COLUMN

Mr. Trudeau’s Polish ramblings

Barbara Amiel February 1 1982
COLUMN

Mr. Trudeau’s Polish ramblings

Barbara Amiel February 1 1982

Mr. Trudeau’s Polish ramblings

COLUMN

Barbara Amiel

It was clear from the start of last December’s interview that CTV’s Bruce Phillips wanted to set the record straight. “You’ve been criticized about your position in respect to Poland,” said Phillips to guest Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, “and in fairness to you, I don’t think you meant what they said you said, namely that you feel martial law is better than a civil war.”

But the prime minister would have none of this limpness. “Well, what are they arguing, that it was better to have the Communist party in Poland continue in office, crushing the Solidarity strikes with what? .. . We see unions in Canada are always asking for more. I don’t suppose the union movement in Poland is very different . . . hopefully the military regime will be able not only to keep Solidarity from excessive demands but keep the Communist government from excessive repression.”

Had such an exchange taken place publicly between a network correspondent and the president of the United States or the British prime minister, an unholy row would have erupted. There might even have been calls for resignation or impeachment. In Canada there was only a follow-up press conference, given by External Affairs officials who, enlarging on Trudeau’s theme, spoke of the surprising “degree of tolerance” Moscow had shown by not intervening in Poland. Canada, said the officials, sees Moscow’s involvement in the Polish crisis as merely applying a little “moral suasion” on that recalcitrant country. It was not only the conclusion of this line of reasoning that was so extraordinary, but the reasoning behind it.

In order to follow Trudeau’s argument, it is necessary to accept his statement that there is a meaningful difference between the Communist party in Poland and the present military regime. This is patently absurd. For one thing, it was Wojciech Jaruzelski, the leader of the Polish Communist party, who summoned Wojciech Jaruzelski, the premier of Poland, and told him to call in the military council headed by

Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski.

For another, the Soviet Union, as Mr. Trudeau must realize, exercises a crushing influence on Poland—one that is both military and economic. By now it surely is unnecessary to document the military threat presented by Soviet troops both inside Poland and massed on Polish borders. If the Canadian view is that this military presence represents “moral suasion,” then perhaps we should expect certain changes in our society, including the deletion of blackmail from the Criminal Code.

Even more damning is the economic

petard on which the Soviets have hoisted Poland. That subject in itself is worth a book. Documents that became available during Poland’s thaw indicated that in 1976, when the Polish debt to the West was a manageable $7.7 billion (U.S.), the Soviets decided to implement certain “trade agreements” that effectively set up Poland as the Kremlin’s Trojan horse in the West. Poland obtained hard currency and semifinished products from the West. Then, the Soviets forced the Poles to sell them vast quantities of food, finished products and heavy machinery, not for dollars—or even rubles—but for a new form of currency that was nonnegotiable in the West or in other Eastern Bloc countries. Trade figures indicate that the Soviets then exported many of these Polish products for hard currency. It all brought to mind a joke current in the Warsaw Bloc during the 1950s. “How does trade with the Soviets work?” one Hungarian asks another. “Simple,” is the response. “They send us a shipment

of very fine sand. In exchange Hungary ships food to East Germany and bauxite to Czechoslovakia. Then we get back microscopes from East Germany and cars from the Czechs, which we ship to the Soviets. And in exchange we get another load of top-quality very fine grade of sand.”

The top quality sand the Soviets gave the Poles after the ’76 trade agreements contributed substantially to the mounting Polish debt. It also contributed to the decision to try to avoid a direct invasion of Poland. By avoiding that, the Soviets could defuse Western indignation and maintain the Trojan horse’s diet of Western currency and trade.

-In the end, that awe somely cruel deception by Moscow was blithely ig nored by Trudeau. In stead, what we heard from our prime minister was a replay of New Left poli tics. These policies not only refuse to accept real ity but demand reality's falsification. Such an ap proach was manifest in Trudeau's suggestion that Soviet imperialism in the Eastern Bloc is the same as U.S. imperialism in Canada. Or that the prob lem Solidarity poses to Warsaw is the same as the

problem unions cause in Canada. One can't help wondering the next time a trade union here decides to endorse a new political party, whether the prime minister will call out the troops.

At the basis of Trudeau’s comments, however, is the false dichotomy he sets up. Essentially, he is arguing that the only choice the West has is to endorse martial law or go to war over Poland. There is another choice. It is possible to condemn firmly what is happening in Poland. It is possible to end the effectiveness of Moscow’s Trojan horse and not feed it Canadian grain and credits— a request Solidarity itself has made. It is ludicrous for our prime minister to speak of the “excessive” demands of the Poles when they are simply asking for a system that will allow the people who inhabit one of central Europe’s richest agricultural countries to be able to buy a loaf of bread on demand.

But then perhaps Moscow’s “moral suasion” has reached far beyond the borders of the Warsaw Pact.