The War with Poland

What Do They Want?

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

* * *

What do the Polish gentry want? Why, to what end, are they attacking the Ukraine and Russia, which had offered them peace? That the Polish gentry are thoughtless, arrogant and stupidly boastful is known to everyone. But, surely, they must be pursuing an aim of some sort, since they have drawn the Polish people into a bloody and dangerous conflict with our Federative Republic?

Their first and chief aim is land. Polish landlords possessed a large amount of land in the Ukraine, in Byelorussia and in Lithuania. Poles were few in number in all these regions, but as rich property-owners they played an important role there. In the province of Vothynia Poles made up less than 10 per cent, in Podolia province they were a little over 2 per cent, and in Kiev province one-and-a-half per cent. Nevertheless, the Polish gentry are striving to get these provinces into their clutches, at whatever cost, in order thereby to recover their rich estates, factories and houses.

The Polish peasant is discontented. The independent republic of Poland has given him nothing. The landed estates remain, as before, in the hands of the gentry. Hence, the revolutionary ferment among the peasant masses is getting stronger all the time. Pilsudski’s Government, the landlords’ loyal steward, seeks a way out of this situation by directing the attention of the Polish peasants towards the Ukraine, Byelorussia and Lithuania: ‘That’s where you will get land for yourselves.’

The Polish soldiers, the so-called Legionaries – which means, for the most part, those same Polish peasants – would have liked to end the war as soon as possible, had not the officers from the gentry encouraged the Legionaries with hopes of gaining land and other benefits. ‘Every Legionary will receive a good share of the Ukraine’s black earth’ – this is the song that Pilsudski’s agents croon in the ear of the duped Polish soldier.

Finally, there is one more, not unimportant cause that has impelled the Polish Government to take the path of war, namely, its endeavour to intimidate, scare and subdue the Polish proletariat. The workers of Poland are siding ever more strongly with the Soviet power. They are calling on the Polish peasants to fight resolutely against their own landlords and capitalists, to establish in Poland a workers’ and peasants’ power on the model of what we have in Russia and the Ukraine. Our victories over Kolchak, Yudenich and Denikin have inspired the Polish working class, filling its heart with revolutionary joy. Hence the vicious, boiling hatred felt by all the Polish exploiters and oppressors for workers’ and peasants’ Russia, their striving to do her harm, to damage her, to hit at her, to break, humiliate, overthrow and crush her. This urge beats like a hammer in the brains of Poland’s gentry and rulers. Frenzied hatred for the workers has deprived them of reason and incited them to the dreadful crime of a war of conquest.

Thus, from whatever angle one looks at the war, its cause is the greed, cupidity and lust for power of Poland’s rich men, the landlords, the capitalists, the exploiters of the working people. It is they who have caused the war, and against them that our counter-blow must be struck.

The Ukrainian, Byelorussian, Lithuanian and Russian workers and peasants must join with the Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army, strengthen its ranks with volunteers, support it with food and everything else that they can provide, so as to rout the mob of robber gentry who are trying to plunder and enslave our working masses.

May 9, 1920
En Route, No.112

1 1

Last updated on: 26.12.2006