Max Shachtman


In This Corner

An Appeal from Our Polish Comrades

(10 February 1940)

For a .doc formatted version of Part II click here.

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. IV No. 6, 10 February 1940, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Through one of those devious routes which revolutionists in Europe are now forced to take to communicate with their comrades and friends abroad, a letter has just come which is at once an urgent appeal and a stirring summons to action. It is written by a Polish Bolshevik-Leninist with whom I am personally acquainted and for whose standing in the revolutionary movement I am able to vouch; here is a translation of it:

“Today I received my first information of the whereabouts of our friends, who escaped the Polish disaster. At present they are at Wilno, the temporary capital of Lithuania.

“Primarily I am writing on their behalf through you to Max. I am asking you to put forward this case vigorously. It cannot be delayed any longer. It is imperative to save them.

“Imagine journeying on foot from Warsaw through Lublin, Chelm, Kowel, Lwow to Wilno. All the way facing the impending danger of German bullets and bombs. But more gruesome than this, having Stalin’s barbaric hordes on their trail all the time. These bands make the Czar’s Cossacks look like playboys in comparison. It is still a mystery to me how, through all these horrible events, they got to Wilno.

“They have been there already two months, and only now was I able to establish contact with them. The winter is bitter and earning a living is out of the question. We must help them to freedom.

“My friend, if you only knew these people. They are all young and very militant, but have suffered more than the old. They suffered immensely before and during the war. In spite of this, they are still able to prove their devotion to the cause. But their situation is such that their activities may be brought to a standstill forever. I am unable, for reasons obvious to all, to give the accurate characteristics of each. Believe me, they are the people with whom our future is bound up. They must be rescued at all costs.

“I am not speaking of their struggle. Glance at the map of Europe and you will discover little Lithuania, hugging a spot on the Baltic. It appears as a little dot on the brink of the angry seas of Hitlerism and Stalinism. How long will she last? Only the miracles of the time threw part of Poland to Lithuania. What has European history heard of her lately? Practically nothing. My friends have found temporary shelter there. But for how long?

A Word from the Survivors

“I write you a few quotations from their letters. ‘We must flee before German bombers and tanks, and leave behind the mad fanatics who are hot on our pursuit. We did not always have the good fortune to dodge these frenzied maniacs, who at every opportunity would let their bloodthirsty passions run away with them and strike terror into the hearts of their innocent victims. Many of those dear to us fell as victims to one or the other. We, the handful of survivors, trod our way to Wilno. The first days, with an unknown feeling of joy and wonder, we proved to ourselves that we were alive and safe. But a few days later we were forced to come to an alarming decision that our freedom was only problematical. What will happen if one of these days the enraged hordes of Stalinists invade Lithuania?’ If so, our friends will undoubtedly perish.

“Dear friend, I know that we, the Polish immigrants abroad, cannot be of much aid. Leaving aside the fact that we are poor, it is impossible to send money out of this country. Even if the money should be raised, it is improbable that this country would accept them. Yet these people must be saved. I am appealing to you to provide immediate aid for them.

“In a few days I will send you their addresses. Send them at least money to keep warm and alive, and eventually get them out of Lithuania. We understand that you have no money. Let Max lay it out. By everything that is ours, sacredly and mutually, I adjure you not to let these men die. I will shoulder the responsibility for that money as a private citizen in the name of our friends. If you have the slightest faith in our future, you ought to trust this unofficial note which I am signing below. Send them at least $200 ...

“I have hope that you will do all in your power find more. Clasping your palms firmly and waiting for your prompt reply and the reply of Max and his associates, I remain,



* * *

It is true that we have no money, but we are not so poor that such an appeal will go unheeded. Our only fear is that the material aid that we must and will collect for our Polish comrades may come too late. Fortunately, there is not yet any reason why we should believe this to be the case, and that is why not a minute is to be lost.

The American Labor Aid, to which a similar appeal was addressed, has already acted in exemplary fashion. It has forwarded, we are informed, half of the extremely modest sum requested by the Polish revolutionists. In turn, our party has warmly subscribed to the campaign launched by the American Labor Aid.

Through this column, I earnestly beg all our readers and friends to send generous contributions by air mail to the A.L.A. Its address is 125 West 33rd Street, New York, N.Y. Contributions – not loans, for the “note” which my good comrade sent along with his moving letter is entirely superfluous.

Our Polish comrades, fearless partisans of the Fourth International, have long ago redeemed a thousand such “notes” by their spotless record of revolutionary proletarian activity. I know something of their work; I feel some of the pride we share at being comrades-in-arms in a movement which has these fighters in its ranks.

For the sake of the great cause of labor, for the sake of that spirit of international revolutionary solidarity which stands above all else, for the sake of the new Poland that will surely arise over the dirty ashes of Hitlerism and Stalinism – the Poland of the workers’ and peasants’ Soviets – help our stranded, imperilled comrades!

Max Shachtman

Marxist Writers’

Last updated on 18 July 2018