.  At the end one of them said with unsuppressed amazement: ‘You must have gone through a pretty good school. At any other intellectual’s we would have found much more than here.’ Later the interrogators spoke about me as ‘a cunning Russian’.
Romuald Smiech: On Saturday at about five o’clock they arrested the whole group. At that time I was renting a room [on the outskirts of Warsaw] in Rembertow. A day earlier I had gone to Gdansk – to see my girlfriend. This was to be my first visit to her parents. The plain clothes policemen made a very thorough search, and found my girlfriend’s address. In any case, my landlady told them where I had gone. They did not pick up my traces until Sunday evening. Until the last moment I did not know anything about the arrest of Hass and Badowski. The police were convinced that I had gone to Gdansk with Trotskyist documents and Kuron and Modzelewski’s Open Letter. They made a thorough search of my girlfriend’s parents’ flat. I need hardly add that hardly anyone introduces himself to his future parents-in-law in this way.
From the prosecution document
1. Kazimierz Marian Badowski, born 15 July 1907 in Regow Stary, son of Konrad and Balbina, maiden name Wosatko; 2. Ludwik Ferdynand Hass, born 28 November 1918 in Stanisławowo (USSR), son of Baroch and Jechewet, maiden name Hoffman; 3. Romuald Smiech, born on 7 February 1940 in Poduchance near Hrubieszow, son of Jan and Władysława, maiden name, Dabrowska, are accused of: Between 1963 and March 1965 in Cracow, Warsaw and Chelmno Lubelskie keeping with the aim of distribution and distributing duplicated texts of a pamphlet harmful to the interests of the Polish state, calling for the overthrow by force of the leading organs of power of the Polish People’s Republic, and containing false information regarding socio-political and economic relations in Poland, a crime according to article 23, paragraph 1 of a decree dated 13 June 1946, and dealing with the crimes especially dangerous in the period of the reconstruction of the state ...
Also: Kazimierz Marian Badowski is accused of: In the autumn of 1964 in Cracow he helped Karol Modzelewski and Jacek Kuron to prepare a document with the aim of distribution, which was likely to cause substantial damage to the interests of the Polish state, which contained calls to overthrow by force the leading organs of state power in the Polish People’s Republic, and gave false information regarding socio-political and economic relations in Poland – especially in the following way, that after studying the contents of the document he passed on his remarks, he provided them with the use of a duplicator and several dozen printing blocks, a crime according to article 27 of the penal code in connection with article 23, paragraph 1 of the decree dated 13 June 1946 ...
And that Ludwik Ferdynand Hass: In the years 1964–65 in Warsaw he helped Karol Modzelewski and Jacek Kuron prepare a document with an aim of distributing, which was likely to cause substantial damage to the interests of the Polish state, containing calls to overthrow by force the leading organs of state power of the Polish People’s Republic, and gave false information regarding socio-political and economic relations in Poland – especially in the following way, that after studying the contents of the document he passed on his remarks, and then kept the manuscripts of the document written in the form of an Open Letter – a crime according to article 27 of the penal code in connection with article 23, paragraph 1 of the decree dated 13 June 1946 ...
Ludwik Hass: The interrogation began. The security forces had in their hands a copy of The Decline and Fall of Stalinism. At first Kuron and Modzelewski’s cases and ours were kept together, but later they were separated. I even asked my interrogator the reason for this. His answer was logical and simple: ‘Well, we cannot make you into martyrs by staging a big trial for you.’ Sometimes the reaction of the interrogators was quite comical, and one, for instance, accused me of leaving out of The Decline ... the question of the peasantry! For many of them the object of the interrogation was incomprehensible. The older ones suffered from something like mental schizophrenia – they read and understood this language, but they did not know what my crime was. They were convinced that this was an internal party dispute. Some of them knew me from the University, and some even greeted me as a good friend.
In prison we were put in with the supporters of Kazimierz Mijala , who were on trial at the same time. We were called ‘the Marxists’. After the interrogation ended we were allowed our solicitors. My solicitors were Michal Brojdes and Jan Olszewski.  Officially I was accused, under article 23 of the decree of 1946, which related to especially dangerous crimes in the period of reconstruction (immediately after the war!), of spreading false information which could cause public unrest – an act for which the punishment was three years imprisonment. At that time this article of the penal code was going to be changed to carry a lesser sentence, but at the personal intervention of Zenon Kliszko , who supervised the trial proceedings, it was left as it was.
From the prosecution document
The manuscript of the ‘document’ and the Open Letter, which is a shortened version of the document, both contain false information about the socio-political and economic relations existing in Poland, which could cause substantial damage to the interests of the Polish state.
In both of the works there is a call for the overthrow, by means of a revolution, of the leading organs of state power and the party apparatus, characterising them together as a ‘central bureaucracy’ forming a new class. The programme of action has as its aim putting an end to the existing political and economic system of the Polish People’s Republic, in which, according to the authors, the working class is exploited by the ‘power of the bureaucracy exercising undivided control over the socialised means of production’. Besides this, it calls for getting rid of the leading rôle of the Polish United Workers Party in all the domains of socio-political and economic life, and also the disbanding of the forces of law and order and internal security, and their substitution by different organs ...
After the statement on the economic and general crisis in Poland, in further extracts of the document it is said that the ‘overcoming of the economic and general crisis is therefore only possible by way of a revolution, or by overthrowing the dictatorship of the bureaucracy’: ‘In this condition of general crisis the bureaucracy is isolated, and no class will come to its defence. The first step of the workers’ struggle against the bureaucracy is the economic struggle for a greater share of the necessary product, that is a strike.’
Elsewhere it is stated that ‘we are living in the condition of a total dictatorship. All publications, including scholarly ones ... are subject to severe rules of censorship, that is to say, terror is introduced, which stifles any remnants of freedom.’ Both works deny any gains whatsoever for the working class in Poland in the period of the last two decades. They point out that the working class in Poland ‘under the rule of the central bureaucracy’ does not have any future in a positive sense... The information spread by the accused may undoubtedly cause substantial damage to the state interests of the People’s Republic of Poland.
Romuald Smiech: The arrest was a shock for me. I did not expect it. We had never discussed how to behave in such an eventuality.
First, on Monday night and Tuesday morning I was interrogated at the police headquarters at Palac Mostowskich, and on Tuesday I was taken to Rakowiecka prison. They already knew all about my visits to Cracow and my contacts with Badowski. Throughout the interrogation they threatened to end my academic career. Fortunately, one of my friends arranged an outstanding defence lawyer for me – Witold Lis-Olszewski – a former Stalinist prisoner who had come out of prison in 1957. His relationship towards me was almost fatherly, and he worked out my line of defence. Thanks to him I began to treat everything slightly more lightly.
In April 1965 Kuron and Modzelewski’s trial took place. Our group was used as prosecution witnesses, though rather peculiar ones, as we were brought in chains from prison. I chose the tactic of not saying more than what I had already said. Together with my solicitor we agreed that my attitude would be that of someone who was only connected to the others by ties of friendship, and was not involved ideologically. During the trial I was only asked about the duplicator and my contacts with Hass and Badowski. Had I had any knowledge of the law I might have managed to avoid all this – but ...
Jacek Kuron: Hass, who gave evidence as a witness, was brought up from prison. He was accused of the same things as us: spreading false information, spreading the resolutions of the Fourth International, and having a duplicator. He shouted, argued and screamed at the judge, but said exactly what the prosecution and the court wanted in every respect. Probably he then said something of the sort that he had made a very long journey within the Arctic Circle, although he didn’t like travelling. At that moment I felt ashamed that I was inwardly getting angry with him. After all, I was never in prison in the Stalinist period, and what could I know about someone, who, the moment he saw policemen, would go to pieces? I was sure anyway that he was denouncing us because of what had happened in a Stalinist interrogation ...
Also another witness, Badowski, a respectable elderly man, was brought from prison. I hardly knew him, having spoken to him only once. The prosecutor, or maybe one of the defendants, asked him whether we were Trotskyists, and he first of all explained the differences, and then he said: ‘When someone is wounded in the leg and is kneeling on the recently ploughed earth, then he may be risking gangrene, but you cannot say he is a corpse. Therefore he will say about us – who are young, noble, brave, although often mistaken – that we are not Trotskyists.’ 
Witold Jedlicki: Hass was brought in chains from prison ... The demonstration outside the court, singing The Internationale, was described at great length, amongst others, in Kultura. So I will not describe that event ...
I will only mention that Hass took part in this demonstration, raising his hands in chains to greet the demonstrators with clenched fists. All reports confirm that both during the trial proceedings inside the courtroom, and at a demonstration outside the room, Hass behaved militantly. The disagreement in the report is about something else – the tactics he adopted when giving evidence. Knowing him, I don’t even exclude the possibility of his making a very serious tactical mistake. Probably he either underestimated or overestimated the stupidity of the judges. It appears that Hass, quite correctly, feared most of all the possibility that the court would condemn the accused as an isolated group without any importance, which, in Polish conditions, would have been deadly for the outcome of the case. In order to avoid this, he stressed the international contacts and the influence of the accused. I also heard the accusation that by doing this he was incriminating the accused. But this line of giving evidence might have been agreed with them. Besides, according to another report, Hass took the whole responsibility for the international contacts personally. What I think is most probable is that not all these reports are objective in the sense that Hass’s behaviour is judged through the lens of a philosophy of ‘self-preservation’. But one thing is certain: the very last thing that Hass was thinking about was his self-preservation. Hass is a political man, and in giving evidence he was certainly thinking about its long-term political effects.
Romuald Smiech: Hass did not grass – he simply did not hide his activity, he thought that what he did was not a crime. This was his attitude during both the interrogation and during the trial.
Ludwik Hass: Our trial began on 20 December 1965. Badowski and I agreed that we would not let them finish us off quietly. We did not refuse to give evidence, but we would act during the trial according to the rules of a political case. We decided that we should call each other ‘comrade’. I asked my solicitors to establish whether any of the three judges had taken part in the Stalinist trials.  I prepared a statement saying that because this trial concerns the struggle against Stalinism, the judges who took part in such trials could not therefore be objective. Unfortunately my solicitors failed to do this, and – as it turned out later – the senior judge had taken part in such trials.
We were brought into the courtroom. Straightaway I got annoyed because my wife was not there, although I had seen her earlier in the corridor. The prosecutor called for a closed trial. I asked to speak. The judge was so surprised by this that she agreed. I stood up and began to speak: ‘In the past Montesquieu has said that the people themselves could not judge, but they could, through their presence in the courtroom, exercise control over the judges. Attempts are being made to prevent this happening. I see more than this – everything has already been decided in this courtroom.’ I turned to the usher by the door, and said: ‘Who told you to stand by the door and not allow anyone in? Do you know you are breaking the law?’ This was an elderly woman, she looked at me, then at the judge – completely confused by the situation; the accused is asking her questions, and accusing her, when she had done nothing. The judge told me not to speak so loud. I protested: ‘There is no such rule which prescribes whether you should speak loudly or quietly. My friends are standing in the corridor, my comrades, I will not allow them to learn about the trial from informers.’ A whole row was occupied by security men, who were observing the trial whilst on duty. ‘I shall speak so loudly that everything will be heard in the corridor.’ At this point Badowski joined in and supported my demand.
The court took a break to consider the demand. After 10 or so minutes we were informed that the public would be admitted into the courtroom. Then my solicitors asked for an additional break. It turned out that they, knowing about the proceedings of Kuron and Modzelewski’s case, had already told our friends it would be pointless to come because our case, too, would be heard behind closed doors. I think what was decisive in changing the judge’s decision was the atmosphere of scandal we created, and, in addition, we showed that we knew the law, and that it would not be easy for them to deal with us.
The trial then started. We used it as a public platform to tell the history of the Left Opposition and of Trotskyism in Poland. Badowski was the first to give evidence. He began with his political autobiography. The judge tried to interrupt him, using an argument that there were witnesses waiting in the corridor. I spoke loudly, in a high-pitched tone, Badowski quietly in a voice that went through you, caught your attention, and sent shivers down your spine. We became the talk of the town. Although our trial lasted, with breaks, over 10 days, every day the courtroom was full. I remember that amongst others Szymon Szechter , Nina Karsova  and Jan Litynski  came. Nina Karsova took notes during the trial. She was so angry that at one moment she shouted to me to speak more slowly, because she could not keep up. Typically, she was allowed to take notes, and only later did they search her flat and confiscate them. Smiech spoke as a free man. They thought that they had broken him and made him give evidence incriminating us, but it was the other way round. During the whole of the trial he conducted himself exceptionally well.
Romuald Smiech: I was freed after six months, on 20 September 1965. I was to give evidence as a free person, but the description of my ‘crime’ was changed, and I was threatened with a return to prison. All my solicitor’s efforts were concentrated on changing the sentence. Probably they tried to soften me up in this way. The trial started on 20 December. It was a typical Stalinist trial. They were not so much concerned with us, but above all with Kuron and Modzelewski. I was accused of having contacts with Badowski and of storing and publicising the resolution of the Fourth International. This was an absurd accusation. As far I know, outside a narrow circle of people – Kuron, Modzelewski, Jerzy Robert Nowak , Stanisław Gomułka and a few more people – nobody was aware of that document. A mass distribution was never discussed.
Ludwik Hass: One of the main prosecution witnesses was Marian Baranski – a nationalist activist – to whom I had given a copy of Decline and Fall ... simply because I did not know anything about his views. This copy was found, by the way, in Bielsko-Biala at Henryk Klata’s  flat, who admitted that he got it from Baranski, and the latter pointed the finger at me. Baranski was arrested with a whole nationalist group, and came to the conclusion that, because I was his political enemy, he could give evidence incriminating me all the more so because he was promised release from prison for doing just that. This is not just my guess. Some time after my release I met Baranski in the Castle Square. He approached me with these words: ‘When I see you, I feel as if someone spat in my face. Why didn’t you tell me that you spent years in the gulags?’ ‘Why should I tell you this?’, I replied. He then told me about his motives for grassing on me. It turned out that his explanation to me was not inspired by a guilty conscience. When he was released, he admitted what he had done. Then his comrades explained to him that he had grassed on someone who had spent 17 years in the gulags, and made him promise that as soon as I came out of prison he would explain and apologise personally for this.
Finally the last day of the trial came. About midnight sentence was pronounced. We all got three years.
From the court documents
The court decides that Kazimierz Marian Badowski is guilty of:
1. In the period from the second half of 1963 until 24 March 1965 in Cracow he had in his possession with the aim of distributing texts harmful to the interests of the Polish state such as The Decline and Fall of Stalinism calling for the removal by force of the nation’s ruling organs of power, and containing false information concerning socio-political and economic relations existing in Poland, and for this action, article 23, paragraph 1 of the decree dated 13 June 1946 ... he is sentenced to three years imprisonment.
2. In the autumn of 1964 in Cracow he helped Karol Modzelewski by promising the use of a duplicator, and provided an unspecified number of printing blocks with the aim of preparing for distribution a document capable of causing substantial damage to the interests of the Polish state, the text containing calls for the removal by force of the nation’s ruling organs of power, and containing false information concerning socio-political and economic conditions existing in Poland, and for this action, article 27 of the penal code in connection with article 23, paragraph 1 of the decree dated 13 June 1946 ... he is sentenced to three years imprisonment. According to article 31, paragraph 1 of the penal code, Kazimierz Badowski is sentenced to serve three years imprisonment.
Ludwik Ferdynand Hass is guilty of:
1. In the period from the second half of 1963 to March 1965 in Warsaw he had in his possession with an aim of distribution and distributed duplicated texts of the pamphlet entitled The Decline and Fall of Stalinism which was harmful to the interests of the Polish state because it called for the removal by force of the nation’s ruling organs of power, and contained false information about existing socio-political and economic relations in Poland. For this action, according to article 23, paragraph 1 of the decree dated 13 June 1946 ... he is sentenced to three years imprisonment.
2. In March 1965 in Warsaw he had in his possession in manuscript form and distributed the document entitled An Open Letter, the text of which contained calls to remove by force the nation’s ruling organs of power, and also contained false information about existing socio-political and economic relations in Poland. For this action, according to article 23, paragraph 1 of the decree dated 13 June 1946 ... he is sentenced to three years imprisonment. According to article 31, paragraph 1 of the penal code, Ludwik Ferdynand Hass is sentenced to serve three years imprisonment.
Romuald Smiech is guilty because in the period from the second half of 1963 until March 1965 in Warsaw and Chelmno Lubelskie he had in his possession with the aim of distribution and distributed duplicated texts of the pamphlet entitled The Decline and Fall of Stalinism which was harmful to the interests of the Polish state, because it called for the removal by force of the nation’s ruling organs of power, and contained false information about existing socio-political and economic relations in Poland. For this action, according to article 23, paragraph 1 of the decree dated 13 June 1946 ... he is sentenced to three years imprisonment.
According to article 58 of the penal code, the period of the arrest prior to the trial, in the case of Kazimierz Marian Badowski from 25 March 1965, in the case of Ludwik Ferdynand Hass from 22 March 1965, and for both of them until 10 January 1966, in the case of Romuald Smiech from 23 March 1965 until 20 September 1965, is counted as part of the sentence already served. All the accused are ordered to pay 600 zloty court expenses, and collectively to pay the costs of the case into the State Treasury.
Romuald Smiech: It was an exceptionally difficult period for me after the trial. I came out, but the others remained imprisoned. I was treated with a kind of ostracism, and I was boycotted by friends. The unspoken questions hung in the air: why did he come out? At what price? I was made to understand that I was regarded as someone who had grassed.
Two events influenced my situation – one that I was a witness at Kuron and Modzelewski’s trial, and the second that I had written a letter to the Chairman of the State Council asking for a pardon. It turned out to be political suicide for me. Why did I write it? For entirely personal reasons. Why did Ludwik not do this? He thought, on the other hand, that you could not make any deals with the people representing the regime, and the most important matter was to come out and continue conspiratorial work. A certain chapter closed in my life. I never returned to politics.
Ludwik Hass: Straight from the courtroom Badowski and I returned to prison. Of course our solicitors prepared an appeal to the Supreme Court, but the appeal was rejected.
At that time I found out that Witold Jedlicki had published an article about our case in the Paris Kultura, and Jan Olszewski brought me a copy during one of his visits. I found that a big campaign abroad had been started in our defence. My gulag friend, the author and journalist Janusz Kowalewski, living in London since 1945, on hearing about our court sentence immediately went to see Isaac Deutscher , who wrote a letter to Gomułka.
Open Letter to Władysław Gomułka and
Updated by ETOL: 3.11.2011