Volume #13 - 926.|
SOVIET UNION AND EASTERN EUROPE
RELATIONS WITH EASTERN EUROPE
Extract from Despatch from Secretary of State for External Affairs|
to Chargé d'Affaires in Poland
May 21, 1947|
3. While it seems clear that, because of internal conditions and geographical situation, there is no satisfactory immediate alternative to the present regime in Poland, you should guard against allowing the impression to he created that the Canadian Government or people approve of totalitarianism in Poland, however disguised, or of out-right or quasi-dictatorships whether they be of an individual strong man or of a political clique.
4. There are two important reasons why the Canadian Government is desirous of the acceptance and application in Poland of the principles of democracy. Firstly, as a matter of practical politics, the observance of democratic processes in that country would permit the exercise of greater influence by those Poles whose habits of life and thought are Western in orientation and who constitute a majority of the population. In the second place and equally important, Canadians have a profound belief in the democratic way of life and a deep suspicion of totalitarianism.
5. The apologist may urge that in Poland government "of the people, for the people" is not possible "by the people" in view of the traditions, character and lack of enlightenment of the mass of the Polish population and that, therefore, an inspired elite minority must do the thinking for the broad masses, from whom only obedience and compliance are required in return for the long-term betterment of their material condition. This argument begs a fundamental question; whether totalitarianism does in fact tend towards appreciable long-term improvements in material standards of living — a question to which available historical evidence suggests a negative answer. Quite apart from this consideration, this basic doctrine of totalitarian "statism" should he repudiated by those who believe as we do that the state exists to promote conditions under which the individual can be most free.
6. The present political organization of Poland is clearly not democratic. There are at present very serious restrictions on freedom of the press, right of assembly, and expression of opinion; there is no doubt that in the recent elections a number of voters and candidates were unfairly dealt with; there is no community from arbitrary arrest and imprisonment; the individual has no effective recourse to a judicial system which safeguards his liberty against arbitrary acts by the executive.
7. We, of course, recognize that Poland has not only suffered a long and highly destructive occupation but has also undergone a social and economic revolution. Moreover the Polish people, since the restoration of the Polish state, have had no experience in operating a democratic system of government except for a comparatively short period after 1920. It was therefore probably inevitable that the reestablishment of state authority in Poland would in any case have called for extraordinary measures. It is also arguable that, since the Poles have never had adequate opportunity to try to work democratic processes, such processes would in any case have to be introduced to them by slow degrees.
8. Despite these considerations, it cannot be assumed without clear evidence that undemocratic uses of power by those who now hold power in Poland are necessarily, either in fact or in intention, temporary stages towards the introduction of genuine democracy. It is undoubtedly a popular belief in Canada that the present regime in Poland has gone farther in restrictions of democratic freedoms than considerations of temporary expediency could make necessary. There is a general desire in Canada that the Polish Government should progressively lift these restrictions as rapidly as possible and eventually establish a state which is genuinely democratic. It would not be in the interest of good understanding between Poland and Canada if either the Polish Government or the Polish people harboured illusions on this matter.
9. The Canadian Government would welcome evidence of a trend towards the establishment in Poland of the fundamental basis of democracy, freedom of competition between different political and social ideas. This involves, among other things.
(a) a free and independent press and radio, and freedom of access for the Polish people to the views and news of other peoples throughout the world:
(b) liberty in the selection of parliamentary representatives;
10. My fear is that many developments during the past two years in Poland and eastern Europe generally have put in jeopardy the possibility of developing a true community of the peoples of the world. Yet in such a development clearly lies the only ultimately reliable foundation of international cooperation and peace. It is relevant here to note that in the Soviet Union. Poland's powerful neighbour, the mass of the population is completely deprived of the basic requisites to genuine participation in the world community; and that this underlying fact constitutes perhaps the most fundamental of all the international problems of our generation. It must be an important object of Canadian and other western policy that Poland, which through centuries of political, cultural and religious history has been an integral part of western civilization, should not now cease to he in community with us. The maintenance and strengthening of effective community between the Polish people and the rest of us is not only desirable in itself, but, if achieved, may also constitute an important step towards the eventual re-establishment of true community between the peoples of the Soviet Union and those of the western world.
11. It is also recognized in Canada that democracy not only postulates freedom of action and thought for the individual, but also demands a sense of social responsibility in the individual. The preservation of the freedom of each individual requires not only that his rights be respected, preserved and defended by the State, but also that he respect, preserve and defend the rights of others against encroachments from whatever quarter by fulfilling his duties as a member of society. This precept has not yet been taken to heart by the people of Poland.
12. It is clear that two desiderata for the establishment of democratic processes in Poland are a greatly lessened hostility of the Polish people toward the Soviet Union and the reconstruction of a healthy economy in Poland. Achievement of the first of these desiderata depends in large part, of course, on the policies of the Soviet Government itself, but it also depends on the development of a more mature and realistic outlook among the Polish people. In achieving the second of these desiderata, which is clearly very important, Canada will be glad to assist by encouraging the development of mutually beneficial trade relations.
13. It should not be difficult to maintain the ties of friendship which already exist between Canada and Poland, which have been strengthened by their common association in the recent war and particularly by the visit last autumn to Warsaw of the then Minister of Finance, The Right Honourable J.L. Ilsley and the then Canadian Ambassador to Washington, Mr. L.B. Pearson, by the work in Poland of Mr. C.M. Drury, Chief of the U.N.R.R.A. mission in Poland, and by the visits to Ottawa in 1946 of Mr. Dabrowski, the Polish Minister of Finance, and Mr. Olazowski, the Polish Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs. (Our cooperation in the war was, of course, with the Polish soldiers of General Ander's Corps and General Maczek's Armoured Division who are officially regarded in Poland at best as misled individuals and at worst as traitors to their country. Repatriation of these ex-soldiers whose return has been agreed is undeniably slow and responsibility for this attaches both to the Polish and British Governments.)
. . .
65. The task of representing Canada in Poland at the present time is one of great difficulty and delicacy. I have every confidence in your ability to carry out your mission with credit to yourself and to Canada.
I have etc.