The War with Poland

For the Soviet Ukraine!

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

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A terrible danger is advancing upon the Soviet Ukraine from the West, from Poland. The Polish gentry have already seized a substantial part of the country. But although the Polish landlords’ government is conquering by force of arms purely Ukrainian regions, it still dares to depict its brigand campaign as ‘the liberation of the Ukraine’.

Since not even a fool will believe that Pilsudski, along with his magnates and capitalists, is going to liberate the Ukraine, these gentlemen are putting forward, for show, the so-called ‘General’ Petlyura, presenting him as the destined liberator and ruler of the Ukraine. The Polish troops, do you see, are merely helping Petlyura: the Polish magnates and capitalists want nothing for themselves. They are merely helping workers and peasants who are oppressed by the Soviet power – this being guaranteed by that same Petlyura, who is riding into the Ukraine in the baggage-train of the Polish Army.

Who is this Petlyura? We know him by his deeds. At the beginning of the revolution he was a member of the Kiev Rada. When the working classes of the Ukraine rose in revolt against the Rada and set up Soviet power, Petlyura appealed to the German and Austrian Kaisers and humbly begged their Imperial majesties to send German troops into the Ukraine to uphold the authority of the Kiev Rada. Wilhelm’s forces came in, took possession of the whole Ukraine, trampled the working people into the ground – and then the German military authorities, with a kick from their jackboot, chucked into a corner the wretched Ukrainian traitor for whom they had no further use. In his place the Germans set up Hetman Skoropadsky. Such was the first chapter in the activity of the great Petlyura.

In November 1918 the German revolution broke out. Wilhelm Hohenzollern fell, and after him his Ukrainian steward, Hetman Skoropadsky. The Anglo-French capitalists hankered after the Ukraine. French troops landed at Odessa.

General Petlyura crept out of his dark corner and appealed to the capitalist governments of Britain and France to send as many troops as possible to the Ukraine, in order to establish the authority of Petlyura’s Directorate. In gratitude for their doing this, Petlyura promised the usurers of London and Paris that he would serve them loyally and faithfully, that is, with the property and the sweat of the Ukrainian peasants. And Petlyura received money and munitions from the Anglo-French imperialists. He began to form an army. But then the second Soviet revolution broke out in the Ukraine, the French troops were driven from the Black Sea coast, and Pan Petlyura [Trotsky calls Petlyura ‘Pan Petlyura’ as though he was a Polish gentleman.] and his Directorate were also swept away along with the landlord and bourgeois rubbish. This was the second chapter in the story of Petlyura.

After he had served the German Kaiser against the Ukraine, and then had tried to sell his soul to the Anglo-French stockexchange, but had again suffered utter ruin, Petlyura vegetated in obscurity in some out-of-the-way place.

But now the third chapter opened. The Polish landlords decided to recover, at whatever cost, their lands and their sugar-works in Volhynia, Podolia and Kiev Province. Their loyal protegé, the Chief of the Polish State and Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Polish forces, Pilsudski, rejected all the Soviet Government’s peace proposals and began an offensive into the Ukraine. But, in order to conceal, if only partly, the robber character of his campaign, in order to dupe the more ignorant inhabitants of the Ukraine, Pan Pilsudski resolved to take Pan Petlyura along with him into the Ukraine. Needless to say, Petlyura readily sold his services to the Polish landlords, just as, previously, he had sold himself to the German Kaiser and the Anglo-French stock-exchange. In this way the Polish gentry were enabled to pillage the Ukraine behind a facade provided by Petlyura.

In gratitude to the Polish magnates for having found him a job, Petlyura handed over to Polish ownership all the lands lying west of the Zbruch and of the Styr or the Goryn, that is, all Eastern Galicia, Western Voihynia, Polesia and the Kholm district. These regions have a population of 7,250,000, of whom 5,250,000 are Ukrainians.

There are still in Right-Bank Ukraine, and to a certain extent even in Left-Bank Ukraine as well, some simple-minded folk (especially among the ignorant kulaks) who think that power in the Ukraine will really be handed over to Petlyura and to the kulaks, who will take possession of the land and all the country’s wealth. But they miscalculate. The Polish gentry are not fighting for the sake of Petlyura and the Petlyurist kulaks of the Ukraine. The Polish gentry will take possession of the land and wealth for themselves. Pilsudski may even grant Ukrainian lands to landless Polish peasants, so as not to offend the landlords in Poland itself.

When that happens, even the obtuse kulaks of Right-Bank Ukraine will realise that Petlyura is nothing but a traitor who, as though at a fair, trades in the Ukraine, offering it in turn to the Germans, the French and the Poles. Then, many of the petty guerrilla bands who have been confused by Petlyura will turn their weapons against the Polish gentry and against Petlyura. Then, the most prejudiced and ignorant people in the West of the Ukraine will realise that their own independence and that of the Ukraine can be preserved only under Soviet power.

But no, the Polish gentry shall not take possession of the Ukraine, not even temporarily! After Kiev fell into the hands of the bandit ‘Excellencies’ a cry of indignation rang through all Russia, and a call: To the South, to the aid of the Ukrainian workers and working peasants!

From all the fronts where Soviet Russia had proved victorious – from the East, the South and the North – the best units, the best commanders and commissars are moving to the West, to fight the Polish White-Guard troops. Every honourable person is in revolt in the Ukraine itself. The great battle against the last enemy will end in complete rout for the hordes of Pilsudski and Petlyura.

We shall be victorious. Forward – for the Soviet Ukraine!

May 11, 1920
[Nezhin is about 120km. north east of Kiev, on the line linking it with Konotop and Kursk.]
En Route, No.114

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Last updated on: 27.12.2006