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New International, July 1948


Andrzej Rudzienski

Ukrainian Problem – Past and Present

From Czarism to Stalinism


From The New International, Vol. XIV No. 5, July 1948, pp. 150–154.
Translated by Abe Stein.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


“In the next period the Ukrainian problem is destined to play a very important part in the life of Europe.” Leon Trotsky.

The punitive expeditions of the Stalinist Warsaw government against the Ukrainian “bands” call the attention of the whole world to the forgotten Ukrainian problem.

The Ukrainian resistance is struggling not only in the southern provinces of Poland but in the territory east of the Curzon line as well, in the Carpatho-Ukraines, in Slovakia, and in the Moravian part of Czechoslovakia. Thousands of Ukrainians have passed through the cordon of the American occupation in order to be interned in the displaced-persons camps; hundreds of thousands of Soviet and Polish Ukrainians refuse to return to live under Stalin’s rule. In these camps, as in the Ukrainian colonies in America, there is an intense political life, a desperate struggle against the Stalinist invader and oppressor.

The situation of the Ukrainian people is even more tragic than that of the Polish people, since the Ukrainian workers’ movement was completely crushed by Stalin. The weak and backward Ukrainian petty bourgeoisie, caught between the Russian fire and the sword of the Polish bourgeoisie, yielded despairingly to Hitlerism, gambling with the fate of the popular masses. The cause of Ukrainian national and social liberation finds itself isolated and unheard in the camp of the international working class. The bourgeoisie draws the Ukrainian question from the archives only insofar as it is moved by imperialist aims.

Inert and stunned by Stalinist propaganda, the proletariat has abandoned its class brothers, the Ukrainian workers, to their own fate. It is therefore the duty of Marxism and the working class to raise the Ukrainian question and thrust it onto the broad field of the international struggle of the proletariat. In order to deal with this important problem, we must begin with its historic antecedents.

Birth Of A Nation

The Slavs of Northern Europe are divided into two principal branches: the western, to which belong the Poles, Czechs, Slovaks and the Slav peoples annihilated by the Germans (Serbians, Wends, Pomeranians, Letts, etc.); and the eastern branch, to which belong the Great Russians, the White Russians, and the Ukrainians, although the latter two peoples occupy an intermediate position.

The two branches enter the theater of history almost simultaneously, on the one hand the Czechs and Poles and on the other hand the Russians of Kiev. The Greco-Roman culture and its heir, Christianity, penetrated the Slav plains of Europe with two simultaneous currents: from Rome to Bohemia and Poland, and from Byzantium to the Russia of Kiev. The Poles and Czechs received Catholicism and submitted to Latin-Western culture, while the Russians accepted the Orthodox religion of Byzantium with a different alphabet, Eastern traditions, and hostility towards the “Latinists.”

Up from the Black Sea on the road of the Dnieper came Byzantine commerce, and with it the missionaries of the Orthodox faith, to the old Russia of Kiev. In the tenth century, Vladimir the Great built a powerful state on the basis of the new Christian civilization. His successors divided the empire, but fell weakly under the Mongolian invasion which destroyed the Russian culture of Kiev. Only on the western borders, on the Polish frontiers, did the free Ruthenian states of Galicia and Lodomeria maintain themselves.

These countries formed one unit called Red Ruthenia, as the lands to the north were traditionally called White Russia and the intermediate part Black Ruthenia. Red Ruthenia fell under Poland’s influence; its princes intermarried with the dynasties of Poland, forming alliances with them against the Mongolian invasions. The Russias, White and Black, fell under the influence and political domination of the Lithuanian state. The old Russia of Kiev fell apart completely under the blows of the Mongolian invaders.

Later, in the thirteenth century, a new Russia in the vicinity of Moscow and Suzdal took shape under decisive Mongolian influence, with a well-centralized state power and an absolutist ruling prince. With the decline of the Mongols, Muscovite Russia freed itself under the leadership of Dymitr Domski, who defeated the Tatars. The founder and builder of the Muscovite czarist empire was Ivan the Terrible, who proclaimed himself the successor of the emperors of Constantinople and czar of “all the Russias” and declared Moscow “the third Rome.” The Grand Duchy of Lithuania took advantage of the disintegration of the old Russia of Kiev and the domination of Muscovite Russia by the Tatars to subject White and Black Russia and parts of Red Ruthenia to its own sovereignty. Lithuanian influence extended to the very walls of Moscow, including Minsk, Polock, Novgorod, Wielikie Luke in the North and Kiev and the lower Dnieper in the South.

In 1386 the Grand Duchy of Lithuania united with Poland and received Christianity from Polish hands. All this enormous territory fell under the political, economic and social influence of Poland. The Polish-Lithuanian union signified an economic and social revolution in the Rutheno-Lithuanian territories.

Poland had already emerged from the period of feudal divisions and had entered the period of pre-capitalist development. Its cities were organized on the basis of the Magdeburg law which created independent “burgs” within the feudal world. Under the influence of German colonization, its agriculture introduced the rotation system of cultivation, the so-called “three-field system,” which revolutionized agriculture in comparison with the previous system of cultivating one field and then letting it lie fallow for seven years.

From the viewpoint of religion, language and nationality, its culture was already well defined. The “king of the peasants,” Casimir, brought Italian teachers and architects to his country, beginning the epoch of its renascence. Its writers began to use the Polish language instead of Latin as had been the custom till then. The political and social structure changed radically in the fourteenth century; instead of divisions into “stales” and feudal principalities, a, centralized state, with a parliament of the nobility and the character of a constitutional monarchy was formed. All these advances spread to the Rutheno-Lithuanian territories, where cities were built on the basis of the Magdeburg law. The new agriculture was introduced. The newly granted rights of the bourgeoisie and artisans were guaranteed and safeguarded.

In the course of time, the Grand Duke of Lithuania, absolute master of his subjects in the Muscovite or Tatar style, lost his prerogatives, evolving in the direction of a constitutional monarch, since in Poland he had to submit to the will of the Diet (the parliament). The Rutheno-Lithuanian nobility, previously subject to the will of the sovereign, now emancipated itself in the Polish style. The Polish families accepted the Lithuanians and Ruthenians as “the free among the free and equals among equals.” The new structure stood firm and the personal union between the three peoples was converted into a real union, a federated Polish-Lithuanian state being formed in 1569. The Ruthenian and Lithuanian nobility was completely assimilated, accepting the Polish language, customs, institutions, and, in its majority, the Catholic religion.

With the passing of time, the economic and social structure, progressive and revolutionary at the end of the fourteenth century, became reactionary by the beginning of the seventeenth century. The feudal democracy of the nobility degenerated into anarchy and the arbitrary sway of the feudal magnates who oppressed the bourgeoisie and the peasants. Having conquered a privileged position, the Catholic religion began to oppress the Orthodox faith and the Protestants, who were few in number. The consolidation of this regime of the nobility was accomplished at the expense of the peasants who had been relatively free but were now degraded to the position of serfs. The political and social reforms foreshadowed by those writers under the influence of the Western German and Czech reformation were replaced by the Catholic reaction under the domination of the Jesuits.

“Ukraine” Comes Into Being

All these changes found unmistakable crystallization in the Ruthenian territories, where the peasant, accustomed to his ancient liberty, defended himself against the abuses of the nobility. Besides, the Ruthenian peasantry in its majority persisted in the Orthodox faith, while the Polonized nobility had accepted Catholicism. Apart from the old provinces of Red Ruthenia, Galicia, Lodomeria and Podolia, the Russian territories of Kiev Russia and the lower Dnieper also belonged to Poland, which in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries began to be called the “Ukraine,” a name derived from the Polish word ukraina, meaning frontier territory and here indicating the last confines of Poland. With the passing of time, this name came to be applied to one province only, and was later applied by the awakeners of the Ruthenian people to their whole nation.

The Grand Duke of Lithuania, previously master of all unfilled lands in accordance with Eastern law, now gave them to the nobles, who colonized these tracts by subjecting the hitherto free Ruthenian peasantry to serf labor. The peasants fled en masse to the valley of the lower Dnieper which is called Zaporog, where there were neither kings nor nobles.

These fugitives from Russia, Turkey, Ruthenia, Lithuania, Poland proper, Hungary, and the Balkans in time formed a free army called “the Cossacks” (a Mongolian word), who lived by war and plunder. Among themselves they maintained a kind of comradeship of war, a primitive democracy, based on the equality of warriors and the free elections of their chiefs, called “Hetmans.” The Cossacks became the terror of the Tatar Khan, the Turkish Sultan the Muscovite Czar and the King of Poland. As the majority were Ruthenians of the Orthodox faith, the rest were assimilated to the majority. By virtue of their social position as free footloose warriors and by the ties of language and faith, they drew closer to the Ruthenian peasants who continually enlarged their ranks and asked their protection against the nobles’ and clergy’s abuses.

The Cossack Wars

Under the growing feudal oppression the desperate peasantry took to arms against the Rutheno-Lithuanian nobility. The peasant rebellion took on the ideological and religious character so typical of this epoch: they rose up with the slogan of “Defend the true and holy Orthodox faith” against the heresy of the “Latinists.” They destroyed the Catholic churches and convents, the Polish (more accurately, Polonized) cities and castles, and at times reached the borders of Poland proper and even the walls of Warsaw.

Socially, the wars were based on the alliance of the Cossack army with the peasant masses and the lower Orthodox clergy, who played the part of the “ideologues” of these peasant wars. In the seventeenth century, a Polish-Ruthenian noble, Bohdan Chmielnicki, organized the great “Ukrainian” rebellion and penetrated the heart of Poland. The whole Ukraine, Red Ruthenia and Zaporog lit up with the flames of the rebellion. There almost existed a state governed by Chmielnicki and the Cossacks.

But when the nobility were expelled and their power destroyed, the Cossacks and Chmielnicki installed a government of the privileged Cossack caste over the peasants. This was the beginning of the end. With the breaking of the Cossack-peasant alliance, the revolution lost its motor force, its main impulse, and was destroyed by the Polish-Ruthenian army in the battle of Berestezko in 1651.

Chmielnicki was neither a peasant chieftain nor a revolutionary but a nobleman, a corrupted military leader who followed his own interests and those of his caste. Betraying the peasants, he was defeated by Poland and was forced to seek the protection of the Tatars and the Russian czar. In the end, he had to surrender all of the Eastern Ukraine (from the right shore of the Dnieper) to the czar, accepting his sovereignty. This signified the end of the “Golden Liberty” enjoyed by the Cossack army and the rebellious peasantry. The czar was an “absolute sovereign” who oppressed his subjects more than did the slack, weak Poland of the nobility. In time, the Cossack army ceased to exist and was converted into a czarist army, the supporter and defender of Russian reaction.

Czarist and Stalinist historians try to present the Cossack wars as Ukrainian national wars against Poland. In reality it is a question of a phenomenon similar to the religious and peasant wars in Germany, France and Bohemia – a social war. The one difference is that the Ruthenian peasants, driven to desperation by the Catholic reaction in Poland, rose up not under the Protestant banner but under the banner of the Orthodox faith. The peasants fought, not in the name of the Ukrainian national program, but in the name of the Orthodox faith; not against the Polish nation but against the Polonized Ruthenian nobility. It is false to impart a national character to the social wars of the eighteenth century, wars which had the typical character of civil war, peasant class wars.

The Cossack wars were defeated through lack of support by the Polish and Ruthenian bourgeoisie and because of the betrayal by the Cossacks of the Ruthenian peasants. Chmielnicki cannot be considered as a national hero of the Ukraine, but as a traitor of the Ruthenian peasants who at that time represented the future Ukrainian nation, since the entire Ruthenian nobility considered itself Polish. Chmielnicki sold the Ukrainian peasantry and the Cossack army of Zaporog to the Russian czar, burying the Ukrainian cause from then until the nineteenth century, until the new national awakening of the Ukraine took place.

Although the peasant rebellions were crushed in blood, the social antagonism between the Polonized nobility – who professed the Catholic faith and spoke Polish – and the oppressed peasantry – who remembered the Cossack wars, spoke the Ruthenian (Ukrainian) language, and professed the Orthodox faith – lived on.

Catherine II knew how to take advantage of this fact, proclaiming the program of unity of “all the Russias,” which meant the partition of Poland. When the Polish and Ruthenian nobility rose against her in defense of Polish independence, the czarina, with the aid of her armies, organized peasant uprisings, calling herself the “defender of religious freedom and the holy Orthodox faith.”

“Religious toleration – that was the word wanted to put down Poland. Poland had always been extremely liberal in religious matters [the reference is to feudal Poland – AR]; witness the asylum the Jews found there while they were persecuted in all other parts of Europe. The greater portion of the people in the eastern provinces belonged to the Greek faith, while the Poles proper were Roman Catholic. A considerable portion of these Greek Catholics had been induced, during the sixteenth century, to acknowledge the supremacy of the pope and were called United Greeks, but a great many continued true to their old Greek religion in all respects. They were principally the serfs, their noble masters being almost all Roman Catholics; they were Little Russians by nationality. Now this Russian government which did not tolerate any other religion at home but the Greek and punished apostasy as a crime; which was conquering foreign nations and annexing foreign provinces right and left; and which was at that time engaged in riveting still firmer the fetters of the Russian serf – this same Russian government came soon upon Poland in the name of religious toleration, because Poland was said to oppress the Greek Catholics; in the name of the principle of nationalities, because the inhabitants of these eastern provinces were Little Russians and ought therefore to be annexed to Great Russia; and in the name of the right of revolution arming the serfs against the masters.” [Engels, The Doctrine of Nationality Applied to Poland, New International, July 1944, p. 214.]

This precise and excellent paragraph of Engels constitutes the first Marxist position with regard to the Ukrainian problem. Oppressed by the Polish nobility, the Ruthenian peasantry, the Ukrainian people, were small change for the Russian reaction, which used them in furthering its expansionist and oppressive aims. The Polish nobility had been slaughtered by the Russian armies and the Ruthenian peasants. But as soon as the Polish rebellion had been crushed, the same Russian soldiers forced the Ruthenian peasants to submit to the feudal yoke of the landlord. The partition of Poland and its annexation by Russia not only did not better the situation of the Ruthenian peasants, but delivered them to the double oppression of the Polish landlord and the Russian czarist police.

The Ukrainian National Renascence

The partition of Poland and the replacement of Polish domination by Russian czarist oppression bettered the condition of the Ruthenian peasant masses not at all. The once rebellious Cossacks now formed the legions of czarist reaction and were used to crush all opposition and every revolutionary movement against the czarist autocracy. The Polish revolutions did not win over the Ukrainian masses, just as they did not win over the Polish peasants against the czar.

In spite of the generous slogan, “For our and your liberty,” the insurrectionary Polish democracy, linked to the nobility and the feudal economy of the country, was not capable of leading a peasant war against the czar and the Polish aristocracy, the only form the democratic revolution in Poland could then have taken. The Austrian government could raise the peasants against the democratic revolution of Cracow in 1846; the czarist government could use the Ukrainian peasants to disarm and hand over the Polish revolutionary students, who wanted to stir up the peasantry, to the czarist police. The antagonism which divided the rebellious nobility from the peasantry paralyzed the democratic revolution in Poland, Lithuania and the Ukraine. The generous slogan, “For your and our liberty,” had no social appeal, being limited exclusively to the privileged classes.

The national awakening of the Ukraine had to come from the very heart of the oppressed peasantry itself.

Shevchenko, national poet of the Ukraine, was born of humble, oppressed peasant parents, and suffered as much from the persecution of the Polish aristocracy as from the czarist autocracy. His principal work Kobsar prepared the national renascence of the Ukraine and created the basis for modern Ukrainian literature and culture.

The new movement did not base itself on religious arguments about the struggle for the holy Orthodox faith, but rather on the national program of uniting all the territories and peoples of the Ukraine in a single national framework, without taking into account the religious differences. It was at that time that the terms “Ukraine” and “Ukrainians” were adopted to describe the new movement and underline the national unity of Red Ruthenia (Galicia and Volhynia) as well as of Podolia, Zaporog and the Ukraine proper.

The figure of Shevchenko headed a movement that was more cultural than political. Nevertheless the czarist police understood the political ramifications of his work and subjected the adherents of the movement to a persecution that often led to prison. The social and political content of this movement was bourgeois, of course, anticipating the future development of capitalism in the Ukraine.

The definitive theoretician of the Ukrainian bourgeoisie was Dontzow, who began as a socialist and ended as a nationalist. Dontzow proclaimed the program of the unity of all the Ukrainians and the creation of an independent Ukrainian state. With the growth of the workers’ movement, the problem of Ukrainian independence and self-determination took on primary importance in the breast of Russian and Ukrainian social-democracy.

The Russian Cadets (Constitutional Democrats) and the reformists supported the program of “cultural self-determination,” excluding political self-determination and the separation of the Ukraine from Russia. Lenin and the Bolsheviks fought for a self-determination which included the right of separation from Russia. Apropos of the conference of the Cadet Party in Kiev in 1914, Lenin wrote that the Cadet Kokoshkin opposed the recognition of the right of self-determination. “In effect, the Cadets have never thought of defending the right of the nations to separate from the Russian state,” wrote Proletarskaya Pravda, commenting on the Cadets’ program.

The Ukrainian Mensheviks Yurkevich and Semkovsky held a point of view similar to that of the Cadets, although using different arguments. Even the great Rosa Luxemburg considered the Ukrainian national question to be the artificial product of a handful of nationalist intellectuals. But historical development and the Russian Revolution proved that the Bolshevik program of national self-determination was correct.

From Lenin to Stalin

The Russian Revolution of 1917 awakened the worker and peasant masses of the Ukraine.

The Ukrainian bourgeoisie created a Germanophile camp led by Skoropadsky, an agent of German imperialism, who formed a reactionary government, a puppet of the Germans. When Skoropadsky was unmasked before the masses, the petty-bourgeois radicals and the Mensheviks formed the “Central Council” in Kiev which collaborated with Kerenaky and the Russian bourgeoisie. In Galicia the “Ukrainian People’s Republic” was formed with the Ukrainian army, led by the Hetman Simon Petlura. Petlura proposed an alliance to Pilsudski, whose aim was the defeat of the Bolsheviks and the creation of a Ukraine separated from Russia and supported by Poland. The product of this alliance was the Polish campaign against the Bolsheviks in 1920 and the occupation of Kiev by the Poles. But the promises made by Petlura and Pilsudski to the Ukrainian people, to provoke them into an uprising against the Bolsheviks, were completely empty.

In the struggle against Denikin, the alliance between the Russian workers and the Ukrainian proletariat was forged. The Bolshevik Party and the Russian Soviet Republic recognized the independence of the Ukraine, a platform which caused all the Ukrainian people to rise up against Denikin. The Ukrainian Communists and “Borotbistas” (Borotba is Ukrainian for struggle) fought side by side with the Russian Bolsheviks, a fact which underlined the necessity for the absolute independence of the Ukraine.

“We, the Great Russian Communists, must stamp out with great severity, the least manifestation of Great Russian nationalism ... since these manifestations’ constitute a betrayal of communism, harm us enormously, separating us from our Ukrainian comrades, and thereby benefit Denikin and his politics. For this reason, we, the Great Russian Communists, must accommodate our differences with the Ukrainian Bolshevik-Communists and Borotbistas when these differences refer to the state independence of the Ukraine, the forms of alliance with Russia, and in general, the national question.” [Lenin, Selected Works, IV.]

However, continues Lenin, the Russian and Ukrainian Communists must be intransigent on the fundamental questions of the revolution which are common to all nations, such as the dictatorship of the proletariat, the inadmissibility of conciliation with the bourgeoisie, and the inadmissibility of the division of forces that struggle against Denikin. This program, whose real content was the distribution of the land among the Ukrainian peasants, the destruction of the feudal Polish aristocracy and Russian imperialism, defeated not only Denikin but Pilsudski as well in his alliance with Petlura, and gave the victory to the proletarian revolution in the Ukraine. The Ukrainian proletariat under the banner of Lenin conquered not only over czarism, over the Hetman Skoropadsky, but over the Ukrainian bourgeoisie too. The armies of Pilsudski were thrown back to the very walls of Warsaw. The Russian, Ukrainian, Polish and international counter-revolution was defeated by the alliance of the workers and peasants.

For the first time in history a free Ukrainian national state, led by the proletariat, had been created.

The Counter-Revolution in the Ukraine

The Riga peace treaty between Lenin’s Soviet Russia and Pilsudski’s Poland was a compromise between the bourgeois democracy of Poland and the socialist revolution in Russia. The compromise divided the Ukrainian and White Russian territories into two unequal parts.

The new Russian-Polish frontier extended west of the second partitioning of Poland in 1793. About five million Ukrainians remained within Poland’s borders. Before the Polish-Russian war Lenin had proposed a more favorable frontier for Poland which would have given the latter Minsk, capital of White Russia, Kamieniec and Mogilev, important centers of Polish population. The division of the Ukrainian and White Russian territories was an inadequate and unsatisfactory solution demonstrating the isolation of the Russian Revolution. Aside from the Polish Ukraine, Ukrainian territories were held by Rumania (Bessarabia and Bukovina) and Czechoslovakia (Carpatho-Ukraine).

The Soviet Ukraine had its own government headed by the old Ukrainian Bolsheviks, Lenin’s collaborators. But the advent of Stalin to power opened the doors to Great Russian chauvinism and the national oppression of the Ukraine. “In the years of the Thermidorean reaction, the situation of the Soviet Ukraine, and with it the manner in which the question of the Ukraine was posed in its entirety, changed radically ... Nowhere did the purges, repressions, restrictions and in general all the forms of bureaucratic hooliganism acquire such a criminal character as in the Ukraine, in the struggle against the strong and well-rooted aspirations of the Ukrainian masses for greater liberty and independence,” wrote Trotsky in his article on The Ukrainian Problem in 1939.

“The Soviet Ukraine,” Trotsky continues, “was converted by the bureaucracy into an administrative part of the economic unit and a military base for the USSR. Certainly, the bureaucracy erects statues of Shevchenko but only in order to crush the Ukrainian people with greater force and compel them to sing the praises of the bandit clique in the Kremlin in the tongue of Kobsar.” (Trotsky, ibid.)

As this analysis indicates, the offensive against the Ukrainian people began with Stalin’s purge of Lenin’s old collaborators in the Ukrainian Bolshevik Party, headed by Skrypnik, who expressed the aspirations of the Ukrainian people for “greater liberty.” The socialist Ukrainian intellectuals and writers underlined the independence of Ukrainian culture and the need that this culture had of a western orientation. In this the Stalinist bureaucracy discovered a mortal danger to its domination. Representing literature, the writer Chwylowyj was attacked and purged. The old Bolshevik, Skrypnik, considered an accomplice and protector of the independent orientation of the Ukrainian writers, was excluded from the party and driven to commit suicide.

Having beheaded the Bolshevik Party of the Ukraine, led by Rakovsky, having defeated the Trotskyist opposition, Stalin proceeded to the offensive against the masses of the people. The famous collectivization of the Ukraine, the offensive of hunger against the peasants, according to general calculations, ended in five million deaths from hunger. The Ukraine was depopulated and millions of peasants carried on” to Siberia. The bureaucracy wiped out all the social and national conquests of the Ukrainian people, converting it into the lackey and slave of Great Russian chauvinism.

The Reaction in Poland

The Polish Ukrainians formed a “People’s Republic” which conducted an armed struggle against Poland. Petlura agreed to liquidate this movement in exchange for Pilsudski’s support against the Bolsheviks. The Council of Ambassadors surrendered Galicia to Polish administration, with the condition that it enjoy political and cultural autonomy. The Riga treaty also gave Volhynia and Western Polesia to Poland. Although the promised autonomy was never granted to the Ukrainians by the Tolish bourgeoisie, the Ukrainian bourgeoisie enjoyed greater liberty in Poland than in the Soviet Ukraine.

The Galician bourgeoisie was split into two tendencies: one was for collaboration with Poland, and the other was the intransigents. The first was represented by the UNDO (National-Democracy of the Ukraine) and the second by the OUN (Nationalists). The National-Democracy had its representatives in the Warsaw parliament and championed the program of autonomy, with an autonomous government and a parliament of the Ukraine. The Nationalists, on the other hand, rejected all collaboration with Poland, agitating for a war without truce against Polish domination and the program of “an indivisible, independent and united Ukraine.”

Aside from these two tendencies there existed a “Russophile” current which had formerly favored union with the Russians but now collaborated with the Poles. The peasants had their Radical Party; there also existed a Ukrainian Social-Democratic Party of Galicia led by Hankewicz.

The Communist Party of Eastern Galicia (KPGW) had a basically Polish character in its first period, which corresponded in a certain degree to the national character of the industrial proletariat of Galicia – the factory workers, railroad and transport workers and the workers in the oilfields. Aside from this, there persisted in the CP the traditions of Rosa Luxemburg which considered the Ukrainian question as something artificial, “the caprice of the intellectuals.” Later, a party congress led by a Polish majority came out for the self-determination of the Ukrainians and created an autonomous party, the Communist Party of Western Ukraine (KPZU).

The turn was carried out in accordance with the interests of the Stalinist bureaucracy, the Polish worker elements being pushed out of the party and replaced by Ukrainian intellectuals and Ukrainian workers and peasants. The Polish language was replaced by the Ukrainian language in the party, Ukrainian nationalism and chauvinism being fomented by all possible means. The party sought to come closer to the Nationalists, agreeing to collaborate in the wave of individual terror, of setting fire to Polish farms, of all kinds of excesses, etc. The Polish bourgeoisie responded with repressions. The police and military detachments invaded the Ukrainian villages and countryside, engaging in collective punishment of the rebellious population. In the cities a wave of terror was unleashed against the Communist Party and against the Polish and Ukrainian workers.

Although the Polish “pacifications” gained an abominable fame and sowed much deadly hate for Poland among the Ukrainian people, they were innocent child’s play compared to the Stalinist pacifications, purges, and collectivizations in the Soviet Ukraine. The policy of the Polish bourgeoisie tended toward the Polonization of the Ukrainians in accordance with the nationalist program of the National-Democrats. It was a policy that was as absurd as it was unrestrained, since the Ukrainians constituted an element with a developed national consciousness, well organized from the economic as well as the social-political aspect, at times better organized than the Poles themselves.

In its last period, Stalinist policy inspired local uprisings that on the one hand exhausted the Ukrainian nationalist and workers’ movements, and on the other hand provoked Polish reprisals and pacifications digging an abyss between the two peoples and opening the door for Russian imperialism and the future invasion of Poland. The Communist Party of Western Ukraine, which existed independently of the Polish Communist Party, passed into direct dependence on Russia, weakening its ties with the Polish CP. Corrupted to the very marrow, it degenerated into an organization of Ukrainian petty-bourgeois nationalism, a docile instrument in the hands of the Stalinist counter-revolution which could be used to annihilate the Ukrainian people and dig an abyss between the Polish proletariat and the Ukrainian people.


Andrzej Rudzienski
October 1947

(To be concluded next month)

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