Ludwik Hass

Trotskyism in Poland up to 1945


From Revolutionary History, Vol.6 No.1, Winter 1995/96, pp. 4–46.
Originally published in Oblicza lewicy, Losi idei i ludzi, Warsaw 1992.
Transcribed by Alun Morgan for the Revolutionary History Website.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

This short history of Trotskyism in Poland was first published in a book entitled Oblicza lewicy, Losi idei i ludzi (Images of the Left: The Fate of Ideas and People), Warsaw 1992, the contents of which are explained by its title. When writing it the author did not have access to the documents of the Left Opposition in the International Institute at Amsterdam, as its Inventory of the Lev Trotsky Collection was not available in Poland. Thanks to the Institute, he got access to these documents in August 1994. The catalogue numbers 1088–1098 deal with Trotskyism in Poland. In accordance with our usual practice, as our Polish readers will be able to read Hass’ article in the above book, we have greatly simplified the footnotes.

Readers of our magazine will be already acquainted with our author and the first results of his researches (Volume 3, no. 1, Summer 1990, pp. 11–18), and before reading this article they should also make reference to the bibliographical material we have listed there. The same issue includes a review of Hersh Mendel’s Memoirs of a Jewish Revolutionary by Ellis Hillman (pp. 41–2), and Volume 3, no. 3 (Spring 1991) has a further letter from Hass containing some necessary corrections (p. 56).

A little more information of varying worth about the struggle between Trotskyism and Stalinism in Poland can be gleaned from M.K. Dziewanowski’s The Communist Party of Poland: An Outline of History (Harvard University Press, second edition 1976). He mentions a further letter from the Politbureau of the Polish Communist Party in January 1924 saying that ‘with Lenin’s death ... toward Trotsky will be directed the eyes of the masses’ (p. 108). He further adds that at the Sixth Congress of the Communist International ‘the Polish delegation promised to reform and rushed to sign a declaration against the Trotskyist Opposition’ (p. 126), and quotes the boast of Leon Purman at the Ninth Plenum of the Executive Committee of the Communist International that his party ‘has become immune to the Trotskyist danger’, and that ‘not a single party organisation came out in favour of the opposition’ (p. 135). By the late 1930s the slanders of the Stalinists became so frenzied that they were claiming that the Polish police had been printing Trotsky’s propaganda at government publishing establishments, and were promoting Trotskyism ‘amongst the arrested anti-Fascists in exchange for a pledge of joining the Trotskyite groups’ (pp. 146–7).

However, not all of Dziewanowski’s evidence is equally reliable, even though he claims to base himself upon the Harvard archives, the depositions of Isaac Deutscher and Pawel Minc, and the handwritten notes of Mr Jerzy Luxemburg, the former prosecuting judge for cases of special importance at the Warsaw Court of Appeals. He believes that there were few Trotskyists left in Poland after the mid-1930s, that the Fourth International was founded in 1936 with no Poles present, and that the division of the Trotskyist forces between the Bund and the Polish Socialist Party was the result of an internal split. Another outline history of the Polish Communist Party during this time is provided by A. Rudzienski, Problems of the Polish Revolution, New International, Volume 12, no. 6 (no. 108), August 1946, pp. 172–6.

Only fragmentary information remains on the activity of the Polish Trotskyists after 1939, though we know that they were involved in the Warsaw ghetto and city uprisings. The best treatment of the heroic struggle of the Warsaw Jews in English is Marek Edelman’s The Ghetto Fights (Bookmarks, 1990), which was reviewed by Seth Harman (The Ghetto Fights, Socialist Worker, 10 November 1990), and by John Rose (How the Ghetto Fought the Nazis, Socialist Worker, 17 April 1993). Its anniversary was noticed in the English press on 18 April 1988 by Misha Glenny, Poles Come Out to Honour Jews (Guardian) and Jane Dobija, Unofficial Start to Ghetto Anniversary (Independent; cf. Charlie Pottins, Remembered, Workers Press, 22 May 1993).

The best general account of the uprising of the city itself is by Z. Zaremba, La Commune de Varsovie: Trahie par Staline, massacré par Hitler (Éditions Spartacus, 1982). A. Rudzienski, who mentions the Trotskyists as being strong in Łódź, Dombrowa and Warsaw, considers that there is ‘enough to record that the PPS, the unions, Trotskyists and rank and file Communists had constituted the backbone of the Warsaw insurrection’ (The Traditions of Polish Socialism, New International, Volume 13, no. 2, February 1947, p. 45). The event was itself a contentious issue in the history of the worL.D. Trotskyist movement, for when John G Wright pointed out in the American Militant that the Soviet armies had been deliberately held back to enable Hitler to smash the revolt, which has since been admitted to have been the case, James P Cannon wrote from prison to alter the policy of the paper into support for the Soviet Union (Max Shachtman, From the Bureaucratic Jungle, New International, Volume 12, no. 2, March 1945, pp. 43–50).

Those who are interested in the mechanism by which Stalinism was imposed on Poland after 1945 will derive profit from Ernest Erber’s essay The Class Nature of the Polish State (New International, Volume 13, nos. 5, July 1947, pp. 137–43; and 6, August 1947, pp. 176–82), and from the numerous analyses made by Rudzienski at this time, Polish Resistance Against Stalinist Rule (Labor Action, 26 August 1946); Russian Imperialism in Poland (New International, Volume 7, no. 7, September 1946, pp. 215–8); Who Heads the Stalinist Quisling Government in Poland? (Labor Action, 3 March 1947); Structural Changes in Eastern Europe (New International, Volume 13, no. 5, July 1947, pp. 144–8); and A Social Democratic “Innocent” Abroad (New International, Volume 13, no. 6, August 1947, pp. 174–5).

THE CLIMATE for the study of the history of Trotskyism in Poland (more correctly, the continuation of Bolshevik Leninism) has never been more favourable. After 1956 the historiography of the Polish workers’ movement, whilst bringing back into the social memory the names of some Communists who were victims of Stalinism, carefully covered over any trace of their connection with Trotskyism, and even, for the same reason, consciously did not mention some of these names at all. It is not surprising that even in the 1980s one could find in the pages of newspapers and in some of the writings not only of the older generation but also of the younger, various ideas about Trotskyism far removed from even the shadow of any scholarly honesty.

The pen pushers from the factory of the Central Committee of the Polish United Workers Party, people like Janusz Janicki, had become well versed in unmasking all kinds of ‘leftism’ over a long period of time, and were still prowling around with impunity. Amongst them were some historians, for example Mieczysław Szyszka, who discussed Trotskyist concepts, which ‘also unfavourably influenced the development of the international trade union movement’, and did this ‘through the agency of left opportunistic groups’. He put all this forward without a single quotation or reference, and in Marek Pazdziora’s textbook students were informed about ‘Trotskyite conspiracies’ in the USSR in the 1930s.

It is not surprising that even Mikhail Gorbachev in his speech on the seventieth anniversary of the October Revolution in November 1987, referred to Trotsky as ‘a cunning politician’, from whom ‘the leading nucleus of the party led by Stalin defended Leninism in an ideological struggle’, because ‘Trotskyism is a political current, whose ideologues ... in reality occupy capitalist positions’. [1] The Moscow correspondent of Trybuna Ludu in the first half of 1988 still kept his readers convinced of the permanence of this system of thought and values, and with this in mind carefully picked out from the Soviet press every voice confirming this, but never mentioned opposing ones.

So, as a rule, all the more or less pro-governmental historians who studied the Polish workers’ movement in the interwar period still limited themselves to general statements about the struggle of the Polish Communist Party (CPP) against Trotskyism, and passed over in silence the fact that an organisation with such views existed. Its name, ‘Bolshevik-Leninist’, was mentioned in probably only one work, and this in the context of the publication of its statement on the dissolution of the CPP in the summer of 1938. This was the limit of any acknowledgement. Even this was passed over in silence by a researcher who dealt several times with the destruction of the CPP, even though he was writing at a time when there were no complaints about the censor’s intrusion. Another young and in other respects honest researcher felt no need to acquaint himself with the relevant Western literature on the subject, even when it was available in the libraries of his own country, and, without any reservation whatsoever, repeated the inventions of the Soviet Stalinist falsifiers. [2] In such a climate the discussion entitled Trotskyism in the Workers’ Movement, organised on 26 May 1988 by the editorial board of the quarterly Z pola walki (From the Battlefield) became an important event, although its delayed appearance meant that it did not influence our historiography.

Soon not only did the political situation change completely, but so did the spiritual climate in intellectual circles. And when Stalinist arguments against Trotskyism lacked official defenders, another variety of anti-Trotskyism appeared in their place, again similar to that practised in the USSR. It amounts to the extremely simple view that in essence Trotsky and the Trotskyists did not differ very much from Stalin and his team; indeed, they were almost his precursors. Had they gained power, they would have been the same, if not even more fanatical and cruel. [3] This is not a new conception, as the priest Michal Poradowski, living abroad, had already developed it in his own way a few years ago.

Understandably, the history of Trotskyism in Poland was studied more seriously by people outside the home establishment. Probably the first information aimed at Polish readers was given in an interview in 1957 by Isaac Deutscher, who until then had had no opportunity to become acquainted with them. It was elaborated slightly by M.K. Dziewanowski. [4] Three more decades passed before the next publications appeared, and they were by members of the Fourth International. [5]

The study of the history of Trotskyism in Poland has been shaped not only by the above-mentioned difficulties in the social and intellectual climate, but by a serious objective difficulty – the extremely modest research material at our disposal. The Trotskyism of a particular country is neither comprehensible nor explicable outside its international context. Both its own writings and the publications of its Stalinist opponents, together with more academic texts, refer to this. In the Polish archives only a tiny fraction can be found. Even the basic scholarly texts, such as the bibliographies of Sinclair [6] and Lubit, [7], are a rarity here. Some issues of the historical quarterly Cahiers Léon Trotsky, which has appeared regularly since 1979, are missing, as are some of the Cahiers du CERMTRI (Centre d’Études et Recherches sur les Mouvements Trotskystes et Révolutionnaires Internationaux), of which more than 100 issues have been published in Paris, and of Revolutionary History, which has been published in London since 1988. A rarity is the 14-volume English language edition of Trotsky’s writings of 1929–40 (Writings of Leon Trotsky, New York), and there is no complete edition of the third series of the Oeuvres by the same author covering the years 1933–40 (24 volumes, Paris 1978–88), as well as the volumes begun in 1988 of the second series, covering the years 1927–33 (both published by the Paris Institute Léon Trotsky by the editor of the above-mentioned Cahiers). It is impossible to obtain the four-volume reprint of the Russian language Byulleten’ Oppozitsii (Monad Press, New York 1973), which is fundamental for studying the subject, and which appeared in the West in the years 1929–41. Even more curious, there are no copies in Polish libraries of the autobiography of one of the founders of the Trotskyist organisation in Poland, which has already been published in four languages. [8] The Polish language Trotskyist publications are far from being fully indexed, and the Yiddish ones are even less so, whilst the Ukrainian ones published in Poland are completely missing. The full picture of the history of Trotskyism in Poland demands the broadest possible research in the archives and publications, and must include the city centres outside Warsaw. The documents found so far speak mostly about the capital.

The Beginnings

In the autumn of 1923 an opposition began to form within the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks) which, in contrast with every other internal opposition, turned out to be a permanent one, and which gave birth to a Communist current which from then on existed on an international scale, and was popularly known as ‘Trotskyism’ because the first serious step towards its formation was taken by the ‘Man No. 2’ of October 1917, Leon Trotsky. The ferocity of the attacks on him, unleashed by the dominant ‘troika’ (Zinoviev, Kamenev and Stalin) inside the leadership of the RCP(b), drew the attention of the leading sections of the other Communist parties much more than the actual subject of the disagreement. The Central Committee of the French party even instructed its representative on the Executive Committee of the Communist International to try to persuade the leadership of the RCP(b) to tone down the sharp tone of the struggle, and the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Germany acted similarly. On 23 December 1923 the Central Committee of the Communist Workers Party of Poland (CWPP) [9] sent a letter to the Presidium of the ECCI and the Political Bureau of the RCP(b), in which one of the points was The Situation in the RCP(b). Avoiding taking a position in relation to the subject of the disagreement, the letter was limited to the statement that ‘for our party, for the whole International and for the whole revolutionary world proletariat, the name of comrade Trotsky is indissolubly linked with the victorious October Revolution, with the Red Army, with Communism and the world revolution’. It also expressed reservations about the sharp form this inner-party struggle was taking.

The inspiration behind this document came from the so-called group of ‘Four Ws’ (Adolf Warski, Wera Kostrzewa-Koszutska, Henryk Walecki and Edward Weber-Próchniak [10]), who at various times were based in Moscow during this period, and who observed the development of this struggle closely from its inception. Unlike the decisive majority of leading Communist activists, they did not realise its enormous importance for the direction of the development of the USSR and the international Communist movement, and treated it at first rather as personal rivalry between over-ambitious leaders. The view formed by the four was basically that the most important and perhaps not very complicated task would be to get the quarrelling leaders of the RCP(b) to agree. [11] That is why the plenum of the Central Committee of the CWPP which voted on this letter also took a decision to treat it as confidential and to inform neither the general membership nor even the lower level party organisations, so the party press wrote nothing about the disagreement in the RCP(b). Only in the Ukrainian language Nasha Pravda (Our Truth), the organ of the autonomous Communist Party of the Western Ukraine [12] within the CWPP, did an article appear in January 1924 which calmly and without bias presented the views of both sides. But because the circle of CWPP members was limited and had to obtain all its information about events within the Soviet party almost exclusively from the Polish non-Communist (or rather anti-Communist) press, the effects of this inner-party struggle could not acquire a larger dimension. Apparently at the end of 1923 one of the Warsaw district organisations of the CWPP supported Trotsky. This happened because L. Domski-Stein was a decisive opponent of the political line of the CWPP and its leading group, the ‘Four Ws’. [13] The Warsaw sympathisers of Trotsky could not find much support in the disorientated mass membership, and, at least on the surface, this group disappeared from party life. In Poland the situation developed differently from that in places like France. There, Boris Souvarine and Pierre Monatte were removed from the party leadership and from the party itself for supporting Trotsky in 1924, as was Robert Louzon, who also left the party in solidarity with them. [14] But on the banks of the Vistula the party leadership based in the country evaluated the December decision – especially since Stalin in his letter of 4 February 1924 reprimanded the leadership of the CWPP severely for it – as completely, or at least partially, mistaken. Amongst them only Leon Purman still considered it correct. But those who had supported the ‘Four Ws’ from now on tried to show their exceptional servility to the Stalinist faction in the leadership of the RCP(b), and wanted this to prove their conversion to the now-accepted Communist International ‘Bolshevism’ of the Stalinist kind. Gradually, therefore, they went further and further in their criticism of Trotsky. Even in the pages of Nowy Przeglad (New Review), the theoretical organ of the party, only criticisms of him could be found, which became more and more hypocritical and slanderous. That is how the witch-hunt of the mostly imaginary Trotskyists (and of the leaders apparently protecting them) began in the Polish Communist movement. Obviously, the authors of the December letter did not escape. Already in July 1924 – soon after their removal from the leadership of the CWPP by the decision of the Polish Commission of the Fifth Congress of the Communist International – a meeting was called in Moscow of ‘responsible Polish Communists’, those carrying out responsible functions in the Soviet party apparatus or the government, which characterised ‘comrade Trotsky’s speech ... as an attack on Leninism and the present leadership of the party [the RCP(b)] and the Communist International’. In point four of the statement of this meeting, the attempts of Warski ‘to whitewash his companions, the Polish Trotskyists Kostrzewa and Walecki’, were mentioned.

Despite the ever harsher denunciations of Trotsky and the oppositionists close to him from the Twelfth Conference of the RCP(b) (held on 16–18 January 1924) onwards, despite the Central Committee meetings, conferences and rallies which followed, and despite the removal of their activists from both party and governmental positions, the Left Opposition, as this tendency began to be called, did not share the fate of previous party oppositions and fall apart. In its documents it sharpened and theoretically developed its critique of Stalinist policies within both the USSR and the international Communist movement. Despite the offensive against ‘Trotskyism’, started at the Fifth Congress of the Communist International (held on 17 June–8 August 1924) in the foreign Communist parties, opposition groups appeared in some of them, first of all in the French and the German, and later in the Czechoslovak (in 1927) and others. There was no such group in the Communist Party of Poland (which the CWPP became in 1925), but some of the Polish Communists permanently based in the USSR, or living there temporarily, joined the opposition within the RCP(b). Apparently, many of the Polish lecturers both in the Communist University for the National Minorities of the West in Moscow and in those party courses organised by the Communist International openly sympathised with the New Opposition of Zinoviev and Kamenev, founded in October 1925, and which, from April 1926 together with the Left Opposition, formed the United Opposition.

Amongst the signatories of the Statement of the Forty-Six dated 15 October 1923, which gave rise to the opposition around Trotsky, was a metalworker from Wegrowo, Władysław Kosior [15], one of three Bolshevik activist brothers, and who was active in the revolutionary movement in the Ukraine from 1907, held a leading position in the Red Army, and was later in the industrial and trade union apparatus. Less than four years later he was to sign the Declaration of the Eighty-Four, as the letter of the United Opposition dated 27 May 1927 to the Central Committee of the RCP(b) was called. Another signatory was Regina Budzynska, who from the end of 1914 had been active in the SDKPiL in Łódź and Warsaw, later in the CWPP, and from 1920 lived in Russia as a result of an exchange of political prisoners. She held various positions in the RCP(b) apparatus, usually in the Polish organisations, and spent a few months in 1924–25 illegally in Poland as a member of the ‘left’ Intermediate Secretariat of the Central Committee of the CWPP.

Two other members of the Intermediate Secretariat, Domski-Stein and Zofia Osinska-Unszlicht, added their signatures to the document. Both were recalled by the Communist International to Moscow at the end of 1925, and from then on were forcibly kept away from Poland. The son of the writer Stanisław Przybyszewski acted similarly, as did the talented musician Bolesław Przybyszewski-Foerder, a participant in the October Revolution, later a soldier in the Red Army, then a lecturer at the Communist University for the National Minorities of the West, and an observer at the Fourth Conference of the CPP (held on 23 November-23 December 1925 in Moscow). All four joined the New Opposition.

The participation of the Polish Communists in this stage of the Soviet Communist opposition found an echo at the Fourth Congress of the CPP (held on 22 May–9 August 1927 in the village of Sadovo-Sukharievskoye near Moscow). Absent from this congress, though not of their free will, Domski and Osinska addressed it in July with a lengthy letter. They put forward their point of view, as they characterised it, of the ‘International Leninist Left’ on the situation in the USSR, and on some of the problems of Communist tactics in other countries which were the subject of disagreement between the opposition and the Stalinist faction in the RCP(b) and the Communist International. [16] The letter also raised their views on the situation in Poland and the political line of the CPP. The congress did not pay any attention to the letter, because all the energy of the delegates and visitors was concentrated on the struggle between the faction of the ‘majority’ of the CPP, which was led by Warski and Kostrzewa, and ‘minority’ faction led by Julian Lenski-Leszczynski. [17] This inner-party disagreement, which for many party members was unclear and almost incomprehensible, was in itself pointless and sterile, because neither of the two factions had the courage to state that the obvious source of the ‘May mistake’ (the support given by the CPP to Pilsudski’s coup in May 1926) was precisely the strategy of the Communist International. [18] Instead, they accused each other of ‘Trotskyism’, or of submitting to it, whilst at the same time dissociating themselves from it. This congress was exceptionally stormy, and was the longest and perhaps the most difficult in the history of the CPP, and it met at a time when the fight with the Russian opposition was reaching its inevitable climax. It allocated only half a day to deal with this topic, and then – almost without any discussion – adopted the official Stalinist resolution on this subject. Within the country none of the organisations of the CPP, the Union of Communist Youth in Poland (UCYP), nor the leaders of any rank and file organisation expressed any doubt about the way the opposition in the RCP(b) was dealt with in the months following the congress. But for Communists these matters were not unimportant.

The Fifteenth Congress of the RCP(b), meeting on 2–17 December 1927, voted for a decision on the opposition, and removed from the party 75 leading members of the United Opposition and 23 other oppositionists, and also decided that solidarity with the views of those expelled was contrary to party membership. On this basis thousands of oppositionists were immediately removed from the RCP(b), including all the Polish signatories of the Declaration of the Eighty-Four, and most of them were later sent into exile. On 17 January 1928 Trotsky and his family were deported from Moscow to Alma Ata.

When it was not silent about such things, the press of the CPP and the UCYP expressed approval of the repression. The Central Committee of the UCYP even published a special pamphlet, originally printed in the Moscow Pravda on 2 December 1927, containing only the resolutions and documents of the Fifteenth Congress directed against the opposition, and an article entitled The Polish “Section” of the World Opposition by Walecki, who had been a head of the Polish department of the ECCI from 1924. This was a violent attack on the four Polish signatories of the Declaration of the Eighty-Four, though without naming Kosior.

Soon afterwards, at the end of January or maybe in February, an appeal was issued entitled A Word about the Internal Enemies of Communism, addressed ‘To the Revolutionary Polish Proletariat of the Towns and Countryside’. This was a passionate protest, full of indignation at the recent showdown with the opposition in the USSR, and was critical of the development of the situation there after the death of Lenin, when ‘the government was taken over by the “com-scoundrels” and rascals, against whom Lenin warned the party’. There was also talk about the instructions ‘in the famous brochure The Platform of the Opposition’ and also about ‘the workers’ councils in the factories being removed, and workers being at the mercy of supervisors and a high-handed administration’, together with the repression meted out to oppositionists: ‘The hero of the Communist revolution, who was imprisoned in Tsarist prisons many times in the past, Leon Trotsky, has been sent into exile; with one shot from a revolver the architect of the first Soviet peace treaty, Joffe, committed suicide ... Kamenev is also exiled, as well as Zinoviev and Radek, and hundreds and thousands of Communists, who have proved their commitment to the Communist ideal in struggle, are rotting in the same prisons which they had seen more than once as the prisoners of the Tsarist regime.’ The authors stated that irrespective of the dangers: ‘We will not stop fighting for the Communist ideal, for the Testament of the leader of the revolution – Lenin; we will not stop exposing the wounds inflicted on the revolutionary Russian proletariat and Communist Russia by the kulak policy of Stalin.’ This man also ‘holds in his grip the so-called Polish Communist Party, which he rules as a dictator, bribing with money, demoralising and removing all independent-minded Communists, whilst supporting the one he bribed himself – Warski-Warszawski’. ‘To him we ask this question: What has happened to the Polish revolutionaries, followers of Lenin’s principles, who, trusting Stalin, went to Moscow?! What has happened to Domanski?’ [19] This ‘fearless revolutionary fighter has been sent into exile by Stalin’. The appeal sums up: ‘To the joint attack of international capital and the kulak Stalin, the revolutionary Polish proletariat must answer with renewed revolutionary action.’

The authors of this first Polish Trotskyist document – signed ‘The Polish Trotskyist Faction’ – like their predecessors at the end of 1923, remained anonymous. Like the latter, they were followers of Domski, and maybe that was the reason that they broke with the CPP, and – judging by the style and the language of the document – were more likely to have been well-read working class activists than party intellectuals or functionaries. The schematic rhetoric of the polemics in the CPP’s publications was foreign to them. They had spontaneously become Trotskyists, and had no links with organised foreign groups of Trotskyist oppositionists. This is suggested by a call to boycott the official Communist list in the March parliamentary elections, in particular its leading candidates – Warski and Sochacki [20] – and also the slogan ‘Long Live the Communist Fourth International’, then unknown to the organised Left Opposition. [21]

This group left no other trace of itself. At about the same time, Trotskyism found sympathisers inside the Communist Party of the Western Ukraine. These were Roman Kuzma (Turianski) and Pantelejmon Krajkiwski, both members of the leading group, who after disagreements on the national policy question there and in the Soviet Ukraine, forced a split in the CPWU in mid-January 1928. In 1929 they declared that ‘on a number of issues we are in solidarity with the Trotskyist Opposition’, but at other times they disclaimed any organisational ties with it, and stressed their different positions. However, they also emphasised the need for discussion with the representatives of Trotskyism in order to submit their views to a Marxist critique. The official wing of the CPWU, like all the other parties of the Communist International, rejected any possibility of meaningful discussion with the opposition.

Despite the official anti-Trotskyist position of the CPP, in he closed circle of its intellectuals from the end of the 1920s, there did exist a positive interest in Trotsky’s views and writings. Some of them, such as the poet Władysław Broniewski, were suggested as translators of his autobiography, and others, like the poet and a literary critic Edward Boyé, acted as intermediaries in this.

These and similar anti-Stalinist moods found no organisational expression or a permanent objection to the political line of the CPP, because members of the party were forced, because of the political situation in the country, to act in illegality, whilst at the same time they found themselves under the direct supervision of the Stalinist cadre, which was even more intensive than in other countries. Any attempt at opposition would have meant carrying out political activity in an atmosphere of double illegality watched both by the Polish police and Stalin’s appointees.

In this situation, when all other political groupings were decisively anti-Soviet, this could have easily been accused of anti-Communist and opportunist motives. In addition to preventing them from organising an opposition, painful consequences for the participants could have easily been predicted. In underground activity exclusion from the party is, for a dedicated member, a double, or even a treble blow, compared to being in a legal organisation. Inevitably it means a break in personal relations with very close friends still remaining in the party. A sort of social vacuum appeared around anyone expelled from the party. Only exceptionally serious issues could have induced members of the CPP to take this drastic step, and they were obliged to have been the most determined and principled people.

Opposition in the Communist Party of Poland

After Stalin’s victory over Bukharin, his ally in the fight against the Left Opposition, in the autumn of 1928 the unquestioned leader of the entire loyal Communist International had already formulated his conception that ‘Social Democracy objectively represents the moderate wing of Fascism ... These organisations are not antipodes but twins.’ This became the strategic directive for all Communist parties. In July 1929 the Tenth Plenum of the ECCI taught that there was no possibility of a united front of Communists with Social Democratic organisations, or even with trade unions under their influence. After the elections to the German parliament on 14 September 1930, when the rapid growth of Nazi influence was apparent (6.4 million votes or 18.3 per cent), the Eleventh Plenum of the ECCI (held on 25 March–13 April 1931) merely concluded that the whole development of Social Democracy ‘is a continuous process of evolution towards Fascism’, and that therefore a successful struggle with it demanded that Communists stop ‘counterposing Fascism to bourgeois democracy and the parliamentary forms of the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie to its openly Fascist forms’. The resolutions of the Eleventh Plenum categorically rejected any Communist-Social Democratic coalition against Fascism, and forced the Communist parties to ‘concentrate their fire on the Social Fascists’, as Socialists of all shades were described. They also called for the setting up of revolutionary trade unions, which involved organising splits in the existing unions.

The Left Opposition opposed these views and tactics, and the conception of Socialists and Fascists being ‘two antagonistic supporters of the bourgeoisie’; proclaiming in opposition to the Tenth Plenum, that ‘proletarian revolutionaries who put all their opponents into one bag are useless. Communists who, when seeing the conflict between Fascism and Social Democracy, simply cover it up with the vapid formula of “Social Fascism”, are useless.’ Trotsky, who in March 1930 had already written about the growth of Fascism in Europe, immediately commented on the September election in Germany in a pamphlet that was published in several languages. [22]

Within the CPP the rival factions of the ‘majority’ and the ‘minority’ still tried to outdo each other in glorifying the political line of the Communist International, and competed in proving their loyalty to it. At the Sixth Plenum of the CPP’s Central Committee (held on 18–25 June 1929 in Berlin), the leadership of the party took over from the ‘minority’, which differed from its rival only in its lack of scruple and its zeal in carrying out even the most adventuristic directives of the ECCI merely to gain the favour of Stalin. The Fifth Congress of the CPP (held on 16–29 August 1930 at Peterhof near Leningrad) further sharpened the principle of organising the united front exclusively ‘from below’, without making any kind of agreement with even the lowest level organisations of the Polish Socialist Party. It proposed building an independent revolutionary trade union organisation. On 18 January 1931 a new small ‘red’ trade union council was founded, called the Left Trade Unions. But a group of CPP members, witnessing the state’s armed repression of oppositional groupings, especially the PPS, clearly saw the erroneous nature of the CPP’s political line. They were also aware of the methods and results of the Soviet agricultural collectivisation drive. Both issues were a source of ferment inside the party. The ECCI-assisted removal of Warski and Kostrzewa from the CPP’s leadership further increased the members’ discontent. From mid-1929 there was also easier access to the documents of the Left Opposition, and in Paris the Russian language Byulleten’ Oppozitsii began to appear, whilst the International Secretariat of the Left Opposition was founded at a conference on 6 April 1930 in Paris by Trotskyist representatives from seven countries of Europe and the USA, which also enabled it to act systematically in other countries.

From now on in Poland it was easier for Communists and their sympathisers to learn about the Trotskyists’ point of view. The ferment in the CPP, which continued for several years, and which, further fomented by personal rivalries, grew in strength from 1929 onwards, tended to develop rather clearer sympathies with Trotskyism, especially as a basis for it had already been laid by translations into both Polish and Yiddish of Trotsky’s autobiography My Life. Both appeared in the spring of 1930, published by Biblion, whose editor, Michal Fruchtman, had links with the CPP. Such sympathies began to grow amongst oppositionist groups, as did certain views of the Left Opposition, which appeared later within the CPP as a result of objections raised against the line of the Sixth Plenum and Fifth Congress. Finally, at the end of 1931, a genuine faction was formed, opposed not only to the whole political line, but also – in essence – to the whole party regime. The inspiration came from Hersch Sztokfisch, the 40–year-old Secretary of the Jewish Central Bureau of the CPP’s Central Committee, a worker with a rich political past. As a student in 1928–29 at the Communist International school in Moscow, he personally met a Trotskyist, had access to Trotskyist literature, and learnt about the GPU’s repression. He returned to Poland strongly determined to tell the truth about the USSR without hiding anything, and to be active in the ranks of the Communist opposition. Together with a high CPP functionary, Pawel-Pinkus Minc (whose pseudonym was Aleksander), he founded the faction. They adopted a three-point programme, demanding a united front with the Social Democrats for a common fight against reaction and Fascism, preserving or returning to the unity of the trade union movement, and a fight against the bureaucratic control of the CPP in favour of inner-party democracy. The programme was limited to national issues. This allowed them to avoid a break with the CPP for a time, and gave them (so they hoped) the possibility of starting a principled discussion within the party. The platform of the faction allowed them to attract not only Trotskyists (Bolshevik-Leninists), but also sympathisers of the right wing opposition in the RCP(b) and the Communist International, that is, those who supported Bukharin and Brandler and their Polish variant, Warski and Kostrzewa (the latter being hesitant). The ideological propaganda and agitation, based on this compromise, won many party members and sympathisers to the faction, mainly in Warsaw. After this first organisational success a high party functionary, a deputy Central Committee member for a while, Abram Pflug (Abe, Czarny), a hosiery worker, joined the faction, together with a small group of his supporters.

Trotsky and the International Secretariat of the Left Opposition soon began to pay attention to Poland. With the participation of Kazimierz Badowski, a CPP member from 1925, and its functionary in Poznan and Zaglebie Dabrowskie, who during his studies in Belgium became a Trotskyist, the first issue of a Polish Trotskyist paper Proletariat was published there in the spring of 1932. It was, as its title stated, ‘The Polish Organ of the Left Communist Opposition’. A total lack in it of even the slightest information about Poland indicated that the publishers had no contact with people in the country. The master copies of the paper, prepared in Brussels, were smuggled by Badowski into the country, where a certain number of copies were made and distributed to various places, including (as the police found out) Bielsko-Biata. Badowski settled in Cracow, where he started Trotskyist activity. At the same time, the international Trotskyist centre sent to Poland Szlome Erlich, a tanner, originally from Bedzin, who had lived for some time in Switzerland, where he joined the Trotskyist opposition in 1931. After returning to Poland he energetically joined in the faction’s activity. [23] These first activists, directly linked to the International Secretariat, quickly gave up using the publisher Biblion, or perhaps Fruchtman, who worked on editorial matters with the leadership of the CPP, was either unwilling or unable to provide them with any more help. Although the Polish and Yiddish translations of the first volume of Trotsky’s History of the Russian Revolution had been put out by Biblion in March 1932, the next volume was published by the newly-established publishing house Era in Warsaw in mid-June. This became Nowa Era a couple of months later, and it concentrated exclusively on publishing Trotsky’s works. Beginning in the summer of 1931, the Trotskyists published three editions of their programme by the end of the year, in which Trotsky warned – more than 18 months before Hitler came to power – that that the politics of both the Stalinists and the Social Democrats were preparing a victory for the National Socialists in the heart of Europe. Towards the end of 1931 Lenin’s Left Wing Communism: An Infantile Disorder appeared through Nowa Era, including a foreword especially written for this edition by Trotsky. [24] This work was published because of its topical relevance, being ‘from beginning to end a great accusation against all sorts of “wiseacre” theories’, including those of the Communist International and the CPP. This timely theme was also emphasised in the foreword. In Poland papers and pamphlets of the Left Opposition were distributed in the Russian, German and French languages, which were understood by some of the workers’ groups. The unyielding attitude of the leadership of the CPP on the issue of the united front and ‘Social Fascism’ and its tactic towards the trade unions greatly contributed to the faction’s successes. It gained groups of supporters in some of the capital’s left wing trade unions, especially amongst the shoemakers and textile workers, and also amongst the UCYP. By the middle of that year there were five groups – two in Warsaw and one in the Warsaw suburbs, one in Łódź, and one in Zaglebie Dabrowskie. Two journalists from the CPP’s publication centre of legal and illegal literature, Artur Redler and Isaac Deutscher, actively joined in the work of the faction. The former, a member of the party since 1926, was not emotionally involved in the disagreement between the ‘majority’ and the ‘minority’, which allowed him to look at it critically. He had stayed in the USSR during 1931, where he had been sent by the CPP as their expected future leading intellectual, and had returned very alarmed, and greatly though not completely disillusioned. Back in Poland, he was a permanent and influential member of the editorial board of the CPP’s legally published but unofficial Literary Monthly, and an editor of the Yiddish literary and social-cultural monthly paper Literarysze Trybune, which was also a legal party paper, and which was run by Sztokfisch himself. [25]

In the spring of 1932 Deutscher published, probably in Literarysze Trybune, a lengthy article in which he openly criticised the party line, and demanded the building of a united front of all workers’ parties and the Communist and Social Democratic trade unions for a common fight against Fascism, and especially Nazism. Soon afterwards another of his articles, Di tswelfte sztunde (The Twelfth Hour), appeared, published with Sztokfisch’s knowledge and agreement. It said, in agreement with Trotsky, that Nazism was preparing a bloodbath for both the working class and the petit-bourgeois democrats in Germany, and that the Communist Party would lack the strength to repel this danger. Therefore, despite the vacillation and uncertainty of this ally, it should ally itself with Social Democracy. The National Secretariat of the Central Committee of the CPP immediately ordered the withdrawal from sale of this issue of the paper. But it was so popular that the paper distributors did not want to return it. This incident probably exhausted the patience of the CPP leadership, which had already decided earlier to discipline the leaders of the faction, and had prepared the necessary measures. It was decided to resolve the matter at a special conference called in June 1932 by the Gdansk council of the Jewish Central Bureau and those functionaries in the Central Committee of the CPWU, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Western Byelorussia, and the more important Regional Committees of the CPP that were responsible for work amongst the Yiddish-speaking population. Henryk Henrykowski-Amsterdam [26] went on behalf of the Central Committee of the CPP, and the ECCI sent Bronisław Bronkowski-Bortnowski [27] as a delegate. After two days of discussion, during which Sztokfisch stubbornly defended his political line and the views of the faction, it was decided to remove him from his position as a Secretary of the Central Bureau, whilst the matter of his party membership was postponed for another month, and he was left to think things over. On the following day, in a letter to the Central Committee of the CPP, he was already sharpening his position on the issues in dispute. Deutscher, too, with whom the representatives of the Secretariat were having discussions, did not withdraw anything in his letter, and was removed from the party in June. With the idea of destroying the faction by removing its charismatic leader, Sztokfisch was called to Moscow, together with Pflug, soon afterwards, and threatened that if he refused to go a campaign would be started against him. It was probably intended to keep him there forever, as had been done with Domski in 1925. But he did not fear the threats, and put the matter of his travel before a meeting of the leadership of the faction, where he justified his refusal to go. He was supported by Erlich and Minc, whilst Pflug reacted by leaving the faction. With the latter went a group of his followers who had joined it with him, though some of them stayed, such as the metalworker Hersch Bekierkuntz, who was a member of the Jewish Central Bureau in 1928–29. After this secession the faction became truly Trotskyist, and established official relations with the International Secretariat of the Left Opposition. [28]

The faction’s leadership answered the CPP leadership’s action by intensifying its activity. Meetings of party members were organised in Warsaw and in the provinces, in Łódź for instance, where the representatives of the faction openly presented its programme. Especially active were Sztokfisch, Artuski-Eichenbaum, Erlich and Redler. Deutscher became the leading ideologue. The speakers clearly emphasised that the CPP leadership, which persisted in presenting an ultra-left political line, should be changed. A statement was written addressed to the Central Committee of the CPP and the ECCI, and signatures were collected amongst party members and sympathisers at the end of July and the beginning of August. This proposed unity of action between the Social Democratic and Communist parties, first of all in Germany and Poland, and the term ‘Social Fascism’ was described as ‘mindless and anti-Leninist’. It also pointed out that in the present epoch dominated by monopoly capital, the rule of the capitalist oligarchy (Fascist) became a heavy burden on the petit-bourgeoisie, and that therefore the latter’s parties, however inconsistently, were forced to oppose Fascism. In Poland these were the PPS and Stronnictwo Ludowe (Peasant Party). It therefore followed that it was a mistake not to have supported the Centrolew (Centre-Left) in 1930. [29] The document also argued that the PPS had stopped supporting the bourgeoisie as it had done hitherto, and now sought to replace the dictatorship with parliamentary democracy. It also acted out of self-interest, because the victory of Fascism meant the smashing of the Socialist parties. The statement criticised the Communist International’s perspective of a rapidly maturing revolutionary situation in Poland. It therefore opposed the CPP’s constant demand for general strikes. It also demanded the establishment of inner-party democracy.

The news of this document and some of its contents leaked into other circles, especially those of the Warsaw intelligentsia which sympathised with the CPP, and caused much comment. But by August the National Secretariat of the Central Committee of the CPP declared its authors and signatories to be ‘Social Fascist agents in our ranks’, and therefore decided that ‘we shall not engage in any discussion with these anti-party elements ... the lower level organisations should be able to deal with them’. All open members of the faction as well as those suspected of belonging to it were expelled from the party. The Central Committee of the CPP published and widely distributed in the underground a pamphlet entitled Against the Trotskyist Renegades.

It also attacked them in statements and leaflets. Stefan Skulski-Merten was sent from Moscow, and was given special powers to lead the fight against Trotskyism, including physical extermination. Armed bands of the CPP not only entered party meetings organised by the faction to break them up, but also terrorised the members of the faction. [30] They would break into their homes and carry out searches, in no way different from the police. They probably wanted to provoke the victims to complain to the police or the courts about those who carried out the break-ins, whom they probably knew personally, and in this way compromise the members of the faction in front of the working class. At the same time, they spread all sorts of vile slanders, prepared according to the best Stalinist methods. At workers’ meetings they openly threatened to shoot some of the leaders of the faction. The removal of the members of the Trotskyist faction from the CPP and the attempts to compromise them or frighten them did not achieve the intended aim – Trotskyism did not disappear from the political scene.

An Independent Organisation

The methods used by the leadership of the CPP in its fight against the Trotskyist tendency inside the Communist movement and the way it dealt with the Trotskyists were totally in line with the atmosphere that existed within the authoritative circles of the Communist International, and, taking into account the difference in the situation, coincided with the growing weight of Stalinist repression in the USSR against opponents of the general line of the RCP(b). It was then at the Twelfth Plenum of the ECCI (held on 27 August–15 September 1932), only five months before Hitler came to power, that ‘the German Stalin’ – as Ernst Thälmann [31] was then called – underlined that his party’s sharpest struggle was against the view that ‘the main offensive within the working class should no longer be against the Social Democracy’. And he called Trotsky’s views on the necessity of united action by the Communist and Socialist parties against Nazism, a theory ‘of a completely bankrupt Fascist and counter-revolutionary’, and the most dangerous that Trotsky had ‘formulated in the last few years of his counter-revolutionary propaganda’. The plenum completely endorsed these views. Additionally, it stated that ‘there is a transition ... to a new series of wars and revolutions’. These points of view soon afterwards were accepted in their entirety by the Fifth Congress of the CPP (held 8–18 October 1932 near Mogilev in Byelorussia). Its resolutions spoke about an immediate approach of a ‘revolutionary crisis’ in Poland, and categorically rejected ‘the most dangerous’ tendency ‘to go some of the way with the Social Fascist parties, as a temporary ally and a legal cover’. For the congress, any mention of the need for a united front was a sign of ‘Trotskyism’. Of course, there was no lack of attacks on the Trotskyist organisation, which (as we shall see) had begun to act as the independent CPP Opposition. At the start of 1933 Nowy Przeglad devoted an entire article to attacking it. The weight of the attack was increased by the fact that this article was written by Wiktor Zytlowski, from 1929 a secretary of the security commission of the Political Bureau of the CPP, and one so upwardly mobile in the party hierarchy that he was evidently trusted by the GPU.

In the autumn of 1932 the members of the Trotskyist faction expelled from the CPP formed a political organisation, as illegal as their original party, called the CPP Opposition. The enforced split with the CPP had its negative side, as it limited possibilities for activity. The leaders of the now independent group had been party functionaries who not only lived on the party’s money, but also travelled around the provinces at its expense. From now on they had to fend for themselves, and they needed new sources of income for the organisation. The main source became the group’s subscriptions, but in part they also returned to their original trades or professions. The sums collected from the subscriptions were not very large, because the workers paying them were also suffering from the results of the crisis. The sacrifices of some of the non-working class activists helped. Deutscher, working as a journalist and a proof-reader on newspapers, gave half his earnings to the organisation. In the domain of politics and ideology the restrictions imposed on an internal faction, such as refraining from public criticism of the party, were now no longer relevant. Now, as followed from their name, they publicly demanded readmission to the CPP of all those expelled from it, not just individuals, but the whole organisation, including the new members who had joined from outside the party. Naturally, such a reintegration would have meant that the views of the Opposition were admissible within the CPP.

One of the first, maybe the very first, publication in which the CPP Opposition presented its point of view on the current crucial issues of the workers’ movement to wider circles, was published legally at the beginning of February 1933 in Warsaw in the Yiddish language as a pamphlet by Deutscher, Aktuele problemen fun der arbeterbawegung. An entfer chmurnern (The Current Problems of the Workers’ Movement: An Answer to Chmurner). Signed with one of his well-known pseudonyms – A. Kra—ski (Krakowski) – it discussed the positions of Chmurner, the leader of the left wing of the Bund [32], on such issues as Social Fascism and the assumptions of this notion, the unity of the trade union movement, and the phenomenon of bureaucratisation in workers’ organisations. On the last issue, the author outlined the principles of democratic centralism in the workers’ party in the non-Stalinist meaning of the word. On the question of Social Fascism he quoted Trotsky’s point of view put forward in the works published in 1932 in Warsaw in the Yiddish language Wos wajter? (And What Next?), which was simultaneously released in Polish.

The Programme of the CPP Opposition was based on the 11 points accepted by the Preliminary Conference of the International Left Opposition (held on 4–8 February 1933). It spoke about ‘the necessity of systematic Communist work within the mass proletarian organisations’, especially within the reformist trade unions, the obligation to mobilise the masses ‘under transitional slogans ... and especially democratic demands’ in a fight against feudal relations, national oppression and various forms of open imperialist dictatorship of Fascist or Bonapartist kind’, and ‘to develop a political line, a policy of a united front towards the mass organisations of the working class’, including the PPS. The other points demanded the application in practice of inner-party democracy, and the merciless condemnation of the ‘Stalinist plebiscite regime’, as well as a rejection of ‘the theory of Social Fascism and the practice connected with it, as one helping both Fascism on the one hand, and Social Democracy on the other’. One of the points was specific to this political formation: recognition of ‘the international and at the same time permanent character of the proletarian revolution, and rejection of the theory of Socialism in One Country and its complementary policy of National Bolshevism’. The document clearly stated that the international opposition regarded itself ‘as a faction of the Communist International, and its individual sections as factions of the national Communist parties’. Therefore, each one should have the name ‘Left Opposition’, further qualified as ‘Bolshevik-Leninist’. In opposition to the Communist International and the CPP, for whom the May coup and the government that followed were Fascist, and the PPS ‘Social Fascist’ because it supported Pilsudski, the CPP Opposition regarded this coup as a ‘preventive’ one, which had not led to a Fascist regime in the following six years. Therefore the PPS, the former supporter of Pilsudski, again became the democratic agents of the bourgeoisie, and opposed its Fascist agents. It was emphasised that for Communists this difference was essential, and it conditioned their tactic towards this party. [33]

These views and slogans were publicised by the CPP Opposition in the first months after Hitler’s coming to power in Germany on 30 January 1933. The leadership of the Communist International not only did not see the mistakes it had made, but, in its statement of 5 March, even stressed that ‘the political and organisational line which the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Germany under the leadership of comrade Thälmann conducted up to the Nazis taking power and at the moment of their taking power, was absolutely correct’, and ‘the establishment of an open Fascist dictatorship ... quickens the tempo of Germany’s march in the direction of the proletarian revolution’. Replying to the appeal of 19 February from the Bureau of the Second International for a common fight of the workers against Fascism, the ECCI on 5 March stressed that the Communist International and its sections had reason ‘to disbelieve the honesty’ of this proposition. At the same time, the theoretical organ of the CPP lectured that within the PPS the most dangerous part was its left wing, because it took over the Communist slogan of a united front, and by this disorientated the masses. To the rank and file Social Democratic organisations, it emphasised, it put forward concrete proposals ‘aimed at unmasking the Social Democratic leaders on the basis of organising a campaign by the Communists for a united front from below’.

The significance of the catastrophic defeat that Hitler’s victory represented was widely recognised by the activists of the workers’ parties in Poland, and opened their eyes to the nonsense of both the theory of Social Fascism and the arrogant forecasts of the Communist International about an imminent German revolution. For a section of these rather small groupings in Poland, mainly in the capital, which had already been influenced earlier by the publications and verbal agitation of the Trotskyists, this development of events confirmed the correctness of their criticism of the major workers’ parties. This rather modest increase in social acceptance stirred the CPP Opposition to intensify its activity. It decided to stress more clearly its solidarity with the International Left Opposition, and to carry out propaganda and educational activity in its spirit. It quickly reacted to the German events and the moves by both the major workers’ international centres. In a period of a week – 13–20 March – it published one or perhaps two appeals. They criticised the CPP’s policy, and called on its members to put pressure on the party leadership to force them to take a stand and to call for a conference of the Second and Third Internationals, together with the participation of Trotsky. [34]

The struggle against Stalinist policies was not only carried out at the level of international policy, but also in the more easily understood domain of national issues such as trade union activity. The publication of its own legal newspapers served this purpose, as it did for the CPP. In Warsaw there appeared – because of the legal constraints it did not carry the name of the CPP Opposition – a Polish language paper, and another – from 1 April 1933 – in Yiddish called Unzer Gedank (Our Thought), both being regularly confiscated by the police. The last issue of the former appeared on 5 July, and two days later its editor and nominal publisher (in reality it was the organisation), a 23-year old tailor, Schlama Schwartz, was arrested. Not until 5 November – two days after his release from prison – did there appear, this time under the name of Itzek Glikson, a 27-year old lathe-turner, a bi-weekly called Sztern (Gwiazda). Both Polish and Yiddish papers were printed in single runs of 5,000 copies each. Their distribution in the capital was apparently more successful than that of the CPP’s legal papers. The censors’ repression was also felt by the Nowa Era publishing house. In the first half of 1933 it managed to publish two pamphlets by Trotsky. But his other pamphlets that followed and a few by other authors were confiscated, and the publishers ceased their activity. Several leaflets concerning current issues were printed illegally, and an internal bulletin was also published. This was meant to overcome to some extent the difficulties for agitation and political work caused by the constant confiscation of the organisation’s papers. Publishing activity was also made difficult by lack of money. Unlike the CPP, it did not receive any money from abroad, so there was not enough for organisational work, and many of the activists were simply starving.

This great agitational and publishing effort bore fruit in the organisational sphere. Trotskyism in Poland, at first limited to the Jewish workers’ milieu, now also found supporters amongst Polish workers. Two new cells appeared in Praga [35], and contacts were established with workers in large textile factories in Łódź, and also amongst some metalworkers there. Opposition groups were formed at a number of coal mines in Zaglebie Dabrowskie, and contacts were maintained with almost all the larger mines. At the end of 1933 four large meetings were organised with the unions of textile workers, tailors, retail workers and youth, at which around 240 workers were present. The Opposition’s activists in Warsaw attended almost all Bund meetings, and they found quite a number of sympathisers amongst its members. Contacts were also established with activists of the PPS left wing, including those in the provinces, whilst close relations were established with some of the activists from the Youth Organisation of the Workers University Association (YOWUA) connected with this party and the left wing Socialist intellectual group Plomienie (Flame).

During 1933 Trotskyism made advances in the milieu of the intelligentsia, especially amongst the young. In the capital some the members of the students’ Socialist Youth Organisation ‘Zycie’ (Life), closely connected with the Communist Union of the Polish Youth, came over to its side, amongst them Jadwiga Kielczewska, Jerzy Wedrychowski, Stefan Lamed and, in 1935, Witold Wudel, the press publications editor of this organisation. All of them were expelled with a bang. Supporters were also gained amongst pupils in the capital’s schools, particularly at the Batory gymnasium. One of them was the future poet Krzysztof Kamil Baczynski, and another was Konstanty Aleksander Jelenski, later an emigré journalist. In Łódź, the writers Grzegorz Timofiejew and Marian Piechala were contacted unsuccessfully, and in Cracow Wanda Wasilewska.

So by the end of 1933 the Opposition had organisations in Warsaw and in seven other towns, and also permanent contacts with all the other large workers’ centres. The organisation in the capital had about 300 members (the CPP had between 800 and 1,000), and amongst these was both a sizeable group formed by ex-CPP members with long party service, and also many youth. [36] As a result it was one of the largest sections of the International Left Opposition, and larger ones existed only in Germany, the USA, Czechoslovakia and Greece. The CPP replied to the Trotskyist’s gains with a mass of anti-Trotskyist publications. After a violent attack by Albert-Zytlowski, one of the leading ideologues and a party theoretician, Jerzy Ryng-Heryng, spoke out. Three pamphlets in Polish were published and intensively distributed, as were another two similar ones in Yiddish. Trotsky and the Trotskyists were also constantly attacked in the legal and illegal CPP papers. In July 1933 the Programmatic Commission of the party included in its draft programme for the Sixth Congress of the CPP, a sizeable section on the CPP Opposition. It was characterised here as ‘tailing Social Fascism’, and ‘representing the counter-revolutionary ideology of Trotskyism on Polish soil’. By its activity and indeed its very existence it ‘attempts ... to sow confusion and disorganisation in the ranks of the revolutionary proletariat, and to put a stop to the process of revolutionised workers coming over to the Communist Party’.

In the last months of 1933 the Opposition was confronted with the necessity of defining its relationship towards the ideological and political turn of international Trotskyism. In July Trotsky, stating that the Communist parties and the Communist International had not drawn any lessons from the tragic German events, came to the conclusion that it was necessary to build new revolutionary Communist parties in all countries, and to unite them in a new international organisation – the Fourth International. In September the plenum of the International Secretariat of the Left Opposition endorsed this point of view, thus accepting the 11 points of the February Preliminary Conference and respectively re-editing the tenth. From now on the following phrase was binding: ‘To fight for the regroupment of the revolutionary forces of the international working class under the banner of international Communism. To recognise the necessity of building an authentic Communist International capable of putting into practice the above-mentioned principles [points 1–9].’ At the same time the plenum changed the name of the movement, which no longer considered itself as an opposition in the Communist International, into one defining its independent position – the International Communist League. The national sections of the Left Opposition were to change their names accordingly. [37]

In Poland the PPS’s Tydzien Robotnika (Workers Weekly) instantly carried the news of Trotsky’s theses. The CPP Opposition published them together with the 11 points, but the pamphlet was confiscated. Within the organisation a discussion started on the issue of the reorientation of the movement which had occurred. Poland was the only section of the Left Opposition where it was not adopted unanimously. Sztokfisch and Deutscher spoke against the new theses. In their opinion, the crucial factor – the shameful capitulation of the Communist International and its inability to foresee events – was not enough to merit founding a Fourth International. A rather longer transitional period was necessary, as was a period of time to gather new forces. Minc was hesitant, but Erlich was the main spokesman in favour of the new course. He gained support for this position through late 1933 and early 1934, and so the name of the organisation was changed to the Union of Communist Internationalists of Poland (UCIP), noting in brackets for some time ‘former CPP Opposition’. A conference of the organisation was called, and one of points under discussion was the character of Pilsudski’s regime, and whether it should be regarded as Fascist, or, according to Trotsky’s point of view, as Bonapartist. In January 1934 the necessary theses and counter-theses were prepared.

Independently of the preparation for the conference, the UCIP continued its publishing and organisational activity. From its experience of the censorship and its observation of the CPP’s methods, it drew the conclusion that a legal paper ought to be published away from Central Poland, where the press restrictions were more repressive. The choice of town fell on Katowice. Hendel Maniela Landau, a 27-year-old office worker living there, apparently in the past a member of the District Committee of the CPP in Zaglebie Dabrowskie, agreed to act as editor and publisher of the UCIP’s bi-weekly Kuznia (Smithy). Its first and only issue, dated 1 April 1934, with a 5,000 print-run, was instantly confiscated, and the editor arrested on 6 April. The authorities easily identified whose paper it was. After all, it included an article The Tasks of the Day signed by the initials LT, which a few weeks later was published abroad by the International Communist League [38], whilst other articles, which included one about the Twenty-Third Congress of the PPS, and another about the presidential decrees on social issues (the ‘insurance decree’) with the response to it by the leaderships of the PPS, the CPP and the Central Commission of the Trade Unions, left no doubt as to the political orientation of the paper.

Soon afterwards the UCIP took part in the May Day demonstrations of 1934 in several towns, including Kielce. Its May Day call, published illegally, was dedicated to general statements. It spoke about the victorious march of reaction and Fascism, ‘which brings the world closer to the spectre of a new imperialist war’. This victory ‘made the Polish bourgeoisie act even more insolently’, and they ‘had begun to attack the rights and gains of the working people ... The national insurance decree, laws regarding holidays and hours of work, etc, take away from the widest masses the rights which they have won for themselves over a long period of time.’ Mass demonstrations by workers in defence of these gains were either broken up or limited to localities by the leaders of the CCTU, whilst the leadership of the CPP ‘by its adventurist calls for “general strikes” ... compromised themselves in the eyes of the masses as well as the idea of the strike itself’. In this way, ‘at every step reformism and Stalinism paralyse the forces of the working class of Poland’. One of the slogans thus proclaimed ‘the necessity of building a new revolutionary vanguard of the proletariat ... the formation of new Communist parties and a new Fourth International’.

In July, when incidents occurred between the extreme nationalist Camp of Great Poland (OWP) [39] and the YOWUA and the UCYP, the UCIP in its call exposed the supposed radicalism of this group, also reminding readers that ‘Mussolini and Hitler were full of anti-capitalism and Socialism before they came to power’. At the same time it stressed that the quarrel of the government with the OWP was about the question ‘of which is a better way of suppressing the workers’ movement, are the Fascist bands necessary, or will the bloody police government of Pilsudski be enough?’. [40] The call stressed the necessity for forming a united front of all workers’ parties, which would agree between themselves on a programme for common anti-Fascist action, and also that ‘in every district anti-Fascist united workers’ committees must be set up’. It spoke about a joint-party Anti-Fascist Workers’ Militia, which needed to be formed for the protection of working class districts and institutions. At the same time it also declared that ‘the UCIP, a cadre of the new Communist Party, considers its main task today to build a united front of the workers’ parties’.

Faced with the confiscation of its legal papers, the national leadership of the UCIP published in the late spring of 1934 the first issue of an illegal paper called Nowa Droga. Organ Komunistów Internacjonalistów Polski (b opoz CPP) (New Way: The Paper of the Communist-Internationalists of Poland (Former Opposition in the CPP)). It was probably in June that the Bolszewik, a paper of the UCIP’s organisation in Łódź, also started to appear illegally.

In June, in a tense political and police atmosphere after the murder of the Interior Minister Bronisław Pieracki on 15 June, and the first blind repressive steps, the First National Conference of the UCIP met in secret. [41] It ended a programmatic discussion lasting several months. As the basis of its programme it endorsed the 11 points of the September plenum of the International Left Opposition, and by this endorsed the process of building a revolutionary party and the Fourth International.

In the pre-congress discussion about the situation in the USSR, the majority view was that ‘although the danger of Thermidor has been temporarily removed, it can still reappear in future in an even sharper form’, and ‘the theory of Socialism in One Country is also theoretically false’, although some of the participants of the conference claimed that ‘from a purely abstract theoretical point of view the building of Socialism in One Country is not ruled out. The difficulty, though, will be outside intervention.’ The conference rejected both the view that Pilsudski’s regime could be transformed from a Bonapartist into a Fascist one, as it lacked the necessary mass support amongst the petit-bourgeoisie for such an evolution, and the view that there was a threat of a Fascist coup in the near future. It declared that the workers’ sharpest struggle should be aimed at Pilsudski’s government as the main enemy. To oppose it, joint workers’ action would be necessary, led by ‘the united front of all existing workers’ organisations with all their faults and mistakes’. The fight should be conducted in defence of the economic position of the working class and ‘the remaining democratic freedoms of the proletariat’, as well as ‘against the military budget and the preparations for war’. Only after that would there be the secondary task of fighting ‘against the Fascist bands’. The forms of the fight were, apart from the traditional ones like meetings, demonstrations and strikes, ‘the formation of a joint party militia for the defence of workers’ meetings, etc’.

Amongst the declarations on organisational issues there were decisions to create an illegal UCIP apparatus, and to publish a regular paper and a theoretical journal. Increasing difficulties, especially material ones, were the reason for the late appearance in August of the second issue of Nowa Droga in duplicated form containing information about the conference. In Łódź Bolszewik ended its existence, so it seems, with the edition of October-November 1934 (issue no 5), but soon, towards the end of December, there started to appear, in accordance with the conference decision, a legal national paper of the UCIP, Co dalej? (What Next?). Its official editor and publisher was the talented satirist Stefan Golab, who lived in that city, an ex-member of the Socialist Youth Organisation ‘Zycie’. Until the end of 1935, when police repression put an end to this paper, five issues appeared, and the print-run grew from 1,000 to 4,000 copies. [42] Co dalej? informed and put forward the party’s position on all major events in the country and in the world, and published Trotsky’s articles. The paper was inevitably attacked by both the Communists and the PPS’s Tygodnik Robotnika (Workers Weekly). But it also paid them back in the same coin.

The development of the UCIP encountered various new difficulties. The security apparatus, which did not pay any attention to the Trotskyists whilst they were an opposition within the CPP, from November 1933 onwards, when they began to consider themselves a separate tendency and later publicised the need to form a new Communist Party, took a closer interest in them. From then on it harassed activists with arrests, who after a while would be released without a trial. But at the beginning of 1935, it took even more vigorous measures. After house raids and arrests, 10 activists in Warsaw, including two women and a practising solicitor from Cracow, were brought before the court in the capital on 8 May. Most of them already carried previous convictions for Communist activity. This time the district court sentenced nine of them to between three and five years in prison with hard labour for belonging to a Trotskyist organisation. [43]

The quantitative development of the organisation suffered a certain set-back. It was difficult to organise all those outside the capital who at different times declared themselves to be sympathisers of Trotskyism. A group in Łódź was formed in 1934 amongst members of the chemical workers’ union, and in Lwów contacts were established with the remnants of the opposition in the CPWU from the 1920s (the so-called ‘szumisci’). But in Warsaw the influx of new members decreased decisively. The CPP members there who were consistently critical of the party line had already come over to the Trotskyist organisation, whilst the less consistent ones were deterred from taking this step by the need to break definitively with the CPP and the Communist International. So the newly-formed oppositional groups in the CPP stopped half way, and only some of the participants decided to join the UCIP, as did a part of the Aron Wahel’s so-called ‘Group of Ten’ in September 1934.

On the other hand, after the first steps by the UCIP towards a united front with the PPS and the Bund and reciprocal gestures from their side, the situation began to change unfavourably for the UCIP. Up to then the spontaneous striving towards unity by the working masses had created in many working class activists – mostly from Communist circles, but also some Socialists – sympathy towards the CPP Opposition and then the UCIP, which had come out in favour of united action. But now this striving had the opposite effect. For an activist who was a stranger to the arguments around the issues of the theory of Permanent Revolution and the impossibility of building Socialism in one country, the call to build a new revolutionary party was synonymous with increasing the fragmentation of the working class, precisely at the moment when there appeared to be a perspective for common work amongst the already existing groups. So in the second half of 1934 those ex-members of the CPP and the UCYP who had been mainly attracted by the slogans of the united front and the critique of the policy of Social Fascism, as well as some of those who had never previously been members of any party, started to leave the UCIP. [44]

Despite this, the UCIP managed to strengthen its influence in the workers’ milieu in Warsaw. Although due to a cleverly devised system of elections of the delegates, only one official representative of the Marxist-Internationalist (that is, Trotskyist) trade union faction was able to attend the united front Council of Workers’ Delegates in Warsaw on 19 February 1935, his sharply critical speech was warmly applauded. In the autumn of the same year, the leadership of the PPS characterised the Trotskyists as ‘a workers’ group with broad influence and considerable activity, especially in the Warsaw area’.

At about this time the leadership of the UCIP began to notice that its organisational possibilities were in decline. This was also a problem for other sections of the International Communist League. Trotsky had already paid attention to this in the first half of 1934, when he wrote, almost using an aphorism: ‘Too many students. Not enough workers. The students are too preoccupied with themselves, and not enough with the movement.’ All the sections were numerically weak, and there were few workers in them. For the latter the inner-party discussions about the Anglo-Russian Committee or the Chinese Guomindang during the 1920s were quite abstract, and they had other worries. For this reason only high-ranking party activists and intellectuals from Communist parties joined oppositional organisations in any numbers, and they were people who were not well acquainted with leading mass actions, whilst now there were few lower-rank functionaries, practical activists or rank and file members. As a result, the sections became distant from the mass movement. To reach the workers and win them over to our politics was only possible by participating in their everyday struggles, which in practice meant working inside relatively mass parties. But it was impossible for the Trotskyists to go back into the Communist parties with this objective.

Meanwhile, the Viennese workers’ uprising in February 1934 against the Austrian Fascism of Dollfüss, and the almost spontaneous resistance of the Socialist and Communist workers of Paris in the first days of the same month against an attempted Fascist coup, had an effect on the Socialist movement. In some of its parties, especially in the SFIO, a group of activists began to doubt the possibility of the parliamentary road to Socialism, and the left wing groups and moods gained in strength. This gave an opportunity for Trotskyists to be active in these parties.

In July 1934 Trotsky therefore proposed to his French supporters that they should collectively and openly join the SFIO on the basis of a previously negotiated agreement with its leadership. There they would learn the art of leading mass actions, and at the same time meet active workers whom they might be able to win over. This perspective was supposed to lead to the transformation of these parties into revolutionary ones, or by breaking a sizeable section of their membership from them, who would bring into being new revolutionary parties. This was the so-called ‘entrist’ tactic, first called the ‘French Turn’.

A section of the French Trotskyist group acted according to these instructions. In the mid-1934 it joined the SFIO in the above-mentioned way. Because of the mood of part of its active membership the SFIO apparatus agreed to this. It wanted to use the Trotskyists to compete with the Communist Party. The newly-admitted Trotskyists openly formed the Bolshevik-Leninist faction inside the SFIO (organisational practice allowed for this). At first it gained many, especially from the youth organisation. Watching this experiment closely, Trotsky began to advise almost all the remaining sections of the International Communist League to follow in the footsteps of the French, which they did in 1934–35.

In the UCIP many, amongst them Sztokfisch, disagreed with the tactic of the ‘French Turn’. Their point of view was supported by the left wing activists in the Bund such as Chmurner. They thought that the entry of the Trotskyists into the Socialist parties would weaken the position of the Socialist left in them and in the whole of the Socialist International. Trotsky twice polemicised with their position, and in letters dated 28 February and 18 July 1935 argued that the Polish Trotskyists needed to enter the Socialist parties. In the second letter, amongst other things, he stated that it was the only way in which they could get closer to the backbone of the Polish industrial proletariat. He added that ‘one cannot help the Jewish workers to get out of the dead end of the Bund towards a larger arena except by revolutionary work crowned with success amongst the Polish proletariat’. [45] The changes taking place within the workers’ movement in Poland also pointed to the adoption of this controversial tactic. The talks between the CPP and the PPS ended with the adoption in July 1935 of a so-called non-aggression pact. It anticipated an end to the public attacks of one upon the other, and called for joint work around various campaigns of a democratic character. The most concrete, and for the workers most deeply felt effect of this was the dissolution in September of the Left Trade Unions, and the unification of its unions with those of the CCTU. The activist workers saw in this pact a camouflaged united front agreement. The Trotskyists, who for many years fought consistently for its formation, could not – if they still wanted to play a political rôle – ignore the viewpoint of the masses. It was necessary to change with the new situation. The Second National Conference of the UCIP therefore adopted a declaration on 19 October 1935. In it there was an evaluation of the international situation – ‘Europe represents a barrel of gunpowder, which at any moment can explode’ – and the national – ‘the smallness of the social base on which Pilsudski’s dictatorship rests ... With a resolute, revolutionary policy the Polish proletariat would be capable ... of overthrowing ... the Bonapartist dictatorship.’ It also spoke about the enormous revolutionary possibilities in Europe, which ‘are paralysed and lost due to the lack of Marxist leadership’. The Communist International ‘once and for all has stopped being the centre of the proletarian revolution’, when it swung from an ultra-left extreme to the opposite, an alliance with the ‘democratic’ bourgeoisie. But the Second International since the war ‘has not been anything else but a contact bureau for the reformist and social-imperialist parties’. It agreed that recently in Poland ‘united front and trade union unity are a great achievement, since they create the premises for the revolutionary fight of the proletariat’. Since the CPP, in which ‘there is no room for any free critical thought ... has stopped playing any significant rôle in the workers’ movement ... the key to the situation lies in the hands of the Socialist parties’. Therefore the Communist Internationalists ‘think ... it is their duty to bring their revolutionary cadres into the mass current of the Socialist proletariat, in order, in a daily struggle, arm in arm with the broad working masses, to forge a revolutionary leadership, a unified international and a revolutionary Marxist party of Poland’. In the name of this ‘the UCIP is ready to give up its organisational independence and join the Socialist parties (the PPS and Bund)’. In this case its members would be bound to ‘obey party discipline strictly, demanding only for themselves the right to put forward their point of view’.

Shortly afterwards the leadership of the UCIP carried out the necessary negotiations. With the Bund, in which there already existed factions, it was agreed that the Trotskyists entering it would form a separate faction. In Warsaw and in a few other cities they were admitted to party meetings at which they read their political declaration explaining their move by the need to act in a mass workers’ party. At its meeting of 23–24 November, the Executive Council of the PPS endorsed the results of the negotiations with the UCIP. The circular of the Central Executive Council of the PPS dated 29 November informed the members of its party organisations about this. The agreement to accept Trotskyists was explained – not entirely accurately – by the fact that ‘they have, in a decisive manner, come over to our position on the unity of the workers’ movement under the banner of Socialism and the PPS’.

Together with the circular there was attached the declaration of entry of the Marxist Internationalists, as they called themselves. In a more concise form it repeated the evaluations and conclusions of the declaration of the Second Conference of the UCIP. In this document there was, similar to the statement of those entering the Bund, a declaration that they would be disciplined members of the PPS, but ‘we will defend inside the party our specific views on the questions of strategy and tactics, making use of the internal democracy guaranteed to us by the leadership’. An agreement to a collective declaration mentioning the guarantee indirectly implied an agreement to an informal faction on a sui generis basis.

Remaining outside these parties was a small group whose job was to maintain links with the Trotskyists in various areas who belonged to neither of the two parties, to publish the movement’s publications and to present publicly the point of view of the International Communist League on particular issues, especially when it was different or was contrary to the positions of the PPS or the Bund. From amongst the leadership of the UCIP, Sztokfisch and Erlich entered the Bund, whilst Deutscher and Redlich joined the PPS. In Warsaw there was a sizeable group of Trotskyists in the PPS. It was a closely knit group of fighting activists. They were posted to every district of the party. The Central District gave their entry considerable publicity. On Sunday 15 December it organised and announced in Robotnik a lecture by Deutscher entitled Why we joined the PPS. [46]

The Bolshevik-Leninists

After the signing of the Franco-Soviet pact of mutual aid (the Stalin-Laval Pact of 2 May 1935) and the Seventh Congress of the Communist International (held on 25 July–20 August 1935 in Moscow), which laid down for every Communist party the policy of Popular Fronts, the context of the situation in which the International Communist League was active changed greatly. The new orientation of the Communist International generally put on the order of the day, on a par with the united front accepted by the Trotskyists, pacts with ‘the anti-Fascist’ bourgeoisie and the perspective of an ‘organic’ (meaning organisational) unity of Socialists and Communists, which was popular amongst the working masses. In practice, it meant a unity of the bureaucratic apparatus of these parties, and the greater independence of their apparatus from the moods, interests and will of the workers, as they no longer endangered each other by mutual criticism. By this their machine, especially that of the Socialist parties (they had it already in the Communist parties), gained a free hand to deal with oppositional groups and tendencies. This was sensed almost immediately by the Trotskyists, most of whom had but recently been admitted to the Socialist parties. Here the bureaucratic apparatus, invariably ill-disposed towards revolutionary agitators, no longer needed them in their rivalry with the now friendly apparatchiks of the Communist parties. They could now get rid of them. By June they had already begun to expel them from the SFIO. The International Communist League was faced with the need to take up again the initiative to build new revolutionary parties and the Fourth International. Soon after the first signs of the collapse of the ‘entrist’ policy, Trotsky wrote a manifesto in June 1935 on the question of this initiative. It was published in August as For the Fourth International: An Open Letter to All Revolutionary Proletarian Organisations and Groupings, and was signed by the League and two other organisations. [47]

The signatories of this document at the same time undertook preparations to call an international conference. After overcoming many difficulties it took place a year later, on 29 July–1 August 1936, in Paris in a room in the Salle Pleyel (though for the reasons of security it was said to be in Geneva). Delegates from nine European countries and the USA took part in it, but the representatives from Poland and four other countries did not attend, although they were invited. The conference adopted a 38-point document The Evolution of the Communist International from a Party of the World Revolution into an Instrument of Imperialism, and founded, in place of the League, the ‘Movement for the Building of the Fourth International’ with a permanent International Secretariat. This conference of the representatives of small revolutionary groups took place at a significant moment. The counter-revolution in the USSR was just finishing its preparations to unleash a new wave of terror, the first Moscow Trial with Zinoviev, Kamenev and 14 others began on 19 August, the wave of Fascism was rising ever higher, and more and more clearly appeared the threat of a new world war. Trotsky, living in exile in Wexhall in Norway, on 4 August had finished the work What is the USSR and Where it is Going?, later better known under the title of The Revolution Betrayed, and immediately sent it off to the French publisher.

For the Polish Trotskyists the Open Letter of August 1935 made them re-appraise only a few months later the premises on which they had taken the decision to enter the PPS and the Bund in the previous October. An important new situation arose in the workers’ movement in Poland. The August non-aggression pact between the PPS and the CPP turned out to be only a temporary armistice. The meeting of the Executive Council of the PPS on 9–10 May 1936 decided against a united front with the CPP, and also rejected the idea of a Popular Front that it proposed. In November the Executive Council of the PPS endorsed these decisions.

The only real and permanent gain of this honeymoon period of cooperation was the unification of the class trade union movement, and, as a consequence, there was a sizeable increase in its numbers. Very quickly, the old inter-party polemics started up again, and the attacks by both parties on each other were renewed. In the CPP, now excessively zealous in campaigning for a Popular Front, there still reigned an uncritical confidence in Stalin, the leadership of the CPSU(b), and the USSR. There was no room to admit any facts undermining them, and even less consideration of any uncomfortable arguments. During the preparation for the Seventh Congress of the Communist International, or soon after its opening, Warski totally capitulated, as did Kostrzewa seven months later. In this way, their supporters were deprived of any possibility of demanding that these two leaders, removed in 1929, should be included in the party leadership, as the Seventh Congress had in some way returned to their tactical conception. The Warszczaki could not therefore reconstitute themselves as a group. Because of this, any calculation of an alliance with the Trotskyists was also lost.

Furthermore, a small oppositional group of CPP intellectuals, led by Andrzej Stawar, which had published two collections of articles in 1934–35 under the title Against the Stream, now adopted a critical attitude towards Trotskyism. Many activists in the left wing of the PPS and the Union of the Independent Socialist Youth, who had previously maintained contacts with the UCIP and declared similar views to the Trotskyists, did a sharp turn after the Seventh Congress of the Communist International. They adopted the line of unconditional cooperation with the CPP apparatus, and from now on their lips were sealed on the questions of the Stalinist political line, even in cases of the greatest enormities committed by the leaders of the CPP and the Communist International and the obvious crimes of Stalin. [48]

Remembering the difficulties of the previous struggle, some of the former members of the UCIP now preferred a quiet membership in the PPS or the Bund, rather than a situation of constant threat from the police and the CPP. The others, including Sztokfisch, disagreed with leaving the Bund because they could see favourable opportunities for a Trotskyist faction developing in it. But they submitted to the majority decision. Independent political and organisational activity was renewed no later than the second half of 1936. The reactivated organisation adopted the name Bolshevik-Leninists. The previous members of the UCIP were joined by newly-recruited members from the PPS and the Bund. At the beginning of the academic year 1936/37 a students’ organisation, the Academic Marxists, was formed in Warsaw alongside the Bolshevik-Leninists. The previous members of the Organisation of the Socialist Youth ‘Zycie’, having broken with it or having been expelled, became its members, one of the leaders being Lamed.

A lot of attention was paid to work amongst working class youth and college students. Amongst others, a youth group was organised in the shopworkers’ trade union. Gradually, the Bolshevik-Leninists appeared in towns where the UCIP had previously existed, Warsaw, Łódź, Cracow, Kielce, and also in Zaglebie Dabrowskie, Czestochowa, Lublin, Vilna and Lwów.

The Lwów group was founded by Moishe Walker, a former member of the Union of Communist Youth of the Western Ukraine, at the beginning of 1938, when a legal paper, Zyttia i Slowo, was published in Ottynia. In the autumn of 1938 an Academic Marxists branch was founded in Lwów. Its leader was Michal Zawadowski, a postgraduate student of philosophy at Lwów University, a former member of the UCYWU and of the Socialist Youth Organisation, and one of its members was Adam Bardecki, an assistant lecturer in philosophy and psychology. The Lwów Academic Marxists branch had links with and a certain influence in the local Democratic Club of the Social Democratic Youth.

In mid-September 1936, three weeks after the first Moscow Trial, the CPP’s Political Committee had already pointed out to its National Secretariat the ‘need for increased vigilance regarding Trotskyists’, and demanded from it detailed information about them. Thus began a witch-hunt of all those who expressed any doubts whatsoever about the veracity of the Moscow Trials, or of the policy of the Communist International and the CPP. All and any of these were branded from now on as ‘Trotskyists’. They were represented as ‘the enemies of the USSR’, and as a network of Fascist agents and of the Polish political police. In this struggle the Stalinists did not hesitate to denounce them to the police and to spread provocative rumours about ‘terrorist Trotskyist groups’. [49] In this atmosphere, any Communists doubting the truth of the Moscow Trials, or even admitting to such doubts, could not just decide to join the Bolshevik-Leninists. They experienced a painful split, and were ostracised by their former comrades.

The Moscow Trial of Zinoviev and others was summed up by Deutscher in a pamphlet under the same title immediately afterwards. A thousand copies appeared legally in the first half of September in the PPS’s publication Swiatlo. Additional material, including a fragment of Trotsky’s speech made in 1927 before the Central Control Commission of the RKP(b), was included, which described the relationship of forces in the USSR and the nature of the Thermidorian stage of the French and Russian revolutions. The same trial was described by Erlich in the Yiddish-language paper of the Bund, Folkzaitung. This met with opposition on the part of the pro-Stalinist members of the editorial board, and it was only published on the instructions of the leader of the Bund, Victor Alter. [50]

The growing strength of authoritarian and pro-Fascist tendencies in governmental circles and a painful lack of resources made it impossible for the Bolshevik-Leninists to produce any legal publications. Their political documents, important articles and statements were duplicated in clandestinity, as was, for instance, Trotsky’s article The Lessons of Spain: The Last Warning in the summer of 1938, together with the pamphlets Marxism and Spain, etc. [51] The Bolshevik-Leninists covered both national as well as international issues in their statements, and outlined their tactics and strategies.

In the May Day appeal of 1938, the issues were ‘unemployment, poverty, hunger, overcrowded prisons, isolation camps and pacification’. This state of affairs could be radically changed, because ‘a revolutionary, or rather pre-revolutionary situation is not wanting in Poland, but there is no revolutionary leadership. The PPS is as afraid to fight as the devil is of holy water ... It wants to leave everything to be decided by the voting card.’ Therefore ‘left to itself and the kulak leadership, the peasant revolt did not achieve, and could not achieve, anything’. [52] Last year’s ‘disagreement between the government and the ZNP exposed the total impotence of the Sanacja clique’. When ‘Hitler entered Vienna ... the threat of war forced a weak Lithuania to establish diplomatic relations’. The PPS supported it in this. The call ended with a statement: ‘when capitulation and betrayal is rampant everywhere ... we Bolshevik-Leninists, inheritors of the revolutionary traditions of the revolutionary Marxist movement in Poland ... raise high the banner of the October Revolution, the banner of Lenin and Trotsky, Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht’. Amongst the slogans were: ‘Long Live the Fourth International’, and ‘Long Live the Polish Soviet Socialist Republic’.

Apart from its severe criticism of the PPS, the appeal also said that ‘the Stalinists had already stopped playing any independent rôle in the political life of the country a long time ago ... Stalin has finally finished off the CPP, once the pride and the heroic vanguard of the proletariat of Poland, today the debauched agent of the GPU.’ The Bolshevik-Leninist organisation was the only body of members or former members of the CPP who vigorously protested against the dissolution of this party and the murder of its leaders.

Already in February 1938 in An Open Letter to the Members of the CPP and CUYP, it protested against the slanderous accusations used in Moscow to justify the arrest of the leadership of the CPP and CUYP. The formal dissolution of the CPP was preceded by smashing the leading party cadres, both present and former ones. The names of eight famous leaders were quoted, who ‘like many other’ activists ‘had been killed or tortured to death in the torture chambers of the GPU’. The party was dissolved because ‘it turned out to be incapable – which was not its own fault – of playing the rôle of a bridge between the Kremlin and the General Inspectorate of Military Forces. That is why it became an unnecessary burden for Stalin and Litvinov. Stalin dissolved the CPP, wanting finally to convince the Polish bourgeoisie that the Soviet bureaucracy had really broken with all revolutionary illusions, that the Thermidorian USSR does not even think about the preparation of the world revolution ... and that is why Beck [53] might find, at the end of the day, a common language with Litvinov.’

The call also paid tribute to the sacrifice of the tens of thousands of Communist workers, and underlined: ‘Any attempt to revitalise the Stalinist CPP would be reactionary’, and ‘the hopes for reformism are no better than for Stalinism. The Polish proletariat, to win, must have a revolutionary Bolshevik party, a party of the Fourth International, which is being born.’ These views were developed more fully in a statement published in August, when the dissolution of the CPP was confirmed by the emissaries of the Communist International sent to Poland.

In the spring of 1938 Trotsky, then living in Mexico, took the initiative in founding the Fourth International in the shortest possible time. He worked out its programme of action in The Death Agony of Capitalism and the Tasks of the Fourth International. The Secretariat of the International Movement for the Fourth International sent out this document for discussion to its sections, and it was also published anonymously in their press. A Polish translation was quickly made, and the Central Committee of the Bolshevik-Leninists distributed it to its branches. Additional remarks were also included, of which the most important – inspired by Deutscher – were negative views on a quick proclamation of the International. According to him, this step was premature. [54]

Meanwhile on 3 September, as the Czechoslovak crisis was approaching its climax, the Founding Conference of the Fourth International met in Périgny near Paris in conditions of the strictest secrecy. Both Polish delegates (Sztokfisch and Lamed) and Yvan Craipeau from the French section were against its immediate proclamation, and 19 were in favour. First of all, Sztokfisch put forward the position of the Polish section. After the results were announced, both its delegates stated that their section would be a disciplined member of the International, and Sztokfisch was elected a member of its Secretariat. A week later, on 11 September, Poland was represented – probably by Lamed – at the First Conference of the International Youth Movement for the Fourth International. [55]

In Poland the Bolshevik-Leninist organisation declared itself to be a section of the new international centre, and published The Conference of the Fourth International’s Manifesto to the Workers of the Whole World. A small group led by Deutscher responded to this decision by leaving the organisation. [56] Having learnt from experience that even after the dissolution of the CPP very few of its members would join the Bolshevik-Leninists, an opinion gradually formed within the group that its current recruitment policies had to be changed, and its agitation adapted to that. There was no further need to concentrate on searching for new members amongst the CPP’s members and those close to them, but rather to pay attention primarily to the politically unorganised.

At the end of November and the start of December 1938 the Central Committee of the Bolshevik-Leninists called a national conference, which would deal with this and other organisational matters and programmatic questions. It took place in Warsaw in January. One of its resolutions on organisational matters obliged the Central Committee to publish the section’s papers illegally, but police repression was an obstacle to its achievement. Earlier, Trotskyist activists had already been arrested, but only sporadically, and their trials were a rarity, but after the dissolution of the CPP the security apparatus was able to direct its efforts against the Bolshevik-Leninists. So, according to an official statement, it carried out ‘the liquidation of the Trotskyist organisation in Warsaw’ on the night of 6 February 1939. This involved 101 searches in which 70 people were arrested, amongst them a few members of the leadership. The duplicator also fell into the hands of the police. By the decision of the investigating magistrate 44 people were detained for further interrogation – the men at Danilowiczowska police station and the women in ‘Serbia’. Another ‘liquidation’ in many towns, amongst them Lublin, took place on 28 April, and continued on 2 May. This time only 18 suspects were arrested in Warsaw, and from them 13 were then detained for further investigation. Altogether 200 persons were imprisoned. Before the outbreak of the war, they had only been put on trial in Lublin. Severe sentences followed.

The repression did not succeed in stopping organisational and political work. The authorities, however, as part of the preparation for war, ordered a few of the real or imagined leaders of the Bolshevik-Leninists, amongst them Deutscher and Eichenbaum, to be interned in case of disturbances or war.

The Catastrophe under the Occupation

The German invasion of September 1939 led to the flight over the next few months of large numbers of people to the eastern parts of Poland, and this had the effect of dispersing the small organisation of the Bolshevik-Leninists. In the territory occupied by the Red Army after 17 September, the NKVD soon arrested almost all the local Trotskyists and persons suspected of Trotskyism, in most cases without any evidence. It based its action, in the first place, on information about the Polish Trotskyists collected by the Communist International and contained in the reports sent to it by the CPP until the latter’s dissolution in 1938. As a result the groups of Bolshevik-Leninists in Lwów and other towns, and later in Vilna too, ceased to exist. Soon the repression included the refugees from the territories occupied by the Nazis. The Communist International’s reports contributed to this and – as was the case with Broniewski, Wat and others – so did denunciations by their Stalinist companions in adversity amongst the refugees. This was also the fate of S. Golab, the former editor of Co dalej? who was arrested in Bialystok. [57]

Unlike the Stalinists, the Nazi apparatus of repression did not have at its disposal any information about individual Trotskyists, as it did about some of the other hostile groups, and they managed to remain free. In the Generalna Gubernia, the territory under Nazi occupation, after the initial shock of the war and occupation, the Trotskyist organisation began to be rebuilt. This occurred first in Warsaw in the spring of 1940 at the latest. Then a group from Zaglebie Dabrowskie established contact with them, and most probably a group in Łódź too, as well as other places. [58] It appears that S. Erlich played the major rôle in this. The outbreak of the war found the other outstanding activists, like Sztokfisch, Lamed and – probably – A. Redler, out of the country, in the West.

In mid-1940 an underground theoretical-political journal of the organisation Przeglad Marksistowski (Marxist Review) appeared in Warsaw, and soon afterwards the informative Czerwony Sztandar (Red Banner) aimed at a wider circle of readers. [59] They were both duplicated. Czerwony Sztandar was edited by Erlich together with Ester-Stella Milsztein, as probably was Przeglad Marksistowski. Milsztein (born 1909) emigrated with her parents to Palestine in 1925, where, in 1932, she was arrested for distributing Communist literature, and for this she was deported back to Poland. [60] For reasons of security neither of the two papers was signed by the organisation, and its name was never found in any of the articles. Perhaps the only trace of the distribution of these papers can found in the printed list of the names of at least 57 persons (either pseudonyms or initials), who by September 1941 had paid – some several times – certain amounts of money to the publishing fund. Some of the sums came from the collections amongst the readers. Donations were noted as collected in the centre of Warsaw, Zaglebie Dabrowskie, L (Łódź?) and a place called simply ‘B’.

On 23 August 1940, only two days after the death of Trotsky in Mexico, a statement was published. It began with the words ‘Leon Trotsky is dead. The leader and the organiser of the Great October Revolution has been killed by the treacherous hand of its gravediggers [almost – LH] on the day of the first anniversary of the Stalinist-Nazi Pact.’ In its conclusion it spoke about a time when ‘the Soviet proletariat will throw off the Stalinist yoke, and in Europe the banner of the victorious proletariat will be raised – then the working class will move the remains of Leon Trotsky from its isolated Mexican site and lay them next to Lenin’s ashes, with whom he jointly worked and struggled’. [61]

The difficulties involved with the rebuilding of the Trotskyist organisation in the Generalna Gubernia were not limited to overcoming problems of a technical and psychological nature which arose from the need to work in conditions of unprecedented terror. At the same time the main tasks of political activity needed to be clarified in respect of the fundamentally changed national and international situation.

The war posed questions for the Trotskyist movement, both in Poland and on an international scale, which were both unforeseen and at the same time fundamental. One of them was whether the Stalin-Hitler Pact and the territorial gains made by the former invalidated the fundamental principle of the Fourth International (and the Trotskyist formulations preceding it) about the unconditional defence of the USSR and revolutionary defeatism – proclaimed during the First World War by the Bolshevik party – in the other countries participating in the war. This meant working in all of them for the cause of Socialist revolution, even if this meant the military defeat in war of a particular country. In the concrete situation of 1940–41 there was a dilemma of either accepting the principle of the defence of the USSR and so giving up defeatism in relation to its allies (then Nazi Germany), or, on the contrary, in the face of the greater and greater degeneration of the USSR (the pact with Hitler being one of its manifestations) applying the principle of defeatism to it as well. If this complex problem had a rather theoretical significance for the weak Polish organisation, the thoroughly practical problem was whether in the current war the most burning issue of the revolutionary movement should be the defeat of the Fascist countries and the liquidation of Fascism world-wide, whilst putting off the Socialist revolution until a later date after the war. The adoption of such an alternative meant a policy of ‘class peace’ with the non-Fascist section of the bourgeoisie and the petit-bourgeoisie, and as a result political alliances, including one with the ‘social patriotic’ parties of Social Democracy.

All these questions and doubts, caused to a considerable degree by the German-Soviet pact and its practical consequences, occupied the minds of all the national sections of the Fourth International and its leading organs. One-third of the US section and the majority of the members of the International Secretariat left due to differences of opinion on these matters.

Trotsky spoke on these contentious questions several times. In an article dated 25 September 1939, he unequivocally upheld the principle of the unconditional defence of the USSR, whilst emphasising that: ‘The defence of the USSR does not at all mean rapprochement with the Kremlin bureaucracy, the acceptance of its politics or a conciliation with the politics of her allies ... To renounce defeatism in relation to that imperialist camp to which the USSR adheres today or might adhere tomorrow, is to push the workers of the enemy camp to the side of their government’, which will lead to resignation from the Socialist revolution, and sentence the USSR ‘to final decomposition and doom.’ [62]

Three weeks later he explained that ‘in all imperialist countries, independent of the fact as to whether they are in alliance with the USSR or they are in a camp hostile to it, the proletarian parties during the war must develop the class struggle with the purpose of seizing power. At the same time the proletariat of the imperialist countries must not lose sight of the interests of the USSR’s defence (or of that of colonial revolutions), and in cases of real necessity must resort to the most decisive actions, for instance, strikes, acts of sabotage, etc.’ These general statements Trotsky made concrete by giving examples in the most drastic of eventualities: ‘If England and France tomorrow menace Leningrad or Moscow, the British and French workers should take the most decisive measures in order to hinder the sending of soldiers and military supplies. If Hitler finds himself constrained by the logic of the situation to send Stalin military supplies, the German workers on the contrary, would have no reason for resorting, in this concrete case, to strikes or sabotage.’ The Extraordinary Conference of the Fourth International, later called the Emergency Conference, met in New York on 26 May 1940 – already after Denmark, Norway, Holland, Luxemburg and Belgium had been occupied by the Third Reich, and when British troops were starting to evacuate Dunkirk – and approved Trotsky’s Manifesto, which further developed the position expressed in his articles at the end of the previous year. [63]

A few months later in August 1941, when the German-Soviet war had already started, France had been under the Nazi heel for over a year, and Great Britain, threatened with a Nazi invasion, had become the USSR’s ally, the Executive Committee of the Fourth International endorsed a document clarifying the tactic of the movement in the changed international situation. It stated: ‘We go on with the revolutionary struggle, even in the “democratic” camp. To support the imperialist masters of England and the United States would mean to aid Hitler in maintaining his hold over the German workers.’ The document also called on German soldiers to go over to the side of the Red Army with their arms and equipment, and it called on German workers and peasants and the people of Europe enslaved by Fascism to ‘paralyse in every possible way the march of German militarism! You will not only by this means defend the Soviet Union, but you will also be preparing your own liberation, not the “Liberation” which Churchill or Roosevelt hold in store for you, but your own, whereby you will be able, as free men, to build a new world.’ [64]

From the moment the Polish-German war broke out, the Polish Trotskyists were cut off from their international environment, and so they were unaware of Trotsky’s articles published after 1 September 1939, and of the documents of the International. From a letter from abroad, which reached them at the start of 1940, they found out that ‘Trotsky condemns Stalinist methods, but despite this he regards the defence of the Soviet Union as a duty’. Apart from this, they received only general news about his energetic activity. [65] This situation forced them to think independently about both principles and tactics in time of war.

This became the subject of a discussion in the pages of Przeglad Marksistowski from September 1940. The participants, though with differing emphases, were in agreement that revolutionary defeatism in its classical form (‘war on war’) should be used in the Fascist countries and its satellites at the present time. But in other countries participating in the war, the task of the workers’ party was to transform the imperialist war into a Jacobin war. It meant that the people, whilst defending ‘its right to political existence, and its gains against the reactionary invasion from outside, should take power. The fight and the victory over the internal enemy opens the road to smashing the external enemy.’

This point of view was presented in an accessible form in the May Day Appeal in 1941. In conclusion it said: ‘We shall not rest in the fight against the Fascist occupier and the local bourgeoisie until we win victory. Down with the imperialist war! Long live the civil war against the bourgeoisie! Long live the revolutionary war against Hitler! Down with capitalism! Long live the Independent Polish Soviet Republic! Long live the Socialist United Republics of Europe and the World!’ [66] The Polish Trotskyists had thus managed to anticipate in the period of the Stalin-Hitler Pact the tactical line which was only later put forward in the Fourth International’s document of August 1941.

At the same time, the writings of the Polish Trotskyists showed their general attitude by judging the Sikorski government [67] in decisively negative terms, in which ‘at a high level under both the protectorate [68] and the protective wings of the English empire sit those directly responsible for the September disaster, the representatives of the capitalists and landlords, whose Fascist villainy internally and treacherous policy externally, has led to catastrophe’. In the country this government is supposed to ‘present a kind of an alibi for the present misdeeds of the bourgeoisie, its reserve and insurance against possible changes in the future’. Therefore Czerwony Sztandar condemned the fact that ‘in this concentration of the Polish bourgeoisie and reaction both the Endecja [69] and the OZON [70], and the Polish Socialist Party and Stronnictwo Ludowe (Peasants’ Party) were present’, and the publications in Poland close to the latter ‘were continuously making publicity for this government, which is dependent on Churchill’s favour, and subordinated themselves to its directives’. [71]

On the extremely difficult question – especially after 17 September 1939 – of relations with the USSR, Przeglad Marksistowski stated at the end of 1941 that ‘we do not expect salvation from the East’ ruled by the Thermidorian bureaucracy. In its May Day appeal this line was further developed: ‘We do not want Stalinist “freedom”, we do not want to be a part of the present USSR, which is a prison for all its nations, and a concentration camp for revolutionaries. We are fighting for an independent soviet Poland, which of its free will shall take its proper place in the great family of the United European Socialist Republics.’ This was not a trick to win popularity. Next to it was found a declaration which could not rely on wide acceptance, because ‘when the hour of war between Germany and the USSR strikes, the workers and peasants of Poland will stand shoulder to shoulder on the side of the Soviets. Because the Soviets are not only Stalin and his henchmen ... and until public ownership in the USSR is overthrown, it still remains a workers’ state, and its defence is an elementary duty of every conscious worker.’ When this hour came in June 1941, Przeglad Marksistowski said: ‘The war between the USSR and Hitler – that is our war.’ [72]

On questions of the political line of the workers’ movement, Przeglad Marksistowski engaged in principled, although sometimes brief, polemics with the émigré papers of the PPS, the home WRN, the Polish Socialists and the Bund, but rarely paid any attention to non-working class publications.

Gradually, though, the activity of the Polish Trotskyists slowed down. The July 1941 issue of Czerwony Sztandar was, it seems, the last. This journal was a real intellectual achievement – especially when one considers the conditions under which it was produced – and the last issue of Przeglad Marksistowski was probably in September 1941, which was of 50 pages, and dedicated solely to Trotsky’s rôle in the workers’ movement and his political conceptions. After this nothing else appeared. The spectre of the inevitable approach of the Endlösung (Final Solution) probably directed the attention of the Trotskyists imprisoned in the Warsaw ghetto towards the most desperate forms of collective self-defence, leaving no room for any relatively long-term organisational and political activity. Amongst others, Szlome Erlich perished in the ghetto.

Amongst those not threatened by a similar fate, a few Trotskyists found their place in organisations fighting effectively against the occupying power, and also – in their opinion – with those who strove for a Socialist rebuilding of society. For instance, Zuzanna Plosarek, arrested at the beginning of 1939 in the capital during the police action to ‘liquidate’ the Trotskyists, had earlier on joined the post-CPP group of ‘biuletynowcy’, whilst Jerzy Wedrychowski found his way to the Polish Workers Party (the reformed Stalinist party), and Witold Wudel, incomparably more active than them as a Trotskyist, joined the Organisation of Polish Socialists, later the RPPS. [73] In the provinces the Trotskyists became more and more isolated, and death thinned their ranks. Some of them wanted their political pasts forgotten, and became involved with various other political groupings. Others were condemned to political passivity and, like Kazimierz Badowski in Cracow, only remained platonically loyal to the movement, admitting their views only to a few, especially trusted, friends. Such people were possible to find even in the most distant regions of the USSR, where fate had taken them. After the liberation of Poland from Nazi occupation, the political situation in Poland did not allow the remnants of Trotskyism even to think of rebuilding their organisation.


1. Cf. N. Gulbinski, Leon Trotsky in the Writings of the Period of Glasnost and Perestroika, The International (London), no. 5, 1991, pp. 14–22.

2. In relation to recent work about the history of the Communist movement cf. P. Samus and Edward Próchniak, Studium postaw polskiego revolucjonisty, Łódź 1987, although it concerns the opposition in the RCP(b) without any evaluating adjectives or appraisal (pp. 251, 319–23), but it is almost humorous when worthless information is repeated, such as that the Trotskyists in the USSR supported the market economy in agriculture, and ‘demanded the rebuilding of the Menshevik and SR parties’ (p. 320), etc.

3. This point of view is currently expressed by the Soviet ‘exposer’ of Trotskyism N. Vasetsky, well known for two decades as an author of books, pamphlets and articles dedicated to this.

4. I. Deutscher, The Tragedy of the Polish Communist Party, Marxism, Wars and Revolutions, London 1984, pp. 91–128; M.K. Dziewanowski, The Communist Party of Poland, Cambridge, Mass 1959, pp. 135–8, 334–5. In Deutscher’s papers there exists a more comprehensive version of this interview, requested by the Warsaw Polityka.

5. [L. Hass], Odklamywanie historii rewolucji ruchu robotniczego, ZSMP (Union of Socialist Youth of Poland, the official Stalinist youth organisation), for internal use (100 copies), Wroclaw, 1988. Cf. Ruch bolszewikow-leninistow (IV Miedzynarodowka) w Polsce do 1945, Szermierz (700 copies), Wroclaw 1989; Cz. Wilko, Sur la trace des trotskystes polonais, Quatrième Internationale, no. 29–30, 1988, pp. 109–13.

6. L. Sinclair, Trotsky, A Bibliography, Aldershot, 1989, Volumes 1 and 2.

7. The most recent and far from complete bibliography of publications about Trotsky and Trotskyism – without Trotsky’s works – mentions 4227 items (W. Lubitz, Trotsky bibliography, Munich 1988). Trotskyist periodicals have not yet been indexed.

8. H. Mendel [Sztokfisch], Zihronot fun a judiszn rewolutsioner, Tel Aviv 1959. Its German translation, Erinnerungen eins jüdischen Revolutionärs, Berlin 1979, is still being quoted. French translation: Grenoble 1982; English translation: Memoirs of a Jewish Revolutionary, London 1989.

9. The Communist Workers Party of Poland was formed in 1918 out a merger between the Social Democracy of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania (SDKPiL) and the left wing of the Polish Socialist Party (PPS Lewica). It changed its name to the Communist Party of Poland (CPP) in 1925. [Editor’s note]

10. Adolf Warski (1868–1937) (real name Warszawski) was a founder of the SDKPiL and of the CWPP. Moving to the Soviet Union in 1929, he was a victim of the purges. Wera Kostrzewa (1879–1939) (real name Maria Koszutska) was a member of the PPS Lewica, and a founding member of the CWPP. Moving to the Soviet Union in 1930, she was a victim of the purges. Henryk Walecki (1877–1938) (real name Maksymilian Horwitz) was a member of the PPS Lewica, and a founding member of the CWPP. Active in the apparatus of the Communist International, he was a victim of the purges. All three of the above played a leading rôle in the CWPP/CPP until 1925, when they were removed from the party leadership by Stalin, although Warski and Kostrzewa returned to it briefly in the late 1920s. Edward Próchniak (1889–1937) (real name Weber) was a member of the SDKPiL. Active in the October Revolution, he helped form the CWPP, and from 1921 was active in the apparatus of the Communist International. He was a victim of the purges. [Editor’s note]

11. In September 1928 Trotsky wrote: ‘In the end, Warski has remained a “revolutionary” Social Democrat of the old type ... Warski never felt himself quite at ease with Bolshevism. This explains his momentary “conciliationism”, based on a misunderstanding toward the Opposition in 1923. But as soon as the lines became clearly drawn, Warski found his natural place in the official ranks.’ (L.D. Trotsky, Who is leading the Comintern Today?, The Challenge of the Left Opposition (1928–29), New York 1981, pp. 187–8)

12. The Communist Party of the Western Ukraine and the Communist Party of Western Byelorussia were formed in the wake of the CWPP’s Second Congress of August 1923, at which the party recognised that its dismissal of the national question had been detrimental. Considerable tracts of Ukrainian and Byelorussian land were within the borders of Poland. Both parties were autonomous, but were subordinate to the CWPP’s Central Committee, on which they were represented. Both parties were noted for their independent outlook, not least in respect of Soviet nationalities policies, and although they survived the dissolution of the CPP in 1938, their members suffered badly during the Soviet takeover of Western Byelorussia and the Western Ukraine in 1939–40. [Editor’s note]

13. This information is found in only one of the reports, and is rather mysterious. Domski then lived in Berlin, and soon became one of the four authors of the theses O kryzysie w CWPP i najblizszych zadaniach partii, February 1924. (L. Domski (1883–1937) (real name Henryk Stein) was a leader of the SDKPiL, and worked on the Bolsheviks’ Pravda in 1912–13. He moved into the CPP’s leadership after Warski’s group was deposed in 1925. Accused of leftism, he was allowed into the RCP(b) after producing a self-confession, but was expelled in 1935, and was a victim of the purges. Editor’s note.)

14. Boris Souvarine (1893–1984) was a founder of the French Communist Party. He sided with Trotsky in the 1920s, but by the mid-1930s had settled on a course that led to a fervent anti-Communist outlook. Pierre Monatte (1881–1960) and Robert Louzon (1882–1976) were Syndicalists who joined the PCF in the 1920s, but returned to Syndicalism in the late 1920s in response to the rise of Stalinism. [Editor’s note]

15. Stanisław Kosior (1889–1939) joined the RSDLP in 1907, was active in the October Revolution, and played a leading rôle in the Ukrainian Communist Party during 1918–22. He was purged in the late 1930s, as were his brothers.

16. The author was unable to get access to Domski’s and Osinska’s letter.

17. Julian Lenski (1889– ) (real name Leszczynski) was a member of the SDKPiL. He was in the October Revolution, and was a member of the Polish affairs bureau of the RCP(b). Joining the CPP’s Central Committee in 1925, he became General Secretary in 1929. Recalled to Moscow in 1937, he was purged in 1939. [Editor’s note]

18. Jozef Pilsudski (1867–1935) was a politician and a leader of the revolutionary faction of the PPS from 1891. He organised a Polish Legion to fight for Polish independence during the First World War; and was Marshal of Poland and a head of state after independence in 1918. He fought against the Bolsheviks in the Russo-Polish wars of 1919–20 in order to obstruct the overthrow of capitalism in Germany; he was military dictator after his coup in 1926 until his death. During this period of ‘sanacja’ or ‘cult of the state’, he limited the powers of parliament, and brutally suppressed the opposition by imprisoning the Centre-Left MPs, and persecuting the Communists. The CPP gave critical support to the coup, seeing it as the beginning of a bourgeois revolution against the landowners. [Editor’s note]

19. This clearly means Domski.

20. Jerzy Sochacki (1892–1933) (also known as J. Bratkowski and Jerzy Czeszejko) was a member of the PPS Lewica who joined the CWPP in 1921, and was on its Central Committee in 1921–25 and from 1930. He was arrested in 1933 in the Soviet Union on false charges of spying on behalf of Polish intelligence, and was executed. He was rehabilitated after the Second World War.

21. Odezwa (The Call), in the author’s collection. Published illegally, it is not listed in documentary sources. The Trotskyist Opposition in those days, since it regarded itself as an opposition inside the party, did not publicly denounce the Communist Party’s candidates, neither did it yet think about calling for a new International.

22. L.D. Trotsky, The Turn in the Communist International and the Situation in Germany, 26 September 1930, The Struggle Against Fascism in Germany, New York 1973, pp. 55–74.

23. Apparently Erlich first emigrated to Palestine from Poland (perhaps with his parents), and then went to Switzerland.

24. L.D. Trotsky, Preface to the Polish Edition of Lenin’s Left Wing Communism, an Infantile Disorder, 6 October 1932, Writings of Leon Trotsky 1932, New York 1973, pp. 221–7.

25. In the autobiographical sketch from 1965, Deutscher said that already in 1931 he had founded, together with three or four comrades, ‘the first anti-Stalinist opposition’ to the CPP (D. Horowitz, (ed.), Isaac Deutscher: The Man and His Work, London 1971, p. 227). In some publications Literarisze Bletter is mistakenly mentioned instead of Literarysze Trybune. The former periodical was not connected with the Communist movement.

26. Henryk Henrykowski (real name Saul Amsterdam) was a member of Poale Zion, a left wing Zionist group, which joined the CWPP in 1921. On the Central Committee from 1929, he was purged in the late 1930s. [Editor’s note]

27. Bronisław Bronkowski (also known as Bortnowski) was on the CPP’s Central Committee, worked in the apparatus of the Communist International, and was purged in the late 1930s. [Editor’s note]

28. Pflug’s group (their members in the CPP were called the Warszczaki) after breaking with the Trotskyists approached the Central Committee of the CPP and asked to rejoin the party. The Warsaw Committee of the CPP in September 1933 called this step ‘a cheating manoeuvre’, and announced ‘a tougher fight against them’.

29. The Centre-Left was a bloc formed in the Sejm in 1929 by the Christian Democrats, the National Workers, the Peasant Movements and the Polish Socialist Party, in order to counter the BBWR (Non-Party Bloc for Cooperation with the Government), which was sponsored by the government. In June 1930 the Centre-Left called a Convention of People’s Rights, which called for the removal of Pilsudski’s government. The Centre-Left’s leaders were subsequently arrested, tried and jailed. [Editor’s note]

30. Deutscher was attacked by the Stalinists in the Club of Jewish Writers and Journalists Union in Warsaw.

31. Ernst Thälmann (1886–1944) stood as the German Communist Party’s Presidential candidate in 1925 and 1932, and as a loyal Stalinist headed the KPD from 1925 until its collapse in 1933. Arrested in March 1933, he was finally executed in Buchenwald concentration camp in 1944. [Editor’s note]

32. The Bund, the General Union of Jewish Workers in Russia, Lithuania and Poland, was formed in Vilna in 1897. It organised Jewish workers along national, but not nationalist, lines, and was strongly anti-Zionist. Its attempt to become an autonomous section of the RSDLP was unsuccessful, although it tended to side with the Mensheviks after 1905. Many Bund members in Russia joined the Bolsheviks after the October Revolution. In Poland, the Bund continued as an independent party, often working alongside the PPS, and by the late 1930s its strong anti-Fascist line had helped it to become the strongest Jewish party in Poland. [Editor’s note]

33. L.D. Trotsky, Pilsudskism, Fascism and the Character of Our Epoch, 4 August 1932, Writings of Leon Trotsky 1932, New York, 1973, p. 158.

34. These appeals have not been found.

35. A working class district of Warsaw on the right bank of the Vistula. [Editor’s note]

36. According to the CPP, the Trotskyist organisation, including the Warszczaki, had 84 members expelled from the CPP, and 70 removed from the Union of Communist Youth of Poland in August 1933. This divergence in the numbers may result from the fact that the CPP did not count as members of the Opposition those who in the past were not members of either of these organisations.

37. L.D. Trotsky, For New Communist Parties and the New International, 27 July 1933; It is Impossible to Remain in the Same International with Stalin, Manuilsky, Lozovsky and Company, 20 July 1933, Writings of Leon Trotsky 1933–34, New York, 1975, pp. 26–7, 17–24; D. Bensaïd, The Formative Years of the Fourth International, Notebooks for Study and Research, no. 9, 1988, p. 9.

38. L.D. Trotsky, Our Present Tasks, 7 November 1933, Writings of Leon Trotsky 1933–34, New York 1975, pp. 136–9.

39. The Camp of Great Poland was formed in 1928 by Roman Dmowski (1864–1939), an extreme Polish nationalist, who had gained notoriety by organising a boycott of Jewish traders in Warsaw in 1911. [Editor’s note]

40. A small but vociferous Fascist movement, the Falanga, emerged from the OWP. Its leader, Bolesław Piasecki, later led Pax, the Stalinists’ postwar Catholic organisation. [Editor’s note]

41. Colonel Bronisław Pieracki (1895–1934), the Minister of the Interior, was assassinated by Ukrainian nationalists as part of their terrorist campaign against the Polish government. The latter responded to this campaign by a series of very harsh military and police measures called ‘pacifications’. [Editor’s note]

42. The circulation figures are from notes by S.G. Łódźki on the copy in the National Library. It may be that Widnokrag, ‘a theoretical monthly’, was the theoretical journal of UCIP. Issue no. 1–2 (also the last), dated January–February 1935, was published in Warsaw. Its editor and publisher was Isaac Deutscher. The whole print run was confiscated, and no further publication was permitted. No copies of either Widnokrag or Bolszewik have been preserved in any Polish collection. Widnokrag is noted in the Government Index of Publications, 1935. The only trace of Bolshevik is a reproduction of the title page of no. 5 in H. Mendel, op. cit., and an additional illustration on the page after page 192.

43. According to Gazeta Polska the Trotskyists in the capital illegally published a small paper Nowa Era, ‘paper of the left Communists’. No issue of this paper has come to light.

44. J. Radziejowski, Roman Rosdolsky, the Man, Activist and Scholar, Science and Society, no. 2, 1978, p. 14. Rosdolsky, a founder of the CPWU, returned to Lwów from Vienna in 1934, and established contact with Warsaw (apparently with Deutscher), and with the ‘szumskista’ Stepan Rudyk in Lwów, the former legal editor of Kultura, the Ukrainian language paper of the CPWU. The information about the foundation by Rudyk of the paper Zittja i Slowo at that time is unclear.

45. L.D. Trotsky, Perspectives in Poland, 18 July 1935, Writings of Leon Trotsky 1935–36, New York 1977, p. 47; cf. L.D. Trotsky, Centrist Combinations and Marxist Tactics: Letter to the Polish Comrade V, Writings of Leon Trotsky 1934–35, New York 1974, pp. 201–5

46. Supposedly together with Deutscher and others, Stefan Purman, a former CPP activist, apparently a Trotskyist, joined the PPS. His brother, Leon, a member of the Political Bureau of the CPP, committed suicide on 5 December 1933 in connection with the arrests of CPP members in Moscow.

47. L.D. Trotsky, An Open Letter to All Revolutionary Proletarian Organisations and Groupings, Documents of the Fourth International: The Formative Years, New York 1973, pp. 66–74.

48. The Left PPS was characteristically silent in this respect, as were for example, N. Barlicki and S. Dubois, and the group Trybuna Robotnicza (J. Szczyrek, J. Markowska and other) in Lwów on the subject of the Moscow Trials or the crimes of GPU in Spain. The Union of the Independent Socialist Youth acted similarly.

49. Cf. Youth’s Fight Against Trotskyism, Czerwony Sztandar, no. 2, 1938, and no. 4, 1938, which contains many names of real and supposed Trotskyists, and of those sympathising with Trotskyism who were members of the PPS.

50. Victor Alter (1892–1942) joined the Bund whilst still a schoolboy. A lawyer, he was a leader of the Bund in Poland, and sat on Warsaw City Council during 1919–39. Arrested by the NKVD in 1939, he and fellow Bund leader Henryk Erlich were falsely accused of espionage, and were executed in 1942. [Editor’s note]

51. L.D. Trotsky, The Lessons of Spain: The Last Warning, 17 December 1937, The Spanish Revolution (1931–39), New York 1973, pp. 306–26.

52. The term ‘revolt’ means strike. (The ‘peasant strike’ mentioned was called by the Peasant Party and lasted for 10 days in August 1938, and was an open challenge to the semi-Fascist regime, calling as it did for democracy. A total of 41 people were killed, according to government figures. The Socialist Party organised one day strikes of support in some towns. Editor’s note)

53. Józef Beck (1894–1944) was Pilsudski’s aide and Minister of Foreign Affairs in 1932–39, during which time he attempted to strike a balance between Germany and the Soviet Union. [Editor’s note]

54. L.D. Trotsky, The Death Agony of Capitalism and the Tasks of the Fourth International, Documents of the Fourth International: The Formative Years, New York 1973, pp. 180–220; I. Deutscher, The Prophet Outcast: Trotsky 1929–1940, London 1963, p. 470.

55. D. Bensaïd, op. cit., p. 44; G. Breitman, The Rocky Road to the Fourth International 1933–38, New York 1977, pp. 19–28; H. Mendel, op. cit., p. 310 (there are inaccuracies here).

56. Deutscher himself left the Polish political scene, and in April 1939 he went to London as a correspondent of the Warsaw daily Nasz Przeglad.

57. There are reports of such people and of others who survived Stalinist repression by those who met them. In any accusation of ‘Trotskyism’, sometimes including imaginary ones, judgements were reached by default (Osoboye Sovieshchaniye), which carried the highest sentence, eight years in the gulag. There were cases of trials threatened with the ‘normal’ courts carrying more severe sentences, and also cases of physical torture during the interrogation. This was the background to the suicide in Lwów prison of Michal Zawadowski, a leader of the Lwów group of Bolshevik-Leninists. Resuscitated after his first suicide attempt, he then poisoned himself by swallowing mouldy bread.

58. See the information from the localities and the donation for the press fund, Czerwony Sztandar, no. 2, December 1940, pp. 5–7; Przeglad Marksistowski, no. 3, August 1941, p. 7; Na fundusz prasowy wplynelo, Przeglad Marksistowski, no. 4, September 1940, p. 12. ‘Comrades from B’, are also mentioned here.

59. The dates of neither of the first issues are known. Przeglad Marksistowski, no. 4, the first one in the file, is dated September 1940, Czerwony Sztandar, no. 2 is dated December 1940. (Thanks to the kindness of Ludwik Hass, the Socialist Platform Archive contains photocopies of every surviving issue of these papers. Editor’s note)

60. Hail Warsaw Ghetto Fighters, Workers Vanguard, no. 452, 6 May 1988, p. 5; H. Mendel, op. cit., p. 227.

61. Fragmenty odezwy, Przeglad Marksistowski, no. 4, September 1940, p. 11; Przeglad Marksistowski, no. 8, August 1941.

62. L.D. Trotsky, The USSR in War, 25 September 1939, In Defence of Marxism, London 1966, p. 20.

63. L.D. Trotsky, Again and Once More Again on the Nature of the USSR, 18 October 1939, In Defence of Marxism, London 1966, pp. 36–7; The Imperialist War and the World Proletarian Revolution, May 1940, Documents of the Fourth International (1933–40), op. cit., pp. 311–50.

64. For the Defense of the Soviet Union, August 1941, Fourth International, Volume 2, no. 8, October 1941, pp. 230–1.

65. Wielki oskarzyciel, Przeglad Marksistowski, no. 8, August 1941.

66. Dwie wojny – dwie taktyki, Przeglad Marksistowski, no. 4, September 1940, p. 7; Pierwszy maja 1941r, Przeglad Marksistowski, April–May 1941, p. 2.

67. Władysław Sikorski (1881–1943) was a prominent soldier who became Premier in 1922. Banned from political activity by Pilsudski after 1926, he became Premier of the Government in Exile in London in 1939. [Editor’s note]

68. The German government is meant here, as Poland had been made a colony of Nazi Germany. [Editor’s note]

69. The Endecja (National Democrats) were a major conservative political force in prewar Poland. [Editor’s note]

70. The OZON (Camp of National Unification) succeeded the BBWR as the main pro-government force. [Editor’s note]

71. Sprawa polska a rewolucja miedzynarodowa, Przeglad Marksistowski, no. 6, February-March 1941, p. 2; Czy PPS wystapi z “rzadu” Sikorskiego?, Czerwony Sztandar, no. 2, December 1940, p. 6

72. Pierwszy maja 1941, Przeglad Marksistowski, no. 7, April–May 1941, p. 2; Nasza wojna, Czerwony Sztandar, no. 6, July 1941, p. 6.

73. The RPPS (Workers Polish Socialist Party) was the strongest of the non-Stalinist left wing forces which were coordinated in the Supreme People’s Committee (NKL). Attacked by the Stalinists as ‘Trotskyist’, the RPPS, along with other leftist forces, was subsumed into the Stalinist United Workers Party of Poland (PUWP) after 1945.

Last updated on 3.11.2011