The War with Poland

Order No.231

By the Chairman of the Revolutionary War Council of the Republic to the Forces of the Western and South-Western Fronts, July 17, 1920, No.231, Moscow

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

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The Polish bourgeois press, which bears a very big share of responsibility for the dishonourable attack by the Poland of the gentry upon the Ukraine and Russia, is now frenziedly accusing our victorious Red forces of treating with cruelty the Polish soldiers they have taken prisoner, even including the sick and wounded.

There can be no doubt that the overwhelming majority of the accusations levelled by the Polish press, the Polish telegraph agency, the Polish Red Cross Society and so on are so much disgusting chauvinist slander. But it may be that there have indeed been isolated cases when more backward Red Army men, that is, those who are less filled with the liberating idea of communism, have torn the hearts out of captured Polish soldiers. The unbridled, absolutely unprecedented violations and atrocities committed by the Polish White Guards in the occupied areas against Communists, against Ukrainian, Byelorussian, Great-Russian, Lithuanian and Jewish workers and peasants, the senselessly monstrous acts of destruction carried out by them in Kiev, Borisov, Bobruisk and other places – all these facts may in isolated cases have darkened the consciousness of Red Army men and impelled them to take thoughtless vengeance on individual Legionaries whom they have captured – men who are slaves of the Polish bourgeoisie and gentry.

It is all the more important now., when the army of bourgeois-gentry Poland is breaking up under our blows, and the number of prisoners constantly increasing, that the most resolute and thorough measures be taken to ensure that Order No.217 (on humane and comradely treatment of captured Polish soldiers) be enforced with absolute strictness and without any exceptions.

I hereby order:

  1. That it be explained, tirelessly and repeatedly, by means of both the spoken and the written word, to the Red forces and, in particular, to the new formations, that the Polish soldiers are themselves helpless victims of the Polish and AngloFrench bourgeoisies and that it is therefore our duty to receive Polish soldier prisoners as our deluded or deceived brothers, so as later to send them back to their liberated Polish homeland as brothers who have been enlightened.
  2. That all rumours and reports of atrocities committed against >Polish prisoners or against the local population, whatever the source of these reports, be very thoroughly investigated.
  3. That commanders and commissars be firmly reminded of their responsibility for seeing that this present order is strictly obeyed.

The Workers and Peasant’s country loves its Red Army. It is proud of its army. It demands that the army’s banner remain spotless.

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Last updated on: 26.12.2006