It is always fine weather for the first of May parades in Poland, just as it always pours with rain for the Church’s festival of Corpus Christi. The weather man on television, a habitual optimist who always wears sunglasses, said he would eat his umbrella if a drop of rain fell in Poland on the first. None fell. The enormous Warsaw crowd ambled past the new Party leaders for three hours in its spring clothes. Yet this was a new kind of May Day parade. There were no portraits of the Party and state leaders; Edward Gierek and his men had discouraged them. Instead portraits of the distinguished and sometimes controversial dead wobbled past the tribune: Rosa Luxemburg, Kostrzewa, and some of the other prewar Party figures executed by Stalin, Swierczewski, who commanded in Spain, even Kosciuszko.
There was none of the cheerleading which the loudspeakers used to bawl down at the crowds, and the slogans themselves have changed. Some saluted the eternity of Polish-Soviet friendship. Most were a somewhat dazed effort to summarize the cataract of words about efficiency and productivity and hard work which has been pouring down on the nation since the rising of workers in December. “Conscientious Work is the Expression of Patriotism” said one, and “Automation is the Foundation of Productivity” said another, carried by Polytechnic students.
But there was a difference between the students and the workers which caught one’s eye; while the students and youth movement (ZMS) contingents had been efficiently marshaled and provided with mass-produced placards, some of the factory crews had made their own. The men and women from the Zeran car works brought cartoons mocking the muddles on the assembly line or the queues in the canteen. With their children riding on their shoulders, they stopped for minutes at a time in front of the tribune to stare and grin at Gierek and the “new men,” and to wave.
The old, fierce slogans about West German militarism and revanchism have disappeared without trace. Only in one place in Warsaw, on the little palace which houses the veterans’ organization (ZBoWiD), there hung a sullen banner proclaiming that “we do not forgive, we do not forget, the crimes of the Hitlerites….” ZBoWiD is one of the power bases of Mieczyslaw Moczar, once apparently the most powerful man in Poland and the leader of the nationalist, “anti-Zionist” campaign which Le Monde delicately used to call “les forces montantes.”
Moczar is now, by all the signs, descending. A heart attack removed him to the hospital in April, and his functions as Central Committee secretary responsible for security have been given to the relatively unknown Stanislaw Kania. In Kania, described as “a decent man” by acquaintances, Gierek has acquired somebody young enough and unscarred enough to be dependent upon him; he has begun the tricky process of bringing the whole security apparatus back under effective Party control.
The anti-Zionist campaign itself, that grotesque hounding of “cosmopolitan” Jews who were deliberately cast as scapegoats …
This article is available to online subscribers only.
Please choose from one of the options below to access this article:
Purchase a print premium subscription (20 issues per year) and also receive online access to all all content on nybooks.com.
Purchase an Online Edition subscription and receive full access to all articles published by the Review since 1963.
Purchase a trial Online Edition subscription and receive unlimited access for one week to all the content on nybooks.com.