ACRE Vice-President Anna Fotyga MEP, Member of the International Office of the Independent Self-Governing Trade Unions “Solidarnosc” in the 80s and 90s, writes on Stalin's dark legacy and the scars Communism left on Poland and the wider world.
The Communist World Revolution ultimately failed, but not before taking millions of lives. It reached its zenith under the Soviet dictator Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili, better known as Joseph Stalin. Today his name is synonymous with barbarism, battle and bloodshed, primary ingredients of any Communist tyranny. The 64th anniversary of Stalin's death on 5th of March 2017, in the centenary year of the Bolshevik revolution, provides an opportune moment to reflect upon the Communist legacy and its relevance in the modern world.
The disturbing reality is that even after the fall of Communism, its impact is still being felt today. The growing attraction of far-left ideals to a population with no recollection of the Cold War, and the havoc wreaked by new far-left regimes like that in Venezuela, are perilous for global stability.
In 1944, 5 years after having enabled the Second World War with the Nazi-Soviet Pact, Stalin theorised that the imposition of Communism on Poland would be the political equivalent of saddling a cow. His words proved almost prophetic when Poland became the first Eastern European Soviet satellite state to break free of Communism 45 years later.
The events of 22 July, 1944, when the Red Army placed the Communist-dominated Lublin Committee in government while Poland’s former administration remained exiled in London, are the soft foundations upon which Stalin built his Communist puppet state.
Poland underwent a violent transition to Communism; Stalin made vicious use of the NKVD to ensure obedience. In 1940 the Katyn massacre saw the mass executions of 22,000 Polish nationals, including many academics, intellectuals, politicians and officers. The subsequent climate of fear became an important facilitator in Stalin’s construction of a Polish Communist state.
Stalin ordered the deportation of more than 1,200,000 Poles during his occupation of the country. His reign of terror saw the destruction of national culture and the persecution of Poland's Catholics. The Catholic Church played a huge part in Polish life before Stalin, so much so that it endured Soviet depredations, but not without much suffering.
When Western Europe was signing the Treaties of Rome and Paris to build peaceful and wealthy Europe, Poland was affected by shadows of Yalta. The "cursed soldiers" (also known as "doomed soldiers") - anti-Communist Polish resistance movement, was still fighting for Polish independence. It was a real uprising involving over 200 000 people. The last partisan, Józef Franczak "Lalek" was killed in 1963 — almost two decades after the Second World War ended. We’re still trying to find graves of our heroes.
Stalin’s aggression cannot be classed as the acts of a psychotic lone dictator. Totalitarianism and terror are by-products of any Communist rule as evidenced by the countless other regimes founded with similar devastation. Mao’s establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 occurred only after decades of civil war. Mao himself measured 700,000 deaths in attacks on “counter-revolutionaries” in the early years of Communist rule. The real death total is estimated optimistically at 2 million between 1950 and 1952, though reports indicate the real figure could be up to 5 million.
His leadership saw a huge number of landlords and wealthy peasants beaten to death by the Communist party in order to carry out their collectivisation of land. Mao’s Campaign to Supress Counter Revolutionaries involved public executions of Kuomintang officials, capitalist traders and intellectuals on a scale analogous to Stalin’s show trials in which prominent “enemies of the revolution” were slaughtered.
It is difficult to pinpoint the main reason for my personal negative attitude vis-a-vis Communism. It surely includes family stories, scouting, and interest in the history of Poland. I have been living in Gdansk for more than 50 years. In my early childhood I witnessed incidents of students heavily beaten by state militia in 1968. I still remember a week in December 1970. Alone with my grandmother, because my father, a surgeon, had to operate on wounded shipyard workers, victims of the Gdynia massacre.
It would have been difficult to believe in Communism in such circumstances. So my choice, to start work in Solidarnosc rather than in one of the state agencies was a natural consequence of my attitude to public life.
Communism must be reckoned in crude mathematical terms as the most oppressive, murderous system ever devised by human minds, and we cannot take the popular acceptance of this reckoning for granted.
Marred by the centenary of the Bolshevik Revolution, 2017 also marks the Alliance of Conservatives and Reformists in Europe’s (ACRE) first Liberty Summit in Europe. ACRE is the leading conservative movement in Europe and between the 7th and 9th of April will gather scholars, heroes of dissident anti-Communist movements as well as liberal and conservative parliamentarians from 30 countries in Tirana, Albania to discuss the damaging legacy of Communism.
The conference comes fortuitously at a time when the world seems to need a reminder of the devastation that Communism and its fundamental antipathy to liberty have wreaked.