Andrzej Rudzienski Archive   |   ETOL Main Page

Andrzej Rudzienski

Resistance in the Ukraine

Post-War Nationalist Movement and Marxist Policy

(October 1947)

From The New International, Vol. XIV No. 6, August 1948, pp. 179–181.
Translated by Abe Stein.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Comrade Rudzienski’s study of The Ukrainian Problem – Past and Present in last month’s issue brought the question up to the period of Stalinist counter-revolution and domination. In this concluding section, the author continues with the eve of World War II. – Ed.


Stalin’s reactionary policy in the Soviet Ukraine prepared the ground for the fascist reaction of the Ukrainian bourgeoisie in Poland. The nationalists, led by Colonel Konovalec and supported by the Communist Party, finally surrendered to Hitler, becoming the Nazi vanguard in the Polish Ukraine. “Without Stalin,” said Trotsky (that is, without the Comintern’s criminal policy in Germany), “there would have been no Hitler; without the Stalinist repressions in the Soviet Ukraine there would not have been any Hitler Ukrainian policy.” (On the Question of the Ukraine)

Caught between two fires, between the oppression of the Polish bourgeoisie and the Stalinist terror, the proletarian and peasant masses lost their political balance, their revolutionary momentum, making possible the advance of the fascist reaction, headed by Konovalec and his clique. To unleash a war against Russia and deprive it of a military base and a rich source of grain, Hitler raised the slogan of a “Greater Ukraine,” that is, of a fascist Ukraine, a colony of the “Greater German Reich.” The Ukrainian bourgeoisie accepted this program and the role of lackey to Nazi Germany, hangman of its own people and betrayer of its nation.

But for Hitler as for Stalin, the Ukrainian question was simply “small change” in the imperialist war market. When Hitler occupied part of Czechoslovakia in 1939, he gave Transcarpatho-Ukraine to the Hungarian barons, without thinking that a “Ukrainian Piedmont” was thereby created for the Konovalec clique. Stalin interpreted Hitler’s act against the Ukrainian people as an evident gesture of peace, as a common alliance of tyrants and totalitarian hangmen against the oppressed peoples. The best proof of this statement is provided by the consequent Stalin-Hitler pact.

But the toilers of the Ukraine drew their own conclusion from these acts. They understood that the Nazi program of a “Greater Ukraine” was as much a cynical fraud as Stalin’s position. Perhaps for this reason the Ukrainian regiments fought loyally beside the Poles against Hitler, in spite of the Polish pacifications. There was hardly any great enthusiasm in the Polish Ukraine for the Russian invasion in 1939. In Stalin’s totalitarian plebiscite almost fifty per cent of the population in the countryside and twenty-five per cent in the cities abstained from voting, that is, from voting in favor of Russian annexation. Almost ten per cent of the population voted openly against the occupation.

It is hardly strange that Stalin answered with terror and reprisals, not only against the Polish population in these territories but first of all against the Ukrainian population. All the politically active elements in the Ukraine were summarily deported, jailed and assassinated by the GPU. The terror was directed primarily against the leftist intellectuals, workers and peasants, whether they were ex-Communists or Social-Democrats under suspicion for their independence. It was also directed against the bourgeois politicians who had collaborated with Poland, and against the nationalists who in past years had been protected and praised by the CP.

Out, of almost two million people deported from the Polish Ukraine, thirty to forty per cent were Ukrainians. In spite of the Soviet restrictions, forty per cent of General Anders’ Polish army consisted of Ukrainians who came from Russia in order to struggle against Hitler. Now these Ukrainian soldiers have no desire to return to a Polish Ukraine dominated by Russia. The Polish bureaucracy was replaced by a Russian Stalinist bureaucracy. Lwow, capital of Galicia, was scoured clean of its Polish majority and its Ukrainian minority and was repopulated with Russians.

This policy prepared the action of the Ukrainian fascists when the Nazi invasion of Russia began in 1941. This policy created the conditions that led hundreds of thousands of Soviet Ukraine soldiers to surrender to Hitler.

Later, the Nazi terror in the Ukraine impelled them to struggle once again. This policy created the Ukrainian quisling, General Vlasov, a Soviet militarist, who went over to Hitler and formed a Ukrainian army which fought against Russia. The Stalinist occupation of Galicia and Volhynia in 1939–41 also created Ukrainian collaborationism with Hitler, the Ukrainian police who assassinated Poles and Jews, the collaborationist periodicals, and the puppet ’authorities in Galicia. It is clear that this collaboration did not have the popular support of the laboring masses or the peasants.

Hitler’s Ukrainian policy very quickly dissipated the illusions of the Ukrainian fascists. In spite of having occupied almost all of the Ukraine territories, Hitler did not even think of creating a puppet “Greater Ukraine.” Only Galicia had a puppet “Ukrainian” administration in part, controlled by the Germans, while the whole of the Soviet Ukraine formed the district of the “East” administered by a military governor. The Galician administration never took on the aspect of an autonomous or independent organism. The Ukrainian Nazis were used simply as executioners of the Poles, Jews and Russian prisoners.

Hitler’s “Greater Ukraine” turned out to be a fraud like so many others. The disciples of Konovalec, the Nationalists and fascists, the Germanophiles, divided into two groups, one of which continued to collaborate with Hitler and another (headed by Bandera) which took an anti-German position. The policy of Nazi imperialism was the most potent factor in disorienting Ukrainian fascism and demonstrating the impotence and the defeat of the Ukrainian bourgeoisie which had turned toward Berlin.

The Second Stalinist Invasion

To some (perhaps to many) Marxists and liberals it may seem that the Curzon line is, in spite of everything, an act of historic justice toward the Ukrainian people because it unites the Ukrainian territories which have been divided for centuries. Besides, it may seem that this program – even though realized by Stalin – “corresponds” to the old Bolshevik program of self-determination, the union of all the Ukrainian territories with the Soviet Ukraine. But everything depends on who performs the task: whether it is carried out by the socialist revolution or the Stalinist counter-revolution. In the first case it is a progressive work, an act of justice toward the Ukrainian people, because it signifies its free self-determination, its social and national emancipation. In the second case it is totalitarian oppression under Stalin’s boot.

From this point of view, the partitioning of the Ukrainian territories between Poland, Russia and Czechoslovakia gave the Ukrainian people a greater possibility of struggling for its emancipation, since Stalin favored the Ukrainian opposition against Poland and Czechoslovakia, and on the other hand, Poland favored the anti-Stalinist irredenta in the Soviet Ukraine. The Ukrainian Nationalists considered it a “Ukrainian Piedmont.” The Communists and revolutionaries had a greater possibility of developing their political struggle against Stalin in Poland than they have now in a Ukraine dominated by the hangman of the peoples.

The Stalinists argue that they have “solved” the Ukrainian national problem by uniting all the Ukrainian territories under Stalin’s sway. The partition of Poland and the annexation of Galicia and Volhynia is for them the final stage of the democratic revolution from the national point of view, the completion of the program of the Russian Revolution. They adduce the fact that they have liquidated Polish feudalism, distributed the land and nationalized the industries. In another place (in an article on Poland) we have demonstrated that Stalinist nationalization of industry and Stalinist agrarian reform do not signify the socialization of the means of production nor the emancipation of the peasantry, but the victorious march of the Stalinist counter-revolution.

Now we must examine the “realization of the national program” in the territories behind the Curzon line. The Stalinist invasion in 1939 began with the deportations en masse to Russia. The Stalinist invasion in 1944 began with the deportation of millions of Poles, native to the region, to the west. Since the Poles comprised an urban population of workers, professionals, bureaucrats and a thin layer of landlords exempted from previous deportations, this meant stripping the region of the best productive and social forces, rooted there for centuries.

Almost the whole of the industrial proletariat in these territories was Polish. These masses of the population were sent to Silesia and Pomerania in order to replace the German industrial population. That is to say, this movement of the peoples of the East toward the west is not only reactionary from the national point of view but reactionary as well from the productive and social point of view, reactionary from the point of view of the interests of the proletariat and the socialist revolution. This does not mean to say that the Polish population is less cultured than the German, but undeniably the German industrial worker is more efficient and has more experience and industrial tradition than the Polish.

No bourgeois revolution ever created such an emigration of the peoples as did Stalinist “national” policy. No settlement of the national question until now ever required drastic measures of such a reactionary nature. These measures are the conclusive proof that in Eastern Europe there took place not a Stalinist “democratic” revolution but an imperialist and totalitarian counter-revolution.

The Ukraine suffers under the weight of this counter-revolution in a far more tragic manner than does Poland, because Poland possesses political leadership in the camp of the bourgeoisie as well as in the camp of the workers and peasants. This political leadership is old, experienced in the struggle, and has the firm support not only of certain sectors of the proletariat but the “conjunctural” support of a sector of imperialism. The Polish question for more than a century was the touchstone which divided the forces of reaction from those of democracy in Europe, and which now divides the imperialist forces from those of revolutionary socialism. The Ukraine is isolated and abandoned to its own fate.

To wind up his crime, Stalin proceeded to deportations en masse of the Ukrainians native to Western and Central Poland since the world began, that is to say, who had lived there century on century, loyal to the Polish state and in harmony with the Polish majority. Now hundreds of thousands of these Polish-Ukrainians had to abandon the homes of their fathers and grandfathers to be deported behind the Curzon line.

What was Stalin’s intent in pursuing such a policy? To sow hate among the Poles and Ukrainians because the deportations were carried out by the Warsaw puppet government; to isolate the Polish and Ukrainian peoples, not permitting the Ukrainians who were filled with hatred against Stalin to be infected by the rebellious Poles. Not even a small portion of the Ukrainian population was able to escape from Stalin’s clutches. There was to be no “Piedmont,” no isle of relative liberty for the Ukrainians that might threaten the security of the Stalinist autocracy. The districts of Sanok, Przemysl, the Carpathian regions near Cracow were “cleaned out” of Ukrainians to the last soul.

The Ukrainian Resistance Movement

If the Stalinist Thermidor speeded the growth of Ukrainian nationalism and fascism, the second totalitarian and imperialist Stalinist reaction impelled the Ukrainian masses in the direction of revolution. Hitler’s defeat and the defeat of Germanophile Ukrainian fascism, the degeneration of the bands led by Konovalec and General Vlasov inexorably pushed the people towards a social struggle. In the last stage of the German occupation, Ukrainian detachments were created which struggled against the Nazis. The Stalinist invasion of Eastern Poland, of the territories with a Ukrainian majority, did not cause great joy among the Ukrainians; the underground did not disperse but instead consolidated its forces. When the deportations of Ukrainian peasants to the east began, the Ukrainian resistance movement took on broader, almost gigantic forms. The armed Ukrainian detachments were so strong that they could face not only the police but the regular Polish and Russian armies. The danger was of such a nalure that the Russians asked collaboration of the Polish and Czech armies.

The strangest thing is that the Ukrainian resistance, in spite of struggling against the Poles, could count on the support and solidarity of the native Poles, who sheltered their Ukrainian neighbors threatened with deportation, even though they were scheduled to receive the abandoned lands of the Ukrainians. In the southern part of Poland, the Warsaw government had to mobilize several divisions of the Polish army and local militias in order to combat the Ukrainian bands who were protected by the solidarity of the Polish-speaking population. The government engaged in reprisals against the Polish population, deporting it to Eastern Prussia and Western Pomerania. The war of the Warsaw government against the Ukrainian population, and the native Polish population which solidarized itself with the former acquired alarming proportions after the death of the Stalinist general, Swierczewski, assassinated by the Ukrainians.

Never did Pilsudski’s government or the government of the Colonels send a regular army so armed to the teeth against the Ukrainians as did the Stalinist Warsaw government. The Ukrainian people will never forget this when the hour of settlement and vengeance arrives. Nor will they forget the solidarity and protection given by the Polish working-class and peasant population to the persecuted Ukrainians.

The Russian and Polish Stalinists justify these punitive persecutions on the grounds of the “fascist” character of the Ukrainian bands. As we have already said, it is certain that there was a Germanophile, pro-Hitlerite orientation among the Ukrainian nationalists of the Konovalec group. But it is also certain that a sector of the resistance fought against Hitler before his defeat. Not receiving the illegal Ukrainian press from Poland, we lack concrete data, but the problem is not as simple as the Stalinists would paint it.

In the first place, it is a fact that there is peasant resistance to the deportations, a resistance which merits the support of all socialists and all those who struggle against barbarism and injustice.

In the second place, the Ukrainian movement is supported by important sectors of the Polish population, in spite of the fact that the communiqu├ęs of the official press assert that the Ukrainians struggle against the Polish population.

In the third place, we know that the Polish underground entered into contact with the Ukrainian resistance movement, and that they are collaborating in the struggle against the Russian and Polish Stalinist military detachments. This fact explains more to us than all the Stalinist theoretical “theses” on self-determination. The Polish underground is not at all anxious to support Ukrainian fascists who devastate Polish communities.

In the fourth place, the underground cannot all be cut from the same cloth; of necessity it, has a varied character and takes in all political positions, from that of the Nationalists to that of the peasants and workers. But its substantial character is that of national resistance to the policy of deportations en masse, to the plundering of the Ukrainian population, an armed resistance to the terror and oppression of Stalinist imperialism.

Road to Ukrainian Freedom

In his authoritative 1939 article, Trotsky had already said:

“The Fourth International has the obligation of clearly understanding the enormous importance of the Ukrainian problem, not only for the destinies of Southeastern and Eastern Europe, but also for all of Europe. It is a question of a nation which has demonstrated vital strength, equal in numbers to the population of France, which occupies an exceptionally rich territory, extremely important besides from the strategic point of view. The question of the destiny of the Ukraine, is posed in all its force. A clear slogan is necessary ... A Workers’ and Peasants’ Soviet Ukraine, united, free and independent.”

The separation of the Ukraine from Stalinist Russia has much greater importance and actuality today than at the time when Trotsky wrote these lines. It is as fundamental to the socialist revolution as is the independence of Poland. For this reason we must define our position toward the Ukrainian revolution, the underground, and the national resistance to Stalin. If deportations en masse and the national oppression of the Ukraine are the characteristics of a “democratic revolution” even though “degenerated,” then we must support Stalinism against the “reactionary” resistance movement. If, on the other hand, we have a Stalinist counter-revolution and imperialist oppression in the Ukraine, then we must support all progressive forces and not just the socialists, that is, we must support also the peasants and the democratic petty bourgeoisie against Stalin. This seems to me to be the correct Marxist position.

The only remedy for the Stalinist counter-revolution is, and will continue to be, the socialist revolution; the road to it passes through the complex struggle of the popular masses, the national resistance of the Ukrainians to Stalinism. We not only do not wish to give support to the fascist elements but wish to isolate and fight them in the course of the struggle against Stalinism. Neither do we desire to give support to capitalist imperialism which dreams of using the Ukrainian question as “small change” in the manner of Stalin and Hitler. The Ukrainian bourgeoisie, decimated and defeated, may perhaps offer its services to this imperialism. But the Ukrainian bourgeoisie is very weak, without political importance, without a tradition of struggle, and lacks the confidence of the masses.

The Ukrainian proletariat is strong, although leaderless and quiescent. The Ukrainian proletariat is our hope, the hope of the socialist revolution and of the unhappy Ukrainian nation. Its program is the socialist program, the program of Leon Trotsky for the Ukraine: a Workers’ and Peasants’ Ukraine, united, free, and separated from Russia. The separation of the Ukraine from Russia means the destruction of a fundamental stone in the structure of the Stalinist tyranny. But this will not be effected in the process of capitalist restoration or of North American intervention. “The program of the independence of the Ukraine in the epoch of imperialism is directly and indissolubly linked with the program of the proletarian revolution.” (Trotsky)

“This program,” said Trotsky, “will not leave one stone on another in the repugnant edifice of Stalinist Bonapartism.” This program signifies the destruction of Stalinist Russia and the construction of the Socialist United States of Europe. This program signifies the fraternal alliance of the Ukrainian and Polish proletariat, of the Ukrainian and Polish peoples, in their struggle against the Stalinist tyranny.

To bring about the Socialist United States of Europe it is necessary not only to have destroyed German imperialism, but also to destroy Stalinist imperialism which inherited the historic mission of being the prison of the peoples. The separation of the Ukraine from Russia is the condition sine qua non of this program. The alliance of the peoples oppressed by the Stalinist tyranny, in the first place the Poles and Ukrainians, is a powerful weapon in opening the road of the socialist revolution in Europe.

For this reason we applaud the collaboration of the Polish resistance with the Ukrainian resistance movement. We applaud and support the protection given by the Polish population to the Ukrainian resistance and the deported Ukrainian peasants. We are not frightened by Stalinist denunciations about supporting Ukrainian “fascists.”

Long live a free, independent, workers’ and peasants’ Ukraine, separated from Russia! Long live the Socialist United States of Europe! Down with the pestilential corpse of Stalinist reaction!

October 1947

Andrzej Rudzienski Archive   |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 7 July 2017