Treason and patriotism in Canada and the current-day world – updated to 2022 (Part Three)
By Mark Wegierski
In the case of totalitarian and authoritarian regimes, conflicts have inevitably emerged between loyalty to a nation, and loyalty to a regime, and the degree of permissible collaboration with a regime while claiming to be serving one's nation. One highly controversial case is that of Boleslaw Piasecki, who, in pre-World War II Poland, was the fanatical though extremely intellectually energetic leader of a small, extremist, far-right party, at the margins of Polish political life. However, there is still disagreement among historians as to how little – or how much – of an influence he had on pre-World War II Polish politics. After the war, he embarked on a painful strategy of collaboration with the new Communist authorities, which was perhaps an involuntary course, as his young son was under permanent threat from the Communists – and of course, he himself could have been shot – or gruesomely tortured to death -- immediately, out-of-hand. Indeed, his son was eventually kidnapped, and brutally murdered, allegedly in a "ritualistic" fashion. The father was taunted for over a year with the possibility that he might yet ransom his son. Yet, the accusation of gross, opportunistic collaboration is often made against Piasecki, especially considering that men of clearly greater stature endured torture and death rather than show any kind of allegiance to the Soviet-imposed system. And it was only rarely possible to withdraw into a quiet, apolitical life, even if one were so inclined. The Polish patriots were hounded by the Communist regime.
The Polish conservative journal Stanczyk (named after the famous, sixteenth-century court jester of the Polish Kings, known for his political wit and wisdom), had in an issue some years ago drawn attention to what they considered the questionable actions of a few post-World War II Polish émigrés in the early 1950s, who signed an agreement of cooperation (at the small Bavarian town of Berg) with American military intelligence, in exchange for monetary compensation. In the opinion of the Stanczyk journal, such an agreement then fatally compromised the Polish-Government-in-Exile in London, England. If so much of the Government-in-Exile's funding was dependent on U.S. goodwill, it could not convincingly argue for such initiatives like a nuclear-free zone in Eastern Europe, something which might have potentially had enormous importance for Polish survival had war actually broken out. It turned out, furthermore, that the signatories to the agreement diverted much of the funds for their private use, thus exposing the underground network of Polish patriots working on their behalf in Poland to unnecessary risks, suffering, and, sometimes, execution. Indeed, the journal sees the signatories of this agreement with the Americans as real traitors.
There is also some division of opinion expressed in the journal concerning Colonel Kuklinski, who was among the highest-ranking East Bloc personnel to defect to the West. Some argue that, after the breakthrough of 1956, the Polish People's Republic was an authoritarian, not a totalitarian regime, and that the weakening of Polish military capability vis-à-vis the West was not an unqualifiedly positive action. It later emerged, for example, that in the late 1950s to early 1960s, U.S. military planners had conceived a strategy for fighting in Europe called "Plan Vistula". While some Poles, when hearing the plan's name, might naively think this meant an offensive drive to liberate Poland, what it actually entailed was the creation, through nuclear saturation bombing, of a "zone of death" of about 200 kilometers wide across the breadth of Poland, in order to prevent Soviet armies from quickly reinforcing their main lines in East Germany. This would have resulted in the deaths of at least 20 million Poles. So, U.S. military planning of that time absolutely disregarded the anti-Soviet potential of the Polish population. It took a surprisingly long time for U.S. grand strategy to see the peoples of Eastern Europe and Russia as potential allies, rather than enemy assets, in the Cold War conflict.
The Soviet Union had always had an uneasy relation with Russian nationalism. During the NEP (New Economic Plan) period, the regime was able to diffuse some of the Russian émigré opposition by appealing to Russian nationalism, and contriving to suggest that it would soon transform itself into a "true organic conservative" regime. These émigré supporters called themselves "the Changing Landmarks movement." Many of them were lured back to their homeland, and soon thereafter disappeared. The NEP and disinformation strategy gave the Soviet Union a breathing space before its next lunge into totalitarian madness under Stalin. Indeed, the so-called kulaks (or more prosperous peasants) -- who were the typical targets of massive campaigns of genocide under Stalin – had themselves largely come into existence as a result of the more relaxed period of the NEP. However, especially after Stalin's death in 1953, the history of the Soviet Union did indeed move increasingly away from totalitarianism in the direction of authoritarianism and Russian nationalism.
To be continued.
Mark Wegierski is a Canadian writer and historical researcher.