Poland and European Integration

Poland and European Integration –
The Ideas and Movements of Polish Exiles in the West, 1939-91
By Thomas Lane and Marian Wolanski
Palgrave Macmillan – £58.00

In ‘European Ideas of Polish Political Parties,’ chapter eight of this thoroughly well-researched and cohesive investigation, authors Thomas Lane and Marian Wolanski emphatically state: ‘’The countries of Central and Eastern Europe were fated to establish a federation in the future, since ‘in international policy the only nations that count are those which are powerful, not only owing to their social structure, organisation, moral status or political skills, but also on account of the size of their populations, their material resources and their economic development.’’’

Such suave sensibility could well have been written in the socio-economic gospel according to Jean Monnet, for even in hindsight, it was never rocket science to truly envision a united Europe. A tapestry of totally diverse nations, irrevocably brought together by way of open cooperation and consideration for the other. Admittedly, the English might feel the French don’t fully subscribe to such diligent dogma; but in truth, current day Europe is of a far more tolerant persuasion than it was say a mere thirty years ago.

Poland and European Integration – The Ideas and Movements of Polish Exiles in the West, 1939-91 lends crucial credence to the initial kernel of what lies behind European tolerance. Poland was after all, denied its rightful place within the formulaic union of free nations, even before the Second World War had come to a close. So it ought hardly be surprising to even partially comprehend, the extent to which it fought hard and long to relinquish the sham like shackles of dire, elongated Soviet domination.

The eleven chapters herein are clearly written and patiently researched by two academics that most certainly know their (most recent) Polish history from the ground up. Honorary Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Languages and European Studies at Bradford University, Lane, is the author of 2004’s Victims of Stalin and Hitler (Palgrave Macmillan), while Professor of Political Science in the Institute of International Studies at the University of Wroclaw, Wolanski, is the author of 1996’s Europa Srodkowo-Wschodnia w mysli politycznej emigracji polskiej 1945-1975 (University of Wroclaw Press).

As such, the book is a collaborative effort that’s as resoundingly discerning as it is remarkably sibylline.

For instance, in ‘War of Ideas’ towards the end, the authors write: ‘’’As a nation with a sense of membership in Western civilization and culture we dream of returning to our larger family Europe.’ Western Europe was Poland’s ‘cultural cradle,’ but every year Poland was sinking deeper and deeper into Sovietism which was ‘corrupting our system of values, our social links and our conception of our own national traditions.’

To be sure, Poland’s ‘’national traditions’’ are the subliminal, underlying thread throughout these 234 pages; which in and of themselves, are fundamentally key regarding any serious study of the country.

The language and the most sensible of vision(s) is, as previously mentioned, very reminiscent of Monnet, who, as many will undoubtedly attest, was, and remains a shining example of acute, sonorous European integration. That after 1939, Polish exiles throughout the West were at the very vanguard of the movement, surely warrants their ranking with the so-called founding fathers of European unity – and this book is a perennial, literary reflection of said exiles inexorable quest for that recognition.

David Marx

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