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Fear Management

Foreign Threats in the Post-War Polish Propaganda. The Influence and the Reception of the Communist Media (1944-1956)


Bruno Kamiński

The so-called ‘people's power’ – the communists – tended to make Poles afraid. At first – afraid of the Anglo-Saxon imperialists, then of the German revisionists, Zionist 5th column and ‘Kuroń and Michnik walking on the CIA’s leash’. The creation of the atmosphere of fear featuring Germans and their alleged ‘return’ lasted until 1970. In his Fear Management Bruno Kamiński reaches to the origins of this story. Based on a huge selection of sources this analytical study exhibits how in the first 15 postwar years Poles were threatened with the Western world. In the beginning, the Germans were chosen to play the role of the main enemy, dethroned later by the Americans. At the same time, the author proves that fear next to nationalism and ethnic hostility developed into one of the pillars legitimizing the communist system.

Marcin Zaremba, Polish Academy of Science, University of Warsaw

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I prefer to rule my people

through fear rather than conviction.

Convictions can change, but fear remains.

Joseph Stalin

In the first years after the ‘war of wars’ fear was a pan-European experience. Polish-American sociologist Jan T. Gross claims that the word ‘fear’ well encapsulates the postwar atmosphere in Eastern Europe in general.2 British-American historian Tony Judt draws an even broader European context of fear stating that although the accents had depolarised, the atmosphere of fear and radicalism persisted after the war.3 British historian Keith Lowe has argued that the six years of World War Two, the period during which millions of Europeans lived under the permanent pressure of fear, led to the savagery of the whole continent. The postwar moral decay and atrophy of state and social institutions exposed Europeans to a large spectrum of threats they had not faced before.4

In Poland, the atmosphere and omnipresence of fear in the Stalinist reality was perfectly illustrated by the Polish poet and novelist Czesław Miłosz in his famous essay Captive Mind, edited in France already in 1953. Analysing the first postwar years in Poland, this Noble prize winner noted: “(…) the peasant who was receiving his own ground was not happy. He was afraid. Despite the constant propaganda assurances the worker (…) did not have a conviction that those factories belonged to him. (…) Small entrepreneurs and traders were facing the fear of belonging to the sphere of society...

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