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The New International, August 1942

J.W. Smith

The Polish Workers Have the Floor


From New International, Vol. VIII No. 7, August 1942, pp. 211–212.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


(This interesting supplementary epilogue to Comrade Smith’s article in last month’s issue arrived too late for inclusion. We gladly publish it now reminding our readers that it should be read in connection with the main body of the article, which appeared in July. – Editor)

It is a nice thing to learn from the past. But let us now learn a little from the present too and listen to the voice of the workers among the oppressed peoples. For it is not true that their voice cannot be heard at all. It sounds seldom and weakly, at least here in the United States, whither the reports on the illegal movement in the oppressed countries come mostly through the governments in exile. It is naturally to their interest not to mention such voices.

In January 1940, a conference of illegal Polish groups decided to make public a manifesto to the peoples of the world. This manifesto appeared later in America too in an English translation (Underground Poland Speaks – Manifesto to the Peoples of the World, published by the American Friends of the Polish Democracy). But the translation has been falsified. From it have been omitted the sentences that speak of international proletarian solidarity, and most of the sharp attacks against Stalin are replaced by periods. We quote, however, from the Polish edition (Manifest do Ludow Swiata, Ksiegarnia Polska M.I. Kolin, Ltd., London). The manifesto begins:

The leadership of the movement of the toiling masses of Poland complies with the will of the delegates to a conference who represented more than 2,000 groups of organized workers, peasants and intellectual workers, expresses its international solidarity with the social and political demands of the proletariat, and in the name of the Polish people it turns to all the peoples of Europe with the call to common struggle against Hitlerite-totalitarian tyranny ...

Thus, these participants in the struggle for national independence are organized in an independent movement of the toiling people and their first words are concerned with international proletarian solidarity. They fight primarily against Hitlerite imperialism, but not only against it. Listen to what the manifesto, after it has eloquently depicted the terror of the German occupation, has to say about Stalin:

In the performance of the outrageous depredation, Hitler found an ally not only in Italian fascism ... but also in the degenerated child of the Russian Revolution, in Stalinist Bolshevism ... In the territories occupied by him Stalin performs the same work of destruction as Hitler. Tens of thousands of Polish inhabitants are in the Soviet prisons. More than 100,000 persons were sent to Siberia, where they toil at highway and forest work under conditions which drive them to suicide ... Workers, peasants and intellectuals were thus sent away, whether they were of Polish, Jewish, White-Russian or Ukrainian nationality. In their place, a Russian population is being settled in order to form the props of Moscow in these territories.

Thus, an anti-Stalinist workers’ group that acknowledges international proletarian solidarity. To whom does it appeal?

We know that the spirit of resistance and of the struggle for liberation has awakened in all the countries oppressed by the fascist-Hitlerite invasion. Every report, every expression of revolutionary thought and of the secret preparations for the overthrow of the regime of occupation, arouses a joyful echo among us. We feel the bonds that link the oppressed and the peoples fighting for their liberation ... This community will be transformed in the course of the struggle against the common foe into a league ... that will make possible the birth of a free Europe after the war on new fundamental principles: the free with the free, the equal with the equals ...

Much is unclearly expressed, but a new Europe is demanded, not Versailles, and no “revanche.” The persons who wrote that have gone through the most terrible atrocities of national oppression Europe has known in modern times, compared with which Czarism, with all its gallows, was a paradise. Nevertheless, they have not fallen into chauvinism.

We appeal to you, peoples of Germany, Italy and the Soviet state, whom the spirit of the Prussian and the Muscovite tyranny seeks to give the rôle of executioner of our freedom we speak to you not in order to arouse compassion, but in order to show that even under the most dreadful persecution we have not betrayed the banner of the freedom of the peoples and liberty for all.

The manifesto calls to struggle for national independence, for the liberation of Poland. But the slogan is not “for our freedom,” but “for our and your freedom.”

Nobody can stand on the sidelines. The toiling peoples of the whole world must unite in the struggle against the new tyranny under the slogan, “For your freedom and ours,” which was the slogan of the Polish rebels and revolutionists for a whole century and which accompanies us today, too, in the struggle for freedom, equality and independence.

The manifesto contains much that is weak and unclear, it delimits itself very inadequately from the imperialists of their own camp; and it contains no explicit criticism of Polish fascism. Nevertheless, it is proof that the national liberation struggle can be conducted without falling into nationalism. Nevertheless, it is proof that the workers are better aware of their special role in the liberation struggle than some super-clever people in America believe.

Even more clearly speaks another document which seems to come from the same circles: It is an illegal leaflet of November 1940, which protests against the setting up of the ghetto in Warsaw and which was pasted upon its newly-erected walls. The class struggle note sounds more strongly here, without thereby weakening the struggle for national liberation.

We are not moved by the fate of the Polish and Jewish bourgeoisie. Money smooths the road for them ... in the dreadful persecution it always finds holes through which it can crawl. No good future awaits these strata, just as no future awaits those who are used to living on their knees ... The Polish toiling masses who are driven from pillar to post, the Jewish toiling masses who are incarcerated behind the ghetto walls, the ever more enslaved masses of all Poland see before them the perspective of the great bloody struggle for an independent Poland of the toiling people – a Poland that will realize the great ideal of freedom, justice and equality of all nations. The victory in this struggle will not be brought to us by any army that appears in our land, not by any pacts and treaties – it will be won only by the revolutionary movement of the popular masses of Poland, in brotherhood with other peoples of Europe who fight on the fronts of the underground movement against fascism and all manifestations of totalitarianism and tryanny ... So long as the love of freedom lives among the Polish and Jewish working masses, the ghetto walls will remain nothing but an artificial partition which will crumble into dust along with fascism itself ... But not in order that the Polish and Jewish capitalists shall once more conclude a pact upon its ruins, and put the liberating people of Poland in the chains of exploitation and oppression again. Where these walls now stand ... the walls of the workers’ homes of free Warsaw will stand. The vision of this new capital, the vision of the independent Poland of the working people which will abolish all oppression and transform our land into the great fatherland of freedom, will fortify us in the severest trials ...

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