The War with Poland

Is a Second Lesson Needed?

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

* * *

During several months before Pilsudski’s offensive towards Kiev we insistently sought peace. We addressed ourselves to the Polish Government. We addressed ourselves to the Polish people. We addressed ourselves to the governments of Britain and France, which domineer over Poland. We did not obtain peace, because the bourgeois-gentry government, obedient to the will of the French stock-exchange, dreamt of overthrowing the Soviet power. The Polish Government hid its bandit intentions behind a diplomatic mockery: refusing an armistice, it demanded, using a tone as though we had been defeated, that our plenipotentiaries present themselves at Borisov to hear the orders of ‘their Excellencies’.

By their senseless drive into the Ukraine the Polish gentry compelled us to wage a major war against them. The Red forces won a number of brilliant victories in this war. We advanced a distance of hundreds of versts, cleared the Polish gentry out of the Ukraine, and liberated Byelorussia and Lithuania from their yoke. Pilsudski was given the lesson he deserved. Pressed hard on all sides by the Red forces, he appealed to us with a proposal for peace. The Soviet Government had declared earlier that, despite the victorious irruption of the Red forces into Polish territory, we do not covet a single inch of this territory, and are ready, taking account of the actual area of settlement by the Polish people, to recognise a frontier for Poland which is more generous than that laid down by Lloyd George and Clemenceau. It seemed that nothing stood in the way of an immediate conclusion of peace. But at this point fortune smiled, so to speak, on the forces of the Polish gentry. Weakened by their glorious 600-verst advance, exhausted by hardships, separated from their bases, the Red divisions came up against fresh Polish troops who struck at them from Warsaw – and they fell back. [1]

As soon as the Workers’ and Peasants’ Army began to withdraw to the Bug, in order to concentrate its forces, the wine of chauvinism went to the heads of the Polish gentry. They took their lucky success to be the start of complete victory. And Pilsudski is again unwilling to make peace. The governments of Britain and even France realise that the successes of the Polish army are not well-founded. Lloyd George is ‘advising’ the Polish gentry not to incur fresh risks, but to make peace as quickly as possible. The American President Wilson, a vicious enemy of Workers’ and Peasants’ Russia, is giving the Polish bourgeoisie the same advice. But no, Pilsudski won’t agree! The Poland of the gentry has recovered Lomza – so why should they not go on to conquer Moscow?

Peace negotiations are being conducted by the Polish delegation as though their only concern is to drag out the time. The representatives of bourgeois-gentry Poland criticise and protest, but refrain from stating their own conditions. And this is not a matter for surprise! They do not dare to put forward such senseless brigand conditions as the frontiers of 1772, because the whole world would laugh at them, and the Polish working people would rise up against them. On the other hand, they cannot make up their minds to put forward reasonable peace terms, based on the independence and peaceful coexistence of Poland and Russia, because they know that we should accept such terms. And the Polish Government does not want peace. Pilsudski has openly said so in the Polish press. He has proclaimed that the Polish Government’s aim is ‘the final routing of the armed forces’ of Soviet Russia. What is this: chauvinist madness? frenzied class hatred towards working people’s Russia? Both the one and the other. Pilsudski’s government momentarily sobered up, so to speak, after our stormy victories in July and August. But it was enough for the Red forces to halt their advance and begin retreating for the government of Poland at once to forget the lesson they had received. We are trying to bring the war to an end. As before, we want peace. If they will not give it to us, we shall know how to impose it. If one lesson was insufficient for Pilsudski, we shall let him have another.

September 8, 1920.
En Route, No.12


1. The complete defeat of the Polish armies and our units’ advance to the Vistula compelled the Polish High Command, with the support of the French General Staff, to apply themselves feverishly to the restoration of their armed forces. Second-line divisions quickly began to appear at the front, intensive and successful formation of volunteer units was undertaken, and strong fortifications were raised before Warsaw.

On our side, contrariwise, the units of the Western front were exhausted and weakened. In addition, there was a lack of complete co-operation from the forces on the South-Western front, whose main effort was focused on Lvov, in a direction at right angles to the thrust of the Western front. The weakness of the left wing of the Western front and its position in rear echelon, together with the impossibility of quickly bringing back the First Mounted Army from the Lvov direction, created a situation favourable to the Poles for striking a counter-blow northward and north-eastward from the Lublin area.

On August 16 the enemy dislodged the weak units of our Mozyr group and the left-flank units of the 16th Army, and on August 17 took Siedlce. This considerably helped the enemy’s manoeuvres in the rear of our units fighting before Warsaw. Under the impact of these events, our drive towards Warsaw was stopped, and a general retreat began (see the chronology and Map No.4)

1 1

Last updated on: 26.12.2006