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A. Rudzienski

Results Determined in Kremlin in Advance

GPU Terror Cast the Deciding
Vote in Polish Election

(17 March 1947)

From Labor Action, Vol. 11 No. 11, 17 March 1947, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The “results” of the recent Polish elections were decided not in Warsaw, but at a meeting of the Stalinist bosses of first and second rank and Stalin himself in the Kremlin. There the conflict between the Stalinist bureaucrats of their party, the PPR, and the fake Socialist Party (PPS) was resolved, giving to each group an equal number of deputies and posts. There too the decision was made to allot only six per cent of the deputies in the Diet and a maximum of ten per cent of the votes to Mikolajczyk’s Peasant Party.

At the Kremlin meeting the general lines of an electoral “policy” for Poland were drawn, that is to say, the general “pogrom” against the opposition. Until now, the legal opposition has been allowed to function in order to comply formally with the Potsdam agreement, which guaranteed “free and unfettered elections.” But within the framework of this “magic” formula, Stalin decided to demonstrate that for him Poland is not the same as Austria and Hungary, where the peasant opposition is allowed. Consequently, the elections were meant to be a demonstration of Russian strength in Poland masked as a “complete victory of Polish democracy.”

To assure the success of this plan, the Russian usurpers unleashed a terror Without precedent in two years of occupation. The military tribunals dictated dozens of death sentences against the militants of the underground, trying to demonstrate their activities on behalf of “foreign imperialism.”

Anti-Peasant “Pogroms”

The “pogrom” against the Peasant Party constituted the second step in this terroristic offensive. Tens of thousands of Peasant Party militants were arrested, the number of prisoners reaching 100,000 in the last phase of the elections, a figure comprehensible only under a totalitarian regime. The scattered Peasant Party, which in spite of the arrest of 100,000 of its members continued its electoral campaign and elected deputies, revealed enormous combative and dynamic strength.

To the regime, however, this mattered very little. In the most important districts where it feared an oppositionist majority, the Peasant (PSL) lists were simply cancelled under the pretext that the Candidates and the organizations were suspected of contact with the underground. In 48 hours, 2,000 Peasant Party activists in the district of Cracow were seized by the police. Because they were suspected of having contact with the underground, the names of 60,000 voters in this district were struck from the electoral lists. In 11 out of 52 electoral districts, the lists of the Peasant Party were simply cancelled. Of the 850 candidates, around 380 candidates for deputies or people considered as such, were seized. Strong-arm squads in Warsaw wrecked the Praga Local of the PSL and destroyed tens of thousands of election leaflets. In Lodz, 200 Peasant Party militants were stripped of their outer clothing and held as prisoners in a building without windows, with the temperature at thirty degrees below zero.

The favorite method of breaking the will of the Peasant militants and forcing the candidates to sign their resignations was the “cold bath” in ice-cold water. The resignations were then jubilantly printed in the Stalinist press. In Kasno, above Odra, a Peasant election meeting, which included women and children, was fired upon indiscriminately and as a consequence, there were some deaths.

Stalinist Terror Methods

Bestially mistreated in Warsaw was W. Fiegat, deputy to the National Council. In Starogard-Pomerania, Stanislaw Trok was bathed in ice- cold water until he agreed to withdraw his candidacy. In Lodz, the organizer of the young peasant women, Janina Lugaszkowna, was bestially tortured. These are only a few of the cases. We cannot cite them all. The British press cites many instances in which workers were mistreated in Lodz, Cracow, Warsaw, Silesia, Pomerania, for having signed the lists of the opposition. Many of them were mistreated and threatened with death until they agreed to withdraw their signatures.

The fury of the Stalinists was directed against the Independent Socialists and the left wing of the Peasant Party. The names of the Socialist candidates were arbitrarily crossed off: Zdanowski, ex-general secretary of the workers unions before the war, because he was suspected of contact with the underground in the districts of Lodz and Warsaw. Also crossed off the electoral lists were the names of the leaders of the Peasant left wing: Baginski, Mierzwa and Koter. Nevertheless, in the various industrial districts of Cracow. Lodz, Warsaw, Radom, Chrzanow, the lists of the Independent Socialists, oppositionists to the government, were presented. The existence of a legal workers’ opposition to a Stalinist government is a unique phenomenon in the entire Soviet Zone, outside of Germany and Austria, where Russian policy is modified by the fact of the three- power occupation.

The rejection of the opposition’s lists in 11 districts deprived more than three million people of the right to a free electoral voice. But this is just one aspect of the matter. The Polish Constitution and the electoral law guarantee secret elections. Millions of Polish homes were “visited” by the Stalinist hangmen and ordered to vote openly under the threat of losing their jobs, or else were directly threatened with imprisonment or assassination.

In Poland, today, 30 to 40 per cent of the active working population depends on the state for employment. The countryside is controlled by the co-operatives, which are completely monopolized by the Stalinists. The Rural Administration keeps its vigil over the peasantry, while the police keeps its surveillance over the city population. Aside from these measures, the electoral observers of the opposition were forced out of almost all the electoral commissions. The “results,” therefore, were exactly those foreseen by the Kremlin. Nine million voted in favor of the government; about a million and a half in favor of Mikolajczyk’s party, about half a million for the Christian Labor Party, while about a million boycotted the elections or were excluded from voting by the government.

The opposition has been reduced to a margin narrower than that which it had in the famous fraudulent referendum. The Stalinist electoral machine solidly entrenched after two and a half years won a “victory” over a rebellious people. The Russian position in Poland was “consolidated” within the magic formula of Potsdam.

But there are other factors that played their part in the Polish elections. The Anglo-Americans, signing the Potsdam compromise, were confident that the Polish opposition – with their support – would Succeed in clearing the way and would weaken the Russian position; that this opposition would serve as the spearhead for the expansion of Anglo-American imperialism. They wished to spill Polish blood once more, as in 1939, as in 1944, as during the whole period of the German occupation. The Russian bureaucrats also expected an uprising, presumably “reactionary” in character, Which they prepared to deal with after their own worthy fashion, that is, with a slaughter. The Allies frightened the Russians with the specter of civil war.

However, both were bitterly disillusioned. The Polish people, under the leadership of the legal and underground opposition, did everything possible to avoid provocation. The underground organizations did hot come out of the forests and, as during the referendum, the legal opposition did not boycott the elections, as both the Russian and Western imperialists had expected. It limited the boycott only to those districts where its lists had been cancelled.

Hate Both Invaders

The London government and those organizations adhering to it directed a proclamation to the underground and the Polish people in general, recommending that they avoid provocations and liquidate the military organizations. It is evident that the Polish people and the organized opposition do not wish to be the shield or fifth column for the Western imperialists, and strive to reconstruct the country, no matter What the regime in power, even the hated Stalinist regime. The Polish people do not want a new war and do not desire to have their territory converted into a theater of war. If the Anglo-Americans want Poland, then they must conquer it by their own efforts. The Polish people hate the Russian invaders, but have no intention of spilling more blood in order to acquire new bosses.

The Anglo-Americans are probably aware of the prevailing Polish sentiments and, consequently, the Polish elections have caused much “nervousness” in the Anglo-American bourgeois press. Never have they supported the opposition and Mikolajczyk with so much fervor as now. The diplomatic notes directed to Moscow and Warsaw were very “energetic.” There was even talk of a break with the Warsaw government. A year ago, perhaps, such an action would have found support in Poland, but such is not the case today. What remains of the bourgeoisie and landowners are trying to accommodate themselves to the ruling bureaucracy. The leaders of the national armed forces have arrived at an agreement with Bierut and celebrate in the streets of Warsaw. The London government has called for the dissolution of the underground military organizations. The organization “WIN” (Liberty and Independence) directed by the leaders of the PPS, deliberately abstains from terrorist actions. An important part is played by the agitation against the Anglo-American position on the question of the Silesian and Pomeranian territories. The bourgeoisie and the middle class, the peasantry and part of the proletariat are fanatically against any “new division” of Poland. The government foments a campaign of unrestrained nationalism against Germany.

On the other hand, a new legal workers’ opposition, that of the Independent Socialist Party, is in process of formation. It is headed by Zulawski, Zdanowski and Bien, representing the old pre-war PPS, who are trying to clear the way for an independent workers’ movement. This party participated in the elections with Mikolajczyk. We can risk the affirmation that the Polish anti-Stalinist opposition is undergoing a structural change: the bourgeoisie submits to Stalinism, while the proletariat begins to emancipate itself and form its own organized opposition to Stalinism. The same development is taking place in the Peasant movement. The right wing, headed by Kiernik, desires an understanding with the government, while the left wing, led by Baginski, intensifies its opposition. Surely this social and political change in the ranks of the opposition is due to the independent orientation of the Polish opposition, which has no desire to serve as a. shield for Anglo-American imperialism. Surely this political transformation is due to the change in the Sentiments of the Polish people in general.

The sentiment which has overwhelmed the propaganda of the London emigration is. summed up in the argument that the task of “the country” is to reconstruct the national economy and the cultural and national life of Poland. The task of carrying on an opposition devolves upon a reduced section of the population and the Poles in exile. Surely this will displease the Anglo-Americans and perhaps, at the same time, Laski and Stalin. No pretext will arise that will permit a slaughter of the Polish people.

Problems in Poland

The alternatives which confront the Polish Marxists are not very difficult to grasp. Ought we to struggle tirelessly against the opposition of Mikolajczyk and Zulawski, as the servants of imperialism, and recognize the “social revolution,” as Comrade Frank in the Fourth International magazine and the resolution of the Executive Committee of the Fourth International counsel us, thus lending “critical support” to Stalinism in Poland? Or should we take our places in the ranks of the opposition, in order to criticize its errors and vacillations; in order to crystallize the revolutionary program of the proletariat; in order to win the oppositionist masses over to this program; in order to constitute ourselves the vanguard of the independent socialists, and the rebellious peasants in the struggle against Stalinism, and by our efforts give a Marxist character to the worker-peasant opposition?

If we, as Frank, considered the Warsaw government “objectively revolutionary,” and the changes in Poland as a form of “social revolution,” then we would follow his advice. But in our opinion, the Stalinist counter-revolution prevails in Poland, based on the occupation of the country by Russian imperialism. It is our opinion that the economic and social development of Poland is being reversed, is being pushed backward instead of forward; that Poland is being reduced to the status of a colony of Russian imperialism; that the Polish people arc being exploited, robbed and impoverished; that the policies of the government corrupt and destroy the Polish proletariat and peasantry. Therefore we are compelled to struggle against this new form of Stalinist reaction. We are compelled to ally ourselves with all the workers and peasants who also wish to struggle against this reaction, although in an inconsistent and vacillating form. For this reason, we shall take our places in the left wing of the worker-peasant opposition, striving to form our own nucleus and our own party.

We have had sufficient experience with the Luxemburgist errors in Poland. We have learned that we cannot isolate ourselves from the rebellious peasants, even though they are not socialists and from the working class, even though they do not belong to the Fourth International. For this reason, we shall take our place in the ranks of the worker-peasant opposition without hesitation or fear of reproach, in order to struggle for a socialist Poland, for a socialist Europe, in order to destroy the Stalinist reaction.

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