Journal of Transatlantic Studies

, Volume 6, Issue 2, pp 123–130 | Cite as

Creating false enemies: John Bull and Uncle Sam as food for anti-Western propaganda in Poland

  • Joanna Witkowska


The Cold War conflict brought about a rivalry of two opposing camps in different fields and the ideological one belonged to those that came to the fore. Fighting for the minds of people, convincing them to the idea of the new, allegedly better world was crucial to raise the chances of winning the conflict. This is where propaganda came in useful. This article deals with this direct product of the East-West hostility in Polish newspapers and focuses on the propagandists’ presentation of the Anglo-American relationships as driven by constant conflicts. Consequently, competition between the allies or rather the struggle by the British to maintain their position in the world is shown. Criticising both countries was of particular interest for Polish journalists. The US was the leader of the ‘rotten’ capitalist camp and the UK its staunch ally. What is more, damaging the image of co-operation between the leaders of the capitalist camp was meant to undermine the unity of the whole Western bloc and thus proclaim the self-destruction of the latter as a result of ‘hostile contradictions’ between its members, leaving the ‘socialist’ camp in the privileged position of the winner. Press was a particularly good tool for propagandists in Poland at that time because television broadcasting was not yet well developed. Thus newspapers became a ‘transmission belt’ for the communist party and a useful instrument for achieving the unity of knowledge in the country. Apart from the press articles, cartoons from a satirical magazine are analysed to show a broader scale of the propaganda’s influence and to prove that its output was not only verbal but also visual one.


Cold War propaganda communist press 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    First television programmes started to be broadcast only in 1953 and even then only on Fridays for half an hour.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    W.I. Lenin, Dzieła [Works], vol. V, (Warszawa: Ksiaźka i Wiedza, 1950), 13.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    A. Kozieł, ‘Prasa w latach 1944–1989’ [‘Press in 1944–1989’], in: Prasa, radio i telewizja w Polsce. Zarys dziejów [Press, Radio and Television in Poland. An Outline History], ed. D. Grzelewska, 2nd edn rev. (Warszawa: Elipsa, 2001), 143, 156.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    The years examined here will be 1948–1956, in Poland often referred to as the Stalinist period and the newspapers: Trybuna Ludu [People’s Tribune]–the main political organ of KC PZPR (the Central Committee of Polish United Workers’ Party), Żołnierz Wolności [Soldier of Freedom]–the organ of Polish army and Szpilki [Pins]–a satirical pro-Communist magazine.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Trybuna Ludu, 1 August 1950, 2.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Żołnierz Wolności, 1 September 1950, 6.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    ‘Ruhr’, in Encyclopædia Britannica, (accessed 3 February 2006).
  8. 8.
    Z. Lengren, ‘Rekiny biorɑ … (Anglosasi oddaja Zagłȩbie Ruhry niemieckim kapitalistom) [The sharks catch the bait … (Anglo-Saxons give the Ruhr Region back to German capitalists)]’, Szpilki (Warszawa: Czytelnik, 28 November 1948), 5. All cartoons described in this article were published in the satirical weekly Szpilki.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Szpilki, 17 April 1949.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    J. Ciszewski, ‘Jesienny zbió r owoców [Autumn Fruit Harvest]’, Szpilki (Warszawa: Czytelnik, 16 September 1951), 9; A. Pelc, ‘Attlee:–Może pan zjeść kawalek … Attlee:–Skąd pan siȩ tego nauczył? Truman:–Z historii brytyjskiego imperium … [Attlee: You may eat one piece … Attlee: Where did you learn that from? Truman: From the history of British Empire …]’, Szpilki (Warszawa: Czytelnik, 17 June), 11.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Ritchie Ovendale, ‘Churchill and the Middle East, 1945–55’, in Adventures with Britannia. Personalities, Politics and Culture in Britain, ed. W.M. Roger Louis (London: J. B. Tauris, 1995), 160.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    P. Dittrich, ‘Wuj Sam do Johna Bulla:–Ponieważ jestem gentelmanem, nalewam ci pierwszy kieliszek … [Uncle Sam to John Bull: As I am a gentleman, I am pouring out the first glass for you …]’, Szpilki (Warszawa: Czytelnik, 19 October 1952), 11; M. Piotrowski, ‘Angloamerykańska rozgrywka o bogactwa świata [Anglo-American contest for the world resources]’, Szpilki (Warszawa: Czytelnik, 10 August 1952), 3.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    J. Borsukiewicz, ‘Przyjaźń anglo-amerykańska [Anglo-American Friendship]’, Szpilki (Warszawa: Czytelnik, 24 October 1948), 7.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Żołnierz Wolności, 28 May 1954, p. 3.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Ibid., 23 May 1954, p. 2.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Leopold Tyrmand (1920–1985), Polish prose writer and essayist, wrote about this hunger for things Western, especially as revealed by those Poles who not only celebrated Zygmunt Kałużyń ski’s (1918–2004, Polish publicist, film critic and essayist) book Podróż na Zachód. Szkice [Journey to the West. Sketches], but who even eagerly perused books by authors that followed the hated socialist realism–so long as those books provided some glimpse of the West. Dziennik 1954 [Diary 1954] (Warszawa: Res Publica, 1989), 65–66, 292.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    L. Tyrmand, Cywilizacja komunizmu [Civilisation of Communism] (Warszawa: Wydawnictwo CTW, 2001, 1972), 185.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
  19. 19.
  20. 20.
    Tyrmand, Dziennik 1954, 141.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Tyrmand, Cywilizacja komunizmu, 29.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    M. Dąbrowska, Dzienniki 1951–1957 [Diaries 1951–1957] (Warszawa: Czytelnik, 1988), 164.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Tyrmand, Cywilizacja komunizmu, 140.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    A few sample jokes: Capitalism stood on the edge of the precipice. / -And socialism? / -It made a big step forward; -What would you do if Western borders were opened? / -I would climb a tree./ -Why?/ -In order not to be trampled; -What is the difference between the Polish and American constitution? / -Actually there is no difference because both guarantee freedom of speech–but the Polish one does not guarantee freedom after speech; -What is the difference between Western democracy and socialist democracy?–More or less like the difference between a chair and an electric chair; -What is the difference between socialism and capitalism? / -Socialism wants to eliminate rich people and capitalism wants to eliminate poor people; -The newcomer from a small town approaches the policeman and asks about the time. The policeman does not have the watch but looks round and says: ‘It’s after eight because all windows are closed. London is beaming its evening broadcast.’; -The Central Committee of the party announced an inquiry: ‘How would you propose to find a way out of the economic difficulties in Poland’. One of the experts said: ‘Declare a war on the United States and then immediately surrender’. These and other jokes one can find in: Humor radziecki. Proletariusze wszystkich krajów przepraszam was czyli dowcip polityczny 1944–1990 [Russian Humour. Proletarians of All Countries I Apologise [to] You That Is Political Joke 1944–1990] (Warszawa: Wydawnictwo Zamek, 1994); S. Kmiecik, Wolne Żarty! Humor i polityka czyli rzecz o polskim dowcipie politycznym [You Are Not Serious! Humour and Politics that is a Question of Polish Political Joke] (Warszawa: Czytelnik, 1998); Nie tylko do śmiechu. Dowcipy z czasów Peerelu: 1948–1989 [Not Only for Laughing. Jokes from the Period of PRL: 1948–1989] from the collection of B. Sal uda, selection, introduction and drawings by Sz. Kobyliń ski (Warszawa: Agencja Omnipress, 1991)Google Scholar
  25. 24a.
    V. Sygul a-Gregorowicz, and M. Waloch, eds, Dowcip surowo wzbroniony: antologia polskiego dowcipu politycznego [No Jokes: Anthology of Polish Political Joke]. vol. I. (Toruń: Comer, 1990) and vol. II. (Toruń: Comer, 1991); 1001 dowcipów sowieckich [A Thousand and One Soviet Jokes] (Bial ystok: Zakłady Wydawnicze Versus, 1992);
  26. 25.
    M. Da˛browska, Dzienniki powojenne 1945–1965 [Post-war Diaries 1945–1965] (Warszawa: Czytelnik, 1997), 338.Google Scholar
  27. 26.
    A. Leszczyń ski, Sprawy do zal atwienia. Listy do ‘Po prostu’ 1955–1957 [Things to Be Done. Letters to ‘Po Prostu’ [Simply] 1955–1957] (Warszawa: Wydawnictwo TRIO, 2000), 44.Google Scholar
  28. 27.
    So far the issue of anti-Western propaganda has been explored by Wojciech Lipoński, ‘Anti-American Propaganda in Poland From 1948 to 1954: A Story of an Ideological Failure’, American Studies International, vol. XXVIII, (October 1990), 80–92Google Scholar
  29. 27a.
    Janusz Kaźmierczak, ‘Anti-American and Anti-British Propaganda in the Polish Poster of the 1940s and the 1950s’, unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Uniwersytet im. A. Mickiewicza (Poznań, Poland, 1999)Google Scholar
  30. 27b.
    Janusz Kaźmierczak, ‘The Image of the United States of America and of the United Kingdom in Polish Posters of the 1940s and the 1950s’, in Vols. X-XI, ed. Wojciech Lipoński (Poznań: Wydawnictwo Naukowe UAM, 2003) 37–63Google Scholar
  31. 27c.
    Janusz Kaźmierczak, ‘John Bull Debunked: Stalinist Visual Propaganda’, in Between Two Cultures–Poland and Britain, ed. Peter Leese (Poznań: British Council, Motivex, 2004) 77–104.Google Scholar
  32. 27d.
    J. Dziechciowska, ‘Anti-British Propaganda in Polish Newspapers of the Stalinist Period: On Relationships between Great Britain and the Countries of the Socialist Camp’, Polish-AngloSaxon Studies X-XI (Poznań, 2003), 63–93.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Taylor & Francis 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joanna Witkowska
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of English Philology, Philological FacultyUniversity of SzczecinPoland

Personalised recommendations