This is the latest installment in the Drowned Baby Timeline, an alternate history where Adolf Hitler drowned at birth and where World War II never took place. The largest state in Central Europe is the Polish Commonwealth, which includes the historical Second Polish Republic, eastern Germany, and the former Soviet republics of Byelorussia and Ukraine. And now, having absorbed the two Soviet Republics, the Polish Commonwealth is experiencing growing pains . . .
Warsaw, Polish Commonwealth
8 February 1946
"I fail to see the problem," said Marshal Heinz Guderian. "President Beck can simply dissolve the Sejm, can he not? I recall that the Marshal" by which of course he meant his predecessor, Marshal Piłsudski "was careful to include such a provision in Poland's constitution for just such an eventuality as this."
As First Marshal of the Polish Commonwealth, Guderian was now a regular member of the small group that met every Friday morning in President Beck's office in the Belvedere Palace to prepare for the day's Cabinet meeting. This day's meeting promised to be particularly memorable.
"Since the Marshal's death," explained President Josef Beck, "neither I nor President Sławek has ever exercised this particular power. Up until now, there has never been any need."
"Some might argue," added War Minister Stanisław Skwarczyński, "that there is no present need, either."
"General Sikorski would certainly say there was no need," said Prime Minister Edward Rydz-Śmigły. "I hadn't expected to hear you agreeing with him."
"Another provision of Poland's constitution," said Skwarczyński, "is that the Sejm cannot override a Presidential veto. If Sikorski's bill passes--"
"When it passes," interjected Rydz-Śmigły.
"If you insist. When Sikorski's bill passes, President Beck need do nothing more than veto it, and the matter ends. No need to dissolve the Sejm."
"If I were to veto this bill," Beck pointed out, "the Federalist party would break apart like an egg."
"And if you dissolve the Sejm?" said Skwarczyński.
"Then the party might break apart when the Sejm meets again in October." Beck answered. "Or it might not. Nine months is a long time."
"When the Sejm meets again in October," said Skwarczyński, "The National Democrats will introduce their bill again, and again you will face the choice of vetoing it or dissolving the Sejm. This is not a problem that will go away, and the longer you put off a resolution, the worse the consequences will be for the government."
"What then?" said Rydz-Śmigły. "If we can't make the Sejm go away, and we can't make the bill go away, what can we do?"
"Sign it," Beck said suddenly. "That's what you're getting at, isn't it, Stan? I'm going to have to sign a bill making Poland an autonomous region within its own Commonwealth."
"It's absurd!" exclaimed Rydz-Śmigły. He looked to Guderian for support, but to his surprise the Marshal was shaking his head.
"Not so absurd as you think," said Guderian. "I'm afraid this Commonwealth" he used the Polish word, rzeczpospolita "of yours isn't really yours any more. Do you know what they call it in the German devos? The Bundesrepublik. No longer the Polnische Bundesrepublik, just the Bundesrepublik. A year ago, they . . . we . . . fought to preserve it. Now we, and the Galicians, and the Belarus, and even the Jews, think of it as our own country. But if it belongs to all of us, then it no longer belongs solely to the Poles. That is why Sikorski's bill has gained such support from the other nationalities. They see it as a final admission by the Poles that the Bundesrepublik, the Rzeczpospolita, has grown beyond them."
"No," said Rydz-Śmigły. "This is unacceptable." He stared at Beck and said formally, "Mr. President, I cannot and will not be a party to this . . . abomination. You must not allow Sikorski's bill to reach your desk, and you most certainly must not sign it into law."
With equal formality, Skwarczyński said, "Mr. President, Marshal Guderian is right. The Commonwealth has grown beyond the Poles. This isn't what we intended when we created it, but the logic of subsequent events is inescapable. Poles now make up less than twenty percent of the Commonwealth's population, less than thirty percent of the Sejm, and hold less than half of the posts in the Cabinet. As wounding as this may be to our pride and vanity, it is an inescapable fact, and one we must adapt ourselves to." Less formally, he added, "What surprises me is that the National Democrats have been willing to bite the bullet and accept the situation. It never pays to underestimate Władysław Sikorski."
President Beck sat in silence for a long time. Finally he sighed and said, "I fear that in this instance pride must give way before logic. I will sign the Sikorski bill."
"In that case," said Rydz-Śmigły, "I must offer my resignation from this government." With a formal bow to the others, he turned and left Beck's office.
"And now the government has fallen," said Beck morosely.
"Governments have fallen in Poland before," said Skwarczyński. "Frequently. It is a tribute to the stability we have achieved that it has taken a crisis of this magnitude to bring the current one down."
"I don't mean the government of the Commonwealth," said Beck. "I mean the government of Poland. After this bill passes, the National Democrats are going to control the government of the new . . . Polish devo. And who can say what sort of mischief they'll get up to?"