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A. Rudzienski

The Political Situation in a Russian Puppet State

Stalinist Terror Dominates Elections in Poland

(30 December 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 52, 30 December 1946, p. 5.
Translated by Mary Bell.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

THE coalition in the name of “national unity” imposed on Poland at Yalta has suffered a complete rout. The Mikolajczyk Populists (PSL – Polskie stronnictwo ludowe) refused categorically to participate in the united electoral bloc. The Stalinists answered first with the Bonapartist plebiscite and later with the approval of the new electoral law. Whereas the Communists recognized the democratic constitution of 1921 in order to remove the legal bases of the London government, they did not recognize the democratic electoral law which was based on the direct, secret suffrage of all the population over twenty-one years of age. Under this electoral law the Stalinists ran the risk of being defeated by the Populists, who are supported not only by the peasants, but by the middle class, the ex-bourgeoisie and wide strata of workers who are disillusioned with the economic situation and the servile policy of the Stalinists toward Russia.

The new electoral law is a mockery of political democracy and of the rights of the working class masses. The government has absolute control of the elections. It can exclude inconvenient electors en masse on the pretext of their having collaborated economically and politically with the Nazis or being in contact with the “fascist underground.” Similarly, it can exclude candidates on the same pretext. In the electoral commissions the Stalinist puppets have an absolute majority with the delegates of four government parties, all Stalinists under different names: PPR (official Stalinists, Polska partia robotnisza – Polish Workers Party); PPS (Polish Socialist Party), diluted and compromising; SD, the democratic party of Rzymowski; and SL, the Stalinist diversion in the countryside. But this is not enough.

Totalitarian Terror

Poland has today 23 million inhabitants instead of the 34 million of 1939. The country supports a burden of several armies and militias: the Russian army, half a million soldiers; the Polish puppet army, 300,000; the security police (bezpieka), 200,000; and clouds of bureaucratic locusts which ruin a country exhausted by war and devastation. These figures are enough to demonstrate the reactionary, parasitic and imperialist character of the Russian occupation in Poland.

The people defend themselves with arms. It is estimated that there are still around 100,000 guerrillas, among whom the strongest organization is the WIN (Liberty and Independence), led by the ex-Pilsudskists, the NSZ (nationalist armed forces), whose right-wing and anti-Semitic character is of minor importance. There is also the resistance of the AK (home army), the remains of the famous Polish underground army which was annihilated in the Warsaw insurrection. There are detachments without leadership, which sometimes degenerate into banditry. It frequently happens in Poland that the underground detachments succeed in controlling entire districts of the country, as occurred in the districts of Bielsk, Radom, Sanok and Bialystok. In Cracow a short time ago, the “Men of the Forest” (guerrillas) opened the jail of St. Michael in broad daylight and freed all the political prisoners, who were transported openly in army trucks throughout the city.

The peasants aid the underground in order to defend themselves against the punitive expeditions of the Russians. In exchange, the Russians engage in reprisals worthy of Hitler. In the village of Wawolnica in the department of Lublin, all the inhabitants were assassinated and the village was leveled to the ground. Wawolnica is a “Lidice” of Poland and there are dozens of these “Lidices.” Oppositions of lesser rank are lost like pebbles in a lake. They disappear. The Vice-Minister of Bezpieka, Wachnowicz, denounced the government assassins and was forced to resign. We know only of the arrests of the very well known Populists, those who cannot “disappear.” Augustynski, editor of Mikolajczyk’s organ, was arrested on the charge of “espionage in behalf of a foreign power.” The editors Buczek and Mierzwa were accused of contact with the underground. The old leader of the Populist left wing, Casimir Bakinski, former member of the government of national resistance, formerly accused in Moscow, is a prisoner accused of having printed “the underground fascist organ.” They mean the internal bulletins of the PSL.

In Bytom and other places in the carboniferous valley of Dombrowa, the security police began a human round-up, and hundreds of qualified workers, young women and technicians were rounded up and deported to Russia. In Riga the deportees tried to escape and brought on machine-gun fire by the GPU. Dozens of bodies lay on the ground. Short trials condemned to death dozens of those rounded up and hundreds of oppositionists and members of the armed underground. The demonstration trials were effected against the activists and entire organizations of the PSL (Mikolacjzyk’s Populist Party) to “prove” collaboration between the PSL and the “fascist opposition.” The reprisals also fall on the workers. In Gdansk (Danzig) the workers’ strike was machine-gunned. In Lodz, the Polish Manchester, the worker, Boroweic, was sentenced to ten years for “strike agitation.” Strikes are, of course, severely forbidden in the “democratic Poland” which made a “democratic revolution.”

The prominent member of the PPS, Puzak, former president of CK, former member of the resistance government in 1944, formerly accused in Moscow, is again a prisoner. The old union leader, Zulawski, had to resign his seat in the Cracow Rada – the puppet national council – passing to legal opposition. Drobner, ex-member of the Lublin committee, is also exiled in Cracow. Zaremba, of the “PPS left wing,” fled abroad and published in the Portuguese press a series of articles: The Truth About the Warsaw Insurrection.

Of course, there is no Trotskyist opposition. Everyone suspected of Trotskyism was assassinated in Russia, the last in 1944, when the Russian army “liberated” Poland. The members of the Bund, the reformist left wing Jewish party, were rounded up and persecuted. There also exists the compromising puppet-Bund, which assists Stalinism; Such then is the tragic situation of the Polish people and the Polish proletariat, threatened with biological extermination if they oppose Russian policy. The city of Cracow, where a majority voted “No” in the plebiscite, is threatened with mass deportation. Deportations of the “suspicious” have already begun. On May 3, anniversary of the great constitution of 1791, the “workers’ ” government mobilized all its police forces, armed with tanks and machine guns against the hungry and exhausted students of Cracow.

Opposition to Stalinists

The Stalinist government suffers reverses and defeats in Poland, just as the government of Hitler suffered them. The opposition of the PSL, in spite of all the imprisonments and terror, in spite of the dissolution of organizations in whole districts of the country, has been a defeat of Stalinist totalitarianism, the first defeat of importance since the times of the Trotskyist and right-wing opposition in Russia. Its historic and political importance is enormous and cannot be appreciated at the present time. We know well that the latter will not influence the elections, which will be “won” by the government, but the mere fact of the existence of so strong a legal opposition bridles Stalinism and forces it to maneuver and delay. An enormous importance attaches to the Catholic opposition, under the patronage of Cardinal Hlond, which, nevertheless, does not actively combat the government.

The valiant opposition of the PSL presses on the government bloc, causing divisions and disagreements between the PPR and the PPS (capitulating reformists). The Stalinists of the PPR, led by Gomulka, are discontented with the directive of the PPS, headed by “Premier” Osubka, St. Szwalbe, Curankiewicz and Rusinek. Of course, these men are creatures of Stalin and did not play any role in the pre-war PPS. Nevertheless, they do not satisfy “Comrade” Henrykowski, the most cynical and impudent Stalinist, and “Comrade”: Gomulka, who consider them an impediment to the success of “Bolshevik monolithism.” At the command of the Stalinist politburo, the latter formed an “opposition,” headed by Ministers Matuszewski and Swiatkowski, which tried to demolish Osubka’s group. Osubka and Szwalbe went to Moscow and succeeded, it would appear, in convincing Stalin that they are loyal to Russia and that it is desirable to Russia that “they be maintained in power. As a consequence, the too-loyal “fifth columnists,” Matuszewski and Swiatkowski, were destroyed when the former returned from Moscow.

Of course, the differences between the PPR and the PPS do not have a revolutionary character, nor even an anti-Stalinist one. They are concerned with bureaucratic conflicts, with the fight for posts, power and favors from the Muscovite “patron.” Nevertheless, they reflect the social conflicts and the crisis, of the government apparatus, which is incapable of subduing the opposition and the open discontent of the “bases” of the PPS. The opposition of the PSL has its serious consequences. If the reformist Stalinists agree with the PPR, which will “allow” the populists only 12 per cent of the deputies, the bureaucrats of the PPS, in order to reaffirm their posts and positions in the apparatus, are concerned that the organization of Mikolajczyk continue legal as a counterpoise and safeguard against their “colleagues” of the PPR.

The Osubka group [of the PPS – Ed.], which still enjoys favors from the Kremlin, is pressured not only by the PPR, but by the bases of its support and by the left-wing Cracow opposition, headed by Zulawski and Drobner, who Jare exiled from active politics and unburdened of bureaucratic posts. In the underground there is the PPS of Arciszewski, a resistance group WRN (Liberty, Equality, Independence). We have no knowledge of the existence of any organized Trotskyist groups. The divisions and conflicts between the Stalinists of Zezpieka (security police) and the reformist-Stalinists will not reach the stage of a rupture of the government bloc, nor prejudice the electoral bloc. They are only trying to find a solution to the electoral problem. The PPR proposes 25 per cent of the seats for each one of the two workers’ parties, reserving 40 per cent for the SL (peasants – a Stalinist creation) in order thus to assure itself absolute control in the future Sejm (Diet). The PPS fears the “security” comrades and asks 40 per cent of the seats for its candidates. In spite of these “divergences,” we are of the opinion that the “united workers’ front” in defense of the imperialist occupation of Poland and the Stalinist counter-revolution will stand.

Some Conclusions

The political conclusions of this tragic situation are the following:

  1. The elections will change nothing in Poland. Aside from the rightwing nationalist, illegal opposition, there exists the powerful peasant opposition. The spontaneous working class opposition of the left, led for the moment by the centrists and reformists of Zulawski and Drobner, is in the process of formation.
  2. The existence of this strong opposition succeeded, for the first time in history, in making Stalin recognize it and deal with the leading group of the PPS, which is opposed to the “security policy” and the march of unbridled totalitarianism.
  3. In spite of the pro-Russian loyalty of Mikolajczyk and of the PPS, Stalin cannot yield the government to them because a Poland situated in the doorway of the Stalinist empire is a “sine qua non” of the existence of the bureaucratic regime. Stalin cannot admit a petty bourgeois, peasant Poland of Mikolajczyk, because he needs a Poland submissive to the economic and political monopoly of the Kremlin. A Poland of Mikolajczyk would be transformed into a “time bomb.”
  4. The western imperialists try to take advantage of the illegal opposition of Mikolajczyk in their maneuvers against Moscow. In a situation favorable to them, they would perhaps again decide to let Polish blood be shed against Stalin and to cause the “time bomb” to explode.

The Polish people have no interest in bleeding for the “democracies.” Naturally, they should take advantage of the differences among the Big Three to utilize the occasion for an anti-Stalinist opposition, even a revolutionary opposition. But to fall into the trap of the security police, who desire to provoke a popular uprising, would be an adventure and even a crime.

The Polish working class, the poor and rebellious peasantry, await solidarity and assistance from the international proletariat. The Polish proletariat is in a certain sense a spearhead of the international proletariat in its struggle against the Stalinist reaction. To sharpen this spearhead, to strengthen it with a powerful revolutionary doctrine, is our task.

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