The War with Poland

The Polish Front and Our Tasks

Transcribed and HTML markup for the Trotsky Internet Archive by David Walters

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1. The imperialists of the Entente, while carrying on negotiations about trade relations with Soviet Russia, were at the same time holding on a leash White-Guard Poland, Finland and Latvia. Uncertainty and contradiction reign in the camp of the imperialists themselves, where all questions are concerned, and especially the question of which policy to choose in order the more surely to smother workers’ and peasants’ Russia.

2. A section of the imperialists of the Entente countries, especially those who produce articles of mass consumption, hoped to break up the socialist economy being built by us by way of exchanging commodities with the kulaks through the agency of the White-Guard co-operatives. Heavy industry, and above all the arms industry, preferred a military defeat for Soviet Russia and direct plundering of her natural riches. Certain governments of the Entente, and even certain members of these governments, wavered and still waver from one side to the other, depending on which particular capitalist circles they are themselves connected with, and on how they evaluate the staunchness of their armies and Soviet Russia’s power to resist.

3. White-Guard Poland, like the other small border states, has no independent policy of its own, and is guided by greed mitigated only by cowardice. When the Entente, influenced by an acute need for raw materials, turned more definitely towards trade negotiations with us, the bourgeoisie of the Western Border states abandoned the idea of further conquests and plundering at Russia’s expense. A series of peace talks began: first with Estonia, with whom we signed peace, and then with Latvia, Poland, Finland, Romania and Lithuania. [1]

4. But then a different wind started to blow in the ranks of the Entente. The wave of labour enthusiasm in Soviet Russia on the one hand, and, on the other, our firm policy towards the cooperatives [On March 20, 1920, the Soviet Government virtually nationalised the consumers’ co-operative societies.], evidently made the bosses of the Entente realise that, although trade with us is quite possible and economically advantageous to both sides, nevertheless the stock-exchange will not succeed in undermining through trade the foundations of the socialist economy that we are laying. At the same time, the stormy growth of the proletarian revolution in Germany, and its obvious approach in all other countries, including Britain, are impelling the imperialist governments of all countries to take the path of ferocious struggle against the worker masses, both at home and abroad, and therefore, to launch new military adventures against Soviet Russia.

5. Feeling that the leash on which their masters held them was slackening, and egged on by the more extreme imperialist countries of the Entente, the Polish bourgeoisie launched an offensive in the Ukraine, openly proclaiming their intention to occupy that country, so as then to establish there (through the agency of figure-head caretakers such as Petlyura) their own rule – military, national, economic and political.

6. At the same time, Finland and Latvia suddenly put forward absurd territorial demands. The Latvian delegation did not conceal the fact that its territorial demands were formulated on direct orders from Warsaw, so as to facilitate the Polish offensive towards Vitebsk and Smolensk. [The territorial dispute with Latvia concerned, in particular, the important railway junction of Dvinsk (in Lettish, Daugavpils). This was eventually recognised as forming part of Latvia.]

7. Thus, the question of our future relations with the Western border states, like the question of the blockade and of possible trade relations with the Entente countries, is once more to be decided by the sword of war.

8. Having launched an attack on us after all our concessions and after we had stated our willingness to make further concessions for the sake of peace, the Polish bourgeoisie thereby put its own fate at risk. It proclaimed that it cannot and does not want to exist alongside Soviet Russia. By so doing it has driven itself into a trap. For there can be no room for doubt as to the outcome of the impending conflict. The gentry and bourgeoisie of Poland will be routed. The Polish proletariat will transform their country into a socialist republic.

9. But just because the fight will be a fight to the death, it will be an extremely intense and severe one. The Polish Government, in which stock-exchange scoundrels operate hand-in-hand with scoundrels from the camp of social patriotism, will mobilise against us not only the fierce hatred of the big, middle and petty-kulak bourgeoisie and the haughty arrogance of the gentry, but also the national prejudices of the backward working masses, whom the monopoly yellow press systematically poisons with the venom of chauvinism.

We have therefore proclaimed from the very outset, and in the future we shall confirm in action, that defeat of the Polish White Guards, who have attacked us will not change in the slightest our attitude concerning the independence of Poland.

10. It follows from all this that we must see the war with Poland not as a partial task for the Western front, but as the central task for all workers’ and peasants’ Russia.

11. All Party, Soviet and trade-union organisations must immediately undertake a most extensive and intensive agitation, throughout the country – not confined to the towns, but reaching into the deepest depths of the countryside – to explain to the whole population of Russia the meaning of our policy with regard to Poland, the history of our attempts to achieve peace, the aims of the Polish attack on us, and the historical significance of our war with White-Guard Poland. The workers and peasants, men and women alike, must realise and feel that the war with Poland is their war, is a war for an independent socialist Russia, for her alliance with a socialist Poland and with the proletariat of Europe and the entire world.

12. Concentration of the country’s attention and efforts on the Western front must not lead in the least to a halt in the economic measures on which Soviet Russia has been concentrating its attention in recent months: the restoration of transport, the procurement of food, fuel and raw materials. The intense character of the struggle against bourgeois Poland will require a rear that is staunch economically – this applies above all to the transport apparatus – and capable of sustaining the front as this advances westward.

The economic organs, central and local, must very strictly review their programmes so as to concentrate on what is really and absolutely necessary, so as thereby to secure the proper balance between direct support for the front and the ensuring of future success in the sphere of transport and in the basic branches of industry.

13. The transference of some of our army units and of whole armies on to a labour basis was evidently interpreted by the Polish chauvinists as a sign of fatigue and military weakness on our part. We must show in action how wrong our enemy’s calculations were. The army authorities, central and local, together with the corresponding economic institutions, must review the list of army units engaged on the labour front, immediately release most of them from labour tasks, and get them into combat-readiness so that they can be sent as soon as possible to the Western front. On the labour front, army units must, except in cases determined by special circumstances, be replaced by persons mobilised for labour service.

14. The local Party organisations must at once discuss fully what they can contribute to aid for the Western front. First and foremost, the Central Committee’s order regarding the mobilisation of workers for the Western front must be completely carried out.

From this standpoint there must be a fresh re-examination of the personnel of all Party, soviet and, in particular, economic institutions, the process of going over from collegiality to one-man direction must be accelerated, and the workers released in this way must be placed at the disposal of the Political Directorate of the Revolutionary War Council of the Republic.

15. The non-Party workers and peasants must everywhere be summoned to mass meetings and conferences to discuss the question of the war with Poland and to set up committees for aid to the Western front.

16. All the People’s Commissariats and their departments must at once convene conferences to work out plans for agitational, organisational, economic and other forms of aid to the Western front.

The People’s Commissars will, every Saturday, submit to the Defence Council (with copies to the Revolutionary War Council of the Republic) brief factual reports on the aid they have provided during the previous week to the commissariats of the Western front.

April 30, 1920


1. Peace negotiations with Estonia began even while General Yudenich’s North-Western Army was still in being. The negotiations went ahead more speedily after the rout of that army, and on February 2, 1920, a treaty of peace was signed with Estonia. On April l6, 1920, a Russo-Latvian peace conference opened in Moscow. Owing to the exaggerated economic demands made by the Letts, the negotiations dragged on very slowly, and the peace treaty was not signed until August 11. Peace negotiations were proceeding at the same time with Finland and Lithuania.

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Last updated on: 26.12.2006