The truth about the events in Poland seems plain enough to me: a proletarian mass movement, enjoying the support of intellectuals, and, peaceful as it was, first of its kind in history, did threaten the privileges of a parasitic class; it did so directly in Poland itself and indirectly in the Soviet Union. It turned out that the very spontaneity of the movement made it vulnerable. In a meticulously prepared and brilliantly executed maneuver, the well-trained thugs serving the threatened class crushed the workers, at least for some time to come. Telling heroes from villains in the December events, and saying so in plain words, should be easy enough as well.
Unfortunately, any reader of our enlightened press and many a participant in conversations at professorial offices knows that this is not the case. Politicians, bankers, columnists and, alas, professors and holders of positions in various think tanks, have been seized with a compulsion to split hairs, to offer the other cheek, and to shout at the canary. The Polish regime had no choice but to intervene. Solidarity went too far. General Jaruzelski should be given a chance, and in any case his coup is preferable to direct Soviet intervention. Poles were almost never free. Hitler's aggression, rather than the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, began the division of Eastern Europe. Anyhow, Yalta yielded control over Eastern Europe to the Soviet Union. This multi-national entity, curiously viewed by an ex-diplomat as one great people, and one of the world's greatest at that, has exercised this control to prevent Eastern Europe's ever again falling into hostile hands. A week after the coup, a senior executive vice president of the Citibank is reported to have coined the immortal dictum: "Who knows which political system works? The only thing that we care about is: Can they pay the bills?" Even the Catholic Episcopate of Poland withdrew a strong statement condemning the Jaruzelski coup.
I have little trouble with politicians, bankers or columnists. Truth is not their business, but power, money or verbal haute cuisine. And I will not presume to know what agony went into the Polish Episcopate's cautionary decision--after all, the Church of Poland is within reach of the regime's henchmen, even if the bishops no doubt remember the words of the Gospel, "Whoever cares for his safety is lost; but if a man will let himself be lost for My sake, that man is safe."
I do have a great deal of trouble with intellectuals and, yes, professors, cogitating in the safety of the West and forgetting that their counterparts, scholars and artists, inhabit the junta's jails--for their business is truth and consistency in applying their professed set of values.
As things stand now, the voices in support of truth and consistency, as I see it in the Polish case, come from different, and sometimes unexpected, quarters: from the German winner of the Nobel Prize in literature, Heinrich Boll, creator of several endearing portraits of Soviet prisoners-of-war: right after December 13th, Boll upbraided his countrymen for their cowardly pusillanimity; from Jane Fonda of China Syndrome and anti-war campaigns fame, who came out in support of the struggle of the working people of Poland, and condemned the Yalta Conference and human rights violations in Poland and the Soviet orbit; from Frontlash, the young people's labor movement in New York, who are distributing information bulletins about Solidarity; and from a Mr. Tannenbaum of the American Jewish Committee who two days ago arranged that a Catholic cardinal be presented with money to help the needy of Poland.
So the picture is not all bleak. But there are few professors in it, at least few luminaries or professors with easily pronounceable names. And yet it is the professors' being in the service of truth --and little else--that justifies our claims to special treatment by society and to the leadership of the young. Maybe in these trying times it is the young such as those assembled in this chapel who should lead us; maybe the spirit of God dwells in them more often; or maybe it is still easier for them to stand up and be counted.