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A. Rudzienski

A Discussion Article on on Important Subject

Poland, “Country on Wheels,”
Faces New Border Revisions

(21 April 1947)

From Labor Action, Vol. 11 No. 16, 21 April 1947, p. 6.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Editorial NoteWe are publishing the article below on the problem of Poland and its frontiers, now a live question since raised by Marshall at the Moscow Conference, as submitted to us by Comrade A. Rudzienski, with the intention and hope that it will stimulate additional discussion articles and material on this complex problem. The general decline of European capitalism, together with the uprooting and shifting of entire populations by various dictatorial regimes during the war and its aftermath, has revived the “national question” in Its most acute forms – boundaries, national survival, disputed territories, etc. Whole peoples, by the tens of millions (White Russians, Ukrainians, Poles, Germans, Letts, Estonians, etc.) have been forcibly removed from one territory (their homelands) and cast adrift in foreign lands, at the imperial whims of dictators.

In this sense, Rudzienski’s discussion article states new and extremely difficult problems that revolutionists must face. While accepting the general socialist thesis of the article, Labor Action must express its disagreement with various formulations and conceptions contained in the article. For example, it is incorrect to describe Eastern Poland (the territories now occupied by Russian imperialism) as though, in 1939, It were a genuine part of the Polish state and should therefore be restored. Although a large Polish minority inhabited this area, the fact is that a majority of the people were White Russians or Ukrainians who considered themselves the oppressed victims of the reactionary Polish military dictatorship. A simple restoration of the 1939 status would merely revive this situation and would hardly solve the problem.

We urge contributions from our readers on this and related questions, and reserve for ogrsefves the right to present more fully oúr own point of view at a later date.Labor Action


The principal problem before the Moscow Conference of the Big Four is the German question, and with it the question of the German-Polish frontier, or to put it more accurately, the boundary line between the two imperialist blocs, the famous Oder-Neisse line. The Potsdam conference approved Russia’s annexation of half of Poland’s territory, more than 190,000 square kilometers, granting as “compensation” to Poland, the ex-German territories of upper and lower Silesia, Eastern Prussia, Danzig and Western Pomerania, all of which covered about 100,000 square kilometers.

Poland, the country on wheels, was pushed toward the West, losing after this imposed “compensation,” about 100,000 sq. kilometers of territory. Poland lost about 13 million inhabitants in the eastern parts of the country, to receive land occupied by nine million Germans in the western territories. In accordance with the Pan-Slavic and nationalist policies of Stalin, the Russians ordered the evacuation of all the Poles from their annexed native soil, which came to about six million between the Curzon line and the Polish-Soviet frontier of 1939, and more than seven million in all the territories annexed by Russia.

On the other hand, all Germans had to abandon Pomerania, Prussia, upper and lower Silesia, all of which had been conceded to Poland. This enormous transfer of peoples, the greatest since the times of the Goths, is the most compelling testimony of the Stalinist counter-revolution in Europe. The Polish population composed of the industrial proletariat, intellectuals and the peasantry was replaced by the backward Ukrainian, White Russian and Asiatic peasants brought from Soviet Asia. The German proletariat of Silesia had to give way to the Poles brought from behind the Curzon line. This is the Stalinist “democratic revolution,” admired so much by Comrade Frank, the theoretician of the Fourth International magazine. This transfer of peoples was carried out with the same barbarous and cruel methods used in the collectivizations of the Ukraine and the purges throughout Russia.

Today only a million skilled German workers remain in the former German territories, and only a few Poles are behind the Curzon line. The overwhelmingly Polish cities of Lvov and Vilna have been virtually transferred to Berslau, Danzig and Stettin. The Russians were compelled to act quickly in order to consolidate their positions on the Oder-Neisse line. The crime of Potsdam has been consummated.

The administration of occupied Germany is a perpetual headache to the United States which is faced with the problem of feeding the Germans after losing the rich agricultural territories of Pomerania, Brandenburg and Eastern Prussia. For these reasons, Marshall travelled to Moscow with the firm intention of demanding the “return to Germany” of the major portions of the territories occupied by Russia’s satellite, Poland, with the eventual “compensation” for Poland of her old territories occupied by Russia.

This signifies not only setting “the country on wheels” once mdre in motion, but also immense suffering for millions of Germans and Poles who would have to be shifted once again to new territories. Around Six million Poles have settled in Pomerania, Eastern Prussia, and lower Silesia.

What should the position of the international proletariat be when confronted by this problem? If it accepts without reservations this revision, it will be supporting Yankee imperialism. If it opposes the revision proposed by the U.S., should it support Stalinist imperialism? To find the answer to this question, we must examine briefly the historical and political aspects of the problem.

The Ribbentropp-Molotov pact which unleashed the war against Poland, and the partitioning of the country, was the principal source of damage. The Curzon line, the present “Russian-Polish frontier” is nothing but the Ribbentropp-Molotov line modified somewhat in favor of Poland.

History and Roots of Polish Partition

It is necessary to remember that Poland possessed more than 800,000 square kilometers before the first partitioning of its territories. The Curzon line of today is nothing but the boundary line of the third and last partitioning of Poland in 1795 between the Russian and German occupation of that period. When Napoleon defeated Prussia, he formed the Duchy of Warsaw in 1809 from the territory seized from Prussia, making sure the frontiers did not extend beyond the line of the third division of Poland, so as not to provoke Czar Alexander, who held more than half of Polish territory.

In 1815, the Congress of Vienna created the satellite state of the Kingdom of Poland, united to Russia and under the sceptre of the Russian Czar as the Polish King. Since Russia almost completely dominated this Congress, the line of the third division of Poland was once again proclaimed the theoretical frontier of the Polish Kingdom. Czar Alexander promised to incorporate in the kingdom the historic territories of Poland snatched away in the three partitionings of the country; but he never fulfilled his promise.

When a new, independent Poland arose, the problem of the Russian-Polish frontier became a reality once more. From the archives of history, the English imperialists took the old boundary line of the third partitioning of Poland, and rebaptized it as the Curzon line. It was then a line of compromise between Russian and English imperialism, at the expense of the new Poland. British imperialism tried to capture at all costs the government of Lvov, as well as the Kerensky regime, and even the Bolsheviks, for its own imperialist aims.

In January 1919, the Soviet government proposed as the Polish boundary line, the line that ran from fifty to a hundred kilometers east of the Russian-Polish frontier later agreed upon at Riga. The declaration was signed by Lenin, Trotsky and Chicherin. When the Polish-Soviet war broke out, Lloyd George once more proposed the Curzon line as the provisional frontier during a Polish-Russian truce.

The Soviet government declared this proposal harmful to Poland, proposing once again the Dryssa, Polotsk, Bar line, which included such important Polish centers as Minsk and Podolia. The Riga boundary was draWn west of the line proposed by Lenin and Trotsky, because Roman Dmowski, leader of the reactionary Polish Right wanted no more than 30 per cent of national minorities, in obedience to his doctrine of creating a uni-national Polish state. Stalin revised the policy of the Russian Revolution, returning to the policy of the Czars with respect to Poland.

The boundary line of the third division of 1795 was rebaptized as the Ribbentropp-Molotov line, and later given the name of the British Lord Curzon. Under the pretext of “compensating” Poland, the Oder-Neisse line was established as the western frontier of Stalin’s Russian empire in the West.

Real Significance of the Present Frontiers

The Oder-Neisse line is, in the first place, a frontier between two imperialist blocs, and in the second place, the line of demarcation between puppet Poland and subjugated Germany. This line is the expression of the relationship of forces between the Anglo-Saxon bloc and Stalin’s empire. To the degree that it changes it will express the change in the relationship of forces between these two blocs. Because they are conquered and occupied countries, neither Germany nor Poland possess frontiers. The Oder-Neisse is in reality not a boundary between Germany and Poland, it is the Anglo-American Russian frontier.

For this reason, neither the Polish nor the international proletariat can take its place on either side, but must pursue the interests of the proletarian third front, which is opposed to both imperialisms. American imperialism supports the program of revising the Oder line, Russian imperialism supports the negative proposition. We are in principle opposed to all occupations, all annexations, and all imperialist revisions, favoring the free settlement of frontiers between free peoples, between the German and Polish republics, within the framework of a Socialist United States of Europe. But, if under the pressure of American imperialism, Russia is obliged to yield and admit the revision of the Oder line, we cannot except a unilateral revision, but must demand the restitution of the Polish territories in the East. The Oder-Neisse line is the Siamese twin of the Curzon line, condemned to a fatal symbiosis with it. The revision of the Oder-Neisse line will bring with it, as an inevitable consequence, the revision of the Curzon line and the shifting of all the frontiers in all of Central-Eastern Europe. Once again the problem of the resettlement and the re-emigration of millions upon millions of Poles and Germans will arise. For all these reasons, the international and Polish proletariat must oppose a unilateral revision, and must demand a general revision of the imperialist agreements at Potsdam, and an end to the occupation of Europe by the imperialist armies. The correct readjustment of national frontiers, and the abolition of annexations, occupations, and all the rest of the paraphernalia of imperialism can only be realized by a Socialist United States of Europe.

However, within this same imperialist structure, the international proletariat is interested in liberating the German and Polish proletariat and people, as well as the other peoples, from the clutches of the barbarous Stalinist totalitarianism, because this would signify the resurgence of the revolutionary working class movement in this part of Europe. From this point of view, the revolutionary proletariat can support the general readjustment of the frontiers in Central-Eastern Europe. In such a case, should the revision of the Oder-Neisse line take place, the international proletariat and revolutionary socialist policy ought to demand the total restitution of Poland’s territory as of 1939, and the abolition of the hateful imperialist Curzon line, the line of the Czars, of British imperialism, Hitler and Stalin.

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