BY DOUGLAS HYDE
Poland today has reached "flash point."
The Communist Government is no longer able to govern effectively, and Catholic leaders, paradoxically, are having to urge restraint and moderation upon the very people who work night and day to overthrow the regime that persecutes them.
This is the startling picture I was given this week by some Catholics who have come to London after years of residence in Poland. They have had quite exceptional opportunities for contacting the Polish people, have been in close touch with authoritative Catholic circles and in a position to note prevailing political trends.
I cannot, unfortunately, disclose their identity. Nor am I able, for obvious reasons, to check the details of the highly
factual report they have given me. But I can say that, knowing their background. I have every reason to suppose that their facts are accurate and their conclusions warrant very serious consideration.
This is their story :
HUGE HATRED OF THE RUSSIANS
THE revolt in Poznan last week-end was spoqtaneous. it might have happened in any one of dozens of centres in Poland and may well be repeated elsewhere in the near future.
It is something which the Church foresaw and, ironically
enough, has been working and counselling against for months.
Indeed, things have reached a stage where the Communist Ciovernment finds itself leaning on the Church for its survival.
For, by a variety of means, the Poles have brought the regime to a point where the Communist leaders are looking around for any temporary aid they can find.
The Polish people, at every level of society. are fighting the regime with the political-economic weapons of black marketeering, corruption and just plain theft.
These things have reached such proportions that the country's entire economy is undermined. Planning has become useless and
absurd. No one can be trusted. Ordinary business is rendered impossible. Production is undermined.
Hardly a sermon is preached anywhere, any Sunday. without a reference to this situation, for the Church's leaders say that the evil of corruption is no less an evil when used in this way and may well survive the regime itself. This is one reason why the Communists themselves have to recognise that Only the Church's warnings can do anything to stop the present rot.
SOUL SICKNESS From every pulpit, too, come regular warnings against another evil which equally threatens the Communist regime's very existence. It is the corroding but politically explosive evil of hatred— a collossal, all-pervasive, all-embracing hatred of Russia and the Russians. Almost incredibly, it was described to me as being greater even than the Poles' llatred of the Nazis who did such appalling things to their countrymen.
Week after week this is desscribed in pulpits all over the land
as a sickness of the soul. But, like the corruption and demoralisation, it grows and grows. having BOW gathered a momentum of its own.
Bishops have described this hatred to one of my informants as the greatest motivating force in Poland's resispnce to Communism at this moment.
The Russians and Poland's own Communists are the subject of the most bitter hatred conceivable. As with corruption, it has reached such proportions that the Government is powerless to combat it.
The shooting of the Soviet secret police chief Rena unleashed in Poland something far bigger than Krushchey could possibly visualise.
Beria's secret police had been at least as great a force in Poland and, to a lesser extent, in the other satellite states, as in Russia itself, It will :be recalled that Tito drew attention to their activities in Yugoslavia at the time of his break with Stalin.
The secret police were themselves already corrupt. With the contemptuous removal of Benin by his comrades in the Soviet leadership, their corruption has grown to such an extent that their effectiveness as a terror force is largely undermined. With it has grown corruption among the populace as a whole.
The head of the Industrial Control Commission was publicly questioned recently.
"How many officials have you?" he was asked.
He replied that there were 140,000.
But when he was asked if this was sufficient to stop the prevailing corruption in industry he replied: "No. of course it is not enough. If we had ten times that number it would still not be sufficient. Nothing can stop it today."
The relaxation of the terror, too, has led to a growth of hooliganism of the Teddy-boy type against which the Church is also having to fight. Crimes have increased and general lawlessness is spreading.
It was against this background that Kruslichev recently told the Polish Communist leaders that they must build Communism in their own way.
By that time he knew that the hatred of Russia was such that Soviet interference could be .fatal. And he knew. too, that the instinctive hostility of a people steeped in Catholicism was such that the old ways must be abandoned even though the new ones were by no means clear.
The Polish Communists themselves have repeatedly in recent months approached leaders of the Christian Democratic Union with invitations to join a Popular Front Government of some sort. The Christian Democrats have refused. They know that this is no more than a Communist tactic.
But they also believe that the day is not far off when they may safely accept the invitation — with a reasonable chance of quickly becoming a dominant force within such a "Front."
Then, they hope, they will be able to transform the regime, destroy its Communist character and make it a Catholic one instead.
That policy clearly has its dangers and they might yet be outmanoeuvred and subsequently used by the Communists. But they are apparently confident that the popular hatred of the Communists and support for themselves is such that it can succeed.
RED OFFERS Several times of late the Communists have offered them facilities to publish two independent papers of their own. But they know that the Communists' hope is to be able to convince the people that a new start is being made and that Communism has now been liberalised. So they have refused.
At the same time they believe that the offer should be accepted at the opportune moment, which is not far distant.
This is the background — moral considerations apart — to the Church's anxiety to avoid precipitate 'action which may retard, instead of advancing, Poland's day of liberation.
Priests regularly warn the people that "brother must not raise his hand against brother." for they know that violence of the type experienced in Poznan last week may break out at the slightest provocation and bring with it reprisals and after that a blood bath.
They believe, too, that the Polish people may soon achieve by evolutionary means everything that might be won by bloodshed. At the best, violence may buy the longed-for collapse at a quite unnecessarily high price.
The strongest man in Poland today is not one of the Communist leaders-it is Cardinal Wyszynski, who has been in jail for two-and-ahalf years. Had he been free he might conceivably have made some false step or been politically outwitted by the Communists. In jail he has been spared that possibility.
When the Cardinal went to prison he was already a legend. Today his name evokes an almost mystical response. He is the symbol of unswerving opposition to Communism. Everything he stands for is the very antithesis of what 90 per cent. of the people most hate.
Over and over again the Communists have tried to approach him with offers of freedom at a price.
When party functionaries, no matter how highly placed, have made the advances, they have been told: "I am a Prince of the Church. I can deal only with the appropriate Minister."
When ;Ministers have gone defferentially to him they have been told: "I am sorry, gentlemen, I can make no concessions to you. My faith does not permit of compromise. But I shall pray for you. Good day, gentlemen."
Like the Christian Democrats, the Catholic authorities have also in recent weeks been approached with offers of permission to publish their own Catholic papers again, with limited State supervision. And like the Christian Democrats, they have refused the offers.
There were never many Proregime priests-at the most a few hundreds of misguided ones among tens of thousands-but their number is rapidly declining. Their organisation, "Pax", is almost finished. The Pax conference, held earlier this year, which was attended by some foreign Catholics, including one or two from Britain, was intended as a last desperate attempt to give new life to a dying body.
Everything depended upon the organisers' ability to lake in the foreign observers and then to use their comments after they reached home for internal consumption.
But Graham Greene's debunking of the conference in the Sunday Times dashed their hopes. Before long his criticisms were being freely circulated by Catholics in Poland itself.
When Krushchev made his speech exploding the Stalin myth at the 20th Congress of the Soviet Communist Party Congress, incidentally, some copies were sent to the Polish Communist leaders. But within the party are Catholics who originally went there, as so many did. believing that some form of Christian Communism was possible.
By such means the document was "leaked" and before ever the text was released from Washington some 2,000 roneod copies were passing from hand to hand-to the discredit of the Communists.
Attendances at Mass, Communions and even vocationsparticularly to the orders who have come out of the years of trial with flying colours.-are all on the increase.
Despite the demoralisation of the people and the growth of evils born of the evil regime itself, Poland today is more Catholic than ever she was.
The new Poland will be quite unlike the old. No one there imagines that there can be a return to either the old regime or the old political leaders.
But her Faith will be the same.