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The New International, September 1946


A. Rudzienski

Russian Imperialism in Poland

Part II of a Marxist Study


From New International, Vol.12 No.7, September 1946, pp.215-218.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The Poland existing prior to the first partitioning of 1772, whose restoration Marx and Engels desired, was a federated state of Poles, Lithuanians, Ruthenians, Ukrainians, and White Russians. In the year 1387, the Duchy of Lithuania was united with Poland proper, forming, until the partitionings of Poland, an integral part of the Polish Republic (Engels – The Doctrine of Nationality). The different nationalities originated in the Duchy of Lithuania. The voluntary union of both states under the Lithuanian dynasty of Yagellones transformed itself into an organic union with a dual constitution, that is, within the framework of one republic there existed two different states and governments, the Polish and Lithuanian. For this reason, Engels wrote that “the restoration of Poland means the re-establishment of a state composed of at least four nationalities” (Ibid.). Condemning the expansion of Russian imperialism, Engels says in the same article, “the history of Poland between 1700-1772 constitutes a record of Russian usurpation of dominion, made possible by the corruption of the Polish nobility.” Before the partitionings, Poland extended to the eastern shore of the Dnieper (400,000 sq. miles). In 1772, its area was already less than 301,080 square miles. In the first partitioning, Poland lost 77,200 sq. miles, in the second, 115,800, and in the third, the remainder. 98,044 sq. miles.

The Poland which arose once more in 1918 contained less than half of the old territory, 150,000 sq. miles. In 1939, while the Polish people struggled against Hitler, Stalin proceeded to a new partitioning of Poland, occupying 77,596 square miles, or 51 per cent of the national territory, with 13,200,000 of its 33,000,000 inhabitants. The zone annexed by Russia represented: 40 per cent of the arable surface of Poland, 63 per cent of the pastures, 57 per cent of the forests and wooded territory, 50 per cent of the sources of potash, 84 per cent of the oil, and 42 per cent of the water-power. About a million and a half Poles, Ukrainians, Lithuanians, White Russians, and Jews were deported to Russia in 1939 in order “to prepare” the famous “plebiscite.” Of these, almost a million disappeared in Russia. In these deportations, Stalin “preferred,” above all, Socialist intellectuals and workers, Communists and peasants. The plebiscite carried out in the annexed territories revealed, in spite of the deportations and the terrorism, an important opposition, officially admitted, which in the region of Vilna reached 10 to 15 per cent. According to the official British news agency, abstention from the plebiscite embraced 50 per cent of the people in the city, and reached 75 per cent in the villages. The official Polish figures give the number of Poles in the annexed territories as follows: Ukrainians, 5,274,000, or 40 per cent; White Russians, 4,529,000, or 34.4 per cent; Jews, 1,125,000 or 8.5 per cent (the majority of whom speak Polish); Lithuanians, 84,000; Germans, 89,000; Czechoslovakians, 35,000; remainder population, 134,000, or one per cent. And those inhabitants of Eastern Poland without definite nationality, 822,000, or six per cent, who should be classified with the Ukrainians and White Russians. In the industrial regions and the two capitals of Vilna and Lwow, the Poles were in the absolute majority. Not only the landlords and the bureaucracy, but the intellectuals and proletariat as well, spoke Polish and possessed a Polish culture. The metal workers, the railroad workers, as well as the textile and oil workers were all Polish. The peasants, and the workers in the sawmills and lumber-camps were Ukrainians and White Russians.

The Polish and Russian Oppression Compared

Stalin’s annexation, motivated by “blood-ties” embraced almost six and one-half million Polish speaking inhabitants (Poles and Jews). It is necessary to point out that the White Russians, and the majority of the Ukrainians as well, are Catholic, linked for over 500 years to Polish culture, and as close through “blood-ties” to the Poles as to the Russians. The figures showing the number of Ukrainians and White Russians deported demonstrates that they did not greet Russian domination with pleasure, far removed as it is from self-determination for White Russia and the Ukraine. Aside from the figure of six and one-half million, we must add one and a half million Poles remaining on the Eastern side of the Polish-Soviet frontier: in other words the Curzon line annexed “only” 8,000,000 Poles and Polish-Jews, that is, a larger number than the total number of Czechs, Serbs, Slovaks, Croatians, and Slovenes. For the Ukrainians and White Russians, Russian domination signified a worse oppression than that of the Polish bourgeoisie. In the first place, Stalinist imperialism is much more powerful than the Polish bourgeoisie, and in the second place, it is a perfected totalitarian system, in which the oppressors have at their disposal an enormous machine. In Poland before the war there were 200,000 soldiers; in the occupied territories alone, Russia has 800,000 soldiers.

The Ribbentrop-Molotov line was transformed into the Curzon line with some minor corrections and embraced some 8.000,000 Poles. In order to “correct” the “injustice” to Poland, in reality, in order to assure a frontier shaped to the needs of Russian strategy, Stalin annexed 40,000 miles of Germany’s eastern territory, regions of Germany which no Polish party – not even the most nationalistic – had ever asked for Poland, thus preparing the ground for future conflicts. The Polish population is being moved to Silesia, Pomerania and Prussia, while the German population is expelled and driven into the interior of Germany, all in the name of the self-determination of peoples. The cynicism of the Thermidorean reaction knows no bounds.

In the economic sphere, the Stalinist bureaucracy has converted Poland into a colony of Russian Imperialism. Industries have been dismantled and shipped to Russia. Unfortunately, we do not possess the necessary statistics, because the Russian bureaucracy conceals its thefts. Something, however, is known of the dealings in coal. According to the contract between the Warsaw government and Moscow, Poland must deliver from 12-18 million tons of coal to the Russians at cost price. A ton of coal is worth 3,000 to 5,000 Zlotys on the market. If we take the minimum figure only, 3,000 Zlotys (or $10 in American money on the basis of 300 Zlotys to the dollar) we have $10 per ton, or if we take the amount for 18 million tons, $180,000,000 that Poland must yield annually to Russia as a tribute of her colonial dependency. To produce the required amount of coal, 50,000 to 80,000 Poles and Germans must engage in slave-like labor. According to Minister of Industry Mine, the annual production of coal is between 30 to 35 million tons, that is, Poland must hand over nearly two-thirds of the coal produced every year to Russia, at the expense of her own industries which used more than 20 million tons of coal a year before the war. Because of this colonial policy Polish children must die of cold.

According to the facts given in the bourgeois press, Russia is carrying out in practice the de-industrialization of Poland, and turning it back into an agrarian economy. The dealings in coal merely highlight this colonial and reactionary policy.

Apart from the individual robberies perpetrated on the Polish population by the Russian soldiers, the plundering of the national wealth reaches unheard of proportions: out of ten million head of cattle, there remain in Poland only three million; out of eight million pigs, there remain only a million and a quarter; out of seven and a half million sheep there remain hardly 772,000. The confiscations of cereals as the contributions to maintain an enormous army of occupation, which, with those demobilized, reaches the figure of two million, weigh heavily on the country-side, and above all on the exhausted and impoverished population. Nine Russian armies, seven concentrated on the Oder Line, “lease” almost 1,200,000 hectares of land, that is, about half of the land the Polish peasants received in the agrarian reform. These statistics are enough to demonstrate the reactionary, parasitic, and colonial character of Stalinist imperialism, which despoils the Polish people in a manner unknown in history and reduces them to a state of extreme poverty and permanent hunger. Hunger is an instrument of domination, of subduing those who resist.

The Democratic Revolution or the Stalinist Counter-revolution?

Having dissolved the Communist party, Stalin handed the direction of Polish affairs over to the police apparatus of the GPU. From this apparatus came the most “prominent” figures of the Warsaw government, like Bierut, “the president” and the Minister of Police, Radkiewicz, chief of the GPU in Poland, who hardly knows the Polish language. Fearing the Communist workers, Stalin organized the ZPP (Polish Patriotic Association) in Moscow, from among the petty-bourgeois elements sympathetic to Stalinism, led by Wasilewska. These elements, controlled by the agents of the GPU, formed the Lublin Committee, the organization of the Stalinist quislings, by means of which Stalin ruled over Poland. Not one old, well-known Polish Communist was on this committee; not one prominent Socialist, or known leader of the peasantry. Obscure figures, unknown in the Communist party, the PPS and the Populist movement, “figures” inflated by Stalinist propaganda, were brought into Poland behind Russian bayonets. The real workers’ movement was independent, being organized in an “underground movement of the laboring masses” whose documents demonstrate that within this movement there was a left-wing with marked revolutionary and Marxist tendencies. This movement, which played an important part in the Warsaw insurrection, was persecuted and suppressed because its policies were far to the left of Stalinism.

The need for a Stalinist party in Poland being urgent in view of the advance of the Russian army, the Kremlin bureaucrats created the PPR (Polish Workers Party) imitating the name of the PPS, popular among the workers. The cadres of the new party had nothing in common with the old Communist party. Since the old leaders had been assassinated, the new leading cadres were made up of agents of the GPU. As the Stalinist party did not have a great ideological influence, the Stalinists were compelled to create a false PPS (Socialist Party) which served as a mouthpiece for the Stalinist party, and had as little in common with the real and illegal PPS, as the PPR had in common with the old Communist party. Besides these, the Stalinists created an imitation of the Populist party for the small peasantry and a Democratic party for the petty-bourgeois collaborators. These police shadows of the real parties imitated the illegal national council and created the Lublin Committee. Under the imperialist pressure of the “Big Three” Mikolajczyk, the peasant leader, agreed to join the Warsaw government of “national unity.” But in reality, the key positions were in the hands of the Stalinists, or openly in the hands of the Russian police.

The program of this Stalinist imitation of democracy, whose real content is totalitarianism, is a democratic-agrarian revolution, the construction of a capitalist Poland, “truly democratic.” This “fundamental” thesis was proclaimed at the congress of the PPR. As the first step in this “democratic revolution,” the Stalinists proclaimed the “historic agrarian revolution,” as the second step the nationalization of factories employing more than 50 workers, including those worked by shifts. This “democratic” program is typical Stalinist deception and theoretical fraud to win the support of the bourgeoisie and the popular masses, especially the peasants.

In reality, as we have already pointed out (New International, August) the stage in the bourgeois democratic revolution was carried out in 1918-20. From this point Polish bourgeois democracy degenerated into the Bonapartist-totalitarian dictatorship of Pilsudski in 1926. But in spite of its deformation, the democratic revolution achieved its principal aims: the creation of a national state, democratic in its beginnings, and a “moderate” agrarian reform, which had as a consequence the capitalist development of Poland. The agrarian reform divided more than three million hectares (a hectare equals 2.47 acres) while the Stalinist “historic agrarian revolution” divided up only 1,300,000 hectares of land. Of the remainder, the Russian army holds 1,200,000, the rest is in the hands of the state and the church. The wealth of the latter (the wealth of the dead hand) has not been touched. The plundering of the agricultural stocks and the products of the field deprives the peasant of any benefit whatsoever from this reform, which is smaller in scope and economic consequence than was the bourgeois agrarian reform. Scarcely 380,000 families out of between 3-4 million families received land.

The small “dwarfish” peasant farm, from one to ten acres in size, “the farm of hunger,” remains dominant in the agricultural economy. This is surely the source of silent peasant opposition to the Stalinists, in spite of all the “courting” carried on by the bureaucrats. As the figures cited show, the Russian bureaucracy holds in its hand two-thirds of the available land, while the peasants die of hunger. For the most part, the available land is in the ex-German territory, where the percentage of latifundias is much greater than in Central Poland. For these reasons, the agrarian reform does not have the power to bring about decisive social changes in Poland, and all of Central-Eastern Europe, Czechoslovakia, Rumania, Jugoslavia and Germany. To exaggerate the remnants of feudalism in this region of Europe, to give them a decisive character is a conscious falsification, a political fantasy concocted by the Stalinists in order to conceal parasitic and reactionary policies.

The Nationalization of Industry

The nationalization of Polish industry has a much more decisive character. It is interesting to note how this nationalization is carried out at a more intense and rapid pace than in Czechoslovakia, Rumania and Jugoslavia, not to mention Germany, despite the fact that industry in the latter is much more developed than in Poland. The nationalization of Polish industry is by no means an act of “revolutionary audacity,” because the Polish dictatorship with its totalitarian tendencies had already prepared the way by centralizing Polish industry under its control. The “statism” of the Colonels was expropriated by the Nazis when the “Goering-Werke” incorporated almost all the large industry in Poland. In the light of the abandonment of the old German industry in Silesia, Pomerania and Prussia by its proprietors, and the previous expropriation of Polish industry by the Nazis, nationalization was an indispensable, logical and necessary act. But this nationalization had nothing in common with Socialist nationalization, carried out by the workers themselves, under the control of organs set up by the factory workers themselves. In reality, this nationalization is the instrument of a foreign bureaucracy designed to subdue the workers and keep the masses in check with the whip of an absolute economic monopoly over the means of production. It is an instrument used to intensify the plunder, robbery and the spoliation of Polish national wealth in the interests of the Russian bureaucracy. The bourgeois press complains of the dismantling of the most important factories and industries in Silesia and their removal to Russia. The system of capitalist exploitation, of piece-work, of premiums and “Stakhanovist” records has been introduced into the factories. [1] The Minister of Industry, Mine, declares that the wages of certain qualified workers have been raised three hundred to four hundred per cent, but he says nothing about a general increases in wages. Inflation and hunger are the bitter lot of the working masses. The daily wage of the manual worker and the white-collar worker is 20 to 30 Zlotys, while a kilo of bread costs 40 Zlotys; a pair of shoes 10,000 Zlotys, a suit of clothes 30,000 Zlotys. The system of corrupting the workers’ aristocracy and of creating a stratum of bureaucratic exploiters counter-posed to the masses of the people is being hastened and intensified.

We do not deny the importance of the nationalization of industry, but Stalinist nationalization in Poland has a great resemblance to Hitlerite expropriation. Its primary function is not national reconstruction and industrial development but the reduction of Poland to a colony of Russia and its spoliation by virtue of the economic monopoly the bureaucracy enjoys, a monopoly whose roots are in Russia, not Poland. The second function of the nationalization is the creation of a Stalinist colonial aristocracy in Poland, a privileged stratum counterposed to the people, rooted in the economic exploitation of the country and dependent on the dominant Russian bureaucracy. The third function is the creation of a reactionary and totalitarian dictatorship destined above all to stand guard over the colonial exploitation, the plundering and spoliation of the Polish people in the interest of the Russian bureaucracy. The three-year plan, proclaimed at the congress of the PPR, has a very restricted scope and confirms the fear that Poland is to be reduced to an agricultural colony of Russian imperialism. Poland was always the most industrialized country under Tsarist imperialism and even independent Poland had an industry that was relatively more developed than all of Russia. Furthermore, even the present-day Poland, with the industrial provinces of eastern Germany could become, after Germany, one of the most industrialized countries of Europe. But these are not the aims of the Russian bureaucracy, which fears an industrialized Poland.

Role of Russian Imperialism

From all this we can see that the role of the Stalinist bureaucracy is very far from being revolutionary. Its role is parasitic, reactionary, counter-revolutionary. If the Stalinist reforms have a very limited progressive importance, this occurs against the will of Stalinism, through the development of events and the power of the historic process; just as the reforms of Bismarck had a progressive character, or the agrarian reform of the Hangman, Alexander II, in Poland in 1864, after the defeat of the revolution. It is not a conscious, revolutionary effort tending towards social transformations. The Stalinist bureaucracy is annihilating the bourgeoisie and the big landowners, not in the interests of the workers and peasants, but in order to introduce its own exploitation of the masses, its own domination, in place of the exploitation and domination of the capitalists.

The theory of the democratic revolution in Poland is reactionary and anachronistic and serves to conceal the reactionary, exploiting and imperialist policies of the Russian bureaucracy. It serves to conceal the parasitic nature of Russian domination.

In pre-war Poland, almost half the value of national production came from industry. Now, with the agrarian and backward provinces annexed by Russia and with the addition of the industrialized provinces of Silesia, Poland is an industrial country with a high percentage of workers. On the order of the day in Poland is the Socialist revolution whose consequence would be a powerful industrial revolution. The agrarian reform plays a completely subordinate and secondary role; it is the Socialist revolution which is the present program for Poland and is so formulated by the underground workers movement. The Communist Party under the leadership of the Stalinists rejected the program of the democratic revolution and proclaimed the Socialist revolution as the task immediately posed by historical development in 1930. Now the Stalinist Thermidoreans “leap backwards” and return to the out-worn theory of the democratic revolution!

In reality, in Poland as in all of Eastern Europe, the Stalinist counter-revolution is at work. Stalin not only maintains capitalist society in the occupied countries where it suits his purposes, he also props up the bourgeoisie, submissive to his dictates, in order to counter-pose it to the proletariat. In Poland, Stalin annihilates, in part, capitalism, introducing a kind of NEP and state capitalism, in the sense meant by Lenin, but with this fundamental difference; the political power is not in the hands of the Polish proletariat, but is possessed by the bureaucracy. This power is an instrument of foreign imperialism for the purpose of economic and social despoliation and the national oppression of Poland.

In and around the Warsaw government there is a clique of old Pilsudskists, fascists, sworn enemies of the proletariat, who are linked with the party of the Colonels, as well as with the reactionary and anti-semitic national-democracy (Grabiski, Trampczynski, Rzymowski, Kirtiklis, Zeligowski, Strasburger, Kwiatkowski); ministers and generals of Pilsudski and of Chienopiast (the concentration of the right-wing of 1923). But there are no old Communists nor independent Socialists moving towards Stalinism. The repressions are above all directed against the workers movement. The trade-unions are under constant attack. Not only is there no Trotskyist party in existence, but legality is denied to the independent socialists, the true PPS, while it is granted to the bourgeois parties which collaborate (the Christian-Democrats). The figure given for those held in the concentration camps inherited from Hitler, is from one and a half to two million. The figure for those deported to Russia since 1939 is calculated to be about two million. In the most recent police round-up alone 100,000 politicals were taken. More than ten thousand political agents have been assassinated. Radkiewicz, the chief of Police, admitted that more than three thousand police agents have been assassinated. These figures demonstrate that in Poland a terrible and bloody civil war to the finish is being carried on by the Stalinists against all those elements which refuse to submit and above all against the workers and peasants movement. Hundreds of political agents of Mikolajczyk’s collaborating party have disappeared. For more than a year and a half, the Stalinist dictatorship has governed without elections, fearing the results of voting. It has put all its pressure on Mikolajczyk and his strong peasant party to force him to enter the elections in a “bloc of national unity” so that one blow, the existing opposition may be dubbed “fascist” and the totalitarian dictatorship installed officially.

Before the proletariat and the people of Poland is a socialist, not an agrarian or democratic revolution. Only this revolution can save Poland from the hateful foreign yoke, from colonial exploitation and economic and national annihilation. This revolution can conquer only in the common struggle together with the German and European proletariat, in the struggle for the Socialist United States of Europe, basing itself on the defeat of capitalist imperialism and the reactionary Stalinist counter-revolution.

February 15, 1946.



1. In November 1945 there were general strikes in the mines and steel mills of Silesia and on the docks of Danzig.

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