Freedom and Peace Are Inseparable
1. The general outlines of Gorbachev’s disarmament proposals are well known and there is no need to describe them here. Although his terms such as „peace offensive” and „the struggle for peace” are irresistibly associated with Clausewitz, the essence of his policies cannot be ignored –the Russians are trying to bring about an agreement.
Sometimes it looks as if it were the domestic situation that is forcing Gorbachev to come up with new disarmament proposals–more realistic and possible for the West to accept–sometimes, however, it is to the contrary–the reforms and internal concessions appear to follow from international configurations. I am not interested in solving here which came first; it is not crucial for this essay. The important fact is that Soviet policy is a reality and that the Soviet Union’s Western counterparts are treating its disarmament proposals seriously. To disregard, boycott, or ignore these proposals puts one outside the main current of international life in the contemporary world.
Gorbachev’s policies fundamentally affect the situation in Central and Eastern Europe. The Soviets are concerned with the image of themselves and the entire Soviet bloc in international public opinion. This preoccupation leads to strong Soviet pressure on its allies to create a common front in the „struggle for peace,” or at least keep from interfering with Soviet attempts. Last year’s amnesty and some other positive changes in the policies of the Polish government, such as ending the use of imprisonment for opposition activities, were consistent with Soviet expectations. The recently announced „Jaruzelski Plan” leads one to assume that the role of Poland in the „peace offensive” will be considerable.
It is safe to say that the two developments most profoundly affecting the international peace movement are Soviet internal reforms and the INF talks between the two superpowers. The combination of these two developments creates an opportunity for more profound changes than ever resulted from the detente of the seventies.
2. Reforms in the soviet Union are being received in Poland, by both opposition activists and the entire society, with suspicion and skepticism. This is partially due to the polish historical experience. This dictates approaching events in Russia with reservations–nobody has ever been able to reform this moloch. Meanwhile, the interpretation of developments taking place in the soviet Union has far reaching consequences for Poland. An assumption that the changes in Russia are superficial and of no importance leads to a position aiming at „conservation” of the August ideals. This is often accompanied by a lack of confidence in the effectiveness of the current activities. These 3 activities, restricted to education and publishing, aim at recording recent history and educating for the remote future. While all of this is very important, these activities play only a complementary role to the remaining spheres of social life. Restricting oneself to only this type of activity is, in essence, an escape from reality.
On the other hand, the assumption that serious social changes are taking place in the USSR and that these changes could offer a chance for Poland, leads to totally different consequences. The Polish government, unwilling and unable to break away from the „Gorbachev line,” has become sensitive to public pressure. The tragedy of the situation the Polish opposition currently finds itself in is that the timing of the government’s new sensitivity misses the peak of social activism. While far greater social pressure in the first years of martial law met with an inflexible response from the authorities I the current governmental flexibility encounters a tired and resigned society.
The Freedom and Peace Movement sees that now, and not in the undefined futureI there is a chance to fulfill many demands. To quote a well known-question: „If not now, then when? If not we, then who?” An opportunity better than this may never come, and this opportunity could be lost. The achievements thus far of the Freedom and Peace Movement, such as no punishment for many refusing military service, the decision to gradually stop operations of the „Siechnice” steel foundry near Wroclaw, or the Warsaw peace seminar with participants from both East and West, prove that in the current situation the opposition can affect political developments.
3. During the first day of pilgrimage to our country John Paul II told Wojciech Jaruzelski:
The meaning of the General Declaration of Human Rights is unequivocal. When you want to preserve peace, think of a man. Think about his rights, which are inalienable because they are inherent in all human beings. Any restrictions and violations of human rights constitute a threat to peace.
Observance of all the following rights–freedom of conscience, freedom of speech and association, the right to work, acceptable living conditions, organization in trade unions, the right for self-realization of man through his work–is the foundation for peace. In Poland, these rights are not fully respected and this determines the opposition’s activities.
WIP, too, concentrates its activities on problems resulting from the lack of respect for human rights. Military service is the first of these problems. WIP is advocating changes in the military oath, which is contrary to the conscience of many young Poles (it includes ideological obligations to the soviet army).
Current rules regulating alternative service would have been satisfactory had they applied to all draftees. But the intention behind the 1980 regulations was to include only those unfit for regular service (for example, those having health problems or those with a criminal past), While the interpretation of the relevant articles has lately been broadened, and as a general rule the punishment of those refusing military service due to conscientious objection has been given up, the final decisions regarding granting alternative service are still up to the discretionary power of the military.
Open approval of alternative service would gradually have to affect the conditions of regular service and the entire sphere of military affairs. Clearly, in a situation where one had a choice, the military would have to be concerned with its attractiveness to young people. First of all, their fears about the conflicts, humiliation, and nonsense of military service would have to be eliminated.
Moreover, the annoying political indoctrination would have to be abolished. This, in turn, would constitute the first step toward the elimination of the use of the military, either in the international arena or domestically, to achieve goals incompatible with society’s beliefs. Thus, the question of alternative service is relevant not only to a few hundred or a few thousand young people, but has a broader dimension.
Another major sphere of WIP’s activity is ecology. Poland is one of the most polluted countries in the world and this situation is really dramatic. Unfortunately, this problem is not well reflected in the Polish social conscience. The society refuses to accept the reality of threats resulting from the polluted environment and its destructive effects on the current and future population’s health. It would be unrealistic to expect that our ecological activities could momentarily improve the situation–there are simply too many factories that should be closed down due to the amount of pollution they generate. On the other hand, nobody wants to paralyze the entire national economy. Therefore, the main goal is to close the above-mentioned gap between the society’s perceptions and reality. The Movement tries to achieve this by educating people about the threats and by showing them that something can, and has to be done, and that success is possible to achieve. Even a small amount of success could be contagious because it could make people believe in the effectiveness of their actions.
Still another sphere of WIP’s activity concentrates on its opposition to the militarization of the society and its support for „education for peace.” This also means opposition to nationalism, xenophobia and popularization of „enemy images” towards neighboring countries. Our interests are not restricted to events in Poland and related developments–we are also interested in what is happening in the world. WIP would like to instill this openness and interest in world affairs among the broadest circles of society.
The weight of the Movement in society grows when the society’s understanding of the importance of the problems that WIP is working on increases. This observation is confirmed, in a paradoxical way, by the official press. Time and time again, the press has printed statements that WIP is on the margin of social life, but the frequency with which the media voices this opinion points to the contrary. The growing repression also validates the above observation. There are several people connected to the movement who refused military service and are currently serving prison terms. Within the last few months, WIP activists were detained hundreds of times, usually tor 48 hours. The Petty Offenses Courts, which punish those detained, have levied fines that nool exceed 5 million zloty.
4. Among WIP’s major goals are disarmament and the securing of peace. The Movement’ s 1985 Declaration of Principles states that, „In the face of the tact that the most important danger to the contemporary world is nuclear annihilation, we will work to make Polish society aware of the magnitude of this danger.” In a declaration from January 1986, WIP stated: „The return to disarmament negotiations and attempts towards international understanding should be received with hope.” World opinion recognized the importance of the Reagan/Gorbachev summit, during which human rights issues were included in the disarmament negotiations.
The resumption of the INF talks created a chance to accomplish the major goal of the peace movements–the scaling down of nuclear arsenals. As a result, however, the political initiative was captured by the superpowers. Paradoxically, now both Western and Eastern European societies have become concerned over the effects of eliminating medium-range nuclear missiles from Europe. In the West, this concern flows from the conclusion that the agreement would shake the existing balance of power to a degree that Europe would become weaker and less safe. In Poland and Eastern Europe, there is concern that the reduction of missiles is recognized [ed. note: being viewed) as a value in itself.
This creates an entirely• new situation for the peace movements and requires new plans of action and new ideas. The slogan of nuclear disarmament is a very attractive one, but mere technical disarmament, without broader goals, is not what is needed. It has never been accepted in the East and it ceases to be valid in the West. Technical disarmament is conducted without the participation and joint responsibility of the societies and it deals with the number of weapons, production deadlines, methods of verification, etc. Such a disarmament would petrify the division into two opposed political systems and thus would not eliminate the ultimate threat to peace.
Political disarmament that assumes changes within individual countries and systems, as well as international and inter-systemic transformations, is an alternative. In a letter to Mikhail Gorbachev, the WIP Movement offered such an interpretation of disarmament. We stipulated the return of all foreign •armies to their own territories, simultaneous dissolution of the Warsaw Pact and NATO, and undertaking steps leading to an integration of both parts of divided Europe.
We cannot leave all decisions regarding disarmament to the government. It has to be rooted in societies that are sufficiently informed and• have an understanding of its essence. The sense of community among the inhabitants of our continent is a necessary condition to developing these roots. It cannot be achieved other than by creating conditions for unrestricted mutual contacts, open expression and exchange of views, and freedom to carry out political, economic, academic, and cultural initiatives. Political disarmament calls for the elimination of the causes behind the threats to peace, not just the results of these threats. This recognizes that arms reductions should be only a step toward the realization of a broader goal-laying such foundations for peace as democracy, respect for human rights, freedom and international cooperation.
This does not mean that the disarmament talks between the superpowers are of no importance. Rather, proposals combining technical and political disarmament should constitute a basis for a philosophy of peace in the conditions of freedom. Freedom and peace are inseparable.
5.The perspectives and possibilities of cooperation between peace movements constitute a separate problem. Just before this Convention a heated discussion broke out; it was. provoked by a decision to invite representatives of the East European communist parties to participate. This decision brought up again the question of Western peace movements policies towards our part of the continent. Who is supposed to be their partner: official peace committees or independent movements?
A rationale for the first option holds that the official institutions, and especially the representatives of the ruling parties, directly represent those who make disarmament decisions. Even when WIP has sharp disagreements with the authorities, it does not voice protests against talks with the official peace committee, or even with the Polish government. Such talks can be interesting and, to a certain degree, effective.
The second option is supported by the fact that only independent movements can express the genuine views, needs, and aspirations of East European societies. Moreover, these movements constitute a driving force behind the internal evolution in Eastern Europe. These groups are also the societies I spokesmen on human rights. By being exposed to repression, and thus being less numerous than in the West, they require support and political assistance. The Freedom and Peace Movement recognizes the unity of the goals and interests of independent groups in Eastern Europe and wants to express its solidarity with them.
It is unacceptable when different groups of citizens in our part of Europe cannot maintain contacts with one another, or maintain ties with the peace activists in the West. It is unacceptable when they are barred from presenting and publicizing views and positions on the problems of peace . Nobody has a monopoly on how to achieve peace. The fact that many East European activists were refused passports for the END Convention in Coventry shows that such a situation now exists. It happened also last May7 when many of those invited to the Warsaw Peace Seminar were refused entry visas.
In light of this, we expect firmer approaches when contacts are made with official institutions in our countries, and we expect those contacts to be contingent upon the right to maintain analogous ties with independent groups. Pressure to include opposition members in joint working groups could also help to break down barriers and would constitute a good test for the officially-sanctioned East European partners. The lack of such an approach could call into question the rationale for the participation of East European independent movements in END. On this issue, the Freedom and Peace Movement will maintain solidarity with the independent organizations from Eastern Europe.
[Translated by Lech Choroszucha, Berkeley, November 1988]