The War with Poland

The Polish Gentry Do Not Want Peace

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

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While sending a peace delegation to Riga, Pilsudski at the same time declared to Polish journalists that it is not possible to make peace with Soviet Russia, that it is necessary to destroy Soviet Russia’s fighting force, that is, the Red Army. By making this statement the head of the republic of the Polish gentry showed that the Polish Government talks about peace only in order to appease its workers and soldiers, but is, in fact, striving to continue the war.

True, it may be said that one ought not to give much credence to what Pilsudski says: he is a light-weight figure, somewhat like our Kerensky. Neither of them can make both ends meet, either in deeds or in words. Kerensky launched the senseless adventuris tic offensive of June 18 against the Germans, swore great oaths, boasted and ... miscarried. [On the offensive of June 18, 1917, see note 5 to Volume I] Pilsudski, boasting loudly, launched an offensive into the Ukraine, and achieved no better result. Ending the war without victory means for him losing the last vestiges of credit even among the petty-bourgeois chauvinists. As for the revolutionary Polish workers, on the one hand, and the serious, businesslike capitalists, on the other, they have long ceased to believe Pilsudski, just as, here, people ceased to believe Kerensky. This is why Pilsudski has blundered into a dead-end – promising peace, so as to appease the workers and the worn-out soldiers, and at the same time comforting the petty-bourgeois chauvinists with extremely stupid hopes for a defeat of workers’ and peasants’ Russia.

Consequently, one may not accord much value to what Pilsudski says. However, the matter is not confined to Pilsudski alone. Where the question of peace with Soviet Russia is concerned, Pilsudski apparently expresses the views of all the rulers of Poland, who do not want peace. This is most vividly demonstrated by the latest telegram sent by the Polish Foreign Minister, Prince Sapieha, to our People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs, Comrade Chicherin. The Polish prince proposes to the Soviet Government no more and no less than that it begin negotiations at Riga not only with the Polish delegation but also with ‘the delegation of the Government of the Ukrainian Democratic Republic’.

What is this republic? Where is it to be found? We do not know. There does exist the Soviet Ukrainian Republic, which forms part of the Russian Soviet Federation. True, the government of the Kiev Rada called itself the government of the Ukrainian ‘democratic republic’. But that government ceased to exist long ago. The former head of the Kiev Rada, Vinnichenko [1], has frankly and honestly repudiated his former errors and come over to the side of the Soviet Ukraine. Another member of that government, Hetman Petlyura, has sold himself to everybody who wanted to buy him, and ended by entering the service of Pilsudski.

When he advanced on Kiev, Pilsudski demanded the restoration of Hetman Petlyura in his rights. But this stunt ended in miserable failure: the Red Army drove Petlyura out of the Ukraine, along with his boss Pilsudski.

After that, no more was heard of Petlyura. The delegation of the Polish gentry came to Minsk to negotiate with the Russian and Ukrainian Soviet republics. Our peace delegation included Comrade Skrypnik, representing the Ukraine, the Polish delegation did not so much as breathe a word about there being any Ukrainian government other than the Soviet one. It was agreed by both delegations that the negotiations be transferred to Riga. And now, on the eve of the opening of these peace negotiations, in Riga, the Polish prince asks our workers’ and peasants’ government whether we are agreeable to negotiate with Petlyura’s government.

In the name of what territory is Petlyura going to speak? In the name of the Ukraine? But the Ukraine is with us, it is in the hands of the Ukrainian workers and peasants. In the name of Eastern Galicia, perhaps? But, in the first place, a substantial part of Eastern Galicia is occupied by the Red Army, and, in the second place, the Polish gentry are certainly not going to give Petlyura Eastern Galicia, where there are many Polish landlords’ estates.

What does the initiative of the Polish prince signify? That is quite clear. The Polish gentry do not want to make peace with us, and so they are once more putting forward their earlier demand, namely that, with Petlyura as go-between, we make a present of the workers’ and peasants’ Ukraine to the Polish gentry.

This demand is impudent and at the same time ludicrous. One might really suppose that Poland had beaten us. Where? When? How? True, we retreated from Warsaw. But, as against that, we drove the Polish gentry out of the Ukraine, cleared them from Lithuania, and liberated the whole of Byelorussia. We did not try, and we do not mean to try, to conquer Poland. Our entry into Poland had the purpose of finally compelling the Polish gentry to make peace. And today we have no designs on Poland, its frontiers or its independence. We merely want peace.

But since the Polish gentry have again brought up the question of the Ukraine, this means that they do not want peace. Evidently, the lesson they were given was not enough for them. The Red Armies of the Western front are ready to repeat that lesson.

September 11, 1920
En Route, No.125


1. The Ukrainian nationalist Vinnichenko, who had emigrated in 1919, returned in the summer of 1920 and voiced support for the Soviets. However, he left soon afterward, and resumed his opposition to them.

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Last updated on: 26.12.2006