I shall enter the fray again. True: morality and politics are generally worlds apart. A notable exception was the nineteenth century Ecuadorian President, Gabriel Garcia Moreno (how many have ever heard about him and his legacy?). He not only appealed to Christian values, but he also put them into practice in his own life and in his politics - his word was always his bond. By way of complete contrast, Churchill waffled on and on about saving Christian civilisation, etc., while contradicting its precepts. I suppose betraying one's loyal Ally time and time again was part of the grand plan to promote Christian values? No wonder my father has more contempt for the British PM than for Stalin and Hitler. As has been pointed out previously, Churchill and FDR didn't have to declare war on Stalin once Hitler had been vanquished - the least they could have done was to have refused to agree to Stalin's occupation of a large part of Europe. It was rich for
Churchill to bemoan an "Iron Curtain" stretching from the Baltic to the Adriatic when he had a major part in setting it up.
As an aside, you refer to "that spirit of good versus evil that prompted so many to go to Spain in
1936 to fight in the International Brigades" - oh yes, fighting for the Communist cause, for those wonderful Republicans who brutally tortured and murdered many bishops, priests and nuns (and quite a few layfolk too), desecrating churches by the score, etc. - a good cause, that!
We know all about Churchill's and FDR's adherence to Realpolitik, but the sad thing is that they and it have been condoned, simply because these two hypocrites, for their own reasons, were against Hitler. They are the "good guys" because they ostensibly stood for moral values, freedom, democracy, etc., even though they flouted these principles constantly. One can seek to understand why they acted thus, but one should never justify these crooks. It is disappointing to see such condonation and justification in this Forum, of all places.
From: Mark and Oyun <mark_oyun@...
Sent: Sun, 29 November, 2009 11:28:26 PM
Subject: [Kresy-Siberia] Re: Poland Betrayed By Churchill & FDR
I never said my ideas would be popular and, of course, I expected criticism. However, for the sake of historical discourse, let me go back over a few points:
1. The war against Hitler was, I would argue, different from any other war before and since. I certainly was not kidding as John suggests. From 1939 to 1941 – principally the Battle for Britain – the British government needed no propaganda to sell the idea of the war to the public. It was not an imperial or an economic war. It was a war of national survival. As Churchill declared:
"Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization. Upon it depends our own British life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this Island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be freed and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science."
He knew how to do a good speech. OK, it didn't work out that way for Poland, but Churchill had no way of knowing that in 1940. He and the British public knew that the war against fascism had to be won at all costs if Britain was to survive. Had the British gone in to the war with the expectation of keeping the Empire intact, Churchill was the wrong leader. After the resignation of Chamberlain, Britain had a choice of two possible leaders – Churchill and Lord Halifax. The fact the Britain ended up with Churchill reflects on the public's desire that there should be no more Munichs. Halifax was seen as pro-German, an appeaser, someone not in the same league as Churchill. Halifax knew this and did not push his claim to be Prime Minister. There is some evidence to suggest that had Germany been given a free hand in Europe, Britain would have kept its Empire. Germany had no stated imperial ambitions outside of Europe – if the War had been solely for profit
and empire then surely the policy of appeasement would have continued... possibly with Halifax concluding a separate deal with Germany. Churchill did not and would never have done that. For him the war against fascism was a black and white affair that could only have one outcome. By the way, it was that spirit of good versus evil that prompted so many to go to Spain in 1936 to fight in the International Brigades, and for thousands of Americans to cross the border to Canada to join the Eagle Squadrons.
What the British government did have to sell to the public was the idea of the "gallant Soviet ally". From 1939 to 1941 British public opinion was very much against Moscow – starting with the invasion of Poland, but more effectively after the Soviet war with Finland, the popular imagery in the press was of gorillas, grave robbers, murderers. In 1941 the situation was different and Britain and Russia were now on the same page. However, changing public opinion overnight is not easy and the mass media went all out to show the Red Army in every possible good light. What would you expect them to say: "Help the Red Army; they're a bunch of mass murdering thugs!!!" There is a historical precedent for this. Imagine being a Berliner waking up n 1939 to the news that Berlin and the Bolshevik Hordes were now allies in the latest partition of Poland... especially after 6 years of Nazi anti-Communist propaganda. To make a sharp U-turn in public opinion takes
skill and effort, but it is possible... another U-turn back to the original direction requires even more effort.
2. Trying to understand why someone does something, does not necessarily mean that one agree with them. I find it helps one looks at history not in Monolithic terms, but as developments over time. What did the Stalinist policy to on Poland in 1939 have in common with the policy in 1945? Poland would not be allowed to return to capitalism, but the means of attaining that were very different. The policy in 1939 was [to use today's buzzword] "ethnic cleansing". Understandable from a Stalinist perspective – the death of the Kresy Poles was genocidal. If the Soviets were to press their claim to the Kresy, these areas would have to be devoid of Poles. Yet I say again that there was no Stalinist policy of genocide against the Polish nation. If there were, the exile community would be the only Poles alive today. The Soviet Union had 45 years to carry out this proposed genocide of the Poles. What stopped them? Stalin was not averse to executing anyone who
stood in his way... anyone who might possibly in the future have stood in his way... who might in his psychotic mind ever have stood a chance of standing in his way. In 1938 he purged thousands from the Polish Communist Party – his friends. He would have no qualms about liquidating his enemies – "bourgeois counterrevolutionar ies" [...or any educated non-communist with internationalist views]. The Stalinist purges were not just directed at Poles; millions of Soviet Citizens perished. Look at how many Georgians Stalin murdered – his own people.
I am no apologist for Moscow, but at the same time I do not let my hatred of communism blind me to the truth of what happened in Central Europe following the Soviet "liberation/ occupation" in 1944/5. From the initial entry of the Red Army to the mid 1950s was the period of Polish Stalinism – there were executions, imprisonments and a great deal of brutality; but I would argue it cannot be compared in scale or intensity to the Nazi occupation. Things DID improve after the death of Stalin. It was the Polish Communists who leaked details of Khrushchev's Secret Speech in 1956 in which the cult of the personality and the great terror were first denounced. Following the death of Bierut, life in Poland certainly began to improve. The 1956 riots in Poznan led to reform... Gomulkas's "Polish road to Socialism".. . this indirectly spilled over to Hungary and the call for reform led to Soviet tanks in the streets of Budapest. However, for Poland things got
3. Last point for this morning. Anyone who has studied international relations will know that morality and honour have very little to do with anything. Governments present platitudes to freedom but actually they are all self-serving. .. this is my own cynical world view. Why would anyone expect the British government to behave otherwise? I have yet to see a workable alternative to what the British should have done. Shouting that Churchill sold out the Poles, they betrayed a trusted ally is all well and good... but what else? My observation of Poles' view of their place in the world was to highlight one argument that Britain should have stopped helping the Soviet Union because of its policy to Poland... How would that have benefitted Britiain? Zenon rightly points out:
Don't ALL countries, big or small, concern themselves with their own place in the world, ahead of other considerations?
Yes they do. The British are no different to anyone. The pre-war Polish government, while speaking of honour and morality had little trouble throwing its weight about at the Lithuanians and the Czechs. Hindsight does not look favourably at these actions.
My own view is that Britain should have removed recognition from the Warsaw government following the flawed "free and unfettered" elections. Anyone have any better ideas? Atom bombs over Moscow? A war of liberation in the east? The threat of atomic war? How does anyone think that the Soviet policy in Poland could have been reversed n 1944/5? If it could not be reversed then it would just be pious posturing.
In 1939 did Britain betray Poland? Yes, they could have done more. At Teheran/ Yalta/ Potsdam did Britain betray Poland? Yes, they could have done more. But I would again argue... what would you expect? Doing more is not the point... doing more without hurting yourself is. You have to remember that in 1945 Churchill was actually kicked out of office for not being Socialist enough. The international political situation had become victim to overly-successful propaganda.
Once you remove morality from the equation, the whole thing makes perfect sense. Maybe I'm just a cynical political scientist but I always remember my first class in International Relations: "A state does what it can and suffers what it must."
Best Regards, Mark Ostrowski
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