Introduction into the Founding Declaration of the Freedom and Peace Movement
R. T. Davies
US Ambassador to Poland 1973-78
In a faraway land, across the ocean and beyond the plains of northern Europe, several hundred young people with apparently unpronounceable names like Czaputowicz, Adamkiewicz, and Wojewodzki have for the past four years been demonstrating, protesting, and going to jail in the name of Freedom and Peace (Wolnosc i Pokoj—WiP).
In contrast to Jacek Czaputowicz, Marek Adamkiewicz, and Jaroslaw Wojewodski, we Americans are blessed. We live in a fortunate land, untroubled by memories of invasions, occupations, and holocausts, or by the reality of political imprisonment, internment camps, and dictators, who govern by the Party and for the Party.
Why then should we care about what happens in distant Poland or concern ourselves with the activities of the WiP activists?
On August 6, 1945, in a millionth of a second, the very nature of international politics was turned upside down. After the atomic bomb fell on Hiroshima and nuclear weapons became part of the arsenals of the superpowers, relations among nations ceased to be a recondite pursuit that involved ordinary people only when the statesmen blundered. Earlier, such blunders had be en corrected by the sacrifices of the lives of those ordinary people in their hundreds of thousands and millions. Now, diplomacy has become the ultimate zero-sum game, in which the stakes are not just millions, but finally billions, of lives, if not the very existence of humanity on this planet.
In Western Europe and America, the existence of atomic weapons spawned a powerful peace movement that has served as an important force for education about the effects of nuclear warfare and for restraint on governments whose military plans call for the use of such weapons under certain circumstances. For many years, however, there was no equivalent movement in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. There were only „Peace Committees,” established and run by the Communist governments to conduct propaganda in the West, to criticize the policy of Western governments, and to support by every means possible the foreign policy of the Moscow Politburo. The situation is epitomized in the old soviet joke, in which an American tells a Muscovite about freedom of speech in his country. „Why, I can go down to the White House and picket in front of it, shouting, ‚Down with President Reagan.'” To which, the Muscovite responds, „So what? I can do the same thing in Red Square. I too can go down to the Kremlin and shout ‚Down with President Reagan!'”
One of the remarkable, but too-little-known, stories of the 1980’s is that of the development of independent peace organizations in Eastern Europe–Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland–and the Soviet Union.
In some respects, the idea s of these „Eastern” peace movements parallel those of their „Western” counterparts: the immorality of nuclear war, the need to re-allocate defense expenditures to meet social needs, the danger of constructing „war plans” on the assumption that nuclear force should be used to fill gaps left by the absence of conventional military capabilities in a given theater of operations.
But there are important intellectual differences, too.
The principal difference is the recognition by the „Eastern” activists that armscontrol pacts or even nuclear disarmament are not enough so long as the governments under which they live have a monopoly of political and economic power and are able to use that monopoly in the first place to deprive the citizens of their own states of any meaningful role in the decisions that determine the conditions’ under which they live.
„Eastern” activists understand why their „Western” counterparts often regard their own governments with distrust and even suspicion, but they point out, after all, those governments are democratically elected and run in accordance with the will of the electorate, while their own, „Eastern” governments, recent changes notwithstanding, are still capable of reaching decisions on matters of life and death without effective checks exerted by the citizenry or representative institutions.
Academician Andrei Sakharov, the leading soviet democrat and Nobel peace Prize laureate, has written:
The most serious defect of a „closed” society is the total lack of democratic control over the upper echelons of the party and government in their conduct of domestic affairs and foreign policy. The latter is especially dangerous, for here we are talking about the finger poised on the nuclear button . The „closed” nature of our society is intrinsically related to the question of civil and political rights. The human-rights issue, therefore, is not simply a moral one, but also a paramount, practical ingredient of international trust and security.
The Czech playwright and peace activist, Vaclav Havel, who is now in prison again for his unceasing protests against his government’s arbitrary repressiveness, has written:
The sole meaningful way to a genuine European peace–and not simply to some armistice or „non-war”–is the path of a fundamental restructuring of the political realities that lie at the roots of the current crisis … Without free, self-respecting and autonomous citizens, there can be no free and independent nations. Without internal peace, that is, peace among citizens and between citizens and the state, there can be no guarantee of external peace: a state that ignores the will and the rights of its own citizens can offer no guarantee that it will respect the will and the rights of other people, nations and states … A lasting peace and disarmament can only be the work of free people.
It is in accordance with these insights that the activists of WiP are working, like most of their fellow-countrymen, to make their authoritarian government honor the views of the majority. In addition–and here’s another salient characteristic of responsible, democratic government–they also demand respect for the rights of an important minority in today’s Poland: young people who are conscientiously opposed to service in the polish People’s Army.
The activists of WiP have insisted that the oath administered to young people joining the polish armed forces be stripped of its pledge to support the „fraternal alliance with the Soviet Army.” In June, 1988, the polish parliament, the Sejm, made this change.
They demand that a civilian form of national service be available for the minority of draft-age youth whose consciences require that they refuse to bear arms. In July 1988, the Polish authorities instituted a system of alternative civilian service for conscientious objectors–the first and, so far, the only such system in a Communist country.
WiP also stands for and works to achieve the protection and repair of the gravely threatened environment of Poland. Miedzyrzecz (another unpronounceable name!–it means simply „between the rivers”) is a town in Western Poland in the center of the region where the Nazis built an enormous system of underground fortifications. In secrecy, the Polish government developed a plan to use these bunkers as a depository for radioactive waste and to invite Western governments to send their nuclear debris there for disposal–of course, for a whacking good fee.
The fact that such a depository would contaminate the ground water and soil of the Miedzyrzecz region was ignored and neither the local government nor the citizenry was consulted. In the spring of 1987, under the leadership of WiP activists, the citizens of Miedzyrzecz began a series of demonstrations that culminated in the Town council’ s sending to Poland’s highest governmental body, the Council of State, a resolution opposing the sitting of a nuclear dump in their region.
WiP is not just against many of the abuses perpetrated by the Communist government; it has a positive program aimed at protecting the health of the people–the average life expectancy of polish males is falling alarmingly–and cleaning up the environment of a country whose great natural beauty and unique historical monuments are equally endangered by heavy industrialization run wild…
The examples I have cited are a few of those you can read about in these documents. You will see that WiP is not just a another group of talkers. Its young people cherish ideals very similar to those of most young Americans and, against terrible odds, are working to turn those ideals into reality.
50 far, in circumstances vastly more forbidding than those faced by American activists, the members of WiP have had remarkable success.
But their story needs to be better known in the West.
That is why it is so important that the World Without War council has brought these documents together and is publishing them.
Throughout modern history, Poles, driven from their own country by a series of oppressors, have fought at the side of those whom they considered the ,protagonists of freedom. Kosciuszko and Pulaski came to America and offered their swords to George Washington. Pulaski died in the siege of 5avannah. During the 19th and 20th centuries, Poles fought for „Your Freedom and Ours” wherever resistance was offered to tyrants. When Hitler’ s attack on their country started World War II, the poles fought from its beginning to its end, paying a very high price in human life and suffering, only to find their country subjected to a new tyranny after 1945.
Today, thanks in large part to the inspiration of the Solidarity movement and its principal leader, Lech Walesa, a new chapter in Poland’s long struggle for freedom is being written. In this new chapter, the discipline of nonviolence, joined with the inextinguishable yearning of millions of Poles for freedom and self-government, may result in what many considered unthinkable only ten years ago: a democratic Poland that will fulfill the first term of Vaclav Havel’s requirements, an internal peace, without which external peace can remain only a chimera. If this should come to pass, the young men and women of WiP would deserve a considerable share of the credit.
Today, throughout the Soviet sphere of influence and, most importantly, in the USSR itself, struggle is being waged to establish democracy in the dangerously decaying totalitarian systems built by the Stalinist generations. That struggle has only just begun.
In his 1981 essay, „How to Preserve World Peace,” Sakharov wrote:
The governments and the public of all countries must insist on the unconditional and complete fulfillment of the humanitarian obligations the USSR has taken upon itself, in particular, in the UN’s International Conventions on Human Rights and in the Helsinki Accords. This is a condition for being able to trust the signature of the USSR.’
So long as dissidents are confined in psycho-prisons, so long as religious believers are sent to the hard-labor camps because they refuse to take the oath of allegiance to an atheist state required of draftees, so long as one political party monopolizes alI the significant levers of power, the struggle will not end. Following the principles enunciated by Sakharov, Havel, Walesa, and many other path breaking opposition leaders who paved the way for the current changes, the young men and women of WiP have shown themselves to be fighters in the tradition of the poles who have always aligned themselves with the forces of freedom. They have initiated in Poland a new kind of peace movement: one that recognizes. the indivisibility of Peace and Freedom. They have earned our understanding and support.
For the problems with which they are wrestling cannot simply be left to the politicians and the professional civil servants. Clean air, clean water, and clean soil, or pervasive, life-sapping pollution; freedom or servitude; war or peace-these are issues that must be fought for by citizens, in the United States as in Poland or the Soviet Union.
Andrei Sakharov has written:
The most important conditions for international trust and security are the openness of society, the observation of the civil and political rights of man–freedom of information, freedom of religion, freedom to choose one’s country of residence (that is, to emigrate and return freely), freedom to travel abroad, and freedom to choose one’s residence within a country.
The activists of Freedom and peace in Poland are struggling to realize Sakharov’s vision, conscious that, only when it has be en realized, can humankind go on to the next step: disarmament.
That is why those ot us in the United States who are interested in disarmament and human rights should know about and support their work.
The World without War Council is to be commended for undertaking to make better known in the United States the existence, the activities, and the accomplishments of WiP. Like its Polish counterparts, the World without War Council understands the relationship among democratic values, open societies, peace and freedom.
With the cooperation of Western activists who understand that relationship, WiP and like-minded groups elsewhere in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union can move forward from the remarkable gains they have already won towards the goal we all seek: peace with justice.
R. T. Davies
u.s. Ambassador to Poland 1973-78 President, Research Center for Religion and Human Rights in Closed societies
‚Alexander Babyonyshev [ed.), On Sakharov, vintage Books, New York, 1981, p. 267.