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From Communism to Anti-Communism

 | 
Andre Liebich
, 
Svetlana Yakimovich

Anti-communism in the Cold War

Hej Kolenda

Andre Liebich

Texte intégral

Full-color poster [s.d.]; 30 x 37 cm.The picture also exists in the form of a leaflet (8.5 x 11 cm). In red letters “Hej, kolenda, kolenda, - [“Hey, (Christmas) carol, carol”]; below it, “Ostrożnie z dziadkiem mrozem i reżymowa gwiazdką,” – [“Careful with Grandfather Frost and the regime Christmas”]. On bottom right, “Pokój i wolność, sekcja polska” – [“Peace and freedom Polish section”]. On upper left hand corner, one reads “szkoła” [school]. The newspaper headline in the knapsack reads: “ekspulsie,” – [“expulsions”], and the dog collar around the little devil’s neck identifies him as Bierut.

1The poster portrays Stalin disguised as Santa Claus, dragging along on a leash the Secretary of the Polish United Workers’ Party from 1948 to 1956, Bolesław Bierut. The poster warns against falling for the communist organized Christmas (gwiazdka) celebrations meant to replace the traditional Christmas.

2The task of anti-religious struggle was particularly difficult in Poland where the Catholic Church enjoyed huge prestige, thanks to its role in fostering Polish nationalism during the 19th century partitions of the country and, more recently, by its role in resisting Nazi occupation policies. The Polish primate, Cardinal Wyszynski, was put under house arrest in 1953 and only freed during the 1956 events which ushered in de-Stalinization. It is a statement on the relative mildness of Stalinism in Poland, however, that he did not suffer harsher punishment.

3Christmas festivities were a particularly difficult target for the Communist campaign against religion as Poles, almost universally, observe religiously-inspired traditions on Christmas Eve. Communist efforts to transform this traditional holiday, as depicted in this poster, are presented as clumsy. Communist Party Secretary Bierut, portrayed here as a little devil, represents the “Black Peter” tradition according to which undeserving children receive only coal as a present. In fact, coal would have been much appreciated in the cold Polish winter at a time when penury reigned. Note the diminutive size of Beirut as compared to Stalin. Note too the war-like “gifts” that Stalin is carrying in his knapsack.

4Expulsions” may refer to measures taken against recalcitrant peasants unwilling to enter the newly-founded collective farms (largely dissolved after the 1956 events). As Stalin and Bierut are entering a school it may also refer to pupils and teachers unwilling to accept the Communist version of Christmas which downplayed its Christian elements.

5The “Polish section” of Paix et Liberté which claims authorship of the poster is, most likely, the invention of the Paris office. It probably recruited a number of anti-communist émigrés in France but it is unlikely that it could claim a branch office, even an underground one, in Poland. To be sure, anti-communist armed resistance persisted for several years in Poland after the onset of communist power but by 1950 it had been stamped out. It is also unknown whether and, if so, how many of the posters depicted here could be smuggled into Poland.

6Not surprisingly, the campaign to transform observance of such traditional holidays as Christmas failed.

Bibliographie

Anthony Kemp-Welch, ed. and trans., Stalinism in Poland, 1944-1956: Selected Papers from the Fifth World Congress of Central and East European Studies,  Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1999.

Table des illustrations

Légende Full-color poster [s.d.]; 30 x 37 cm.The picture also exists in the form of a leaflet (8.5 x 11 cm). In red letters “Hej, kolenda, kolenda, - [“Hey, (Christmas) carol, carol”]; below it, “Ostrożnie z dziadkiem mrozem i reżymowa gwiazdką,” – [“Careful with Grandfather Frost and the regime Christmas”]. On bottom right, “Pokój i wolność, sekcja polska” – [“Peace and freedom Polish section”]. On upper left hand corner, one reads “szkoła” [school]. The newspaper headline in the knapsack reads: “ekspulsie,” – [“expulsions”], and the dog collar around the little devil’s neck identifies him as Bierut.
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