Main WIN Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

Workers’ International News, October 1939


The Problem of Poland


From Workers’ International News, Vol.2 No.10, October 1939, pp.8-10.
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Poland is no more. With the fall of Warsaw and the crushing of the garrison on the Hela Peninsular, the last organised resistance on the part of the Polish army is now ended. In less than a month from the commencement of the War the Polish state has disappeared from the maps of Europe.

The bourgeois press in Britain and France has long laudatory articles on the “gallant” struggle put up by the Polish armies, all ending on the theme that “Poland will rise again.” What was that Poland which the great democracies are so anxious to restore to life once more? The war, we are told, is being waged in the interests of democracy and liberty against the inhuman totalitarian state of Hitlerism.

Before the war started Poland was a semi-feudal country. The standard of living of the workers and peasants was among the lowest in Europe. The national minorities, Ukrainians, White Russians, Germans and Jews were ruthlessly plundered and barbarously treated by the Polish landowners and capitalists. Poland was numbered among the dictatorships in Eastern Europe, which owing to the lack of support among the masses of the people, the ruling clique had not been enabled to assume completely, although almost, totalitarian regime. Nevertheless even The Times had been compelled to admit that less than 20% at best, of the people supported the government, and this is most likely an overestimate.

The greedy and rapacious Polish ruling class treated the minority territories as colonial areas to be looted, trampled on and persecuted any attempt at the organisation of the masses, better conditions by the arrest: imprisonment of tens of thousands the militant elements among the people.

The Manchester Guardian contains accounts of the horrible atrocities committed in the Polish Ukraine and White Russia in the putting down of the insurrection against inhuman opponents of the minorities in the last two years. The savage measures taken against the peasants who declared a general strike for better conditions and the restoration of a “democratic” regime, the putting down of workers strikes reveal the discontent, and ferment within the old rotten Polish state which internally had many likenesses to the Czarist regime.

Like the Czarist regime too, ruling class was completely blind to the weaknesses and gaping cracks within the structure of the state. It had pretensions of becoming a great power and, even dreamed of colonies! In the light of recent events how pitifully unreal were these fantastic ideas on the part of the Polish bourgeoisie can seen.

The, attempt to picture Poland as a “peace loving”, “non-aggressive” state, brutally assaulted by Germany is shown for what it is worth by the actions of the ruling class last September. The greedy avid rulers of Poland were not averse to take advantage of the plight of Czechoslovakia acting in consort with Hitler Germany to seize Teschen as their share of the loot. It was only when they discovered that Teschen had only been “lent” to them temporarily and they were next on the list of victims of German imperialism that they made haste to enter a “front” against aggression.

In these circumstances the complete collapse of Polish resistance in so short a space of time is not surprising. The incompetent, ignorant and arrogant rulers were incapable of organising real resistance. The Polish officers mirrored the inefficiency of their class. Being the rulers of a backward, agrarian, semi-feudal state they were unable to understand the elementary strategy of modern warfare. In addition, they had to face the full onslaught of an enemy armed with all the resources of the greatest industrial state in Europe. This in itself would have been enough to ensure their defeat. For war under modern conditions is “total” war, involving not merely armies, but the economy of the nations. Against the highly organised and equipped industrial resources of Germany and her armies, the meagre resources of Poland could not have stood out for long. But what is surprising is the speed of her collapse.

Hitler in a contemptuous speech celebrating the victory of German arms in Poland, has openly jeered at the Polish rulers and revealed the reason for his easy success. The Polish rank and file soldiers fought well and bravely, he said, but the officers were completely lost on the field of battle. That was the reason for the rout of the Poles. It was the social structure of the Polish army and society. It is this rotten and decaying barbarous ruling class that the Allies propose to restore to power once more. However, the chains of slavery which Hitler has now riveted on the Polish people, not only means the old social oppression of the people, but adds to it a ruthless and cold blooded national oppression as well.

The entry of the Red Army into Eastern Poland further complicates the position. After turning a blind eye to the nature of the Polish state, both in the negotiations of Russia with Britain and France, and in the agitation of the Comintern which demanded that the democracies stand by threatened Poland, the Stalinists have conveniently remembered the “national oppression of the rotten Polish state”. It is not so long ago that the Polish Communist Party was dissolved and all the leaders who had fled for safety to the Soviet Union were shot. So it is not out of concern for the future welfare of the people in Poland that the Red Army has moved. The extension of the revolution to other countries is not sought. It is precisely for this reason that the Polish Communist Party was destroyed. Revolutionary complications on his borders is the last thing that the Butcher of the revolution, Stalin, desires. It might reawaken the Russian masses to the traditions of 1917. The move was dictated by purely “Russian” interests.

Nevertheless, despite the bewilderment and confusion engendered among the world working class whose support Stalin has so contemptuously and light-mindedly thrown away, the move has its progressive side. The landlords and capitalists in the Soviet part of conquered Poland have been expropriated, and the land and possessions of the landlords divided among the peasants.

Poland has been partitioned in two parts. Where the Germans hold sway the Poles can look forward only to intensified exploitation, added to which will be a barbarous and scientifically organised national oppression. They will become a nation of slaves to the Nazi taskmasters. On the other side of the border the bureaucratic oppression will be exactly as it is in the rest of the Ukraine and White Russia. Nevertheless the problem in these two cases is entirely different.

In this connection it is nauseating hear the pious exclamations of Indignation on the part of the labour leaders in France and Britain at Soviet “Imperialism.” When “democracy” and the right of self determination has been restored to the people of India, Algeria and the colonial peoples generally these people will have a right to talk of “imperialism” in other countries. Before clamouring about the “restoration of Poland” let these gentlemen wash the blood off their own hands.

To restore the old Poland would be reactionary. To destroy the nationalisation of the means of production in Polish Ukraine and White Russia, even more reactionary. Here the problem has become integrated with the problem of Soviet Ukraine and White Russia. The task there is the overthrew of the bureaucracy by political revolution and the restoration of workers’ control, the restoration of the rights of the national minorities to autonomous republics which would include Ukraine and White Russia.

On the side of Poland Proper, the task is different. When the labour leaders talk glibly about the rise of Poland once more to its full stature, let them explain to the masses what they mean in greater detail. Landlord Poland, capitalist Poland, barbarous dictatorship ridden, feudal Poland Tell that marvellous ideal to the working classes, gentlemen. For behind all your beautiful phrases that is the stark reality which is concealed.

Poland is only one of the questions which face the working class at the present time. It is an integral part of the problem which faces all Europe. The ruling class in Britain and France is interested in restoring a capitalist Poland, not altruistically or for any ideal but to serve their purposes as a puppet state in Eastern Europe.

For this, and other imperialist needs of the capitalists, the British and French people, area to be slaughtered in millions. Germany desires the complete suppression of Polish rule in the Corridor and Upper Silesia and the erection of puppet state of the rest of Poland under her control. For this millions of German workers are to be slaughtered.

There is only one way out of the impasse for Poland and Europe. The workers must put an end to the cause of all conflicts. Destroy capitalism. The German revolution can alone free the Poles, Czechs and Slovaks from the Nazi yoke. British and French workers must extend the hand of friendship to the German workers.

Workers of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains. You have a world to win!

In that slogan is encompassed the solution of the Polish problem.

Top of page

Main WIN Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

Last updated on 26.10.2005