The War with Poland

Order No.217

By the Chairman of the Revolutionary War Council of the Republic to the troops of the Western and South-Western fronts, May 10, 1920, No. 217, Gomel

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

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To be read to all companies, squadrons, batteries and task-forces
Spare the enemy prisoners and wounded!

From all sectors of the Western and South-Western fronts come reports of unheard-of atrocities committed by Polish White-Guard forces upon captured and wounded Red Army men. They are tortured, beaten, shot and hanged. Needless to say, the gentry-hangmen slaughter all Communists who fall into their hands. But that same fate befalls non-Party Red Army men as well. Moreover, Red Army men who are wounded or sick do not survive capture by the dishonourable aggressors.

These facts arouse justified fury and desire for vengeance in the heart of every warrior. Such vengeance is just. But it must be aimed at those who are really responsible for the dishonourable attack and the brutal atrocities – at Pilsudski’s Government, at the Polish gentry and the Polish bourgeoisie. It would, however, be wrong and unworthy of revolutionary fighters to take vengeance on Polish prisoners. No, the Red Army will show magnanimity towards a captured and wounded enemy.

To a captured Polish Legionary, be he peasant or worker, we shall explain the criminality of his ruling classes. We shall enlighten his mind and make of him our best friend and cothinker, just as we did with our German, Austrian, Hungarian, Kolchakite, Denikinite and other prisoners-of-war.

The Polish gentry know that an honourable Red Army man is their mortal and irreconcilable foe. That is why they slaughter our soldiers, even when taken prisoner.

We know that the Polish peasant or worker can regard himself as our foe only as a result of ignorance and of hi Government’s power of deception. When these enemies fron lack of consciousness become our prisoners, we shall transforn them into conscious friends.

Our vengeance for our brothers who have been shot, hanged and tortured in captivity must find expression in a courageous and selfless onslaught on the Polish White Guards.

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Last updated on: 26.12.2006