The Stalingrad of Sovietism
By Bruce Walker
Twenty years ago, the Kremlin lost its own Battle of Stalingrad: Communist Poland formally legalized Solidarity, a labor union that truly was a labor union. In 1943, after the Battle of Stalingrad, it was certain that Hitler could not "win" the war (i.e. he could not achieve the sort of military advantage which would force the democracies to make peace with him.) The Red Army, growing stronger by the day, would fight the bulk of the German land forces until the overwhelming material superiority of America would lead to the absolute defeat of the Axis. There would be respite for the Wehrmacht, like the destruction of the Soviet Sixth Army in the Spring of 1943, but the Germans could do nothing to prevent the inevitable conquest of their country.
At the end of the Second World War, Stalin acquired not only half of old Germany – "East Germany," Pomerania, Silesia, and the rest – but also dominion over nations which had themselves resisted Hitler. Surely no where was this more unjust than in Poland. Hitler and Stalin, as close allies, divided Poland. That is how the Second World War began. The British and French several times considered not just how to attack Germany during the first year of the war, but also how to attack Soviet Russia, the most critical ally of the Nazis.
Even when Poland was crushed, divided, turned into a charnel house, and fought over between Hitler and Stalin, the Poles supplied in exile large, brave fighting forces for the liberation of Europe and of Poland. No pilots during the Battle of Britain were more courageous than Polish fighter pilots. Anywhere the Allies needed to place troops who would not break, they looked to the Poles. Pre-War Poland was barely democratic, sadly anti-Semitic, and nursed its own imperial ambitions (Poland seized territories from Lithuania and participated in the devouring of Czechoslovakia), but Poland was also largely free, and most importantly, Poland was deeply religious.
It is a fascinating fact of the last century that the two men who would be considered by most serious Christians and Jews to most purely reflect the intense compassion and divine goodness of Christianity and of Judaism - - Pope John Paul II and Rebbe Scheernson - - came out of Poland during this very turbulent and awful period. Christian Poles and Jewish Poles have historically taken their faith much more seriously than most other peoples. This trust in the Creator, this belief in an indestructible human soul, has made Poland -- imperfect in so many other ways - - immune to totalitarian man-gods.
My wife's father knew Lech Walesa. He knew Walesa a common laborer, but he saw in Walesa and uncommonly good man: A devout Catholic who abhorred anti-Semitism, a good man whose goodness clearly shined through his ordinary appearance. What Lech Walesa did with Solidarity was, however, nothing short of miraculous. The Soviet overlords of Eastern Europe had shown no compunction at all about crushing anti-communist uprisings - - like in East Germany and in Hungary- - and even breaking communist parties that strayed from totalitarianism, like Dubcek in Czechoslovakia. What would make Walesa think that the ruthless would suddenly have mercy? What would lead him to believe that the brutal would become craven?
Only faith could inspire hope, and Walesa and the Polish people clung to that faith and drew from that faith hope. Almost thirty years ago, Solidarity began to openly defy the Polish satraps governing Poland. The Polish and Soviet communists tried everything to break the union. Nothing worked. Then the world began to notice and began to rally behind Solidarity. John Paul II, of course, was critical. President Reagan was critical too. But help came from other places as well. To its eternal credit, the American labor unions stood arm-in-arm with the workers of Poland and exerted maximum political and economic pressure on the Kremlin. Snide Leftist intellectuals in the democracies, for once, found Soviet conduct which was inexcusable and unacceptable. Solidarity survived.
Each year that a free organization like Solidarity existed independent of the Polish communist government meant that the aura of fear and of invincibility of Soviet power weakened. Twenty years ago, the dam burst. For the first time in history, a communist totalitarian government surrendered power back to the people. There was a kabuki dance between Solidarity and the Polish bosses for a few months, but once Solidarity was formally legalized, everyone knew that the people of Poland would soon be free.
The ripples of that liberation were felt all over the world. The whole Warsaw Pact, which could hardly exist without Warsaw itself, imploded. The Berlin Wall came down. All of the satellites, every single one, became truly independent and largely free. The captive nations within the Soviet Union, from Lithuania to Tajikistan, broke free of the dominance of Great Russia. Finally, communism within Russia itself drowned. The threat to Western Europe which had consumed so much of the attention of the democracies, abruptly ended. The dream of Marxism creeping all over the world died twenty years ago.
Bruce Walker is the author of two books: Sinisterism: Secular Religion of the Lie, and his recently published book, The Swastika against the Cross: The Nazi War on Christianity.