The War with Poland

To All Workers, Peasants and Honourable Citizens of Russia

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

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The troops of the Polish landowners and capitalists have seized Zhitomir and are threatening Kiev. With the co-operation of their hireling Petlyura and the aid of French gold, the Polish White Guards have led into treason the Galician units [1] which a few months ago came over to the side of the Soviet power. [2] The Polish ruling classes are replying to the frank and honest proposals of Soviet Russia with a dishonest attempt to seize Right Bank Ukraine. [3] Furthermore, the Polish Government has declared openly its intention to seize the whole of the Ukraine so as to hand it over to Petlyura’s Directorate. Pilsudski’s government is following in the footsteps of Hohenzollern, who sent troops into the Ukraine on the pretext of helping the Kiev Rada. To bloodthirsty violence is added a disgusting masquerade. At the same time, the Polish bourgeois press is calling for seizure of all the lands which belonged to Poland 150 years ago, right up to Vitebsk and Smolensk.

The Polish Government, which derives its pedigree from the magnates and adventurers who more than once in history have crucified and betrayed the Polish people, kept silent until recently about its peace programme, concealing its real intentions: now it has begun to speak with deeds. It is showing us how it conceives peace with the Russian people. Listen, workers and peasants! The Polish peace, the peace that the Polish landlords and capitalists want to bring you on their bayonets, means complete enslavement not only of the Lithuanian and Byelorussian but also of the Ukrainian workers and peasants, and of millions of purely Russian people. The new-fledged Polish gendarmes are getting ready to master them.

Russian workers, peasants, Red Army men! Shall we surrender to the Polish gentry, to be plundered, trampled on and desecrated, that Russian land which we have freed from our own gentry and defended with our blood against the Yudeniches, the Denikins and the Kolchaks? No, this shall not be. We are for the independence of Poland, but we are also for the independence of working people’s Russia and of the Soviet Ukraine.

After throwing off the yoke of the Tsar and the bourgeoisie, the Russian workers and peasants freely recognised, of their own free will, the right of the Polish people to self-determination and renounce all claims whatsoever on Polish territory. This solemn declaration remains valid even now. At Brest-Litovsk, faced with ruthless German militarism, the representatives of the Soviet power openly spoke up in defence of the Polish people.

The Soviet power has in no way displayed hostile inclinations towards Poland. Even when the Polish landlords and capitalists destroyed by armed force our fraternal Soviet republics of Byelorussia and Lithuania, and seized their territory, we, despite our ardent sympathy with the peasants and workers of Byelorussia and Lithuania, were ready to conclude peace with Poland, for we were convinced that its heroic working class, who joined with us in struggle against Tsardom over many years, would know how to curb their exploiters and so help to liberate Lithuania and Byelorussia.

We were ready to reach agreement with the Polish rulers, so long as the Polish working people still put up with them, in order to avoid further shedding of the blood of the Russian and Polish workers and peasants. But the chauvinists of Warsaw shrank from open peace negotiations. They were afraid that when they openly put forward their bandit programme, and when this was just as openly rejected by Soviet Russia, the Polish soldiers, whom they had drugged with lies about defending the fatherland, would indignantly refuse to shed their blood for the power-lust and profit-seeking of the Polish gentry. In order to evade the stern judgment of open peace negotiations, the Polish Government refused a general armistice and, in an ultimatum, proposed that talks take place in the town of Borisov, which had been captured by the Poles. In this they pursued a twofold aim: to keep our delegates in an atmosphere of Polish militarism and ‘frighten’ them with an offensive into the Ukraine, and, at the same time, by a partial armistice on the Borisov sector to tie our hands in selecting the direction for our counter-blow. Deciding that our sincere endeavour to go over from war to peaceful construction is evidence that we are weary and weak, the Warsaw chauvinists conceived the notion of imposing their will on us, reinforcing this by spreading treason and carrying out acts of violence and pogroms.

Workers, peasants and Red Army men! You have now to show the Polish White Guards that they were cruelly mistaken in their calculations. We recognised, and we continue to recognise, the independence of Poland. But we did not recognise the right of Polish capitalists to exploit Russian workers, we did not recognise the right of Polish landlords to take away the land of Russian peasants, to turn them into their beasts of burden, we did not recognise the right of the Polish militarists to crush, oppress and torment the Russian and Ukrainian peoples. We wanted, and we still want, peace – and Soviet diplomacy is ready, as before, to respond to the first gleam of common sense among the Polish White Guards, so as to establish peace on foundations answering to the interests of the Polish and Russian peoples. But we are not going to lower the socialist banner before the insolence of the Warsaw bullies. Soviet Russia, which conquered Denikin, Koichak and Yudenich, will show itself able to prove, with fire and steel, to the Polish gentry and to all those who stand behind them, that the time when the Russian working people were defenceless has passed.

Until now, the Red forces on the Western front have been forbidden to advance. [4] The Soviet Government was trying to demonstrate thereby, to the deceived Polish people, that it was sincerely striving for peace. The Warsaw rulers have taken advantage of the immobility of our forces to attack the Ukraine, and have penetrated deep into its territory. The Ukraine is in danger, and, with it, Soviet Russia!

Workers and peasants! The war is not over. The Polish incendiaries are trying with all their might to fan its terrible flames. The criminal aggressors must be given a merciless rebuff.

Advanced proletarians! The war is not over. Mobilise afresh the best fighters for the idea of socialism. Communists, you are the soul of the workers’ and peasants’ army. Your task is not finished. To the Western front!

Red Army men, Red sailors, Red Cossacks! You were hoping to go back to peaceful life – to tilling the soil and working at the bench. The Polish gentry are not letting you do that, they want to make slaves of you. You must once more take up your tried weapons, to defend yourselves. You must strike such a blow at the Polish landlords and capitalists that the echo of it will resound in the streets of Warsaw and throughout the world.

Peasants! The fighters on the Western front, who are defending you from enslavement, need food. Meet your obligations fully – thereby you will safeguard yourselves from a slavery more burdensome than the old serfdom.

Working men and women in war industry! To the bench!

French imperialism is generously supporting Poland with war supplies. You on your part, must increase production of everything needed by the Red fighters. Do not let them suffer from shortages, either of cartridges, or of underwear, or of boots.

Honourable citizens! You will not let the will of the Russian people be ruled by the bayonet of the Polish gentry, who have declared many times, with characteristic shamelessness, that it is indifferent to them who is master in Russia, provided that Russia is helpless and weak.

The Polish aggressors will be smashed. And not only because we are stronger numerically, but, above all, because we are bound together in spiritual defence of the new society of justice and fraternity that we are creating.

The war waged against us by the Polish bourgeoisie is a war of robbery and conquest, a bloody adventure. Our war against White-Guard Poland is a war of revolutionary self-defence, sacred defence of the independence of the working people, defence of a happy future for our children and grandchildren.

After we have routed Pilsudski’s bands, the independence of Poland will still remain inviolable for us. With the Polish proletariat and the Polish peasantry, who will become absolute masters in their country, we shall without difficulty form a fraternal alliance. Only the gentry and bourgeoisie who are our common enemies keep us apart. Into battle against the enemy!

Troops of the Western front! Behind you stand not only the Russian working class, not only Russia’s working peasantry, not only all our Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army, and everything that is honourable in the Russian people, but also the working people of the whole world. The Polish workers whom you will help free themselves from the bourgeois yoke will be for you.

Forward, Red warriors!

Down with the Polish invaders, aggressors and oppressors! Let us say to the proletarians and peasants of Poland:


1. On April 23 the Galician units on the South-Western front, influenced by counter-revolutionary agitation, betrayed the Soviet power and began open mutiny. Abandoning the line of the front, these units (the 2nd and 3rd Galician Brigades) moved to the rear, towards Litint and Vinnitsa. This mutiny contributed greatly to disrupting the disposition of the 14th and 12th Armies. The 1st Galician Brigade remained loyal to the Red Army and showed great courage on the subsequent fighting. These moves coincided with the vigorous offensive by the Poles on the South-Western front.

2. After the revolution in Austria, the Ukrainians of Eastern Galicia set up a government in Lvov, and Petlyura proclaimed the union of Eastern Galicia with the Ukraine. However, Polish forces invaded Eastern Galicia, claiming the region for Poland. In September 1919 Petlyura, frightened by Denikin’s advance, concluded an armistice with the Poles, but some of the Galician units of his army, indignant at this move, went over to the Red Army.

3. ‘Right-Bank Ukraine’ refers to the part of the ‘Russian’ Ukraine lying on the right (west) bank of the river Dnieper. The term ‘West Ukraine’ is usually confined to the ‘Austrian’ Ukraine, i.e., Eastern Galicia.

4. Already at the beginning of the 20th century the high level of industrial development of Poland made possible the development in that country of powerful proletarian organisations. Continual strikes by the Polish workers, underground activity by the Polish Social-Democrats, the development of strong organisations of the Bund (unions of Jewish handicraftsmen), all created in Poland strong traditions of revolutionary struggle. It must be noted, however, that Polish industry suffered severely during the world war, and the country’s proletariat was dispersed, partly in Russia and partly in Germany.

5. ‘For our freedom and yours’ was the watchword of the Polish patriots in exile after the 1830 revolt in Russian Poland, when they took part in fights for freedom in other countries, notably in Hungary in 1848-1849.

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Last updated on: 26.12.2006