The predominance of intellectuals in the leadership of most if not all left wing organisations, and their presence to some degree or another amongst the rank and file, often give rise to the idea that socialism and/or Marxism represent the interests of intellectuals, that the working class is merely the agency by which the intellectuals are to gain power, and that socialism merely means the replacement of one ruling elite by another. This idea is often spread about by those who wish to keep the working class firmly under the influence of bourgeois ideology, and who are indeed part of today’s ruling elite. But such ideas have also had a long history within the working class movement, and those adhering to these ideas consider that they have been validated by the experience of the Russian Revolution. One of the most noteworthy exponents of these ideas was the Polish revolutionary Jan Waclaw Machajski, who developed his theories in late Tsarist Russia, that is to say, in a period and in a place in which intellectuals played an exceptionally predominant part within the revolutionary movement.

The term ‘intelligentsia’ is problematic as although there is general agreement that it constitutes a discrete social stratum, there are two widely accepted definitions of it, particularly in respect of Russia. The first and more commonly accepted definition is relatively narrow, and refers to intellectual opposition in countries in which what is fashionably called ‘civil society’ is or has been stunted, and which in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was of a liberal or socialist character. Boris Kagarlitsky says:

‘The traditional role of the intelligentsia is to speak out in the name of the people against the undemocratic state: the intelligentsia defends not only its own interests, but those of the oppressed, viewing its activity as closely connected with the struggle for democracy. It is precisely these moral principles which used to bind the intelligentsia into a single whole.’ [1]

The second definition, adhered to by Machajski and later on by the Soviet bureaucracy, is extremely broad, and quite simply means anyone with higher education.

I. Peasants, Workers, Intellectuals and Anti-Intellectualism

Although the Russian intelligentsia put itself at the service of the Russian masses, it did not necessarily mean that the masses were enamoured of the intellectuals’ efforts to serve them, or indeed wanted to have anything to do with them. Paul Avrich, the sympathetic historian of Russian anarchism, says that ‘nowhere in Europe was there greater hostility towards the educated classes than in the villages of mother Russia’. [2] The hostile reception that the populists received when they ‘went to the people’ in the 1870s came as a shock to them. Hostility was expressed at various times by workers to the involvement of students and other intellectuals in the early days of the working class movement. [3]

Manifestations of such hostility continued with the growth of the labour movement and the formation of organisations such as the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party. The predominance of intellectuals in the leadership of not merely the RSDLP but of other radical organisations [4], the manner in which the parties were organised, and the predilection of their leaders for debates and disputes which seemed a long way from the interests of the working class, helped to strain relations between the intellectuals and the workers. It should not, however, be considered that these relations were always poor, and evidence exists to show that workers and intellectuals did also work amicably together. [5] It would be in order to suggest that workers would welcome the intellectuals’ intervention in their activities if they felt that it was of some help, but would resent their involvement if they thought it condescending, arrogant or irrelevant.

John Keep says that the complex and hierarchical structures of the RSDLP gave the intellectuals who were mid-range party leaders, the committee men, considerable control over a network of committees and other party bodies, which they ran often with little reference to the rank and file, or which had ‘a semi-fictional existence’, which led to them ‘confusing the actual circumstances that confronted them with the imaginary situation they desired to bring about’, and becoming very much out of touch with those whom they deemed to represent. This tendency was less common among the rank and file members, ‘and does much to explain the tension that developed between them and the intellectuals’. [6] Another observer says that the split in the RSDLP in 1903 seemed to many workers to be ‘doctrinal hair-splitting’, and the continuing factional dogfights ‘reinforced anti-intelligentsia feelings’. [7]

Stalin revealed that the social democrats’ working class base was not looking with much sympathy upon the dense philosophical debates amongst the party leaders in foreign exile. In 1911 he said that ‘in general the workers are beginning to look upon the emigration with disdain: “Let them crawl on the wall to their hearts’ content; but as we see it, let anyone who values the interests of the movement work, the rest will take care of itself.”’ And he reflected that antipathy when he declared that the philosophical debate between Bogdanov and Lenin was a ‘tempest in a teacup’. [8]

Not only were there anti-intellectual sentiments amongst the masses, they existed within the intelligentsia itself. The Russian anarchist Mikhail Bakunin fulminated against Marx’s concept of the dictatorship of the proletariat:

‘That would be the rule of the scientific intellect, the most autocratic, the most despotic, the most arrogant, and the most insolent of all regimes. There will be a new class, a new hierarchy of genuine or sham savants, and the world will be divided into a dominant minority in the name of science, and an immense ignorant majority.’ [9]

Avrich says that ‘most Russian anarchists harboured a deep-seated distrust of rational systems and of the intellectuals who constructed them’, although this anti-intellectualism ‘existed in varying degrees’ within the anarchist movement. [10] The growing reformist trends within Western European socialism was another factor in the development of anti-intellectualism in the anarchist movement, not least in Russia. Syndicalists, too, often adopted an anti-intellectual stance. Daniil Novomirski, a leading anarcho-syndicalist in Odessa, and a former social democrat, wrote in 1905:

‘Which class does contemporary socialism serve in fact and not in words? We answer it at once and without beating about the bush: socialism is not the expression of the interests of the working class, but of the so-called raznochintsi, or déclassé intelligentsia.’ [11]

An anti-intellectual current developed quite early on within the Russian social democratic movement with the rise of the economists. Many socialist leaders were impressed by the workers’ spontaneous activity during the large strike wave in the mid-1890s, and came to conclude that the social democratic movement should limit itself to working around the demands that the strike movement was throwing up, rather than pushing the wider Marxian project. Avrich says:

‘Underlying the anti-intellectualism of the “economists” was the conviction that the intelligentsia looked upon the working class simply as the means to a higher goal, as an abstract mass predestined to carry out the immutable will of history. According to the “economists”, the intellectuals, instead of bringing their knowledge to bear on the concrete problems of factory life, were inclined to lose themselves in ideologies that had no relation to the true needs of the workers.’ [12]

The early years of this century saw a number of writers elsewhere in Europe who were very critical of the intelligentsia, including Arturo Labriola, Hubert Lagardelle, Gaetano Mosca, Vilfredo Pareto, Robert Michels and Georges Sorel. Their outlooks differed and their theories varied, but they all expressed the problem of the relationship between intellectuals and the workers’ movement, and rooted the growing moderation of the socialist movement in the predominance of intellectuals within its leadership. [13]

II. Machajski and Makhaevism

Jan Waclaw Machajski was born in 1866 to a poor family in the Congress Kingdom of Poland, which was under Russian rule. His father was a minor official. He attended university, where he became radicalised. Aligning himself with the most militant elements of Polish socialism, he eschewed the growing nationalist wing within the Polish socialist movement, whom he saw as downgrading the struggle of the working class. It was during his period of exile in Siberia that he began to study the problems of the social democratic movement. His writings were circulated around the exile settlements, and provoked a considerable amount of animated discussion. [14] At first his critique of the revisionist trends in the social democratic movement was along conventional Marxian lines. However, he soon started to question the nature of Marxism itself, and he continued with this after his escape and his move to Switzerland. Unfortunately, as far as I am aware, there no English editions of his writings, and his ideas are necessarily filtered through the perceptions of his biographers and critics.

Machajski felt that Marxism allowed the ‘continual penetration of non-proletarian elements into the revolutionary army of the proletariat’, which would ‘hinder its development and its definitive attack on the bourgeois order’. [15] He eschewed the struggle for democratic and political rights, and considered that the working class movement should concentrate purely upon economic issues, as the other issues would lead the socialists into deals and arrangements with non-proletarian forces.

Machajski’s thinking was greatly affected by a series of articles on the intelligentsia written in the mid-1890s by Karl Kautsky. Kautsky noticed that as capitalism developed, there was a great increase of people who were involved in intellectual work, who made their living by the sale of their ‘special knowledge and talents’. [16] This new social stratum had no independent class interests of its own, and apart from those directly associated with the control and exploitation of the ruling class, the majority of its members were, as Marshall Shatz, Machajski’s biographer, paraphrases Kautsky:

‘… a potential ally of the proletariat by virtue of its role as a bystander in the process of capitalist exploitation, its lack of a homogenous class interest, and its broader intellectual horizon, which gave it a greater capacity than any other part of the population for rising above its own interests and looking at the needs of society as a whole.’ [17]

Machajski rejected the conception of this new stratum being a potential ally of the working class. For him, these intellectuals were part of the exploiting class, as bad as any capitalist. They may not have owned any means of production, but they did possess a privileged access to knowledge:

‘A larger and larger part of bourgeois society receives the funds for its parasitic existence as an intelligentsia, an army of intellectual workers which does not personally possess the means of production but continually increases and multiplies its income, which it obtains as the hereditary owner of all knowledge, culture and civilisation.’ [18]

This was the crucial point. Machajski considered that the intelligentsia formed an exploiting class. It did not produce value, only the working class did that, so it lived off the surplus value expropriated from the working class by means of high salaries received through its monopoly of knowledge:

‘Bourgeois society passes on to its offspring surplus value appropriated under the guise of a reward for labour “of a higher quality”, and the greatest riches of mankind – knowledge, science – become the hereditary monopoly of a privileged minority.’ [19]

For Machajski socialism did not represent the abolition of classes, but the accession to power of the intellectuals, who would then constitute a ruling class. This had two variants. In Western Europe, where the social democrats considered that capitalism had developed sufficiently for socialism to be upon the agenda, Machajski considered that they were aiming to use the working class to defeat the bourgeoisie in order to impose their rule as a ruling class of intellectuals. In Russia, where the social democrats were aiming for the establishment of a bourgeois republic, Machajski said they ‘tirelessly affirmed the impossibility of a proletarian revolution in Russia only so that the Russian intelligentsia could organise its own bourgeois revolution, with the workers serving merely as cannon-fodder’ [20], presumably to fill the place of the absent bourgeoisie. Either way, of course, the working class would lose out.

Both Shatz and Avrich consider that much of Machajski’s critique of the relationship between socialism and the intelligentsia paralleled that of Bakunin, although the former says ‘he never acknowledged his influence’. [21] Certainly, as we have seen, other theorists reached similar conceptions independently. Avrich says that ‘the anti-political and anti-intellectual arguments’ of the Economists also ‘made an indelible impression’ upon Machajski. [22]

Although the ideas of Machajski had some resonance amongst the working class, he had little success in building a movement of any stature, despite the prevalence of anti-intellectual sentiments. The problem facing Machajski was that he was unable to go beyond attacks upon the intelligentsia and broad calls for revolt. He had no concept of transition from a workers’ revolt to a new society, nor could he speculate upon the nature of that new society. Shatz considers that his ideas were ‘both too broad and too narrow to serve as an effective revolutionary ideology’:

‘Its criticism of the intelligentsia appealed to people of such divergent viewpoints and interests that it could not weld them together as a cohesive force… At the same time, Makhaevism was too narrow in that it was an essentially negative viewpoint. While criticising and rejecting the ideals and programmes of the other revolutionary movements, it offered in their place only the haziest vision of a new and better world and no prospect of achieving it in the near future.’ [23]

In his sympathetic review of a French edition of Machajski’s works, Adam Westoby says that he ‘rejects the idea of workers’ power realising universal interests, and the Marxian vision of human emancipation under communism’, and states that ‘the stirring question what mankind may do if it gains control of its social life remains a closed book’. [24] Machajski was, therefore, more notable for his theories of the intelligentsia than for his record as a practical political activist.

Machajski’s silence on the issue of organisation has been seen as ominous. Ernest Haberkern considers that his hostility to intellectuals and his view that the educational development of workers would merely put them in a better position to deceive the rank and file, logically led him to look favourably at the more lumpenised sections of society, to favour a conspiratorial form of organisation, and to be hostile to representative organisations and to democracy in general.

Haberkern notes an ironic parallel between the German revisionist Eduard Bernstein and Machajski in that both considered that the growth of the middle class put paid to the proletariat becoming a majority within society. But whereas Bernstein concluded that the socialists should accommodate to the middle class, Machajski concluded that the working class would become even more marginalised in a modernising, democratising society, and that workers were obliged to work in a perpetually conspiratorial manner. Haberkern says:

‘Only an underground conspiracy can carry out the kind of blackmail the oppressed minority must use to achieve its end. Machajski does not object to the demagogic and sham character of representative institutions under capitalism… Instead, he objects to such institutions to the extent that they do represent more or less accurately the real sentiments of the majority.’ [25]

And just as Bakunin and Machajski shared a hatred of intellectuals, their shared condemnation and rejection of organised political bodies as playthings of the intelligentsia was matched by an equal predilection for conspiratorial bodies in which the absence of any structure would mean the absence of any accountability. [26]

III. Machajski, Lenin and the Intelligentsia

It is ironic that Lenin and Machajski came close to agreeing around one the most fundamental issues which divided them. In 1902 Lenin looked at the role of the intelligentsia in the development of Russian social democracy. He said that ‘the theory of socialism … grew out of the philosophic, historical and economic theories elaborated by educated representatives of the propertied classes, by intellectuals’, and that ‘in Russia, the theoretical doctrine of social democracy arose altogether independently of the spontaneous growth of the working class movement; it arose as a natural and inevitable outcome of the development of thought among the revolutionary socialist intelligentsia.’ [27] Although Machajski would have violently disagreed with Lenin’s opinion that the working class ‘exclusively by its own effort, is able to develop only trade union consciousness’, [28] his concept of the social origins of socialism coincided with that of Lenin.

Considering that many observers have seen Russian social democracy as being a movement, in one way or another, of the Russian intelligentsia, Lenin’s own opinion of that stratum was pretty low, notwithstanding his own membership of it and his acknowledgement of its historical role. [29] He often complained about its apparent refusal to accept any form of discipline, which he put down to ‘the ways of thinking which reflect the petit-bourgeois mode of life’. [30]

Even at the time when Lenin was attempting to create a narrow cadre party, he specifically looked to working class activists who, despite the overwhelming problems facing them, had become politically conscious socialists, or as he put it, ‘the working class intelligentsia’. He implored his party comrades to ‘make every effort’ to ensure that the ranks of this working class intelligentsia ‘are regularly reinforced, that its lofty mental requirements are met, and that leaders of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party come from its ranks’. [31] In What Is To Be Done?, usually considered to be a work of extreme elitism, he emphasises that ‘all distinctions as between workers and intellectualsmust be effaced’. [32] Lenin wanted to raise the level of knowledge of the working class movement as far as possible up to the level of the intelligentsia. [33]

Because of this, however, Lenin’s ideas and practice have been seen as the most effective means for the intelligentsia to seize power. In a work which has some affinity with Machajski’s concepts, two recent emigré writers from Eastern Europe, George Konrád and Ivan Szelényi, consider that Bolshevism was in essence the organisational form that the intelligentsia took in its struggle for power. Tsarist society was increasingly unable to contain social conflicts, and there was the chance that it would collapse, ‘and if it did the moment would be at hand when a well-prepared and well-organised minority might seize political power’: ‘Thus for Lenin the function of the workers’ party was not to represent workers’ interests, but to prepare for the seizure of power and serve as the organisational prototype of a new form of state power.’ [34] This is why Lenin concentrated so much upon the organisational form of the party. Konrád and Szelényi claim that not only did the Bolshevik style of party with its cadres of professional revolutionaries militate against it ever becoming a mass working class party, but it ensured that anyone joining it would be drawn into the intelligentsia and its quest for state power. The validity of this will be investigated below.

IV. 1917: The Revolution of the Intelligentsia?

Using the term in its narrower sense, conservative commentators have long considered that the intelligentsia was largely responsible for the October Revolution, and that the establishment of the Soviet regime represented its victory. Ascribing to this ‘class in opposition’ astonishing power as it acted as ‘the catalytic agent that precipitated the Russian revolution’, the leading conservative historian Richard Pipes makes this truly gross assertion:

‘Nothing in early twentieth century Russia inexorably pushed the country towards revolution, except the presence of an unusually large and fanatical body of professional revolutionaries. It is they who with their well-organised agitational campaigns in 1917 transformed a local fire, the mutiny of Petrograd’s military garrison, into a nationwide conflagration.’ [35]

Another right wing observer, Martin Malia, says that ‘for decades the intelligentsia was able to exert a political pressure on the autocracy greater than that exercised by more palpable classes such as the gentry or the bourgeoisie’, and this culminated in 1917, with it ‘assuming absolute power over all classes’. [36]

Radical observers defined the intelligentsia in a much broader manner, but their conclusions were often very similar. Machajski considered that the October Revolution had been a timid affair, as the Bolsheviks had not properly expropriated the bourgeoisie because they ‘retreated before the will of the intelligentsia’ and ‘saved the bourgeoisie from ruin’. Moreover, the Bolsheviks were ‘not fighters for the emancipation of the working class, but defenders of the lower strata of existing bourgeois society, and of the intelligentsia above all’. [37]

The anarchists adopted various attitudes towards the Soviet state, from friendly if critical cooperation, through tolerance, to outright opposition. The more critical anarchists continued with their anti-intellectual stance, seeing the Soviet republic as ‘state capitalist’ and ruled by ‘a new class of administrators – a new class born largely from the womb of the intelligentsia’, as one anarchist put it in 1918. [38] In the early 1920s, Peter Arshinov posed the Bolshevik seizure of power within the framework of an analysis of the Russian intelligentsia which bore some resemblance to the ideas of Machajski. After 1825, he argued, the intelligentsia gradually became ‘a well-defined social economic group’, just like other ‘dominant privileged groups who stood outside the working population’, and its ideas became a ‘statist system’:

‘The doctrine of the state itself, the idea of managing the masses by force, was always an attribute of individuals who lacked the sentiment of equality and in whom the instinct of egoism was dominant; individuals for whom the human masses are a raw material lacking will, initiative and intelligence, incapable of directing themselves… It is not by chance that contemporary socialism shows itself to be the zealous servant of this idea: it is the ideology of the new ruling caste.’ [39]

He considered that the October Revolution represented the accession to power of the intellectuals, the ‘socialist democracy’, of whom the Bolsheviks were merely the most artful. The Soviet system was ‘nothing other than the construction of a new class domination over the producers, the establishment of a new socialist power over them’, the plans for which having been ‘elaborated and prepared during several decades by the leaders of the socialist democracy’. [40]

At least one anarchist journal attempted a more functional analysis. An article from 1918, which Avrich calls ‘a remarkable departure’ [41] from the anarchists’ usual concept of the Bolsheviks as betrayers of the Russian working class, declared:

‘The separation of management from labour, the division between administrators and workers flows logically from centralisation. It cannot be otherwise. There are no other words to the song. The song goes thus: management implies responsibility, and can responsibility be compared with ordinary labour? Responsibility demands special rights and advantages.’ [42]

Critical left wing currents emerged amongst the Bolsheviks after the October Revolution, and in the early 1920s established themselves within and later outwith the official communist movement, not merely within the Soviet Union, but on an international basis as well. One of their main criticisms of the Soviet regime was its use of ‘bourgeois specialists’, who were merging with the personnel of the increasingly bureaucratised party and state machinery to form a nascent new ruling elite. In his study of dissident communists, Robert Daniels says that an ‘anti-intellectual sentiment’ was ‘characteristic of much of the extreme left’, even if, especially after 1921, ‘the opposition’s support was definitely concentrated in intellectual circles’. [43]

These currents were particularly hostile to what Alexandra Kollontai of the Workers Opposition called the ‘specialists’ and ‘pseudo-specialists’ who would ‘throw out the worker, and fill up all the high administrative posts of our industrial and economic institutions’. Accusing the party programme of ‘being gradually transformed into an upper class policy’, she called for the expulsion ‘of all non-proletarian elements’ from the party: ‘Only then will it [the party] be able vigorously to repel all the influences that are now being brought to bear on it by petit-bourgeois elements, peasants, or by the faithful servants of capital – the specialists.’ [44] The Workers Truth group in 1922 considered that a ‘new bourgeoisie’ comprised of ‘responsible party workers, directors of factories, managers of trusts, presidents of executive committees, etc.’ had emerged in the Soviet Union. [45]

Soviet and Western commentators have often attempted to connect the views expressed by oppositional communists after 1917 with those held by Machajski. [46] In his article on Gavriil Miasnikov, an Old Bolshevik who moved into opposition during the early 1920s, Avrich says that ‘in his strong anti-intellectual bias, coupled with his scorn for managers and bureaucrats, Miasnikov resembled… Machajski’, and that ‘the similarities between them are undeniable’:

‘For bureaucrats and intellectuals, Miasnikov’s contempt was unbridled. He branded the Bolshevik hierarchy an “oligarchical caste”, a ”high-handed bunch of intellectuals”, a “managerial fraternity” that held the reins of industry and government in its hands.’ [47]

However, what is probably the most far-going explanation by an oppositional communist of the rise of the Soviet elite, that elaborated by Trotsky, is notable as it does not concentrate upon the intelligentsia. [48]

Some left communists came to deny that there had ever been a proletarian revolution in Russia. They recognised, or came to recognise, Russian Marxism as a movement of the intelligentsia, which, in the absence of a bourgeoisie, was obliged to lead the fight against absolutism. Unable to get support from the Western bourgeoisie, which was by now opposed to revolutionary upheavals, the Russian intelligentsia was obliged to rely upon the proletariat, and, as the council communist Anton Pannekoek put it, Russian Marxism ‘necessarily assumed another character than in Western Europe’: ‘It was still a theory of a fighting working class, but this class had to fight first and foremost for what in Western Europe had been the function and work of the bourgeoisie, with the intellectuals as its associates.’ The Russian Revolution necessarily introduced a ‘new system of state capitalism’, as the Russian intellectuals, ‘with the basis of a rapidly developing production system under their direction, saw the future open up before them as the ruling class of an immense empire’. [49] In a Soviet prison camp, Vladimir Smirnov, a member of the Democratic Centralist faction, told the Yugoslav communist Ante Ciliga:

‘There has never been a proletarian revolution, nor a dictatorship of the proletariat in Russia, there has simply been a “popular revolution” from below and a dictatorship from above. Lenin was never an ideologist of the proletariat. From beginning to end he was an ideologist of the intelligentsia.’ [50]

Whether this oppositionist had come across Machajski is not said, but the common thread of ideas is visible. [51]

It is incorrect to view the October Revolution as a seizure of power by the intelligentsia. Using the term in the broad sense, only a small proportion of ‘educated society’ supported the Bolsheviks’ seizure of power, and large numbers of white collar employees in both the public and private sectors staged a protest strike against it, refusing to serve the new regime. [52] It is wrong to consider the Bolshevik party in 1917 to be an organisation of the intelligentsia, although many of its leaders were from an intellectual background or were members of the ‘working class intelligentsia’, to use Lenin’s term. The party’s membership increased from 23,600 in January 1917 to around 200,000 in August [53], the bulk of its recruits were workers, and support for the party grew tremendously within working class organisations.

It is equally incorrect to view the Soviet regime as being the rule of the intelligentsia. The notion expressed by left communists and leftist critics of the Bolsheviks that ‘bourgeois specialists’ formed part of a ruling elite is absurd. To be sure, they were materially privileged; they had to be effectively bribed into working for the new regime, but they had no political power. Nonetheless, the relationship between the party-state apparatus and the masses rapidly became antagonistic. Was this due to the lust for power on the part of the intelligentsia, or were other factors involved?

It is clear that the establishment of a soviet regime in backward Russia would immediately pose problems. As the Soviet government and state apparatus claimed to represent the popular masses, this meant that the organisations that under previous governments had been set up to defend the working class were now in a position of mediating between the workers expressing their local and individual interests, and the apparatus, which had much wider interests and concerns. In theory, there was no essential contradiction between the Soviet apparatus and the working class. But the precipitous decline in industry, food shortages, the need to increase discipline at work, etc, quickly led to tensions between the working class and the institutions of the Soviet regime. Within a few months of the October Revolution, many workers were becoming disillusioned with the Bolsheviks, either showing less interest in politics, or supporting non-Bolshevik parties. The sheer struggle for survival led many workers to dabble in petty trading, often using the factory’s scarce resources to make household items and farm tools to exchange for agricultural produce. Many others left for the countryside. As the Civil War progressed, many prominent Bolsheviks considered that the working class had become declassed.

The establishment of the Soviet regime brought to the fore the problems posed by the absorption of the most politically aware workers into party and state institutions. In his study of Petrograd workers, David Mandel says:

‘The transformation of these [proletarian] organisations into organs of administration and of the Bolshevik Party into a ruling party, the assumption of new administrative responsibilities by worker militants and their loss of direct continuous contact with the factory milieu inevitably gave rise to a certain ”administrative outlook”. It expressed itself, however imperceptibly at first, in changes of attitude and tone towards the remaining factory masses, in the development of a certain condescension and impatience towards their problems and particularly their protests, and in a growing intolerance of the worker opposition.’ [54]

Within a few months of the October Revolution, a wide range of problems – the low level of popular culture caused by the general backwardness of society, and the increasing difficulties caused by economic collapse and the Civil War – led to the party-state apparatus falling outwith the control of the masses, and in fact moving towards becoming a ruling group over society as the party tended to substitute itself for the disintegrating proletariat. [55] Robert Conquest says that by the end of the Civil War, and especially when it became clear that European proletarian revolutions were no longer on the immediate agenda, the party was ‘cut off from its social justification’, and was ‘left quite evidently representing no one, or not many, in the actual world’: ‘It now felt that it represented not so much the Russian proletariat as it existed, but the future and real interests of that proletariat.’ [56]

The Bolshevik party itself changed. The percentage of workers in the party stood at 60.2 per cent in 1917, but had decreased to 41 per cent in 1921, rising after a large-scale purge to 45 per cent in 1922. The percentage of white collar workers stood roughly at 30 per cent throughout the period, and the percentage of peasants grew from 7.5 per cent in 1917 to 28.2 per cent in 1921, dropping to 26 per cent in 1922. [57] On the other hand, the proportion of workers elected to the party’s central committee increased as the committee grew in size, from 12 per cent in April 1917, through 22 per cent in August 1917, to 44 per cent in 1922. [58] However, after 1917 the description of worker referred to his or her background, and in 1919 only 11 per cent of working class members were still employed in industry, 60 per cent were engaged in administrative work in the state, party and trade union structures, and 25 per cent were in the Red Army. [59] The party-state apparatus was losing its working class roots, and was becoming increasingly divorced from the proletariat. The dynamic relationship that grew up in 1917 between the Bolsheviks and the working class had largely been destroyed during the Civil War, and in many respects the party-state apparatus was relating to the proletariat as an external, alien phenomenon, a process that was to become more profound as the 1920s drew by.

In an article that will be familiar to readers, Christian Rakovsky touched on this issue. Looking back in 1928, he said that whilst the proletariat is on the offensive, it exhibits ‘the maximum of unity and cohesion’. After it seizes power, only one of its parts ‘becomes the agent of that power’. Controlling this situation necessitates ‘educating politically the dominant class in such a way as to make it capable of holding the state apparatus, the party and the syndicates, of controlling and directing these organisms’. If this proves impossible, then the functional differentiation between the party-state apparatus and the proletariat would become a social differentiation, which is what occurred in the Soviet republic. [60]

V. Conclusion

If, as Pipes says, the rise of Russian intelligentsia was connected with ‘the emergence … of the concept of the “critically thinking personality” as the agent of progress in a backward society’, and with the influence of Western rationalist and radical views [61], then it can hardly be surprising that a large number of intellectuals adhered to the most radical product of Western society – the socialist movement – and constituted the bulk of its leadership. Moreover, it is not surprising that the preponderance of intellectuals within the leadership of socialist organisations led at times to suspicion and even hostility amongst those whom the organisations claimed to represent, and this led to a questioning by intellectuals themselves of their position in society, a process which was not limited to Russia.

But this is not to say that socialism – the overthrow of capitalism and the introduction of a classless society based upon the social ownership of the means of production; in other words, the aim of the Bolsheviks – was or is synonymous with the interests of the intelligentsia, however it is defined. Can the intelligentsia have a ‘class interest’? The intelligentsia in Russia was more developed as a discrete social formation than in any other European country specifically because the modern ideas that were attractive to thinking men and women were that much more in contrast to the miserable level of elite political culture than in countries to its West. The very nature of Tsarist society was sufficient to disgust and alienate the vast bulk of educated opinion, and to encourage significant numbers of them actively to oppose it.

However it is defined, the intelligentsia is not an inherently cohesive social stratum, and even in Russia it was not to adhere as a whole to radical views. In more advanced countries, where being an intellectual did not necessarily mean standing in opposition to the regime, much of the radical intelligentsia was to move away from a revolutionary viewpoint, and adopted a political strategy of obtaining reforms within the bounds of capitalism, moving closer to the non-socialist intelligentsia, and starting a process of integration into the existing class structure. In more backward and repressive countries, and especially in Russia, reformism did not seem to be much of an option, and a more radical strategy seemed more relevant. Nevertheless, even in Machajski’s days, some sections of the intelligentsia were liberal to start with, others (such as the former Legal Marxists) had abandoned socialism, and the radical intelligentsia as a whole fragmented with the collapse of Tsarism. Had Russia become a stable parliamentary democracy in 1917 – not that I think that this was possible – the Mensheviks would have become a standard reformist party, the Bolsheviks would have been marginalised, and the political activity of the bulk of the intelligentsia would have been concerned with reforms.

The rise of the party-state apparatus above the Soviet proletariat, and its eventual emergence as a self-conscious ruling elite, was not due to any immanent tendency of the intelligentsia to become a ruling stratum, but was essentially due to the problems involved in the exercise of political power by the Bolsheviks, in particular their separation from the working class, which was a result of, on the one hand, the specific conditions that existed in Russia during that period, and, on the other hand, factors that will confront any proletarian revolutionary regime which takes power, even under more advantageous conditions. The elite that emerged in the late 1920s was not synonymous with the intelligentsia. Indeed, the crucial period in the formation of the Soviet social formation – the time of the first Five Year Plan – was as a matter of necessity preceded by the purging of the revolutionary intelligentsia in the party [62], accompanied by the destruction of much of the existing intelligentsia, and followed by the building of a new intelligentsia, one which was rigidly controlled by the ruling elite. Moreover, it was from this new Soviet intelligentsia that the leading figures of the opposition movements of the post-Stalin era were eventually to emerge, and these were only rarely socialist in outlook.

Machajski’s ideas do raise some interesting questions about the relationship between the intelligentsia and the working class. But, all in all, he was wrong to consider that socialism was the ideology that expressed the class interests of the intelligentsia, as the idea of socialism as a truly transformative concept was never at any time synonymous with the intelligentsia as a whole, even in Russia, and the Soviet leadership was never synonymous with the intelligentsia. He was also wrong to view the Russian Revolution as the seizure of power by the intelligentsia. For all its thought-provoking insights, Machajski’s critique of the intelligentsia cannot provide a theoretical framework for understanding the evolution of the Soviet regime.


1. B. Kagarlitsky, The Disintegration of the Monolith, London 1992, p.32.

2. P. Avrich, The Russian Anarchists, Princeton 1967, p.100.

3. Hence, in 1883 Plekhanov was at pains to deny that the intelligentsia had any nefarious designs, and that the dictatorship of the proletariat would be a dictatorship of ‘a group of revolutionary raznochintsi’ (G.V. Plekhanov, Socialism and the Political Struggle, Selected Philosophical Works, Volume 1, Moscow, 1974, p.95).

4. The historian of the Socialist Revolutionary Party says that ‘the bulk of the membership – certainly of the articulate membership – was always intellectual’ (O.H. Radkey, Chernov and Agrarian Socialism Before 1918, in E.J. Simmons (ed.), Continuity and Change in Russian and Soviet Thought, Cambridge 1955, p.68).

5. See E. Acton, Rethinking the Russian Revolution, London, 1992, p.103.

6. J.L.H. Keep, The Rise of Social Democracy in Russia, Oxford, 1963, pp.170-1.

7. M. Shatz, Jan Waclaw Machajski: A Radical Critic of the Russian Intelligentsia and Socialism, Pittsburg 1989 p.127.

8. Cited in R. Tucker, Stalin as Revolutionary, New York 1974, p.149.

9. Cited in P. Avrich, What is Makhaevism?, Soviet Studies, Volume 17, no.1, July 1965, p.67, original emphasis.

10. Avrich, The Russian Anarchists, op. cit., p.91.

11. Cited in Avrich, ‘What is Makhaevism?’, op. cit., p.72. Novomirski was to join the Bolsheviks in 1919, but he fell out with them over the New Economic Policy.

12. Avrich, ‘What is Makhaevism?’, op. cit., p.70.

13. See Shatz, op. cit., pp.89ff.; D, Beetham, ‘Reformism and the “Bourgeoisification” of the Labour Movement’, in C. Levy (ed.), Socialism and the Intelligentsia 1880-1913, London 1987, pp.106ff. Whilst Michels did not rule out the idea that intellectuals could play an important role in a socialist organisation, and he agreed with the German socialist leader Franz Mehring in saying that ‘the intellectuals are of great value to the proletariat in the elaboration of the theory of the class struggle; they display the historical nexus between the labour movement and the world process as a whole’, he urged great caution. He pointed to the growing need for labour institutions to employ leaders with specialist knowledge in order to deal with increasingly complex social legislation, etc. This would result in the transformation of intellectually gifted proletarians into employees whose mode of life would become ‘that of the petit-bourgeois’, and lead to them drifting apart from the rank and file until they lost ‘all true sense of solidarity’ with the working class. He concluded:

‘When the workers choose leaders for themselves, they are with their own hands creating new masters whose principal means of dominion is found in their better instructed minds… Nothing would be more disastrous for the workers than to tolerate the exclusive rule of the intellectuals.’(R. Michels, Political Parties, New York 1962, pp.108-9, 300-1)

14. Trotsky met Machajski, and said that his writings were studied by political exiles. They enjoyed the first essay, a critique of the opportunist tactics of German social democracy, but not the second, a critique of Marx’s economic writings which, in words that show Trotsky’s feelings of incredulity 30 years later, ‘ended with the amazing conclusion that socialism is a social order based on the exploitation of the workers by a professional intelligentsia’. Trotsky concluded that Machajski’s works gave him ‘a powerful inoculation against anarchism’ (L.D. Trotsky, My Life, Harmondsworth 1970, p.133). Nevertheless, he apparently had a hard time arguing with him, and ‘had the unfamiliar sensation of being silenced by the torrent of argument’ (A. Westoby, review of J.V. Machajski, Le Socialisme des Intellectuels, Critique, no.14, 1981, p.122).

15. Shatz, op. cit., p.32.

16. Cited in ibid., p.32.

17. Ibid., p.33. See Beetham, op. cit., pp.118-21.

18. Cited in Shatz, op. cit., pp.34-5.

19. Cited in ibid., pp.35-6.

20. Cited in ibid., p.186, original emphasis.

21. M. Shatz, Jan Waclaw Machajski: The “Conspiracy” of the Intellectuals, Survey, no.62, January 1967, p.52.

22. Avrich, What is Makhaevism?, op. cit., p.70.

23. Shatz, Machajski, op. cit., pp.143-4.

24. Westoby, op. cit., p.123.

25. E. Haberkern, Machajski: A Rightfully Forgotten Prophet, Telos, no.71, Spring 1987, p.122, original emphasis.

26. Bakunin’s proposed revolutionary organisation was in no sense democratic, see H. Draper, Karl Marx’s Theory of Revolution: The Dictatorship of the Proletariat, New York, 1986, pp.93ff.

27. V.I. Lenin, What Is To Be Done?, Collected Works, Volume 5, Moscow 1977, pp.375-6. Lenin’s claim that much of his thinking on this issue was derived from Kautsky is disputed by Kautsky’s grandson, John Kautsky. He considers that Kautsky ascribed a far less important role to the intellectuals in the labour movement than Lenin. See J.H. Kautsky, Lenin and Kautsky on the Role of Intellectuals in the Labor Movement, Karl Kautsky: Marxism, Revolution and Democracy, New Brunswick 1994, pp.53ff.

28. V.I. Lenin, What Is To Be Done?, op. cit., p.375. This was a polemic against the economists, so it was an overstatement, and Lenin was later to some degree to alter his opinion.

29. Marcel Liebman explains this dichotomy by saying that in the nineteenth century, the Russian intelligentsia was a subjective concept ‘indicating not so much a special position in society and a particular economic function as a certain kind of outlook’, whilst after the turn of the century its members ‘became increasingly numerous in the administration and in industry and business’, and thus was ‘turning away from the revolutionary lures to which it had formerly been susceptible’ (M. Liebman, Leninism Under Lenin, London 1980, p.102).

30. V.I. Lenin, One Step Forwards, Two Steps Back, Collected Works, Volume 7, Moscow 1977, p.389.

31. V.I. Lenin, A Retrograde Trend in Russian Social Democracy, Collected Works, Volume 4, Moscow 1972, p.281.

32. Lenin, What Is To Be Done?, op. cit., p.452, original emphasis.

33. This was not always the case in practice. Isaac Deutscher gives a graphic description of the crude conception of Marxism that was held by many of the Bolshevik committee men:

‘They accepted certain basic formulas of Marxist philosophy, handed down to them by popularisers of the doctrine, as a matter of intellectual and political convenience. These formulas seemed to offer wonderful clues to the most complex problems – and nothing can be as reassuring to the half-educated as the possession of such clues. The semi-intelligentsia from whom socialism recruited some of its middle cadres enjoyed Marxism as a mental labour-saving device, easy to handle and fabulously effective.’ (I. Deutscher, Stalin, Harmondsworth 1966, pp.127-8)

This was equally applicable to activists in other socialist organisations. Reflecting in 1960 upon his days as a young Marxist in Russia, the old Menshevik David Dallin said that he and his comrades, who were drawn from a wide social span – university and technical students, salesmen, workers and craftsmen – constituted a ‘semi-intelligentsia’, and who, on studying a few Marxian and Darwinian books, eagerly adopted a ‘primitive interpretation’ of Marxism, and were convinced that they had ‘the perfect philosophy’ which had ‘the answers to all questions’ (D.J. Dallin, Social Change and Soviet Foreign Policy, From Purge to Coexistence: Essays on Stalin’s and Khrushchev’s Russia, Chicago 1964, pp.182ff.).

34. G. Konrád and I. Szelényi, The Intellectuals on the Road to Class Power, New York, 1979, p.140. John Kautsky makes a similar point, and sees Lenin as a prototype Third World moderniser, attempting to initiate the hot-house economic development of a backward country by means of an intelligentsia-led revolution. See Kautsky, op. cit., pp.77-8.

35. R. Pipes, The Russian Revolution 1899-1919, London 1990, p.122. One need only consider the struggle of the peasantry for land, the widespread war-weariness, the demands of non-Russians for autonomy or independence, and working class unrest – none of which were sparked off by the intelligentsia – to expose the idiocy of this over-rated historian.

36. M. Malia, What is the Intelligentsia, in R. Pipes (ed.), The Russian Intelligentsia, Columbia 1961, p.4.

37. Cited in Shatz, Machajski, op. cit., p.152. More conservative observers disagreed. A former Tsarist general, Nicholas Golovin, recalled 1917 as a period during which ‘the hatred of the masses was directed mainly against this intelligentsia’, and that ‘it was not so much the fact of owning property as the fact of education – a thing that made the intelligentsia outwardly different from the uneducated – which chiefly marked those possessing it for destruction’ (N.N. Golovin, The Russian Army in the World War, New Haven 1931, pp.23-4).

38. Cited in Avrich, The Russian Anarchists, op. cit., p.192.

39. P. Arshinov, History of the Makhnovist Movement 1918-1921, London 1987, pp.34-5.

40. Ibid..

41. Avrich, The Russian Anarchists, op. cit., p.192.

42. Cited in P. Avrich (ed.), The Anarchists in the Russian Revolution, London 1973, p.124. Avrich suggests that this was the work of Grigorii Maksimov. If so, Maksimov’s critical faculties were considerably blunted and vulgarised by the time he wrote The Guillotine at Work in the 1940s.

43. R.V. Daniels, The Conscience of the Revolution, Cambridge 1960, pp.51, 160.

44. A. Kollontai, The Workers Opposition, Selected Writings, London 1984, pp.167, 168, 193.

45. Cited in E.H. Carr, The Interregnum 1923-1924, London 1954, p.80.

46. For example, see Shatz, Machajski, op. cit., pp.153ff. In 1921 Lenin criticised the Workers Opposition as a ‘Makhaev deviation’ (V.I. Lenin, Outline of a Speech at a Meeting of Supporters of the “Platform of Ten”, Collected Works, Volume 42, Moscow 1971, p.282). There is, however, no record of the speech itself.

47. P. Avrich, Bolshevik Opposition to Lenin: G.I. Miasnikov and the Workers’ Group, Russian Review, Volume 43, no.1, January 1984, p.18.

48. Trotsky’s analysis of the degeneration of the Soviet Union need not be outlined here as it will be familiar to readers.

49. A. Pannekoek, Lenin as Philosopher, London 1975, pp.94, 100.

50. A. Ciliga, The Russian Enigma, London 1979, p.280.

51. Nevertheless, it must be emphasised that however much the criticisms made by the left communists of the role of the intelligentsia bore some resemblance to those made by Machajski, there is a great difference between the two schools of thought in that the left communists did not reject Marxism, and they considered that Leninism represented a perversion of Marxism.

52. See D. Mandel, The Intelligentsia and the Working Class in 1917, Critique, no.14, 1981, pp.67ff.

53. L. Schapiro, The Communist Party of the Soviet Union, London 1970, pp.172-3.

54. D. Mandel, The Petrograd Workers and the Soviet Seizure of Power: From the July Days 1917 to July 1918, Basingstoke 1984, p.397.

55. Despite his optimism in respect of the capabilities of the Russian working class around the time of the October Revolution, Lenin soon realised that the dreadfully low level of culture in Russia was a tremendous handicap. Although considerable numbers of educated people came around to serve the Soviet regime, he was to become increasingly preoccupied with the problem of the low cultural level, particularly within the working class. In March 1919 he said that due to this, the Soviet regime was in fact a ‘government for the working people’ run by the ‘advanced section of the proletariat’, and ‘not by the working people as a whole’ (V.I. Lenin, Report on the Party Programme, Collected Works, Volume 29, Moscow 1977, p.183, original emphasis).

56. R. Conquest, The Great Terror: A Reassessment, London 1990, p.7. Moshe Lewin, however, says that by the end of the Civil War, the Soviet regime did have a social base, but it was quite different from that of 1917, and ‘consisted of the army, the police and major sections of the bureaucracy, which, even though hostile to the Bolsheviks, had no other masters to serve’ (M. Lewin, The Making of the Soviet System, London 1985, p.201).

57. Liebman, op. cit., p.304.

58. T.H. Rigby, Political Elites in the USSR, Aldershot 1990, p.31.

59. Liebman, op. cit., p.305.

60. C. Rakovsky, The “Professional Dangers” of Power, Selected Writings on Opposition in the USSR 1923-30, London 1980, pp.126. I think that the situation was retrievable even as late as the latter half of the 1920s. Successful proletarian revolutions in the advanced capitalist countries would have created a democratising impulse within the Soviet leadership, and there would then be every reason to encourage the revival of class consciousness within the proletariat. In the absence of revolutions in the West, however, the trend towards the Soviet leadership becoming a self-conscious ruling elite continued, and the emergence during the First Five Year Plan of 1929-33 of such an elite put paid to any genuine democratising tendencies, except as oppositional movements.

61. R. Pipes, The Historical Evolution of the Russian Intelligentsia, in Pipes, The Russian Intelligentsia, op. cit., p.48.

62. Trotsky’s emphasis upon the intellectual superiority of the Left Opposition over Stalin’s faction is thoroughly justified. See L.D. Trotsky, Stalin: An Appraisal of the Man and his Influence, New York, 1970, pp.398-9. The Right Opposition around Bukharin was also intellectually far superior to Stalin’s faction.

This short history of Trotskyism in Poland was first published in a book entitled Oblicza lewicy, Losi idei i ludziImages of the Left: The Fate of Ideas and People), Warsaw, 1992, the contents of which are explained by its title. When writing it the author did not have access to the documents of the Left Opposition in the International Institute at Amsterdam, as its ‘Inventory of the Lev Trotsky Collection’ was not available in Poland. Thanks to the Institute, he got access to these documents in August 1994. The catalogue numbers 1088-1098 deal with Trotskyism in Poland. In accordance with our usual practice, as our Polish readers will be able to read Hass’ article in the above book, we have greatly simplified the footnotes. (

Readers of our magazine will be already acquainted with our author and the first results of his researches (Volume 3, no 1, Summer 1990, pp11-18), and before reading this article they should also make reference to the bibliographical material we have listed there. The same issue includes a review of Hersh Mendel’s Memoirs of a Jewish Revolutionary by Ellis Hillman (pp41-2), and Volume 3, no 3 (Spring 1991) has a further letter from Hass containing some necessary corrections (p56).

A little more information of varying worth about the struggle between Trotskyism and Stalinism in Poland can be gleaned from MK Dziewanowski’s The Communist Party of Poland: An Outline of History (Harvard University Press, second edition 1976). He mentions a further letter from the Politbureau of the Polish Communist Party in January 1924 saying that ‘with Lenin’s death... toward Trotsky will be directed the eyes of the masses’ (p108). He further adds that at the Sixth Congress of the Communist International ‘the Polish delegation promised to reform and rushed to sign a declaration against the Trotskyist Opposition’ (p126), and quotes the boast of Leon Purman at the Ninth Plenum of the Executive Committee of the Communist International that his party ‘has become immune to the Trotskyist danger’, and that ‘not a single party organisation came out in favour of the opposition’ (p135). By the late 1930s the slanders of the Stalinists became so frenzied that they were claiming that the Polish police had been printing Trotsky’s propaganda at government publishing establishments, and were promoting Trotskyism ‘amongst the arrested anti-Fascists in exchange for a pledge of joining the Trotskyite groups’ (pp146-7).

However, not all of Dziewanowski’s evidence is equally reliable, even though he claims to base himself upon the Harvard archives, the depositions of Isaac Deutscher and Pawel Minc, and the handwritten notes of Mr Jerzy Luxemburg, the former prosecuting judge for cases of special importance at the Warsaw Court of Appeals. He believes that there were few Trotskyists left in Poland after the mid-1930s, that the Fourth International was founded in 1936 with no Poles present, and that the division of the Trotskyist forces between the Bund and the Polish Socialist Party was the result of an internal split. Another outline history of the Polish Communist Party during this time is provided by A Rudzienski, ‘Problems of the Polish Revolution’, New International, Volume 12, no 6 (no 108), August 1946, pp172-6.

Only fragmentary information remains on the activity of the Polish Trotskyists after 1939, though we know that they were involved in the Warsaw ghetto and city uprisings. The best treatment of the heroic struggle of the Warsaw Jews in English is Marek Edelman’s The Ghetto Fights (Bookmarks, 1990), which was reviewed by Seth Harman (‘The Ghetto Fights’, Socialist Worker, 10 November 1990), and by John Rose (‘How the Ghetto Fought the Nazis’, Socialist Worker, 17 April 1993). Its anniversary was noticed in the English press on 18 April 1988 by Misha Glenny, ‘Poles Come Out to Honour Jews’ (Guardian) and Jane Dobija, ‘Unofficial Start to Ghetto Anniversary’ (Independent; cf Charlie Pottins, ‘Remembered’, Workers Press, 22 May 1993).

The best general account of the uprising of the city itself is by Z Zaremba, La Commune de Varsovie: Trahie par Staline, massacré par Hitler (Éditions Spartacus, 1982). A Rudzienski, who mentions the Trotskyists as being strong in Lódz, Dombrowa and Warsaw, considers that there is ‘enough to record that the PPS, the unions, Trotskyists and rank and file Communists had constituted the backbone of the Warsaw insurrection’ (‘The Traditions of Polish Socialism’, New International, Volume 13, no 2, February 1947, p45). The event was itself a contentious issue in the history of the world Trotskyist movement, for when John G Wright pointed out in the American Militant that the Soviet armies had been deliberately held back to enable Hitler to smash the revolt, which has since been admitted to have been the case, James P Cannon wrote from prison to alter the policy of the paper into support for the Soviet Union (Max Shachtman, ‘From the Bureaucratic Jungle’, New International, Volume 12, no 2, March 1945, pp43-50).

Those who are interested in the mechanism by which Stalinism was imposed on Poland after 1945 will derive profit from Ernest Erber’s essay ‘The Class Nature of the Polish State’ (New International, Volume 13, nos 5, July 1947, pp137-43; and 6, August 1947, pp176-82), and from the numerous analyses made by Rudzienski at this time, ‘Polish Resistance Against Stalinist Rule’ (Labor Action, 26 August 1946); ‘Russian Imperialism in Poland’ (New International, Volume 7, no 7, September 1946, pp215-8); ‘Who Heads the Stalinist Quisling Government in Poland?’ (Labor Action, 3 March 1947); ‘Structural Changes in Eastern Europe’ (New International, Volume 13, no 5, July 1947, pp144-8); and ‘A Social Democratic “Innocent” Abroad’ (New International, Volume 13, no 6, August 1947, pp174-5).


THE CLIMATE for the study of the history of Trotskyism in Poland (more correctly, the continuation of Bolshevik Leninism) has never been more favourable. After 1956 the historiography of the Polish workers’ movement, whilst bringing back into the social memory the names of some Communists who were victims of Stalinism, carefully covered over any trace of their connection with Trotskyism, and even, for the same reason, consciously did not mention some of these names at all. It is not surprising that even in the 1980s one could find in the pages of newspapers and in some of the writings not only of the older generation but also of the younger, various ideas about Trotskyism far removed from even the shadow of any scholarly honesty.

The pen pushers from the factory of the Central Committee of the Polish United Workers Party, people like Janusz Janicki, had become well versed in unmasking all kinds of ‘leftism’ over a long period of time, and were still prowling around with impunity. Amongst them were some historians, for example Mieczyslaw Szyszka, who discussed Trotskyist concepts, which ‘also unfavourably influenced the development of the international trade union movement’, and did this ‘through the agency of left opportunistic groups’. He put all this forward without a single quotation or reference, and in Marek Pazdziora’s textbook students were informed about ‘Trotskyite conspiracies’ in the USSR in the 1930s.

It is not surprising that even Mikhail Gorbachev in his speech on the seventieth anniversary of the October Revolution in November 1987, referred to Trotsky as ‘a cunning politician’, from whom ‘the leading nucleus of the party led by Stalin defended Leninism in an ideological struggle’, because ‘Trotskyism is a political current, whose ideologues... in reality occupy capitalist positions’.[1] The Moscow correspondent of Trybuna Ludu in the first half of 1988 still kept his readers convinced of the permanence of this system of thought and values, and with this in mind carefully picked out from the Soviet press every voice confirming this, but never mentioned opposing ones.

So, as a rule, all the more or less pro-governmental historians who studied the Polish workers’ movement in the interwar period still limited themselves to general statements about the struggle of the Polish Communist Party (CPP) against Trotskyism, and passed over in silence the fact that an organisation with such views existed. Its name, ‘Bolshevik-Leninist’, was mentioned in probably only one work, and this in the context of the publication of its statement on the dissolution of the CPP in the summer of 1938. This was the limit of any acknowledgement. Even this was passed over in silence by a researcher who dealt several times with the destruction of the CPP, even though he was writing at a time when there were no complaints about the censor’s intrusion. Another young and in other respects honest researcher felt no need to acquaint himself with the relevant Western literature on the subject, even when it was available in the libraries of his own country, and, without any reservation whatsoever, repeated the inventions of the Soviet Stalinist falsifiers.[2] In such a climate the discussion entitled ‘Trotskyism in the Workers’ Movement’, organised on 26 May 1988 by the editorial board of the quarterly Z pola walki (From the Battlefield) became an important event, although its delayed appearance meant that it did not influence our historiography.

Soon not only did the political situation change completely, but so did the spiritual climate in intellectual circles. And when Stalinist arguments against Trotskyism lacked official defenders, another variety of anti-Trotskyism appeared in their place, again similar to that practised in the USSR. It amounts to the extremely simple view that in essence Trotsky and the Trotskyists did not differ very much from Stalin and his team; indeed, they were almost his precursors. Had they gained power, they would have been the same, if not even more fanatical and cruel.[3] This is not a new conception, as the priest Michal Poradowski, living abroad, had already developed it in his own way a few years ago.

Understandably, the history of Trotskyism in Poland was studied more seriously by people outside the home establishment. Probably the first information aimed at Polish readers was given in an interview in 1957 by Isaac Deutscher, who until then had had no opportunity to become acquainted with them. It was elaborated slightly by MK Dziewanowski.[4] Three more decades passed before the next publications appeared, and they were by members of the Fourth International.[5]

The study of the history of Trotskyism in Poland has been shaped not only by the above-mentioned difficulties in the social and intellectual climate, but by a serious objective difficulty — the extremely modest research material at our disposal. The Trotskyism of a particular country is neither comprehensible nor explicable outside its international context. Both its own writings and the publications of its Stalinist opponents, together with more academic texts, refer to this. In the Polish archives only a tiny fraction can be found. Even the basic scholarly texts, such as the bibliographies of Sinclair[6] and Lubitz,[7] are a rarity here. Some issues of the historical quarterly Cahiers Léon Trotsky, which has appeared regularly since 1979, are missing, as are some of the Cahiers du CERMTRI (Centre d’Études et Recherches sur les Mouvements Trotskystes et Révolutionnaires Internationaux), of which more than 100 issues have been published in Paris, and of Revolutionary History, which has been published in London since 1988. A rarity is the 14-volume English language edition of Trotsky’s writings of 1929-40 (Writings of Leon Trotsky, New York), and there is no complete edition of the third series of the Oeuvres by the same author covering the years 1933-40 (24 volumes, Paris, 1978-88), as well as the volumes begun in 1988 of the second series, covering the years 1927-33 (both published by the Paris Institute Léon Trotsky by the editor of the above-mentioned Cahiers). It is impossible to obtain the four-volume reprint of the Russian language Byulleten’ Oppozitsii (Monad Press, New York, 1973), which is fundamental for studying the subject, and which appeared in the West in the years 1929-41. Even more curious, there are no copies in Polish libraries of the autobiography of one of the founders of the Trotskyist organisation in Poland, which has already been published in four languages.[8] The Polish language Trotskyist publications are far from being fully indexed, and the Yiddish ones are even less so, whilst the Ukrainian ones published in Poland are completely missing. The full picture of the history of Trotskyism in Poland demands the broadest possible research in the archives and publications, and must include the city centres outside Warsaw. The documents found so far speak mostly about the capital.

The Beginnings

In the autumn of 1923 an opposition began to form within the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks) which, in contrast with every other internal opposition, turned out to be a permanent one, and which gave birth to a Communist current which from then on existed on an international scale, and was popularly known as ‘Trotskyism’ because the first serious step towards its formation was taken by the ‘Man No 2’ of October 1917, Leon Trotsky. The ferocity of the attacks on him, unleashed by the dominant ‘troika’ (Zinoviev, Kamenev and Stalin) inside the leadership of the RCP(b), drew the attention of the leading sections of the other Communist parties much more than the actual subject of the disagreement. The Central Committee of the French party even instructed its representative on the Executive Committee of the Communist International to try to persuade the leadership of the RCP(b) to tone down the sharp tone of the struggle, and the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Germany acted similarly. On 23 December 1923 the Central Committee of the Communist Workers Party of Poland (CWPP)[9] sent a letter to the Presidium of the ECCI and the Political Bureau of the RCP(b), in which one of the points was ‘The Situation in the RCP(b)’. Avoiding taking a position in relation to the subject of the disagreement, the letter was limited to the statement that ‘for our party, for the whole International and for the whole revolutionary world proletariat, the name of comrade Trotsky is indissolubly linked with the victorious October Revolution, with the Red Army, with Communism and the world revolution’. It also expressed reservations about the sharp form this inner-party struggle was taking.

The inspiration behind this document came from the so-called group of ‘Four Ws’ (Adolf Warski, Wera Kostrzewa-Koszutska, Henryk Walecki and Edward Weber-Próchniak),[10] who at various times were based in Moscow during this period, and who observed the development of this struggle closely from its inception. Unlike the decisive majority of leading Communist activists, they did not realise its enormous importance for the direction of the development of the USSR and the international Communist movement, and treated it at first rather as personal rivalry between over-ambitious leaders. The view formed by the four was basically that the most important and perhaps not very complicated task would be to get the quarrelling leaders of the RCP(b) to agree.[11] That is why the plenum of the Central Committee of the CWPP which voted on this letter also took a decision to treat it as confidential and to inform neither the general membership nor even the lower level party organisations, so the party press wrote nothing about the disagreement in the RCP(b). Only in the Ukrainian language Nasha Pravda (Our Truth), the organ of the autonomous Communist Party of the Western Ukraine[12] within the CWPP, did an article appear in January 1924 which calmly and without bias presented the views of both sides. But because the circle of CWPP members was limited and had to obtain all its information about events within the Soviet party almost exclusively from the Polish non-Communist (or rather anti-Communist) press, the effects of this inner-party struggle could not acquire a larger dimension. Apparently at the end of 1923 one of the Warsaw district organisations of the CWPP supported Trotsky. This happened because L Domski-Stein was a decisive opponent of the political line of the CWPP and its leading group, the ‘Four Ws’.[13] The Warsaw sympathisers of Trotsky could not find much support in the disorientated mass membership, and, at least on the surface, this group disappeared from party life. In Poland the situation developed differently from that in places like France. There, Boris Souvarine and Pierre Monatte were removed from the party leadership and from the party itself for supporting Trotsky in 1924, as was Robert Louzon, who also left the party in solidarity with them.[14] But on the banks of the Vistula the party leadership based in the country evaluated the December decision — especially since Stalin in his letter of 4 February 1924 reprimanded the leadership of the CWPP severely for it — as completely, or at least partially, mistaken. Amongst them only Leon Purman still considered it correct. But those who had supported the ‘Four Ws’ from now on tried to show their exceptional servility to the Stalinist faction in the leadership of the RCP(b), and wanted this to prove their conversion to the now-accepted Communist International ‘Bolshevism’ of the Stalinist kind. Gradually, therefore, they went further and further in their criticism of Trotsky. Even in the pages of Nowy Przeglad (New Review), the theoretical organ of the party, only criticisms of him could be found, which became more and more hypocritical and slanderous. That is how the witch-hunt of the mostly imaginary Trotskyists (and of the leaders apparently protecting them) began in the Polish Communist movement. Obviously, the authors of the December letter did not escape. Already in July 1924 — soon after their removal from the leadership of the CWPP by the decision of the Polish Commission of the Fifth Congress of the Communist International — a meeting was called in Moscow of ‘responsible Polish Communists’, those carrying out responsible functions in the Soviet party apparatus or the government, which characterised ‘comrade Trotsky’s speech... as an attack on Leninism and the present leadership of the party [the RCP(b)] and the Communist International’. In point four of the statement of this meeting, the attempts of Warski ‘to whitewash his companions, the Polish Trotskyists Kostrzewa and Walecki’, were mentioned.

Despite the ever harsher denunciations of Trotsky and the oppositionists close to him from the Twelfth Conference of the RCP(b) (held on 16-18 January 1924) onwards, despite the Central Committee meetings, conferences and rallies which followed, and despite the removal of their activists from both party and governmental positions, the Left Opposition, as this tendency began to be called, did not share the fate of previous party oppositions and fall apart. In its documents it sharpened and theoretically developed its critique of Stalinist policies within both the USSR and the international Communist movement. Despite the offensive against ‘Trotskyism’, started at the Fifth Congress of the Communist International (held on 17 June-8 August 1924) in the foreign Communist parties, opposition groups appeared in some of them, first of all in the French and the German, and later in the Czechoslovak (in 1927) and others. There was no such group in the Communist Party of Poland (which the CWPP became in 1925), but some of the Polish Communists permanently based in the USSR, or living there temporarily, joined the opposition within the RCP(b). Apparently, many of the Polish lecturers both in the Communist University for the National Minorities of the West in Moscow and in those party courses organised by the Communist International openly sympathised with the New Opposition of Zinoviev and Kamenev, founded in October 1925, and which, from April 1926 together with the Left Opposition, formed the United Opposition.

Amongst the signatories of the Statement of the Forty-Six dated 15 October 1923, which gave rise to the opposition around Trotsky, was a metalworker from Wegrowo, Wladyslaw Kosior,[15] one of three Bolshevik activist brothers, and who was active in the revolutionary movement in the Ukraine from 1907, held a leading position in the Red Army, and was later in the industrial and trade union apparatus. Less than four years later he was to sign the Declaration of the Eighty-Four, as the letter of the United Opposition dated 27 May 1927 to the Central Committee of the RCP(b) was called. Another signatory was Regina Budzynska, who from the end of 1914 had been active in the SDKPiL in Lódz and Warsaw, later in the CWPP, and from 1920 lived in Russia as a result of an exchange of political prisoners. She held various positions in the RCP(b) apparatus, usually in the Polish organisations, and spent a few months in 1924-25 illegally in Poland as a member of the ‘left’ Intermediate Secretariat of the Central Committee of the CWPP.

Two other members of the Intermediate Secretariat, Domski-Stein and Zofia Osinska-Unszlicht, added their signatures to the document. Both were recalled by the Communist International to Moscow at the end of 1925, and from then on were forcibly kept away from Poland. The son of the writer Stanislaw Przybyszewski acted similarly, as did the talented musician Boleslaw Przybyszewski-Foerder, a participant in the October Revolution, later a soldier in the Red Army, then a lecturer at the Communist University for the National Minorities of the West, and an observer at the Fourth Conference of the CPP (held on 23 November-23 December 1925 in Moscow). All four joined the New Opposition.

The participation of the Polish Communists in this stage of the Soviet Communist opposition found an echo at the Fourth Congress of the CPP (held on 22 May-9 August 1927 in the village of Sadovo-Sukharievskoye near Moscow). Absent from this congress, though not of their free will, Domski and Osinska addressed it in July with a lengthy letter. They put forward their point of view, as they characterised it, of the ‘International Leninist Left’ on the situation in the USSR, and on some of the problems of Communist tactics in other countries which were the subject of disagreement between the opposition and the Stalinist faction in the RCP(b) and the Communist International.[16] The letter also raised their views on the situation in Poland and the political line of the CPP. The congress did not pay any attention to the letter, because all the energy of the delegates and visitors was concentrated on the struggle between the faction of the ‘majority’ of the CPP, which was led by Warski and Kostrzewa, and ‘minority’ faction led by Julian Lenski-Leszczynski.[17] This inner-party disagreement, which for many party members was unclear and almost incomprehensible, was in itself pointless and sterile, because neither of the two factions had the courage to state that the obvious source of the ‘May mistake’ (the support given by the CPP to Pilsudski’s coup in May 1926) was precisely the strategy of the Communist International.[18] Instead, they accused each other of ‘Trotskyism’, or of submitting to it, whilst at the same time dissociating themselves from it. This congress was exceptionally stormy, and was the longest and perhaps the most difficult in the history of the CPP, and it met at a time when the fight with the Russian opposition was reaching its inevitable climax. It allocated only half a day to deal with this topic, and then — almost without any discussion — adopted the official Stalinist resolution on this subject. Within the country none of the organisations of the CPP, the Union of Communist Youth in Poland (UCYP), nor the leaders of any rank and file organisation expressed any doubt about the way the opposition in the RCP(b) was dealt with in the months following the congress. But for Communists these matters were not unimportant.

The Fifteenth Congress of the RCP(b), meeting on 2-17 December 1927, voted for a decision on the opposition, and removed from the party 75 leading members of the United Opposition and 23 other oppositionists, and also decided that solidarity with the views of those expelled was contrary to party membership. On this basis thousands of oppositionists were immediately removed from the RCP(b), including all the Polish signatories of the Declaration of the Eighty-Four, and most of them were later sent into exile. On 17 January 1928 Trotsky and his family were deported from Moscow to Alma Ata.

When it was not silent about such things, the press of the CPP and the UCYP expressed approval of the repression. The Central Committee of the UCYP even published a special pamphlet, originally printed in the Moscow Pravda on 2 December 1927, containing only the resolutions and documents of the Fifteenth Congress directed against the opposition, and an article entitled ‘The Polish “Section” of the World Opposition’ by Walecki, who had been a head of the Polish department of the ECCI from 1924. This was a violent attack on the four Polish signatories of the Declaration of the Eighty-Four, though without naming Kosior.

Soon afterwards, at the end of January or maybe in February, an appeal was issued entitled ‘A Word about the Internal Enemies of Communism’, addressed ‘To the Revolutionary Polish Proletariat of the Towns and Countryside’. This was a passionate protest, full of indignation at the recent showdown with the opposition in the USSR, and was critical of the development of the situation there after the death of Lenin, when ‘the government was taken over by the “com-scoundrels” and rascals, against whom Lenin warned the party’. There was also talk about the instructions ‘in the famous brochure The Platform of the Opposition’ and also about ‘the workers’ councils in the factories being removed, and workers being at the mercy of supervisors and a high-handed administration’, together with the repression meted out to oppositionists: ‘The hero of the Communist revolution, who was imprisoned in Tsarist prisons many times in the past, Leon Trotsky, has been sent into exile; with one shot from a revolver the architect of the first Soviet peace treaty, Joffe, committed suicide... Kamenev is also exiled, as well as Zinoviev and Radek, and hundreds and thousands of Communists, who have proved their commitment to the Communist ideal in struggle, are rotting in the same prisons which they had seen more than once as the prisoners of the Tsarist regime.’ The authors stated that irrespective of the dangers: ‘We will not stop fighting for the Communist ideal, for the Testament of the leader of the revolution — Lenin; we will not stop exposing the wounds inflicted on the revolutionary Russian proletariat and Communist Russia by the kulak policy of Stalin.’ This man also ‘holds in his grip the so-called Polish Communist Party, which he rules as a dictator, bribing with money, demoralising and removing all independent-minded Communists, whilst supporting the one he bribed himself — Warski-Warszawski’. ‘To him we ask this question: What has happened to the Polish revolutionaries, followers of Lenin’s principles, who, trusting Stalin, went to Moscow?! What has happened to Domanski?’[19] This ‘fearless revolutionary fighter has been sent into exile by Stalin’. The appeal sums up: ‘To the joint attack of international capital and the kulak Stalin, the revolutionary Polish proletariat must answer with renewed revolutionary action.’

The authors of this first Polish Trotskyist document — signed ‘The Polish Trotskyist Faction’ — like their predecessors at the end of 1923, remained anonymous. Like the latter, they were followers of Domski, and maybe that was the reason that they broke with the CPP, and — judging by the style and the language of the document — were more likely to have been well-read working class activists than party intellectuals or functionaries. The schematic rhetoric of the polemics in the CPP’s publications was foreign to them. They had spontaneously become Trotskyists, and had no links with organised foreign groups of Trotskyist oppositionists. This is suggested by a call to boycott the official Communist list in the March parliamentary elections, in particular its leading candidates — Warski and Sochacki[20] — and also the slogan ‘Long Live the Communist Fourth International’, then unknown to the organised Left Opposition.[21]

This group left no other trace of itself. At about the same time, Trotskyism found sympathisers inside the Communist Party of the Western Ukraine. These were Roman Kuzma (Turianski) and Pantelejmon Krajkiwski, both members of the leading group, who after disagreements on the national policy question there and in the Soviet Ukraine, forced a split in the CPWU in mid-January 1928. In 1929 they declared that ‘on a number of issues we are in solidarity with the Trotskyist Opposition’, but at other times they disclaimed any organisational ties with it, and stressed their different positions. However, they also emphasised the need for discussion with the representatives of Trotskyism in order to submit their views to a Marxist critique. The official wing of the CPWU, like all the other parties of the Communist International, rejected any possibility of meaningful discussion with the opposition.

Despite the official anti-Trotskyist position of the CPP, in the closed circle of its intellectuals from the end of the 1920s, there did exist a positive interest in Trotsky’s views and writings. Some of them, such as the poet Wladyslaw Broniewski, were suggested as translators of his autobiography, and others, like the poet and a literary critic Edward Boyé, acted as intermediaries in this.

These and similar anti-Stalinist moods found no organisational expression or a permanent objection to the political line of the CPP, because members of the party were forced, because of the political situation in the country, to act in illegality, whilst at the same time they found themselves under the direct supervision of the Stalinist cadre, which was even more intensive than in other countries. Any attempt at opposition would have meant carrying out political activity in an atmosphere of double illegality watched both by the Polish police and Stalin’s appointees.

In this situation, when all other political groupings were decisively anti-Soviet, this could have easily been accused of anti-Communist and opportunist motives. In addition to preventing them from organising an opposition, painful consequences for the participants could have easily been predicted. In underground activity exclusion from the party is, for a dedicated member, a double, or even a treble blow, compared to being in a legal organisation. Inevitably it means a break in personal relations with very close friends still remaining in the party. A sort of social vacuum appeared around anyone expelled from the party. Only exceptionally serious issues could have induced members of the CPP to take this drastic step, and they were obliged to have been the most determined and principled people.

Opposition in the Communist Party of Poland

After Stalin’s victory over Bukharin, his ally in the fight against the Left Opposition, in the autumn of 1928 the unquestioned leader of the entire loyal Communist International had already formulated his conception that ‘Social Democracy objectively represents the moderate wing of Fascism... These organisations are not antipodes but twins.’ This became the strategic directive for all Communist parties. In July 1929 the Tenth Plenum of the ECCI taught that there was no possibility of a united front of Communists with Social Democratic organisations, or even with trade unions under their influence. After the elections to the German parliament on 14 September 1930, when the rapid growth of Nazi influence was apparent (6.4 million votes or 18.3 per cent), the Eleventh Plenum of the ECCI (held on 25 March-13 April 1931) merely concluded that the whole development of Social Democracy ‘is a continuous process of evolution towards Fascism’, and that therefore a successful struggle with it demanded that Communists stop ‘counterposing Fascism to bourgeois democracy and the parliamentary forms of the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie to its openly Fascist forms’. The resolutions of the Eleventh Plenum categorically rejected any Communist-Social Democratic coalition against Fascism, and forced the Communist parties to ‘concentrate their fire on the Social Fascists’, as Socialists of all shades were described. They also called for the setting up of revolutionary trade unions, which involved organising splits in the existing unions.

The Left Opposition opposed these views and tactics, and the conception of Socialists and Fascists being ‘two antagonistic supporters of the bourgeoisie’; proclaiming in opposition to the Tenth Plenum, that ‘proletarian revolutionaries who put all their opponents into one bag are useless. Communists who, when seeing the conflict between Fascism and Social Democracy, simply cover it up with the vapid formula of “Social Fascism”, are useless.’ Trotsky, who in March 1930 had already written about the growth of Fascism in Europe, immediately commented on the September election in Germany in a pamphlet that was published in several languages.[22]

Within the CPP the rival factions of the ‘majority’ and the ‘minority’ still tried to outdo each other in glorifying the political line of the Communist International, and competed in proving their loyalty to it. At the Sixth Plenum of the CPP’s Central Committee (held on 18-25 June 1929 in Berlin), the leadership of the party took over from the ‘minority’, which differed from its rival only in its lack of scruple and its zeal in carrying out even the most adventuristic directives of the ECCI merely to gain the favour of Stalin. The Fifth Congress of the CPP (held on 16-29 August 1930 at Peterhof near Leningrad) further sharpened the principle of organising the united front exclusively ‘from below’, without making any kind of agreement with even the lowest level organisations of the Polish Socialist Party. It proposed building an independent revolutionary trade union organisation. On 18 January 1931 a new small ‘red’ trade union council was founded, called the Left Trade Unions. But a group of CPP members, witnessing the state’s armed repression of oppositional groupings, especially the PPS, clearly saw the erroneous nature of the CPP’s political line. They were also aware of the methods and results of the Soviet agricultural collectivisation drive. Both issues were a source of ferment inside the party. The ECCI-assisted removal of Warski and Kostrzewa from the CPP’s leadership further increased the members’ discontent. From mid-1929 there was also easier access to the documents of the Left Opposition, and in Paris the Russian language Byulleten’ Oppozitsii began to appear, whilst the International Secretariat of the Left Opposition was founded at a conference on 6 April 1930 in Paris by Trotskyist representatives from seven countries of Europe and the USA, which also enabled it to act systematically in other countries.

From now on in Poland it was easier for Communists and their sympathisers to learn about the Trotskyists’ point of view. The ferment in the CPP, which continued for several years, and which, further fomented by personal rivalries, grew in strength from 1929 onwards, tended to develop rather clearer sympathies with Trotskyism, especially as a basis for it had already been laid by translations into both Polish and Yiddish of Trotsky’s autobiography My Life. Both appeared in the spring of 1930, published by Biblion, whose editor, Michal Fruchtman, had links with the CPP. Such sympathies began to grow amongst oppositionist groups, as did certain views of the Left Opposition, which appeared later within the CPP as a result of objections raised against the line of the Sixth Plenum and Fifth Congress. Finally, at the end of 1931, a genuine faction was formed, opposed not only to the whole political line, but also — in essence — to the whole party regime. The inspiration came from Hersch Sztokfisch, the 40-year-old Secretary of the Jewish Central Bureau of the CPP’s Central Committee, a worker with a rich political past. As a student in 1928-29 at the Communist International school in Moscow, he personally met a Trotskyist, had access to Trotskyist literature, and learnt about the GPU’s repression. He returned to Poland strongly determined to tell the truth about the USSR without hiding anything, and to be active in the ranks of the Communist opposition. Together with a high CPP functionary, Pawel-Pinkus Minc (whose pseudonym was Aleksander), he founded the faction. They adopted a three-point programme, demanding a united front with the Social Democrats for a common fight against reaction and Fascism, preserving or returning to the unity of the trade union movement, and a fight against the bureaucratic control of the CPP in favour of inner-party democracy. The programme was limited to national issues. This allowed them to avoid a break with the CPP for a time, and gave them (so they hoped) the possibility of starting a principled discussion within the party. The platform of the faction allowed them to attract not only Trotskyists (Bolshevik-Leninists), but also sympathisers of the right wing opposition in the RCP(b) and the Communist International, that is, those who supported Bukharin and Brandler and their Polish variant, Warski and Kostrzewa (the latter being hesitant). The ideological propaganda and agitation, based on this compromise, won many party members and sympathisers to the faction, mainly in Warsaw. After this first organisational success a high party functionary, a deputy Central Committee member for a while, Abram Pflug (Abe, Czarny), a hosiery worker, joined the faction, together with a small group of his supporters.

Trotsky and the International Secretariat of the Left Opposition soon began to pay attention to Poland. With the participation of Kazimierz Badowski, a CPP member from 1925, and its functionary in Poznan and Zaglebie Dabrowskie, who during his studies in Belgium became a Trotskyist, the first issue of a Polish Trotskyist paper Proletariat was published there in the spring of 1932. It was, as its title stated, ‘The Polish Organ of the Left Communist Opposition’. A total lack in it of even the slightest information about Poland indicated that the publishers had no contact with people in the country. The master copies of the paper, prepared in Brussels, were smuggled by Badowski into the country, where a certain number of copies were made and distributed to various places, including (as the police found out) Bielsko-Biata. Badowski settled in Cracow, where he started Trotskyist activity. At the same time, the international Trotskyist centre sent to Poland Szlome Erlich, a tanner, originally from Bedzin, who had lived for some time in Switzerland, where he joined the Trotskyist opposition in 1931. After returning to Poland he energetically joined in the faction’s activity.[23] These first activists, directly linked to the International Secretariat, quickly gave up using the publisher Biblion, or perhaps Fruchtman, who worked on editorial matters with the leadership of the CPP, was either unwilling or unable to provide them with any more help. Although the Polish and Yiddish translations of the first volume of Trotsky’s History of the Russian Revolution had been put out by Biblion in March 1932, the next volume was published by the newly-established publishing house Era in Warsaw in mid-June. This became Nowa Era a couple of months later, and it concentrated exclusively on publishing Trotsky’s works. Beginning in the summer of 1931, the Trotskyists published three editions of their programme by the end of the year, in which Trotsky warned — more than 18 months before Hitler came to power — that that the politics of both the Stalinists and the Social Democrats were preparing a victory for the National Socialists in the heart of Europe. Towards the end of 1931 Lenin’s Left Wing Communism: An Infantile Disorder appeared through Nowa Era, including a foreword especially written for this edition by Trotsky.[24] This work was published because of its topical relevance, being ‘from beginning to end a great accusation against all sorts of “wiseacre” theories’, including those of the Communist International and the CPP. This timely theme was also emphasised in the foreword. In Poland papers and pamphlets of the Left Opposition were distributed in the Russian, German and French languages, which were understood by some of the workers’ groups. The unyielding attitude of the leadership of the CPP on the issue of the united front and ‘Social Fascism’ and its tactic towards the trade unions greatly contributed to the faction’s successes. It gained groups of supporters in some of the capital’s left wing trade unions, especially amongst the shoemakers and textile workers, and also amongst the UCYP. By the middle of that year there were five groups — two in Warsaw and one in the Warsaw suburbs, one in Lódz, and one in Zaglebie Dabrowskie. Two journalists from the CPP’s publication centre of legal and illegal literature, Artur Redler and Isaac Deutscher, actively joined in the work of the faction. The former, a member of the party since 1926, was not emotionally involved in the disagreement between the ‘majority’ and the ‘minority’, which allowed him to look at it critically. He had stayed in the USSR during 1931, where he had been sent by the CPP as their expected future leading intellectual, and had returned very alarmed, and greatly though not completely disillusioned. Back in Poland, he was a permanent and influential member of the editorial board of the CPP’s legally published but unofficial Literary Monthly, and an editor of the Yiddish literary and social-cultural monthly paper Literarysze Trybune, which was also a legal party paper, and which was run by Sztokfisch himself.[25]

In the spring of 1932 Deutscher published, probably in Literarysze Trybune, a lengthy article in which he openly criticised the party line, and demanded the building of a united front of all workers’ parties and the Communist and Social Democratic trade unions for a common fight against Fascism, and especially Nazism. Soon afterwards another of his articles, ‘Di tswelfte sztunde’ (‘The Twelfth Hour’), appeared, published with Sztokfisch’s knowledge and agreement. It said, in agreement with Trotsky, that Nazism was preparing a bloodbath for both the working class and the petit-bourgeois democrats in Germany, and that the Communist Party would lack the strength to repel this danger. Therefore, despite the vacillation and uncertainty of this ally, it should ally itself with Social Democracy. The National Secretariat of the Central Committee of the CPP immediately ordered the withdrawal from sale of this issue of the paper. But it was so popular that the paper distributors did not want to return it. This incident probably exhausted the patience of the CPP leadership, which had already decided earlier to discipline the leaders of the faction, and had prepared the necessary measures. It was decided to resolve the matter at a special conference called in June 1932 by the Gdansk council of the Jewish Central Bureau and those functionaries in the Central Committee of the CPWU, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Western Byelorussia, and the more important Regional Committees of the CPP that were responsible for work amongst the Yiddish-speaking population. Henryk Henrykowski-Amsterdam[26] went on behalf of the Central Committee of the CPP, and the ECCI sent Bronislaw Bronkowski-Bortnowski[27] as a delegate. After two days of discussion, during which Sztokfisch stubbornly defended his political line and the views of the faction, it was decided to remove him from his position as a Secretary of the Central Bureau, whilst the matter of his party membership was postponed for another month, and he was left to think things over. On the following day, in a letter to the Central Committee of the CPP, he was already sharpening his position on the issues in dispute. Deutscher, too, with whom the representatives of the Secretariat were having discussions, did not withdraw anything in his letter, and was removed from the party in June. With the idea of destroying the faction by removing its charismatic leader, Sztokfisch was called to Moscow, together with Pflug, soon afterwards, and threatened that if he refused to go a campaign would be started against him. It was probably intended to keep him there forever, as had been done with Domski in 1925. But he did not fear the threats, and put the matter of his travel before a meeting of the leadership of the faction, where he justified his refusal to go. He was supported by Erlich and Minc, whilst Pflug reacted by leaving the faction. With the latter went a group of his followers who had joined it with him, though some of them stayed, such as the metalworker Hersch Bekierkuntz, who was a member of the Jewish Central Bureau in 1928-29. After this secession the faction became truly Trotskyist, and established official relations with the International Secretariat of the Left Opposition.[28]

The faction’s leadership answered the CPP leadership’s action by intensifying its activity. Meetings of party members were organised in Warsaw and in the provinces, in Lódz for instance, where the representatives of the faction openly presented its programme. Especially active were Sztokfisch, Artuski-Eichenbaum, Erlich and Redler. Deutscher became the leading ideologue. The speakers clearly emphasised that the CPP leadership, which persisted in presenting an ultra-left political line, should be changed. A statement was written addressed to the Central Committee of the CPP and the ECCI, and signatures were collected amongst party members and sympathisers at the end of July and the beginning of August. This proposed unity of action between the Social Democratic and Communist parties, first of all in Germany and Poland, and the term ‘Social Fascism’ was described as ‘mindless and anti-Leninist’. It also pointed out that in the present epoch dominated by monopoly capital, the rule of the capitalist oligarchy (Fascist) became a heavy burden on the petit-bourgeoisie, and that therefore the latter’s parties, however inconsistently, were forced to oppose Fascism. In Poland these were the PPS and Stronnictwo Ludowe (Peasant Party). It therefore followed that it was a mistake not to have supported the Centrolew (Centre-Left) in 1930.[29] The document also argued that the PPS had stopped supporting the bourgeoisie as it had done hitherto, and now sought to replace the dictatorship with parliamentary democracy. It also acted out of self-interest, because the victory of Fascism meant the smashing of the Socialist parties. The statement criticised the Communist International’s perspective of a rapidly maturing revolutionary situation in Poland. It therefore opposed the CPP’s constant demand for general strikes. It also demanded the establishment of inner-party democracy.

The news of this document and some of its contents leaked into other circles, especially those of the Warsaw intelligentsia which sympathised with the CPP, and caused much comment. But by August the National Secretariat of the Central Committee of the CPP declared its authors and signatories to be ‘Social Fascist agents in our ranks’, and therefore decided that ‘we shall not engage in any discussion with these anti-party elements... the lower level organisations should be able to deal with them’. All open members of the faction as well as those suspected of belonging to it were expelled from the party. The Central Committee of the CPP published and widely distributed in the underground a pamphlet entitled Against the Trotskyist Renegades.

It also attacked them in statements and leaflets. Stefan Skulski-Merten was sent from Moscow, and was given special powers to lead the fight against Trotskyism, including physical extermination. Armed bands of the CPP not only entered party meetings organised by the faction to break them up, but also terrorised the members of the faction.[30] They would break into their homes and carry out searches, in no way different from the police. They probably wanted to provoke the victims to complain to the police or the courts about those who carried out the break-ins, whom they probably knew personally, and in this way compromise the members of the faction in front of the working class. At the same time, they spread all sorts of vile slanders, prepared according to the best Stalinist methods. At workers’ meetings they openly threatened to shoot some of the leaders of the faction. The removal of the members of the Trotskyist faction from the CPP and the attempts to compromise them or frighten them did not achieve the intended aim — Trotskyism did not disappear from the political scene.

An Independent Organisation

The methods used by the leadership of the CPP in its fight against the Trotskyist tendency inside the Communist movement and the way it dealt with the Trotskyists were totally in line with the atmosphere that existed within the authoritative circles of the Communist International, and, taking into account the difference in the situation, coincided with the growing weight of Stalinist repression in the USSR against opponents of the general line of the RCP(b). It was then at the Twelfth Plenum of the ECCI (held on 27 August-15 September 1932), only five months before Hitler came to power, that ‘the German Stalin’ — as Ernst Thälmann[31] was then called — underlined that his party’s sharpest struggle was against the view that ‘the main offensive within the working class should no longer be against the Social Democracy’. And he called Trotsky’s views on the necessity of united action by the Communist and Socialist parties against Nazism, a theory ‘of a completely bankrupt Fascist and counter-revolutionary’, and the most dangerous that Trotsky had ‘formulated in the last few years of his counter-revolutionary propaganda’. The plenum completely endorsed these views. Additionally, it stated that ‘there is a transition... to a new series of wars and revolutions’. These points of view soon afterwards were accepted in their entirety by the Fifth Congress of the CPP (held 8-18 October 1932 near Mogilev in Byelorussia). Its resolutions spoke about an immediate approach of a ‘revolutionary crisis’ in Poland, and categorically rejected ‘the most dangerous’ tendency ‘to go some of the way with the Social Fascist parties, as a temporary ally and a legal cover’. For the congress, any mention of the need for a united front was a sign of ‘Trotskyism’. Of course, there was no lack of attacks on the Trotskyist organisation, which (as we shall see) had begun to act as the independent CPP Opposition. At the start of 1933 Nowy Przeglad devoted an entire article to attacking it. The weight of the attack was increased by the fact that this article was written by Wiktor Zytlowski, from 1929 a secretary of the security commission of the Political Bureau of the CPP, and one so upwardly mobile in the party hierarchy that he was evidently trusted by the GPU.

In the autumn of 1932 the members of the Trotskyist faction expelled from the CPP formed a political organisation, as illegal as their original party, called the CPP Opposition. The enforced split with the CPP had its negative side, as it limited possibilities for activity. The leaders of the now independent group had been party functionaries who not only lived on the party’s money, but also travelled around the provinces at its expense. From now on they had to fend for themselves, and they needed new sources of income for the organisation. The main source became the group’s subscriptions, but in part they also returned to their original trades or professions. The sums collected from the subscriptions were not very large, because the workers paying them were also suffering from the results of the crisis. The sacrifices of some of the non-working class activists helped. Deutscher, working as a journalist and a proof-reader on newspapers, gave half his earnings to the organisation. In the domain of politics and ideology the restrictions imposed on an internal faction, such as refraining from public criticism of the party, were now no longer relevant. Now, as followed from their name, they publicly demanded readmission to the CPP of all those expelled from it, not just individuals, but the whole organisation, including the new members who had joined from outside the party. Naturally, such a reintegration would have meant that the views of the Opposition were admissible within the CPP.

One of the first, maybe the very first, publication in which the CPP Opposition presented its point of view on the current crucial issues of the workers’ movement to wider circles, was published legally at the beginning of February 1933 in Warsaw in the Yiddish language as a pamphlet by Deutscher, Aktuele problemen fun der arbeterbawegung. An entfer chmurnern (The Current Problems of the Workers’ Movement: An Answer to Chmurner). Signed with one of his well-known pseudonyms — A Kra-ski (Krakowski) — it discussed the positions of Chmurner, the leader of the left wing of the Bund,[32] on such issues as Social Fascism and the assumptions of this notion, the unity of the trade union movement, and the phenomenon of bureaucratisation in workers’ organisations. On the last issue, the author outlined the principles of democratic centralism in the workers’ party in the non-Stalinist meaning of the word. On the question of Social Fascism he quoted Trotsky’s point of view put forward in the works published in 1932 in Warsaw in the Yiddish language Wos wajter? (And What Next?), which was simultaneously released in Polish.

The Programme of the CPP Opposition was based on the 11 points accepted by the Preliminary Conference of the International Left Opposition (held on 4-8 February 1933). It spoke about ‘the necessity of systematic Communist work within the mass proletarian organisations’, especially within the reformist trade unions, the obligation to mobilise the masses ‘under transitional slogans... and especially democratic demands’ in a fight against feudal relations, national oppression and various forms of open imperialist dictatorship of Fascist or Bonapartist kind’, and ‘to develop a political line, a policy of a united front towards the mass organisations of the working class’, including the PPS. The other points demanded the application in practice of inner-party democracy, and the merciless condemnation of the ‘Stalinist plebiscite regime’, as well as a rejection of ‘the theory of Social Fascism and the practice connected with it, as one helping both Fascism on the one hand, and Social Democracy on the other’. One of the points was specific to this political formation: recognition of ‘the international and at the same time permanent character of the proletarian revolution, and rejection of the theory of Socialism in One Country and its complementary policy of National Bolshevism’. The document clearly stated that the international opposition regarded itself ‘as a faction of the Communist International, and its individual sections as factions of the national Communist parties’. Therefore, each one should have the name ‘Left Opposition’, further qualified as ‘Bolshevik-Leninist’. In opposition to the Communist International and the CPP, for whom the May coup and the government that followed were Fascist, and the PPS ‘Social Fascist’ because it supported Pilsudski, the CPP Opposition regarded this coup as a ‘preventive’ one, which had not led to a Fascist regime in the following six years. Therefore the PPS, the former supporter of Pilsudski, again became the democratic agents of the bourgeoisie, and opposed its Fascist agents. It was emphasised that for Communists this difference was essential, and it conditioned their tactic towards this party.[33]

These views and slogans were publicised by the CPP Opposition in the first months after Hitler’s coming to power in Germany on 30 January 1933. The leadership of the Communist International not only did not see the mistakes it had made, but, in its statement of 5 March, even stressed that ‘the political and organisational line which the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Germany under the leadership of comrade Thälmann conducted up to the Nazis taking power and at the moment of their taking power, was absolutely correct’, and ‘the establishment of an open Fascist dictatorship... quickens the tempo of Germany’s march in the direction of the proletarian revolution’. Replying to the appeal of 19 February from the Bureau of the Second International for a common fight of the workers against Fascism, the ECCI on 5 March stressed that the Communist International and its sections had reason ‘to disbelieve the honesty’ of this proposition. At the same time, the theoretical organ of the CPP lectured that within the PPS the most dangerous part was its left wing, because it took over the Communist slogan of a united front, and by this disorientated the masses. To the rank and file Social Democratic organisations, it emphasised, it put forward concrete proposals ‘aimed at unmasking the Social Democratic leaders on the basis of organising a campaign by the Communists for a united front from below’.

The significance of the catastrophic defeat that Hitler’s victory represented was widely recognised by the activists of the workers’ parties in Poland, and opened their eyes to the nonsense of both the theory of Social Fascism and the arrogant forecasts of the Communist International about an imminent German revolution. For a section of these rather small groupings in Poland, mainly in the capital, which had already been influenced earlier by the publications and verbal agitation of the Trotskyists, this development of events confirmed the correctness of their criticism of the major workers’ parties. This rather modest increase in social acceptance stirred the CPP Opposition to intensify its activity. It decided to stress more clearly its solidarity with the International Left Opposition, and to carry out propaganda and educational activity in its spirit. It quickly reacted to the German events and the moves by both the major workers’ international centres. In a period of a week — 13-20 March — it published one or perhaps two appeals. They criticised the CPP’s policy, and called on its members to put pressure on the party leadership to force them to take a stand and to call for a conference of the Second and Third Internationals, together with the participation of Trotsky.[34]

The struggle against Stalinist policies was not only carried out at the level of international policy, but also in the more easily understood domain of national issues such as trade union activity. The publication of its own legal newspapers served this purpose, as it did for the CPP. In Warsaw there appeared — because of the legal constraints it did not carry the name of the CPP Opposition — a Polish language paper, and another — from 1 April 1933 — in Yiddish called Unzer Gedank (Our Thought), both being regularly confiscated by the police. The last issue of the former appeared on 5 July, and two days later its editor and nominal publisher (in reality it was the organisation), a 23-year old tailor, Schlama Schwartz, was arrested. Not until 5 November — two days after his release from prison — did there appear, this time under the name of Itzek Glikson, a 27-year old lathe-turner, a bi-weekly called Sztern (Gwiazda). Both Polish and Yiddish papers were printed in single runs of 5000 copies each. Their distribution in the capital was apparently more successful than that of the CPP’s legal papers. The censors’ repression was also felt by the Nowa Era publishing house. In the first half of 1933 it managed to publish two pamphlets by Trotsky. But his other pamphlets that followed and a few by other authors were confiscated, and the publishers ceased their activity. Several leaflets concerning current issues were printed illegally, and an internal bulletin was also published. This was meant to overcome to some extent the difficulties for agitation and political work caused by the constant confiscation of the organisation’s papers. Publishing activity was also made difficult by lack of money. Unlike the CPP, it did not receive any money from abroad, so there was not enough for organisational work, and many of the activists were simply starving.

This great agitational and publishing effort bore fruit in the organisational sphere. Trotskyism in Poland, at first limited to the Jewish workers’ milieu, now also found supporters amongst Polish workers. Two new cells appeared in Praga,[35] and contacts were established with workers in large textile factories in Lódz, and also amongst some metalworkers there. Opposition groups were formed at a number of coal mines in Zaglebie Dabrowskie, and contacts were maintained with almost all the larger mines. At the end of 1933 four large meetings were organised with the unions of textile workers, tailors, retail workers and youth, at which around 240 workers were present. The Opposition’s activists in Warsaw attended almost all Bund meetings, and they found quite a number of sympathisers amongst its members. Contacts were also established with activists of the PPS left wing, including those in the provinces, whilst close relations were established with some of the activists from the Youth Organisation of the Workers University Association (YOWUA) connected with this party and the left wing Socialist intellectual group Plomienie (Flame).

During 1933 Trotskyism made advances in the milieu of the intelligentsia, especially amongst the young. In the capital some the members of the students’ Socialist Youth Organisation ‘Zycie’ (Life), closely connected with the Communist Union of the Polish Youth, came over to its side, amongst them Jadwiga Kielczewska, Jerzy Wedrychowski, Stefan Lamed and, in 1935, Witold Wudel, the press publications editor of this organisation. All of them were expelled with a bang. Supporters were also gained amongst pupils in the capital’s schools, particularly at the Batory gymnasium. One of them was the future poet Krzysztof Kamil Baczynski, and another was Konstanty Aleksander Jelenski, later an emigré journalist. In Lódz, the writers Grzegorz Timofiejew and Marian Piechala were contacted unsuccessfully, and in Cracow Wanda Wasilewska.

So by the end of 1933 the Opposition had organisations in Warsaw and in seven other towns, and also permanent contacts with all the other large workers’ centres. The organisation in the capital had about 300 members (the CPP had between 800 and 1000), and amongst these was both a sizeable group formed by ex-CPP members with long party service, and also many youth.[36] As a result it was one of the largest sections of the International Left Opposition, and larger ones existed only in Germany, the USA, Czechoslovakia and Greece. The CPP replied to the Trotskyist’s gains with a mass of anti-Trotskyist publications. After a violent attack by Albert-Zytlowski, one of the leading ideologues and a party theoretician, Jerzy Ryng-Heryng, spoke out. Three pamphlets in Polish were published and intensively distributed, as were another two similar ones in Yiddish. Trotsky and the Trotskyists were also constantly attacked in the legal and illegal CPP papers. In July 1933 the Programmatic Commission of the party included in its draft programme for the Sixth Congress of the CPP, a sizeable section on the CPP Opposition. It was characterised here as ‘tailing Social Fascism’, and ‘representing the counter-revolutionary ideology of Trotskyism on Polish soil’. By its activity and indeed its very existence it ‘attempts... to sow confusion and disorganisation in the ranks of the revolutionary proletariat, and to put a stop to the process of revolutionised workers coming over to the Communist Party’.

In the last months of 1933 the Opposition was confronted with the necessity of defining its relationship towards the ideological and political turn of international Trotskyism. In July Trotsky, stating that the Communist parties and the Communist International had not drawn any lessons from the tragic German events, came to the conclusion that it was necessary to build new revolutionary Communist parties in all countries, and to unite them in a new international organisation — the Fourth International. In September the plenum of the International Secretariat of the Left Opposition endorsed this point of view, thus accepting the 11 points of the February Preliminary Conference and respectively re-editing the tenth. From now on the following phrase was binding: ‘To fight for the regroupment of the revolutionary forces of the international working class under the banner of international Communism. To recognise the necessity of building an authentic Communist International capable of putting into practice the above-mentioned principles [points 1-9].’ At the same time the plenum changed the name of the movement, which no longer considered itself as an opposition in the Communist International, into one defining its independent position — the International Communist League. The national sections of the Left Opposition were to change their names accordingly.[37]

In Poland the PPS’s Tydzien Robotnika (Workers Weekly) instantly carried the news of Trotsky’s theses. The CPP Opposition published them together with the 11 points, but the pamphlet was confiscated. Within the organisation a discussion started on the issue of the reorientation of the movement which had occurred. Poland was the only section of the Left Opposition where it was not adopted unanimously. Sztokfisch and Deutscher spoke against the new theses. In their opinion, the crucial factor — the shameful capitulation of the Communist International and its inability to foresee events — was not enough to merit founding a Fourth International. A rather longer transitional period was necessary, as was a period of time to gather new forces. Minc was hesitant, but Erlich was the main spokesman in favour of the new course. He gained support for this position through late 1933 and early 1934, and so the name of the organisation was changed to the Union of Communist Internationalists of Poland (UCIP), noting in brackets for some time ‘former CPP Opposition’. A conference of the organisation was called, and one of points under discussion was the character of Pilsudski’s regime, and whether it should be regarded as Fascist, or, according to Trotsky’s point of view, as Bonapartist. In January 1934 the necessary theses and counter-theses were prepared.

Independently of the preparation for the conference, the UCIP continued its publishing and organisational activity. From its experience of the censorship and its observation of the CPP’s methods, it drew the conclusion that a legal paper ought to be published away from Central Poland, where the press restrictions were more repressive. The choice of town fell on Katowice. Hendel Maniela Landau, a 27-year-old office worker living there, apparently in the past a member of the District Committee of the CPP in Zaglebie Dabrowskie, agreed to act as editor and publisher of the UCIP’s bi-weekly Kuznia (Smithy). Its first and only issue, dated 1 April 1934, with a 5000 print-run, was instantly confiscated, and the editor arrested on 6 April. The authorities easily identified whose paper it was. After all, it included an article ‘The Tasks of the Day’ signed by the initials LT, which a few weeks later was published abroad by the International Communist League,[38] whilst other articles, which included one about the Twenty-Third Congress of the PPS, and another about the presidential decrees on social issues (the ‘insurance decree’) with the response to it by the leaderships of the PPS, the CPP and the Central Commission of the Trade Unions, left no doubt as to the political orientation of the paper.

Soon afterwards the UCIP took part in the May Day demonstrations of 1934 in several towns, including Kielce. Its May Day call, published illegally, was dedicated to general statements. It spoke about the victorious march of reaction and Fascism, ‘which brings the world closer to the spectre of a new imperialist war’. This victory ‘made the Polish bourgeoisie act even more insolently’, and they ‘had begun to attack the rights and gains of the working people... The national insurance decree, laws regarding holidays and hours of work, etc, take away from the widest masses the rights which they have won for themselves over a long period of time.’ Mass demonstrations by workers in defence of these gains were either broken up or limited to localities by the leaders of the CCTU, whilst the leadership of the CPP ‘by its adventurist calls for “general strikes”... compromised themselves in the eyes of the masses as well as the idea of the strike itself’. In this way, ‘at every step reformism and Stalinism paralyse the forces of the working class of Poland’. One of the slogans thus proclaimed ‘the necessity of building a new revolutionary vanguard of the proletariat... the formation of new Communist parties and a new Fourth International’.

In July, when incidents occurred between the extreme nationalist Camp of Great Poland (OWP)[39] and the YOWUA and the UCYP, the UCIP in its call exposed the supposed radicalism of this group, also reminding readers that ‘Mussolini and Hitler were full of anti-capitalism and Socialism before they came to power’. At the same time it stressed that the quarrel of the government with the OWP was about the question ‘of which is a better way of suppressing the workers’ movement, are the Fascist bands necessary, or will the bloody police government of Pilsudski be enough?’.[40] The call stressed the necessity for forming a united front of all workers’ parties, which would agree between themselves on a programme for common anti-Fascist action, and also that ‘in every district anti-Fascist united workers’ committees must be set up’. It spoke about a joint-party Anti-Fascist Workers’ Militia, which needed to be formed for the protection of working class districts and institutions. At the same time it also declared that ‘the UCIP, a cadre of the new Communist Party, considers its main task today to build a united front of the workers’ parties’.

Faced with the confiscation of its legal papers, the national leadership of the UCIP published in the late spring of 1934 the first issue of an illegal paper called Nowa Droga. Organ Komunistów Internacjonalistów Polski (b opoz CPP) (New Way: The Paper of the Communist-Internationalists of Poland (Former Opposition in the CPP)). It was probably in June that the Bolszewik, a paper of the UCIP’s organisation in Lódz, also started to appear illegally.

In June, in a tense political and police atmosphere after the murder of the Interior Minister Bronislaw Pieracki on 15 June, and the first blind repressive steps, the First National Conference of the UCIP met in secret.[41] It ended a programmatic discussion lasting several months. As the basis of its programme it endorsed the 11 points of the September plenum of the International Left Opposition, and by this endorsed the process of building a revolutionary party and the Fourth International.

In the pre-congress discussion about the situation in the USSR, the majority view was that ‘although the danger of Thermidor has been temporarily removed, it can still reappear in future in an even sharper form’, and ‘the theory of Socialism in One Country is also theoretically false’, although some of the participants of the conference claimed that ‘from a purely abstract theoretical point of view the building of Socialism in One Country is not ruled out. The difficulty, though, will be outside intervention.’ The conference rejected both the view that Pilsudski’s regime could be transformed from a Bonapartist into a Fascist one, as it lacked the necessary mass support amongst the petit-bourgeoisie for such an evolution, and the view that there was a threat of a Fascist coup in the near future. It declared that the workers’ sharpest struggle should be aimed at Pilsudski’s government as the main enemy. To oppose it, joint workers’ action would be necessary, led by ‘the united front of all existing workers’ organisations with all their faults and mistakes’. The fight should be conducted in defence of the economic position of the working class and ‘the remaining democratic freedoms of the proletariat’, as well as ‘against the military budget and the preparations for war’. Only after that would there be the secondary task of fighting ‘against the Fascist bands’. The forms of the fight were, apart from the traditional ones like meetings, demonstrations and strikes, ‘the formation of a joint party militia for the defence of workers’ meetings, etc’.

Amongst the declarations on organisational issues there were decisions to create an illegal UCIP apparatus, and to publish a regular paper and a theoretical journal. Increasing difficulties, especially material ones, were the reason for the late appearance in August of the second issue of Nowa Droga in duplicated form containing information about the conference. In Lódz Bolszewik ended its existence, so it seems, with the edition of October-November 1934 (issue no 5), but soon, towards the end of December, there started to appear, in accordance with the conference decision, a legal national paper of the UCIP, Co dalej? (What Next?). Its official editor and publisher was the talented satirist Stefan Golab, who lived in that city, an ex-member of the Socialist Youth Organisation ‘Zycie’. Until the end of 1935, when police repression put an end to this paper, five issues appeared, and the print-run grew from 1000 to 4000 copies.[42] Co dalej? informed and put forward the party’s position on all major events in the country and in the world, and published Trotsky’s articles. The paper was inevitably attacked by both the Communists and the PPS’s Tygodnik Robotnika (Workers Weekly). But it also paid them back in the same coin.

The development of the UCIP encountered various new difficulties. The security apparatus, which did not pay any attention to the Trotskyists whilst they were an opposition within the CPP, from November 1933 onwards, when they began to consider themselves a separate tendency and later publicised the need to form a new Communist Party, took a closer interest in them. From then on it harassed activists with arrests, who after a while would be released without a trial. But at the beginning of 1935, it took even more vigorous measures. After house raids and arrests, 10 activists in Warsaw, including two women and a practising solicitor from Cracow, were brought before the court in the capital on 8 May. Most of them already carried previous convictions for Communist activity. This time the district court sentenced nine of them to between three and five years in prison with hard labour for belonging to a Trotskyist organisation.[43]

The quantitative development of the organisation suffered a certain set-back. It was difficult to organise all those outside the capital who at different times declared themselves to be sympathisers of Trotskyism. A group in Lódz was formed in 1934 amongst members of the chemical workers’ union, and in Lwów contacts were established with the remnants of the opposition in the CPWU from the 1920s (the so-called ‘szumisci’). But in Warsaw the influx of new members decreased decisively. The CPP members there who were consistently critical of the party line had already come over to the Trotskyist organisation, whilst the less consistent ones were deterred from taking this step by the need to break definitively with the CPP and the Communist International. So the newly-formed oppositional groups in the CPP stopped half way, and only some of the participants decided to join the UCIP, as did a part of the Aron Wahel’s so-called ‘Group of Ten’ in September 1934.

On the other hand, after the first steps by the UCIP towards a united front with the PPS and the Bund and reciprocal gestures from their side, the situation began to change unfavourably for the UCIP. Up to then the spontaneous striving towards unity by the working masses had created in many working class activists — mostly from Communist circles, but also some Socialists — sympathy towards the CPP Opposition and then the UCIP, which had come out in favour of united action. But now this striving had the opposite effect. For an activist who was a stranger to the arguments around the issues of the theory of Permanent Revolution and the impossibility of building Socialism in one country, the call to build a new revolutionary party was synonymous with increasing the fragmentation of the working class, precisely at the moment when there appeared to be a perspective for common work amongst the already existing groups. So in the second half of 1934 those ex-members of the CPP and the UCYP who had been mainly attracted by the slogans of the united front and the critique of the policy of Social Fascism, as well as some of those who had never previously been members of any party, started to leave the UCIP.[44]

Despite this, the UCIP managed to strengthen its influence in the workers’ milieu in Warsaw. Although due to a cleverly devised system of elections of the delegates, only one official representative of the Marxist-Internationalist (that is, Trotskyist) trade union faction was able to attend the united front Council of Workers’ Delegates in Warsaw on 19 February 1935, his sharply critical speech was warmly applauded. In the autumn of the same year, the leadership of the PPS characterised the Trotskyists as ‘a workers’ group with broad influence and considerable activity, especially in the Warsaw area’.

At about this time the leadership of the UCIP began to notice that its organisational possibilities were in decline. This was also a problem for other sections of the International Communist League. Trotsky had already paid attention to this in the first half of 1934, when he wrote, almost using an aphorism: ‘Too many students. Not enough workers. The students are too preoccupied with themselves, and not enough with the movement.’ All the sections were numerically weak, and there were few workers in them. For the latter the inner-party discussions about the Anglo-Russian Committee or the Chinese Guomindang during the 1920s were quite abstract, and they had other worries. For this reason only high-ranking party activists and intellectuals from Communist parties joined oppositional organisations in any numbers, and they were people who were not well acquainted with leading mass actions, whilst now there were few lower-rank functionaries, practical activists or rank and file members. As a result, the sections became distant from the mass movement. To reach the workers and win them over to our politics was only possible by participating in their everyday struggles, which in practice meant working inside relatively mass parties. But it was impossible for the Trotskyists to go back into the Communist parties with this objective.

Meanwhile, the Viennese workers’ uprising in February 1934 against the Austrian Fascism of Dollfüss, and the almost spontaneous resistance of the Socialist and Communist workers of Paris in the first days of the same month against an attempted Fascist coup, had an effect on the Socialist movement. In some of its parties, especially in the SFIO, a group of activists began to doubt the possibility of the parliamentary road to Socialism, and the left wing groups and moods gained in strength. This gave an opportunity for Trotskyists to be active in these parties.

In July 1934 Trotsky therefore proposed to his French supporters that they should collectively and openly join the SFIO on the basis of a previously negotiated agreement with its leadership. There they would learn the art of leading mass actions, and at the same time meet active workers whom they might be able to win over. This perspective was supposed to lead to the transformation of these parties into revolutionary ones, or by breaking a sizeable section of their membership from them, who would bring into being new revolutionary parties. This was the so-called ‘entrist’ tactic, first called the ‘French Turn’.

A section of the French Trotskyist group acted according to these instructions. In the mid-1934 it joined the SFIO in the above-mentioned way. Because of the mood of part of its active membership the SFIO apparatus agreed to this. It wanted to use the Trotskyists to compete with the Communist Party. The newly-admitted Trotskyists openly formed the Bolshevik-Leninist faction inside the SFIO (organisational practice allowed for this). At first it gained many, especially from the youth organisation. Watching this experiment closely, Trotsky began to advise almost all the remaining sections of the International Communist League to follow in the footsteps of the French, which they did in 1934-35.

In the UCIP many, amongst them Sztokfisch, disagreed with the tactic of the ‘French Turn’. Their point of view was supported by the left wing activists in the Bund such as Chmurner. They thought that the entry of the Trotskyists into the Socialist parties would weaken the position of the Socialist left in them and in the whole of the Socialist International. Trotsky twice polemicised with their position, and in letters dated 28 February and 18 July 1935 argued that the Polish Trotskyists needed to enter the Socialist parties. In the second letter, amongst other things, he stated that it was the only way in which they could get closer to the backbone of the Polish industrial proletariat. He added that ‘one cannot help the Jewish workers to get out of the dead end of the Bund towards a larger arena except by revolutionary work crowned with success amongst the Polish proletariat’.[45] The changes taking place within the workers’ movement in Poland also pointed to the adoption of this controversial tactic. The talks between the CPP and the PPS ended with the adoption in July 1935 of a so-called non-aggression pact. It anticipated an end to the public attacks of one upon the other, and called for joint work around various campaigns of a democratic character. The most concrete, and for the workers most deeply felt effect of this was the dissolution in September of the Left Trade Unions, and the unification of its unions with those of the CCTU. The activist workers saw in this pact a camouflaged united front agreement. The Trotskyists, who for many years fought consistently for its formation, could not — if they still wanted to play a political rôle — ignore the viewpoint of the masses. It was necessary to change with the new situation. The Second National Conference of the UCIP therefore adopted a declaration on 19 October 1935. In it there was an evaluation of the international situation — ‘Europe represents a barrel of gunpowder, which at any moment can explode’ — and the national — ‘the smallness of the social base on which Pilsudski’s dictatorship rests... With a resolute, revolutionary policy the Polish proletariat would be capable... of overthrowing... the Bonapartist dictatorship.’ It also spoke about the enormous revolutionary possibilities in Europe, which ‘are paralysed and lost due to the lack of Marxist leadership’. The Communist International ‘once and for all has stopped being the centre of the proletarian revolution’, when it swung from an ultra-left extreme to the opposite, an alliance with the ‘democratic’ bourgeoisie. But the Second International since the war ‘has not been anything else but a contact bureau for the reformist and social-imperialist parties’. It agreed that recently in Poland ‘united front and trade union unity are a great achievement, since they create the premises for the revolutionary fight of the proletariat’. Since the CPP, in which ‘there is no room for any free critical thought... has stopped playing any significant rôle in the workers’ movement... the key to the situation lies in the hands of the Socialist parties’. Therefore the Communist Internationalists ‘think... it is their duty to bring their revolutionary cadres into the mass current of the Socialist proletariat, in order, in a daily struggle, arm in arm with the broad working masses, to forge a revolutionary leadership, a unified international and a revolutionary Marxist party of Poland’. In the name of this ‘the UCIP is ready to give up its organisational independence and join the Socialist parties (the PPS and Bund)’. In this case its members would be bound to ‘obey party discipline strictly, demanding only for themselves the right to put forward their point of view’.

Shortly afterwards the leadership of the UCIP carried out the necessary negotiations. With the Bund, in which there already existed factions, it was agreed that the Trotskyists entering it would form a separate faction. In Warsaw and in a few other cities they were admitted to party meetings at which they read their political declaration explaining their move by the need to act in a mass workers’ party. At its meeting of 23-24 November, the Executive Council of the PPS endorsed the results of the negotiations with the UCIP. The circular of the Central Executive Council of the PPS dated 29 November informed the members of its party organisations about this. The agreement to accept Trotskyists was explained — not entirely accurately — by the fact that ‘they have, in a decisive manner, come over to our position on the unity of the workers’ movement under the banner of Socialism and the PPS’.

Together with the circular there was attached the declaration of entry of the Marxist Internationalists, as they called themselves. In a more concise form it repeated the evaluations and conclusions of the declaration of the Second Conference of the UCIP. In this document there was, similar to the statement of those entering the Bund, a declaration that they would be disciplined members of the PPS, but ‘we will defend inside the party our specific views on the questions of strategy and tactics, making use of the internal democracy guaranteed to us by the leadership’. An agreement to a collective declaration mentioning the guarantee indirectly implied an agreement to an informal faction on a sui generis basis.

Remaining outside these parties was a small group whose job was to maintain links with the Trotskyists in various areas who belonged to neither of the two parties, to publish the movement’s publications and to present publicly the point of view of the International Communist League on particular issues, especially when it was different or was contrary to the positions of the PPS or the Bund. From amongst the leadership of the UCIP, Sztokfisch and Erlich entered the Bund, whilst Deutscher and Redlich joined the PPS. In Warsaw there was a sizeable group of Trotskyists in the PPS. It was a closely knit group of fighting activists. They were posted to every district of the party. The Central District gave their entry considerable publicity. On Sunday 15 December it organised and announced in Robotnik a lecture by Deutscher entitled ‘Why we joined the PPS’.[46]

The Bolshevik-Leninists

After the signing of the Franco-Soviet pact of mutual aid (the Stalin-Laval Pact of 2 May 1935) and the Seventh Congress of the Communist International (held on 25 July-20 August 1935 in Moscow), which laid down for every Communist party the policy of Popular Fronts, the context of the situation in which the International Communist League was active changed greatly. The new orientation of the Communist International generally put on the order of the day, on a par with the united front accepted by the Trotskyists, pacts with ‘the anti-Fascist’ bourgeoisie and the perspective of an ‘organic’ (meaning organisational) unity of Socialists and Communists, which was popular amongst the working masses. In practice, it meant a unity of the bureaucratic apparatus of these parties, and the greater independence of their apparatus from the moods, interests and will of the workers, as they no longer endangered each other by mutual criticism. By this their machine, especially that of the Socialist parties (they had it already in the Communist parties), gained a free hand to deal with oppositional groups and tendencies. This was sensed almost immediately by the Trotskyists, most of whom had but recently been admitted to the Socialist parties. Here the bureaucratic apparatus, invariably ill-disposed towards revolutionary agitators, no longer needed them in their rivalry with the now friendly apparatchiks of the Communist parties. They could now get rid of them. By June they had already begun to expel them from the SFIO. The International Communist League was faced with the need to take up again the initiative to build new revolutionary parties and the Fourth International. Soon after the first signs of the collapse of the ‘entrist’ policy, Trotsky wrote a manifesto in June 1935 on the question of this initiative. It was published in August as ‘For the Fourth International: An Open Letter to All Revolutionary Proletarian Organisations and Groupings’, and was signed by the League and two other organisations.[47]

The signatories of this document at the same time undertook preparations to call an international conference. After overcoming many difficulties it took place a year later, on 29 July-1 August 1936, in Paris in a room in the Salle Pleyel (though for the reasons of security it was said to be in Geneva). Delegates from nine European countries and the USA took part in it, but the representatives from Poland and four other countries did not attend, although they were invited. The conference adopted a 38-point document ‘The Evolution of the Communist International from a Party of the World Revolution into an Instrument of Imperialism’, and founded, in place of the League, the ‘Movement for the Building of the Fourth International’ with a permanent International Secretariat. This conference of the representatives of small revolutionary groups took place at a significant moment. The counter-revolution in the USSR was just finishing its preparations to unleash a new wave of terror, the first Moscow Trial with Zinoviev, Kamenev and 14 others began on 19 August, the wave of Fascism was rising ever higher, and more and more clearly appeared the threat of a new world war. Trotsky, living in exile in Wexhall in Norway, on 4 August had finished the work What is the USSR and Where it is Going?, later better known under the title of The Revolution Betrayed, and immediately sent it off to the French publisher.

For the Polish Trotskyists the ‘Open Letter’ of August 1935 made them re-appraise only a few months later the premises on which they had taken the decision to enter the PPS and the Bund in the previous October. An important new situation arose in the workers’ movement in Poland. The August non-aggression pact between the PPS and the CPP turned out to be only a temporary armistice. The meeting of the Executive Council of the PPS on 9-10 May 1936 decided against a united front with the CPP, and also rejected the idea of a Popular Front that it proposed. In November the Executive Council of the PPS endorsed these decisions.

The only real and permanent gain of this honeymoon period of cooperation was the unification of the class trade union movement, and, as a consequence, there was a sizeable increase in its numbers. Very quickly, the old inter-party polemics started up again, and the attacks by both parties on each other were renewed. In the CPP, now excessively zealous in campaigning for a Popular Front, there still reigned an uncritical confidence in Stalin, the leadership of the CPSU(b), and the USSR. There was no room to admit any facts undermining them, and even less consideration of any uncomfortable arguments. During the preparation for the Seventh Congress of the Communist International, or soon after its opening, Warski totally capitulated, as did Kostrzewa seven months later. In this way, their supporters were deprived of any possibility of demanding that these two leaders, removed in 1929, should be included in the party leadership, as the Seventh Congress had in some way returned to their tactical conception. The Warszczaki could not therefore reconstitute themselves as a group. Because of this, any calculation of an alliance with the Trotskyists was also lost.

Furthermore, a small oppositional group of CPP intellectuals, led by Andrzej Stawar, which had published two collections of articles in 1934-35 under the title Against the Stream, now adopted a critical attitude towards Trotskyism. Many activists in the left wing of the PPS and the Union of the Independent Socialist Youth, who had previously maintained contacts with the UCIP and declared similar views to the Trotskyists, did a sharp turn after the Seventh Congress of the Communist International. They adopted the line of unconditional cooperation with the CPP apparatus, and from now on their lips were sealed on the questions of the Stalinist political line, even in cases of the greatest enormities committed by the leaders of the CPP and the Communist International and the obvious crimes of Stalin.[48]

Remembering the difficulties of the previous struggle, some of the former members of the UCIP now preferred a quiet membership in the PPS or the Bund, rather than a situation of constant threat from the police and the CPP. The others, including Sztokfisch, disagreed with leaving the Bund because they could see favourable opportunities for a Trotskyist faction developing in it. But they submitted to the majority decision. Independent political and organisational activity was renewed no later than the second half of 1936. The reactivated organisation adopted the name Bolshevik-Leninists. The previous members of the UCIP were joined by newly-recruited members from the PPS and the Bund. At the beginning of the academic year 1936/37 a students’ organisation, the Academic Marxists, was formed in Warsaw alongside the Bolshevik-Leninists. The previous members of the Organisation of the Socialist Youth ‘Zycie’, having broken with it or having been expelled, became its members, one of the leaders being Lamed.

A lot of attention was paid to work amongst working class youth and college students. Amongst others, a youth group was organised in the shopworkers’ trade union. Gradually, the Bolshevik-Leninists appeared in towns where the UCIP had previously existed, Warsaw, Lódz, Cracow, Kielce, and also in Zaglebie Dabrowskie, Czestochowa, Lublin, Vilna and Lwów.

The Lwów group was founded by Moishe Walker, a former member of the Union of Communist Youth of the Western Ukraine, at the beginning of 1938, when a legal paper, Zyttia i Slowo, was published in Ottynia. In the autumn of 1938 an Academic Marxists branch was founded in Lwów. Its leader was Michal Zawadowski, a postgraduate student of philosophy at Lwów University, a former member of the UCYWU and of the Socialist Youth Organisation, and one of its members was Adam Bardecki, an assistant lecturer in philosophy and psychology. The Lwów Academic Marxists branch had links with and a certain influence in the local Democratic Club of the Social Democratic Youth.

In mid-September 1936, three weeks after the first Moscow Trial, the CPP’s Political Committee had already pointed out to its National Secretariat the ‘need for increased vigilance regarding Trotskyists’, and demanded from it detailed information about them. Thus began a witch-hunt of all those who expressed any doubts whatsoever about the veracity of the Moscow Trials, or of the policy of the Communist International and the CPP. All and any of these were branded from now on as ‘Trotskyists’. They were represented as ‘the enemies of the USSR’, and as a network of Fascist agents and of the Polish political police. In this struggle the Stalinists did not hesitate to denounce them to the police and to spread provocative rumours about ‘terrorist Trotskyist groups’.[49] In this atmosphere, any Communists doubting the truth of the Moscow Trials, or even admitting to such doubts, could not just decide to join the Bolshevik-Leninists. They experienced a painful split, and were ostracised by their former comrades.

The Moscow Trial of Zinoviev and others was summed up by Deutscher in a pamphlet under the same title immediately afterwards. A thousand copies appeared legally in the first half of September in the PPS’s publication Swiatlo. Additional material, including a fragment of Trotsky’s speech made in 1927 before the Central Control Commission of the RKP(b), was included, which described the relationship of forces in the USSR and the nature of the Thermidorian stage of the French and Russian revolutions. The same trial was described by Erlich in the Yiddish-language paper of the Bund, Folkzaitung. This met with opposition on the part of the pro-Stalinist members of the editorial board, and it was only published on the instructions of the leader of the Bund, Victor Alter.[50]

The growing strength of authoritarian and pro-Fascist tendencies in governmental circles and a painful lack of resources made it impossible for the Bolshevik-Leninists to produce any legal publications. Their political documents, important articles and statements were duplicated in clandestinity, as was, for instance, Trotsky’s article ‘The Lessons of Spain: The Last Warning’ in the summer of 1938, together with the pamphlets Marxism and Spain, etc.[51] The Bolshevik-Leninists covered both national as well as international issues in their statements, and outlined their tactics and strategies.

In the May Day appeal of 1938, the issues were ‘unemployment, poverty, hunger, overcrowded prisons, isolation camps and pacification’. This state of affairs could be radically changed, because ‘a revolutionary, or rather pre-revolutionary situation is not wanting in Poland, but there is no revolutionary leadership. The PPS is as afraid to fight as the devil is of holy water... It wants to leave everything to be decided by the voting card.’ Therefore ‘left to itself and the kulak leadership, the peasant revolt did not achieve, and could not achieve, anything’.[52] Last year’s ‘disagreement between the government and the ZNP exposed the total impotence of the Sanacja clique’. When ‘Hitler entered Vienna... the threat of war forced a weak Lithuania to establish diplomatic relations’. The PPS supported it in this. The call ended with a statement: ‘when capitulation and betrayal is rampant everywhere... we Bolshevik-Leninists, inheritors of the revolutionary traditions of the revolutionary Marxist movement in Poland... raise high the banner of the October Revolution, the banner of Lenin and Trotsky, Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht’. Amongst the slogans were: ‘Long Live the Fourth International’, and ‘Long Live the Polish Soviet Socialist Republic’.

Apart from its severe criticism of the PPS, the appeal also said that ‘the Stalinists had already stopped playing any independent rôle in the political life of the country a long time ago... Stalin has finally finished off the CPP, once the pride and the heroic vanguard of the proletariat of Poland, today the debauched agent of the GPU.’ The Bolshevik-Leninist organisation was the only body of members or former members of the CPP who vigorously protested against the dissolution of this party and the murder of its leaders.

Already in February 1938 in ‘An Open Letter to the Members of the CPP and CUYP’, it protested against the slanderous accusations used in Moscow to justify the arrest of the leadership of the CPP and CUYP. The formal dissolution of the CPP was preceded by smashing the leading party cadres, both present and former ones. The names of eight famous leaders were quoted, who ‘like many other’ activists ‘had been killed or tortured to death in the torture chambers of the GPU’. The party was dissolved because ‘it turned out to be incapable — which was not its own fault — of playing the rôle of a bridge between the Kremlin and the General Inspectorate of Military Forces. That is why it became an unnecessary burden for Stalin and Litvinov. Stalin dissolved the CPP, wanting finally to convince the Polish bourgeoisie that the Soviet bureaucracy had really broken with all revolutionary illusions, that the Thermidorian USSR does not even think about the preparation of the world revolution... and that is why Beck[53] might find, at the end of the day, a common language with Litvinov.’

The call also paid tribute to the sacrifice of the tens of thousands of Communist workers, and underlined: ‘Any attempt to revitalise the Stalinist CPP would be reactionary’, and ‘the hopes for reformism are no better than for Stalinism. The Polish proletariat, to win, must have a revolutionary Bolshevik party, a party of the Fourth International, which is being born.’ These views were developed more fully in a statement published in August, when the dissolution of the CPP was confirmed by the emissaries of the Communist International sent to Poland.

In the spring of 1938 Trotsky, then living in Mexico, took the initiative in founding the Fourth International in the shortest possible time. He worked out its programme of action in The Death Agony of Capitalism and the Tasks of the Fourth International. The Secretariat of the International Movement for the Fourth International sent out this document for discussion to its sections, and it was also published anonymously in their press. A Polish translation was quickly made, and the Central Committee of the Bolshevik-Leninists distributed it to its branches. Additional remarks were also included, of which the most important — inspired by Deutscher — were negative views on a quick proclamation of the International. According to him, this step was premature.[54]

Meanwhile on 3 September, as the Czechoslovak crisis was approaching its climax, the Founding Conference of the Fourth International met in Périgny near Paris in conditions of the strictest secrecy. Both Polish delegates (Sztokfisch and Lamed) and Yvan Craipeau from the French section were against its immediate proclamation, and 19 were in favour. First of all, Sztokfisch put forward the position of the Polish section. After the results were announced, both its delegates stated that their section would be a disciplined member of the International, and Sztokfisch was elected a member of its Secretariat. A week later, on 11 September, Poland was represented — probably by Lamed — at the First Conference of the International Youth Movement for the Fourth International.[55]

In Poland the Bolshevik-Leninist organisation declared itself to be a section of the new international centre, and published The Conference of the Fourth International’s Manifesto to the Workers of the Whole World. A small group led by Deutscher responded to this decision by leaving the organisation.[56] Having learnt from experience that even after the dissolution of the CPP very few of its members would join the Bolshevik-Leninists, an opinion gradually formed within the group that its current recruitment policies had to be changed, and its agitation adapted to that. There was no further need to concentrate on searching for new members amongst the CPP’s members and those close to them, but rather to pay attention primarily to the politically unorganised.

At the end of November and the start of December 1938 the Central Committee of the Bolshevik-Leninists called a national conference, which would deal with this and other organisational matters and programmatic questions. It took place in Warsaw in January. One of its resolutions on organisational matters obliged the Central Committee to publish the section’s papers illegally, but police repression was an obstacle to its achievement. Earlier, Trotskyist activists had already been arrested, but only sporadically, and their trials were a rarity, but after the dissolution of the CPP the security apparatus was able to direct its efforts against the Bolshevik-Leninists. So, according to an official statement, it carried out ‘the liquidation of the Trotskyist organisation in Warsaw’ on the night of 6 February 1939. This involved 101 searches in which 70 people were arrested, amongst them a few members of the leadership. The duplicator also fell into the hands of the police. By the decision of the investigating magistrate 44 people were detained for further interrogation — the men at Danilowiczowska police station and the women in ‘Serbia’. Another ‘liquidation’ in many towns, amongst them Lublin, took place on 28 April, and continued on 2 May. This time only 18 suspects were arrested in Warsaw, and from them 13 were then detained for further investigation. Altogether 200 persons were imprisoned. Before the outbreak of the war, they had only been put on trial in Lublin. Severe sentences followed.

The repression did not succeed in stopping organisational and political work. The authorities, however, as part of the preparation for war, ordered a few of the real or imagined leaders of the Bolshevik-Leninists, amongst them Deutscher and Eichenbaum, to be interned in case of disturbances or war.

The Catastrophe under the Occupation

The German invasion of September 1939 led to the flight over the next few months of large numbers of people to the eastern parts of Poland, and this had the effect of dispersing the small organisation of the Bolshevik-Leninists. In the territory occupied by the Red Army after 17 September, the NKVD soon arrested almost all the local Trotskyists and persons suspected of Trotskyism, in most cases without any evidence. It based its action, in the first place, on information about the Polish Trotskyists collected by the Communist International and contained in the reports sent to it by the CPP until the latter’s dissolution in 1938. As a result the groups of Bolshevik-Leninists in Lwów and other towns, and later in Vilna too, ceased to exist. Soon the repression included the refugees from the territories occupied by the Nazis. The Communist International’s reports contributed to this and — as was the case with Broniewski, Wat and others — so did denunciations by their Stalinist companions in adversity amongst the refugees. This was also the fate of S Golab, the former editor of Co dalej? who was arrested in Bialystok.[57]

Unlike the Stalinists, the Nazi apparatus of repression did not have at its disposal any information about individual Trotskyists, as it did about some of the other hostile groups, and they managed to remain free. In the Generalna Gubernia, the territory under Nazi occupation, after the initial shock of the war and occupation, the Trotskyist organisation began to be rebuilt. This occurred first in Warsaw in the spring of 1940 at the latest. Then a group from Zaglebie Dabrowskie established contact with them, and most probably a group in Lódz too, as well as other places.[58] It appears that S Erlich played the major rôle in this. The outbreak of the war found the other outstanding activists, like Sztokfisch, Lamed and — probably — A Redler, out of the country, in the West.

In mid-1940 an underground theoretical-political journal of the organisation Przeglad Marksistowski (Marxist Review) appeared in Warsaw, and soon afterwards the informative Czerwony Sztandar (Red Banner) aimed at a wider circle of readers.[59] They were both duplicated. Czerwony Sztandar was edited by Erlich together with Ester-Stella Milsztein, as probably was Przeglad Marksistowski. Milsztein (born 1909) emigrated with her parents to Palestine in 1925, where, in 1932, she was arrested for distributing Communist literature, and for this she was deported back to Poland.[60] For reasons of security neither of the two papers was signed by the organisation, and its name was never found in any of the articles. Perhaps the only trace of the distribution of these papers can found in the printed list of the names of at least 57 persons (either pseudonyms or initials), who by September 1941 had paid — some several times — certain amounts of money to the publishing fund. Some of the sums came from the collections amongst the readers. Donations were noted as collected in the centre of Warsaw, Zaglebie Dabrowskie, L (Lódz?) and a place called simply ‘B’.

On 23 August 1940, only two days after the death of Trotsky in Mexico, a statement was published. It began with the words ‘Leon Trotsky is dead. The leader and the organiser of the Great October Revolution has been killed by the treacherous hand of its gravediggers [almost — LH] on the day of the first anniversary of the Stalinist-Nazi Pact.’ In its conclusion it spoke about a time when ‘the Soviet proletariat will throw off the Stalinist yoke, and in Europe the banner of the victorious proletariat will be raised — then the working class will move the remains of Leon Trotsky from its isolated Mexican site and lay them next to Lenin’s ashes, with whom he jointly worked and struggled’.[61]

The difficulties involved with the rebuilding of the Trotskyist organisation in the Generalna Gubernia were not limited to overcoming problems of a technical and psychological nature which arose from the need to work in conditions of unprecedented terror. At the same time the main tasks of political activity needed to be clarified in respect of the fundamentally changed national and international situation.

The war posed questions for the Trotskyist movement, both in Poland and on an international scale, which were both unforeseen and at the same time fundamental. One of them was whether the Stalin-Hitler Pact and the territorial gains made by the former invalidated the fundamental principle of the Fourth International (and the Trotskyist formulations preceding it) about the unconditional defence of the USSR and revolutionary defeatism — proclaimed during the First World War by the Bolshevik party — in the other countries participating in the war. This meant working in all of them for the cause of Socialist revolution, even if this meant the military defeat in war of a particular country. In the concrete situation of 1940-41 there was a dilemma of either accepting the principle of the defence of the USSR and so giving up defeatism in relation to its allies (then Nazi Germany), or, on the contrary, in the face of the greater and greater degeneration of the USSR (the pact with Hitler being one of its manifestations) applying the principle of defeatism to it as well. If this complex problem had a rather theoretical significance for the weak Polish organisation, the thoroughly practical problem was whether in the current war the most burning issue of the revolutionary movement should be the defeat of the Fascist countries and the liquidation of Fascism world-wide, whilst putting off the Socialist revolution until a later date after the war. The adoption of such an alternative meant a policy of ‘class peace’ with the non-Fascist section of the bourgeoisie and the petit-bourgeoisie, and as a result political alliances, including one with the ‘social patriotic’ parties of Social Democracy.

All these questions and doubts, caused to a considerable degree by the German-Soviet pact and its practical consequences, occupied the minds of all the national sections of the Fourth International and its leading organs. One-third of the US section and the majority of the members of the International Secretariat left due to differences of opinion on these matters.

Trotsky spoke on these contentious questions several times. In an article dated 25 September 1939, he unequivocally upheld the principle of the unconditional defence of the USSR, whilst emphasising that: ‘The defence of the USSR does not at all mean rapprochement with the Kremlin bureaucracy, the acceptance of its politics or a conciliation with the politics of her allies... To renounce defeatism in relation to that imperialist camp to which the USSR adheres today or might adhere tomorrow, is to push the workers of the enemy camp to the side of their government’, which will lead to resignation from the Socialist revolution, and sentence the USSR ‘to final decomposition and doom.’[62]

Three weeks later he explained that ‘in all imperialist countries, independent of the fact as to whether they are in alliance with the USSR or they are in a camp hostile to it, the proletarian parties during the war must develop the class struggle with the purpose of seizing power. At the same time the proletariat of the imperialist countries must not lose sight of the interests of the USSR’s defence (or of that of colonial revolutions), and in cases of real necessity must resort to the most decisive actions, for instance, strikes, acts of sabotage, etc.’ These general statements Trotsky made concrete by giving examples in the most drastic of eventualities: ‘If England and France tomorrow menace Leningrad or Moscow, the British and French workers should take the most decisive measures in order to hinder the sending of soldiers and military supplies. If Hitler finds himself constrained by the logic of the situation to send Stalin military supplies, the German workers on the contrary, would have no reason for resorting, in this concrete case, to strikes or sabotage.’ The Extraordinary Conference of the Fourth International, later called the Emergency Conference, met in New York on 26 May 1940 — already after Denmark, Norway, Holland, Luxemburg and Belgium had been occupied by the Third Reich, and when British troops were starting to evacuate Dunkirk — and approved Trotsky’s Manifesto, which further developed the position expressed in his articles at the end of the previous year.[63]

A few months later in August 1941, when the German-Soviet war had already started, France had been under the Nazi heel for over a year, and Great Britain, threatened with a Nazi invasion, had become the USSR’s ally, the Executive Committee of the Fourth International endorsed a document clarifying the tactic of the movement in the changed international situation. It stated: ‘We go on with the revolutionary struggle, even in the “democratic” camp. To support the imperialist masters of England and the United States would mean to aid Hitler in maintaining his hold over the German workers.’ The document also called on German soldiers to go over to the side of the Red Army with their arms and equipment, and it called on German workers and peasants and the people of Europe enslaved by Fascism to ‘paralyse in every possible way the march of German militarism! You will not only by this means defend the Soviet Union, but you will also be preparing your own liberation, not the “Liberation” which Churchill or Roosevelt hold in store for you, but your own, whereby you will be able, as free men, to build a new world.’[64]

From the moment the Polish-German war broke out, the Polish Trotskyists were cut off from their international environment, and so they were unaware of Trotsky’s articles published after 1 September 1939, and of the documents of the International. From a letter from abroad, which reached them at the start of 1940, they found out that ‘Trotsky condemns Stalinist methods, but despite this he regards the defence of the Soviet Union as a duty’. Apart from this, they received only general news about his energetic activity.[65] This situation forced them to think independently about both principles and tactics in time of war.

This became the subject of a discussion in the pages of Przeglad Marksistowski from September 1940. The participants, though with differing emphases, were in agreement that revolutionary defeatism in its classical form (‘war on war’) should be used in the Fascist countries and its satellites at the present time. But in other countries participating in the war, the task of the workers’ party was to transform the imperialist war into a Jacobin war. It meant that the people, whilst defending ‘its right to political existence, and its gains against the reactionary invasion from outside, should take power. The fight and the victory over the internal enemy opens the road to smashing the external enemy.’

This point of view was presented in an accessible form in the May Day Appeal in 1941. In conclusion it said: ‘We shall not rest in the fight against the Fascist occupier and the local bourgeoisie until we win victory. Down with the imperialist war! Long live the civil war against the bourgeoisie! Long live the revolutionary war against Hitler! Down with capitalism! Long live the Independent Polish Soviet Republic! Long live the Socialist United Republics of Europe and the World!’[66] The Polish Trotskyists had thus managed to anticipate in the period of the Stalin-Hitler Pact the tactical line which was only later put forward in the Fourth International’s document of August 1941.

At the same time, the writings of the Polish Trotskyists showed their general attitude by judging the Sikorski government[67] in decisively negative terms, in which ‘at a high level under both the protectorate[68] and the protective wings of the English empire sit those directly responsible for the September disaster, the representatives of the capitalists and landlords, whose Fascist villainy internally and treacherous policy externally, has led to catastrophe’. In the country this government is supposed to ‘present a kind of an alibi for the present misdeeds of the bourgeoisie, its reserve and insurance against possible changes in the future’. Therefore Czerwony Sztandar condemned the fact that ‘in this concentration of the Polish bourgeoisie and reaction both the Endecja[69] and the OZON[70], and the Polish Socialist Party and Stronnictwo Ludowe (Peasants’ Party) were present’, and the publications in Poland close to the latter ‘were continuously making publicity for this government, which is dependent on Churchill’s favour, and subordinated themselves to its directives’.[71]

On the extremely difficult question — especially after 17 September 1939 — of relations with the USSR, Przeglad Marksistowski stated at the end of 1941 that ‘we do not expect salvation from the East’ ruled by the Thermidorian bureaucracy. In its May Day appeal this line was further developed: ‘We do not want Stalinist “freedom”, we do not want to be a part of the present USSR, which is a prison for all its nations, and a concentration camp for revolutionaries. We are fighting for an independent soviet Poland, which of its free will shall take its proper place in the great family of the United European Socialist Republics.’ This was not a trick to win popularity. Next to it was found a declaration which could not rely on wide acceptance, because ‘when the hour of war between Germany and the USSR strikes, the workers and peasants of Poland will stand shoulder to shoulder on the side of the Soviets. Because the Soviets are not only Stalin and his henchmen... and until public ownership in the USSR is overthrown, it still remains a workers’ state, and its defence is an elementary duty of every conscious worker.’ When this hour came in June 1941, Przeglad Marksistowski said: ‘The war between the USSR and Hitler — that is our war.’[72]

On questions of the political line of the workers’ movement, Przeglad Marksistowski engaged in principled, although sometimes brief, polemics with the emigré papers of the PPS, the home WRN, the Polish Socialists and the Bund, but rarely paid any attention to non-working class publications.

Gradually, though, the activity of the Polish Trotskyists slowed down. The July 1941 issue of Czerwony Sztandar was, it seems, the last. This journal was a real intellectual achievement — especially when one considers the conditions under which it was produced — and the last issue of Przeglad Marksistowski was probably in September 1941, which was of 50 pages, and dedicated solely to Trotsky’s rôle in the workers’ movement and his political conceptions. After this nothing else appeared. The spectre of the inevitable approach of the Endlösung (Final Solution) probably directed the attention of the Trotskyists imprisoned in the Warsaw ghetto towards the most desperate forms of collective self-defence, leaving no room for any relatively long-term organisational and political activity. Amongst others, Szlome Erlich perished in the ghetto.

Amongst those not threatened by a similar fate, a few Trotskyists found their place in organisations fighting effectively against the occupying power, and also — in their opinion — with those who strove for a Socialist rebuilding of society. For instance, Zuzanna Plosarek, arrested at the beginning of 1939 in the capital during the police action to ‘liquidate’ the Trotskyists, had earlier on joined the post-CPP group of ‘biuletynowcy’, whilst Jerzy Wedrychowski found his way to the Polish Workers Party (the reformed Stalinist party), and Witold Wudel, incomparably more active than them as a Trotskyist, joined the Organisation of Polish Socialists, later the RPPS.[73] In the provinces the Trotskyists became more and more isolated, and death thinned their ranks. Some of them wanted their political pasts forgotten, and became involved with various other political groupings. Others were condemned to political passivity and, like Kazimierz Badowski in Cracow, only remained platonically loyal to the movement, admitting their views only to a few, especially trusted, friends. Such people were possible to find even in the most distant regions of the USSR, where fate had taken them. After the liberation of Poland from Nazi occupation, the political situation in Poland did not allow the remnants of Trotskyism even to think of rebuilding their organisation.


[1]. Cf N Gulbinski, ‘Leon Trotsky in the Writings of the Period of Glasnost and Perestroika’, The International (London), no 5, 1991, pp14-22.

[2]. In relation to recent work about the history of the Communist movement cf P Samus and Edward Próchniak, Studium postaw polskiego revolucjonisty, Lódz, 1987, although it concerns the opposition in the RCP(b) without any evaluating adjectives or appraisal (pp251, 319-23), but it is almost humorous when worthless information is repeated, such as that the Trotskyists in the USSR supported the market economy in agriculture, and ‘demanded the rebuilding of the Menshevik and SR parties’ (p320), etc.

[3]. This point of view is currently expressed by the Soviet ‘exposer’ of Trotskyism N Vasetsky, well known for two decades as an author of books, pamphlets and articles dedicated to this.

[4]. I Deutscher, ‘The Tragedy of the Polish Communist Party’, Marxism, Wars and Revolutions, London, 1984, pp91-128; MK Dziewanowski, The Communist Party of Poland, Cambridge, Mass, 1959, pp135-8, 334-5. In Deutscher’s papers there exists a more comprehensive version of this interview, requested by the Warsaw Polityka.

[5]. [L Hass], Odklamywanie historii rewolucji ruchu robotniczego, ZSMP (Union of Socialist Youth of Poland, the official Stalinist youth organisation), for internal use (100 copies), Wroclaw, 1988. Cf Ruch bolszewikow-leninistow (IV Miedzynarodowka) w Polsce do 1945, Szermierz (700 copies), Wroclaw, 1989; Cz Wilko, ‘Sur la trace des trotskystes polonais’, Quatrième Internationale, no 29-30, 1988, pp109-13.

[6]. L Sinclair, Trotsky, A Bibliography, Aldershot, 1989, Volumes 1 and 2.

[7]. The most recent and far from complete bibliography of publications about Trotsky and Trotskyism — without Trotsky’s works — mentions 4227 items (W Lubitz, Trotsky bibliography, Munich, 1988). Trotskyist periodicals have not yet been indexed.

[8]. H Mendel [Sztokfisch], Zihronot fun a judiszn rewolutsioner, Tel Aviv, 1959. Its German translation, Erinnerungen eins jüdischen Revolutionärs, Berlin, 1979, is still being quoted. French translation: Grenoble, 1982; English translation: Memoirs of a Jewish Revolutionary, London, 1989.

[9]. The Communist Workers Party of Poland was formed in 1918 out a merger between the Social Democracy of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania (SDKPiL) and the left wing of the Polish Socialist Party (PPS Lewica). It changed its name to the Communist Party of Poland (CPP) in 1925. [Editor’s note]

[10]. Adolf Warski (1868-1937) (real name Warszawski) was a founder of the SDKPiL and of the CWPP. Moving to the Soviet Union in 1929, he was a victim of the purges. Wera Kostrzewa (1879-1939) (real name Maria Koszutska) was a member of the PPS Lewica, and a founding member of the CWPP. Moving to the Soviet Union in 1930, she was a victim of the purges. Henryk Walecki (1877-1938) (real name Maksymilian Horwitz) was a member of the PPS Lewica, and a founding member of the CWPP. Active in the apparatus of the Communist International, he was a victim of the purges. All three of the above played a leading rôle in the CWPP/CPP until 1925, when they were removed from the party leadership by Stalin, although Warski and Kostrzewa returned to it briefly in the late 1920s. Edward Próchniak (1889-1937) (real name Weber) was a member of the SDKPiL. Active in the October Revolution, he helped form the CWPP, and from 1921 was active in the apparatus of the Communist International. He was a victim of the purges. [Editor’s note]

[11]. In September 1928 Trotsky wrote: ‘In the end, Warski has remained a “revolutionary” Social Democrat of the old type... Warski never felt himself quite at ease with Bolshevism. This explains his momentary “conciliationism”, based on a misunderstanding toward the Opposition in 1923. But as soon as the lines became clearly drawn, Warski found his natural place in the official ranks.’ (LD Trotsky, ‘Who is leading the Comintern Today?’, The Challenge of the Left Opposition (1928-29), New York, 1981, pp187-8)

[12]. The Communist Party of the Western Ukraine and the Communist Party of Western Byelorussia were formed in the wake of the CWPP’s Second Congress of August 1923, at which the party recognised that its dismissal of the national question had been detrimental. Considerable tracts of Ukrainian and Byelorussian land were within the borders of Poland. Both parties were autonomous, but were subordinate to the CWPP’s Central Committee, on which they were represented. Both parties were noted for their independent outlook, not least in respect of Soviet nationalities policies, and although they survived the dissolution of the CPP in 1938, their members suffered badly during the Soviet takeover of Western Byelorussia and the Western Ukraine in 1939-40. [Editor’s note]

[13]. This information is found in only one of the reports, and is rather mysterious. Domski then lived in Berlin, and soon became one of the four authors of the theses O kryzysie w CWPP i najblizszych zadaniach partii, February 1924. (L Domski (1883-1937) (real name Henryk Stein) was a leader of the SDKPiL, and worked on the Bolsheviks’ Pravda in 1912-13. He moved into the CPP’s leadership after Warski’s group was deposed in 1925. Accused of leftism, he was allowed into the RCP(b) after producing a self-confession, but was expelled in 1935, and was a victim of the purges. Editor’s note.)

[14]. Boris Souvarine (1893-1984) was a founder of the French Communist Party. He sided with Trotsky in the 1920s, but by the mid-1930s had settled on a course that led to a fervent anti-Communist outlook. Pierre Monatte (1881-1960) and Robert Louzon (1882-1976) were Syndicalists who joined the PCF in the 1920s, but returned to Syndicalism in the late 1920s in response to the rise of Stalinism. [Editor’s note]

[15]. Stanislaw Kosior (1889-1939) joined the RSDLP in 1907, was active in the October Revolution, and played a leading rôle in the Ukrainian Communist Party during 1918-22. He was purged in the late 1930s, as were his brothers.

[16]. The author was unable to get access to Domski’s and Osinska’s letter.

[17]. Julian Lenski (1889- ) (real name Leszczynski) was a member of the SDKPiL. He was in the October Revolution, and was a member of the Polish affairs bureau of the RCP(b). Joining the CPP’s Central Committee in 1925, he became General Secretary in 1929. Recalled to Moscow in 1937, he was purged in 1939. [Editor’s note]

[18]. Jozef Pilsudski (1867-1935) was a politician and a leader of the revolutionary faction of the PPS from 1891. He organised a Polish Legion to fight for Polish independence during the First World War; and was Marshal of Poland and a head of state after independence in 1918. He fought against the Bolsheviks in the Russo-Polish wars of 1919-20 in order to obstruct the overthrow of capitalism in Germany; he was military dictator after his coup in 1926 until his death. During this period of ‘sanacja’ or ‘cult of the state’, he limited the powers of parliament, and brutally suppressed the opposition by imprisoning the Centre-Left MPs, and persecuting the Communists. The CPP gave critical support to the coup, seeing it as the beginning of a bourgeois revolution against the landowners. [Editor’s note]

[19]. This clearly means Domski.

[20]. Jerzy Sochacki (1892-1933) (also known as J Bratkowski and Jerzy Czeszejko) was a member of the PPS Lewica who joined the CWPP in 1921, and was on its Central Committee in 1921-25 and from 1930. He was arrested in 1933 in the Soviet Union on false charges of spying on behalf of Polish intelligence, and was executed. He was rehabilitated after the Second World War.

[21]. Odezwa (The Call), in the author’s collection. Published illegally, it is not listed in documentary sources. The Trotskyist Opposition in those days, since it regarded itself as an opposition inside the party, did not publicly denounce the Communist Party’s candidates, neither did it yet think about calling for a new International.

[22]. LD Trotsky, ‘The Turn in the Communist International and the Situation in Germany’, 26 September 1930, The Struggle Against Fascism in Germany, New York, 1973, pp55-74.

[23]. Apparently Erlich first emigrated to Palestine from Poland (perhaps with his parents), and then went to Switzerland.

[24]. LD Trotsky, ‘Preface to the Polish Edition of Lenin’s Left Wing Communism, an Infantile Disorder’, 6 October 1932, Writings of Leon Trotsky 1932, New York, 1973, pp221-7.

[25]. In the autobiographical sketch from 1965, Deutscher said that already in 1931 he had founded, together with three or four comrades, ‘the first anti-Stalinist opposition’ to the CPP (D Horowitz, (ed), Isaac Deutscher: The Man and His Work, London, 1971, p227). In some publications Literarisze Bletter is mistakenly mentioned instead of Literarysze Trybune. The former periodical was not connected with the Communist movement.

[26]. Henryk Henrykowski (real name Saul Amsterdam) was a member of Poale Zion, a left wing Zionist group, which joined the CWPP in 1921. On the Central Committee from 1929, he was purged in the late 1930s. [Editor’s note]

[27]. Bronislaw Bronkowski (also known as Bortnowski) was on the CPP’s Central Committee, worked in the apparatus of the Communist International, and was purged in the late 1930s. [Editor’s note]

[28]. Pflug’s group (their members in the CPP were called the Warszczaki) after breaking with the Trotskyists approached the Central Committee of the CPP and asked to rejoin the party. The Warsaw Committee of the CPP in September 1933 called this step ‘a cheating manoeuvre’, and announced ‘a tougher fight against them’.

[29]. The Centre-Left was a bloc formed in the Sejm in 1929 by the Christian Democrats, the National Workers, the Peasant Movements and the Polish Socialist Party, in order to counter the BBWR (Non-Party Bloc for Cooperation with the Government), which was sponsored by the government. In June 1930 the Centre-Left called a Convention of People’s Rights, which called for the removal of Pilsudski’s government. The Centre-Left’s leaders were subsequently arrested, tried and jailed. [Editor’s note]

[30]. Deutscher was attacked by the Stalinists in the Club of Jewish Writers and Journalists Union in Warsaw.

[31]. Ernst Thälmann (1886-1944) stood as the German Communist Party’s Presidential candidate in 1925 and 1932, and as a loyal Stalinist headed the KPD from 1925 until its collapse in 1933. Arrested in March 1933, he was finally executed in Buchenwald concentration camp in 1944. [Editors’ note]

[32]. The Bund, the General Union of Jewish Workers in Russia, Lithuania and Poland, was formed in Vilna in 1897. It organised Jewish workers along national, but not nationalist, lines, and was strongly anti-Zionist. Its attempt to become an autonomous section of the RSDLP was unsuccessful, although it tended to side with the Mensheviks after 1905. Many Bund members in Russia joined the Bolsheviks after the October Revolution. In Poland, the Bund continued as an independent party, often working alongside the PPS, and by the late 1930s its strong anti-Fascist line had helped it to become the strongest Jewish party in Poland. [Editors’ note]

[33]. LD Trotsky, ‘Pilsudskism, Fascism and the Character of Our Epoch’, 4 August 1932, Writings of Leon Trotsky 1932, New York, 1973, p158.

[34]. These appeals have not been found.

[35]. A working class district of Warsaw on the right bank of the Vistula. [Editors’ note]

[36]. According to the CPP, the Trotskyist organisation, including the Warszczaki, had 84 members expelled from the CPP, and 70 removed from the Union of Communist Youth of Poland in August 1933. This divergence in the numbers may result from the fact that the CPP did not count as members of the Opposition those who in the past were not members of either of these organisations.

[37]. LD Trotsky, ‘For New Communist Parties and the New International’, 27 July 1933; ‘It is Impossible to Remain in the Same International with Stalin, Manuilsky, Lozovsky and Company’, 20 July 1933, Writings of Leon Trotsky 1933-34, New York, 1975, pp26-7, 17-24; D Bensaid, ‘The Formative Years of the Fourth International’, Notebooks for Study and Research, no 9, 1988, p9.

[38]. LD Trotsky, ‘Our Present Tasks’, 7 November 1933, Writings of Leon Trotsky 1933-34, New York, 1975, pp136-9.

[39]. The Camp of Great Poland was formed in 1928 by Roman Dmowski (1864-1939), an extreme Polish nationalist, who had gained notoriety by organising a boycott of Jewish traders in Warsaw in 1911. [Editor’s note]

[40]. A small but vociferous Fascist movement, the Falanga, emerged from the OWP. Its leader, Boleslaw Piasecki, later led Pax, the Stalinists’ postwar Catholic organisation. [Editor’s note]

[41]. Colonel Bronislaw Pieracki (1895-1934), the Minister of the Interior, was assassinated by Ukrainian nationalists as part of their terrorist campaign against the Polish government. The latter responded to this campaign by a series of very harsh military and police measures called ‘pacifications’. [Editor’s note]

[42]. The circulation figures are from notes by SG Lódzki on the copy in the National Library. It may be that Widnokrag, ‘a theoretical monthly’, was the theoretical journal of UCIP. Issue no 1-2 (also the last), dated January-February 1935, was published in Warsaw. Its editor and publisher was Isaac Deutscher. The whole print run was confiscated, and no further publication was permitted. No copies of either Widnokrag or Bolszewik have been preserved in any Polish collection. Widnokrag is noted in the Government Index of Publications, 1935. The only trace of Bolshevik is a reproduction of the title page of no 5 in H Mendel, op cit, and an additional illustration on the page after page 192.

[43]. According to Gazeta Polska the Trotskyists in the capital illegally published a small paper Nowa Era, ‘paper of the left Communists’. No issue of this paper has come to light.

[44]. J Radziejowski, ‘Roman Rosdolsky, the Man, Activist and Scholar’, Science and Society, no 2, 1978, p14. Rosdolsky, a founder of the CPWU, returned to Lwów from Vienna in 1934, and established contact with Warsaw (apparently with Deutscher), and with the ‘szumskista’ Stepan Rudyk in Lwów, the former legal editor of Kultura, the Ukrainian language paper of the CPWU. The information about the foundation by Rudyk of the paper Zittja i Slowo at that time is unclear.

[45]. LD Trotsky, ‘Perspectives in Poland’, 18 July 1935, Writings of Leon Trotsky 1935-36, New York, 1977, p47; cf LD Trotsky, ‘Centrist Combinations and Marxist Tactics: Letter to the Polish Comrade V’, Writings of Leon Trotsky 1934-35, New York, 1974, pp201-5

[46]. Supposedly together with Deutscher and others, Stefan Purman, a former CPP activist, apparently a Trotskyist, joined the PPS. His brother, Leon, a member of the Political Bureau of the CPP, committed suicide on 5 December 1933 in connection with the arrests of CPP members in Moscow.

[47]. LD Trotsky, ‘An Open Letter to All Revolutionary Proletarian Organisations and Groupings’, Documents of the Fourth International: The Formative Years, New York, 1973, pp66-74.

[48]. The Left PPS was characteristically silent in this respect, as were for example, N Barlicki and S Dubois, and the group Trybuna Robotnicza (J Szczyrek, J Markowska and other) in Lwów on the subject of the Moscow Trials or the crimes of GPU in Spain. The Union of the Independent Socialist Youth acted similarly.

[49]. Cf ‘Youth’s Fight Against Trotskyism’, Czerwony Sztandar, no 2, 1938, and no 4, 1938, which contains many names of real and supposed Trotskyists, and of those sympathising with Trotskyism who were members of the PPS.

[50]. Victor Alter (1892-1942) joined the Bund whilst still a schoolboy. A lawyer, he was a leader of the Bund in Poland, and sat on Warsaw City Council during 1919-39. Arrested by the NKVD in 1939, he and fellow Bund leader Henryk Erlich were falsely accused of espionage, and were executed in 1942. [Editors’ note]

[51]. LD Trotsky, ‘The Lessons of Spain: The Last Warning’, 17 December 1937, The Spanish Revolution (1931-39), New York, 1973, pp306-26.

[52]. The term ‘revolt’ means strike. (The ‘peasant strike’ mentioned was called by the Peasant Party and lasted for 10 days in August 1938, and was an open challenge to the semi-Fascist regime, calling as it did for democracy. A total of 41 people were killed, according to government figures. The Socialist Party organised one day strikes of support in some towns. Editors’ note.)

[53]. Józef Beck (1894-1944) was Pilsudski’s aide and Minister of Foreign Affairs in 1932-39, during which time he attempted to strike a balance between Germany and the Soviet Union. [Editors’ note]

[54]. LD Trotsky, ‘The Death Agony of Capitalism and the Tasks of the Fourth International’, Documents of the Fourth International: The Formative Years, New York, 1973, pp180-220; I Deutscher, The Prophet Outcast: Trotsky 1929-1940, London, 1963, p470.

[55]. D Bensaid, op cit, p44; G Breitman, The Rocky Road to the Fourth International 1933-38, New York, 1977, pp19-28; H Mendel, op cit, p310 (there are inaccuracies here).

[56]. Deutscher himself left the Polish political scene, and in April 1939 he went to London as a correspondent of the Warsaw daily Nasz Przeglad.

[57]. There are reports of such people and of others who survived Stalinist repression by those who met them. In any accusation of ‘Trotskyism’, sometimes including imaginary ones, judgements were reached by default (Osoboye Sovieshchaniye), which carried the highest sentence, eight years in the gulag. There were cases of trials threatened with the ‘normal’ courts carrying more severe sentences, and also cases of physical torture during the interrogation. This was the background to the suicide in Lwów prison of Michal Zawadowski, a leader of the Lwów group of Bolshevik-Leninists. Resuscitated after his first suicide attempt, he then poisoned himself by swallowing mouldy bread.

[58]. See the information from the localities and the donation for the press fund, Czerwony Sztandar, no 2, December 1940, pp5-7; Przeglad Marksistowski, no 3, August 1941, p7; ‘Na fundusz prasowy wplynelo’, Przeglad Marksistowski, no 4, September 1940, p12. ‘Comrades from B’, are also mentioned here.

[59]. The dates of neither of the first issues are known. Przeglad Marksistowski, no 4, the first one in the file, is dated September 1940, Czerwony Sztandar, no 2 is dated December 1940. (Thanks to the kindness of Ludwik Hass, the Socialist Platform Archive contains photocopies of every surviving issue of these papers. Editors’ note)

[60]. ‘Hail Warsaw Ghetto Fighters’, Workers Vanguard, no 452, 6 May 1988, p5; H Mendel, op cit, p227.

[61]. ‘Fragmenty odezwy’, Przeglad Marksistowski, no 4, September 1940, p11; Przeglad Marksistowski, no 8, August 1941.

[62]. LD Trotsky, ‘The USSR in War’, 25 September 1939, In Defence of Marxism, London, 1966, p20.

[63]. LD Trotsky, ‘Again and Once More Again on the Nature of the USSR’, 18 October 1939, In Defence of Marxism, London, 1966, pp36-7; ‘The Imperialist War and the World Proletarian Revolution’, May 1940, Documents of the Fourth International (1933-40), op cit, pp311-50.

[64]. ‘For the Defense of the Soviet Union’, August 1941, Fourth International, Volume 2, no 8, October 1941, pp230-1.

[65]. ‘Wielki oskarzyciel’, Przeglad Marksistowski, no 8, August 1941.

[66]. ‘Dwie wojny — dwie taktyki’, Przeglad Marksistowski, no 4, September 1940, p7; ‘Pierwszy maja 1941r’; Przeglad Marksistowski, April-May 1941, p2.

[67]. Wladyslaw Sikorski (1881-1943) was a prominent soldier who became Premier in 1922. Banned from political activity by Pilsudski after 1926, he became Premier of the Government in Exile in London in 1939. [Editors’ note]

[68]. The German government is meant here, as Poland had been made a colony of Nazi Germany. [Editor’s note]

[69]. The Endecja (National Democrats) were a major conservative political force in prewar Poland. [Editor’s note]

[70]. The OZON (Camp of National Unification) succeeded the BBWR as the main pro-government force. [Editor’s note]

[71]. ‘Sprawa polska a rewolucja miedzynarodowa’, Przeglad Marksistowski, no 6, February-March 1941, p2; ‘Czy PPS wystapi z “rzadu” Sikorskiego?’ Czerwony Sztandar, no 2, December 1940, p6

[72]. Pierwszy maja 1941’, Przeglad Marksistowski, no 7, April-May 1941, p2; ‘Nasza wojna’; Czerwony Sztandar, no 6, July 1941, p6.

[73]. The RPPS (Workers Polish Socialist Party) was the strongest of the non-Stalinist left wing forces which were coordinated in the Supreme People’s Committee (NKL). Attacked by the Stalinists as ‘Trotskyist’, the RPPS, along with other leftist forces, was subsumed into the Stalinist United Workers Party of Poland (PUWP) after 1945.

The following letter, written by one S Trepczynski in 1966, was discovered by an archivist at the New Document Archive in Warsaw, where the material of the Central Committee of the Polish United Workers Party is kept. It is both interesting and important to record that note is taken of the work of Amnesty, and that it is not wasted.

Polish United Workers Party

Confidential 58

Central Committee

Secretariat Office


Note on the Letters sent on Behalf of an International Association called ‘Amnesty International’ Addressed to the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Polish United Workers Party Concerning the Freeing of Ludwik Hass

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL is an organisation composed of people of different nationalities. The principle aim is activity to release prisoners deprived of their freedom because of their political or religious convictions. The organisation is based in London, and its greatest influence is in Great Britain. Amnesty International has a consultative status in the UN and the European Council. The organisation has an Executive Committee composed of five people. Its president is a representative of Ireland, the Secretary of the International Lawyers Commission Sean MacBride. There are also representatives of France, Denmark, Belgium and the BRD [West Germany] on the committee. The funds come mainly from Great Britain, Ireland and Denmark. The organisation is supported by many famous personalities: Pablo Neruda, Professor La Pira, Professor Colder, Professor Oppenheimer, the General Prosecutor in Great Britain Elwyn Jones, and many others, including Nobel Prize winning writers.

The committee of this organisation meets twice a year to work out the general direction of its policy. Among others, it decides which three prisoners should be adopted per month, on whose behalf the members of this organisation will intervene for their release. Usually one of the prisoners comes from a country in Western Europe, one from the Socialist countries, and one from the countries of the Third World. The centre of the organisation sends its members the names and addresses of the people on behalf of whom they intervene.

In connection with Ludwik Hass, altogether 57 letters and postcards have been sent to the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Polish United Workers Party, 33 from Great Britain, seven from the USA, six from Sweden, five from Canada, three from Holland, one from Norway, one from the BRD and one from Ireland. The majority of them are identical postcards printed by Amnesty International, picturing three white doves on a blue and black background (one copy enclosed). Some letters have stamps of the organisation stuck on them.

The whole correspondence was sent in the period between 19 and 25 April. It is difficult to establish the profession of the senders (usually it is not given). In some letters it is stated that the senders are university research employees. One of the English senders also says that he is a member of the British Young Communist League.

The content of the letters is usually identical. It is stated in them that the imprisonment of L Hass is in contradiction with the General Declaration of Human Rights. Some of the letters have identical content, despite the fact that they were posted in different countries (Great Britain, Sweden, Holland, USA). It is as following: ‘I am a member of Amnesty International and I was very moved by the arrest of L Hass, which seems to contradict the General Declaration of Human Rights. I am convinced that the aims of this declaration are also of value to you as much as to the rest of the world, and you will show mercy in this case.’ Some of the senders ask for mercy because of the long period in prison spent by Hass already. In other letters, it is stated that he acted only according to his convictions, and that this cannot be the reason to deprive him of his freedom, because everyone has a right to freedom of speech, free expression of opinion and independent political views. Some of the senders write that Hass was imprisoned without a court hearing, which is against the law. All the letters end with an appeal to show mercy and a request to release L Hass.

It should be assumed that the letters and postcards will continue to arrive.


Com Wieslaw

Com Kliszko (—) S Trepczynski

Com Strzelecki

Com Wicha

IT IS a matter for some regret that the work of militants of the stature of Ngo Van and Ludwik Hass has received little publicity and insufficient attention. This injustice has recently been put to right in Van’s case by Index Books, with the publication of his work on Trotskyism in Vietnam, and in spite of our slender means we intend to do the same for Ludwik Hass here. We are proud to present our readers with important material on the history of Trotskyism in Poland. Readers who experience frustration coping with the fragmentary nature of our materials should bear in mind that considerable difficulty attends an attempt to reconstruct the history of a movement that has had to endure often double illegality under military dictatorship and Stalinism for some 50 years.

Although valuable parts of our mosaic are still missing, a close study of what we have will show that it does not lack interest, not to mention courage, dignity and pathos. Since nearly all our articles derive from Hass it is superfluous for us to put our gratitude on record here, and the extent of our debt to Bozena Langley can only be fully appreciated by the fact that she alone has borne the full burden of translating them.

Due to software limitations, we regret that we are unable to show all the accents that are used in the Polish language. We apologise to our readers, especially to our Polish ones, for this.

We hope our readers will put as high a value upon their work as we do, but left wing magazines can only continue to appear with support of a more tangible kind. All too often in the past year organisations affiliated to the board have failed to place our advertisements in their journals. Our own resources are now stretched to the limit, and we would appeal to those who have not taken out a subscription to take this opportunity to do so. Any donations, however small, would be appreciated. The future of your magazine now lies in your hands.

It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Ken Tarbuck, who had been a member of the Editorial Board of Revolutionary History since 1989, and we send our condolences to his family, friends and comrades. An obituary for Ken appears on pages 161-2 of this issue. We also regret that Harry Ratner has had to resign from the Editorial Board for reasons of health.

Editorial Board

Revolutionary History

Grzegorz Soltysiak’s article about the trials in 1964 first appeared in the independent historical journal Karta, no 7, 1992. Its editorial board received more letters in connection with the publication of this article than on any other subject. Karta started publication in 1991 in collaboration with the ‘Memorial’ Group in Russia, and its main aim was to establish the truth about Stalinist repression and its victims in Poland and the Soviet Union. All the reported speeches of Ludwik Hass and Romuald Smiech were taped and transcribed in 1991 by Grzegorz Soltysiak for this article. The notes to explain matters to non-Polish readers have been added by the editors of

Revolutionary History with the assistance of Ludwik Hass.

‘Any contemporary of ours who wants peace and comfort above all has chosen a bad time to be born.’ — Leon Trotsky, Hitler’s Victory, 1933[1]


THE BEGINNING of the 1960s in Poland is associated with the ‘little stabilisation’ — living in a flat with a kitchen without windows, driving a Syrenka,[2] and being overpowered by inertia, but with a longing for the lost ideals of October 1956. There was, however, some life under this shell.

Many people — writers, scientists, students — tried to fight the system. The most important event in the mid-1960s was Letter 34 of the spring of 1964, in which well-known intellectuals demanded some liberalisation from the authorities of the policy on Polish culture. Repression quickly followed. Many people had their passports withdrawn. Kazimierz Brandys,[3] Adolf Rudnicki[4] and even Antoni Slonimski,[5] amongst others, were not allowed to leave the country. A number of loudly-publicised political trials took place. Melchior Wankowicz,[6] Stanislaw Cat-Mackiewicz,[7] January Grzedzinski[8] and Jan Nepomucen Miller[9] were accused and sentenced for publishing ‘seditious’ articles in the Western press.

A number of political groups were started in this period. People of a left wing orientation were often active in them because of their disappointment at the abandonment of the October reforms. At that time Jacek Kuron,[10] Karol Modzelewski[11] and Adam Michnik[12] began their careers as oppositionists. Maoist, nationalist and Christian Democratic groups came into being. They all had one thing in common — sooner or later they ended up in prison.

One of the more interesting was a Trotskyist group which was very little known at that time, and is now completely forgotten. It was active for less than two years, and numbered fewer than 20 people. The leading members were Ludwik Hass, its informal leader and a theorist, a person who ‘said openly what others were afraid even to think’, Kazimierz Badowski, a veteran of Polish Trotskyism, and a young historian and sociology student, Romuald Smiech. Their activity ended with arrests and a court trial which was exceptionally well publicised in Western Europe because of the number of protest activities, letters and petitions to the government of the Polish People’s Republic, and publications in the Polish emigré press such as Kultura,[13] and Wiadomosci.[14]

Many myths and misunderstandings have grown up around this group, its membership and the trial itself. For many people, even the most infrequent contacts with the Trotskyists soon became very inconvenient, and many of them suddenly ‘lost’ their memory. Until today the Polish Trotskyists have rarely been alluded to for this reason. They get a small mention in Jacek Kuron’s memoirs, Karol Modzelewski spoke about them a few times, and, in passing, Jerzy Eisler alludes to them in his monograph on March 1968. The accounts by the leading characters were also missing. Today, after nearly 30 years, they have decided to speak out.

Ludwik Hass:[15] I was born and brought up in a civil service family in eastern Galicia in a kind of apolitical atmosphere of government loyalty. When at the gymnasium [grammar school] I first noticed the generally prevailing ‘cult of the state’. Even before my matriculation I found myself in the circle influenced by the Union of Polish Democratic Youth, and later its left wing. In the summer of 1936 I made the amazing ‘discovery’ of historical materialism — at last I had found the key to understanding the march of history. This happened thanks to Stanislaw Piech, who was a few years older than me and a former medical student from Prague. He had some links with the Communist Party of Poland, and was a faithful Stalinist. I began to share his views.

In the autumn of 1936 I began my university studies in Lwów. The left wing of the Union of Polish Democratic Youth was by then a very small group, without even its own office. Then I joined the Independent Socialist Youth Union, which was a joint organisation of all sorts of Socialists and Communists (Stalinists). This was the period of the Moscow Trials (1936-1938), and in Poland the period of the Comintern and the CPP’s attempts to form a Popular Front. My own reading and meeting with Michal Zawadowski,[16] an outstanding person, a graduate in philosophy from Lwów University, at the Independent Socialist Youth Union, were responsible for my criticisms of Stalinist policies which gradually became sharper, and which were made at meetings of the Independent Socialist Youth Union. We had begun to notice the Stalinist bureaucracy’s machine methods and way of functioning, even when it was illegal, as it was in Poland at that time.

The Stalinists in the Independent Socialist Youth Union began, of course, to call us Trotskyists, as that was how they then characterised all their left wing critics. However, we only had a very vague idea of what Trotskyism was, and were even critical of it. But the ‘guru’ of the Stalinists in the union, Adam Schaff,[17] used to tell us such unbelievable and fantastic stories about Trotskyists, vouching for these with his authority as a Comintern functionary in Western Europe, whilst at the same time being so unbearably big-headed that he achieved the opposite effect: we began to doubt him.

To some extent a coincidence decided my further political (and personal) development. It was in January 1938 in Lwów when a young worker (he gave me his details, which I checked) introduced himself to me as a person linked with the Bolshevik-Leninist centre (the name of the Trotskyist organisation in Poland at that time).[18] He proposed that I, Michal and a few others close to us, join their organisation. Michal’s reaction, as soon as I told him, was straightforward and principled: if something like this exists, then we should join it, and possible small differences should not stop us. We began to receive the papers of the movement: from Paris the Russian language Byulletin’ Oppozitsii and from Belgium Lutte Ouvrière. This was a new world of ideas, views and information. It explained what was happening around us, without scholastic falsification, and without saying that black was white, even if ‘not entirely perfect’.

The outbreak of war and the entry of the Soviet army into Poland meant my arrest. We had already known about Stalinist repressions and the gulags. I remember reading a report from a deportee — at that time I wondered whether it was a literary fiction or not. When I found myself being transported, and later in a gulag, I saw that the reality was even more unbelievable than anything we had known about the system. From then on I lived with only one thought — to survive all this at any cost, to return and look in the eyes of all those who called us liars.[19] Much later, when I was preparing to return to Poland, an old member of the Communist Opposition, Borysov from Odessa, who had been three times on trial (even he was surprised that he was never shot), said to me: ‘Remember — you are one out of tens of thousands who has managed to leave. You have a duty to speak for all those who can no longer speak. You have to tell how the Communists, including also the Polish Communists, lived and fought on in the camps.’

I returned to Poland with a feeling of triumph. Life had shown me that the ideas in which I believed were correct.

Remaining true to the convictions for which I had spent eight years in prisons and death camps in the far north (1939-47), following which I was sentenced to ‘life banishment’, I returned home in January 1957, and then began to look around for some activity. My first improvised speech was made straightaway at the railway station — to the students’ committee who were welcoming all those returning home. I said then that I did not regard myself as a victim of Stalin. I was a soldier of the army fighting against Stalinism, and was taken a prisoner. Now I am returning home to continue my fight. I realised that here, in Poland, Trotskyism had been physically liquidated, but I knew that it was my duty, as one who had survived, to start again. In the prewar organisation I was, using a military term, no more than a corporal, but, in a situation when every officer in the battalion has been killed, an ordinary soldier must take command and save the colours. This was precisely my situation.

I began to look around for new contacts and any possibilities of reaching a wider audience. From Trybuna Ludu[20] I found out that there was a discussion club at the Warsaw Committee of the Polish United Workers Party. I went there, and it turned out that you had to be a party member and have an entrance ticket. I did manage to get in and spoke a little, but this was not it. Later I went to the Club ‘Life’ where all the prewar members of the student left, almost exclusively Stalinists, used to meet. I still felt a stranger in that environment. It turned out that I had overestimated the change of mood in society. Returning to Poland, I had the illusion that it had become clear to many people that we were correct. In those days, after all, Polityka[21] asked Isaac Deutscher to write an essay about the Polish Communist Party. I was convinced that our ideas would find fertile soil, especially then when the whole Stalinist reality was totally exposed. Later, in the autumn of 1957, I managed to make contact with the Crooked Wheel Club.[22] I was formally accepted as a member of this club thanks to Witold Jedlicki,[23] who proposed me on behalf of the Club executive. For the first time I had a chance of speaking to a wider audience who listened carefully and could understand. Soon I became one of the leaders of the left wing in the Club. In the discussion on the twentieth anniversary of the dissolution of the KPP, I made my first serious speech.

Witold Jedlicki: As a participant in discussion Ludwik Hass was unbearable, aggressive, intolerant, and lacking in restraint in his outbursts... What’s more, as a matter of principle, he quite consciously ignored certain parliamentary customs in the conduct of debates. But for all this he was, by any account, a remarkable person. As a historian, his knowledge was impressive, all the more so considering his biography, as he had spent 17 years being re-educated, eight years in a death camp, and nine years in forced resettlement within the Arctic Circle. An excellent speaker, he could electrify the audience...

I remember, for example, when responding to the claims of the supporters of ‘raison d’état’, he said: ‘Be careful with this raison d’état, because when the integrity of two states clash, people have to be deported.’ He was not afraid of being contradicted, but he formulated his ideas in a most extreme way, and avoided a middle-of-the-road approach. In a discussion on the death penalty, he expressed the view that death sentences could sometimes be justified when carried out by real revolutionary people’s tribunals or by the revolutionary crowd in the street hanging people on lamp-posts, but totally disagreed with death sentences carried out with all the majesty of a state judiciary. (Thus Hass caused horror amongst the Americans present there, for whom this position meant a defence of anti-black lynching.) The fundamental weapon used by Hass in his polemics was Marxism in its classical form.

I must admit that from this man I learnt to appreciate Marxism as a means of political polemic against some other Marxists. Before I met him I thought of it as a by now completely ossified intellectual creation, and useless for anything except deliberate mystification. His Marxism always led to the most sensational conclusions, surprisingly original, being in complete contrast with all the miserable nonsense and truisms which were often presented to an audience under the name of Marxism. Hass was able to achieve the impossible, to give this philosophy, by then a shameless apology for the social and even political status quo, its original form of a philosophy of social revolt. And he showed a great talent in doing this. Outwardly, formally, he kept himself within the tradition of party polemics. For instance, he very much liked to quote the classics, usually in such a way that sent cold shivers down one’s spine. He very much liked to pick on words, and tirelessly probe into some of the details. But most of all he felt satisfaction when, in his opinion, he unmasked and embarrassed his opponent. He was never tired, always ready to polemicise, to argue and to clash ideologically.

Ludwik Hass: Unfortunately even this attempt ended in a fiasco — but only to some extent. The Club tried to be a political pressure group — a discussion club acting as a pressure group! A dream of a hanged man! It all ended when the Crooked Wheel Club was banned in the spring of 1962 on the orders of the Warsaw Committee of the Polish United Workers Party.[24]

I remember when Marian Marek Drozdowski,[25] then still an employee working in the Party History Office of the Central Committee of the PUWP and ‘our man’ in the Science Department of the Central Committee of the PUWP, met me in the hall of the office, and said: ‘Ludwik, what does the executive of the Club want? The District Committee is still waiting for someone [from the Club] to come to discuss it. The matter is still open.’ I replied: ‘Marek, you know what the conditions are: a guided discussion, and the removal of the most inconvenient speakers. I can’t take part in this because I will be the first to be expelled.’ The outcome of the discussion was of course decided beforehand. The Club was closed, and I began my search all over again.

A rather important opportunity for me to speak about Trotskyism was at a meeting in Professor Stanislaw Ossowski’s house. At first, the professor wanted to invite me to his seminar, but in the end he decided that it would be better to meet in his house. This lecture meant I had another contact with young students at the University.

Soon, by chance, I made new contacts. Once I was sitting with my friends in the Bristol café when I met Leszek Kolakowski.[26] On one occasion Kolakowski, having recognised my friend, came over to our table. The subject of the Fourth International came up in our discussion. It turned out that Kolakowski maintained informal contacts with the Fourth International, and had the recent Trotskyist documents, which he promised to deliver to me. I was sure that now, at last, I would achieve my aim, but weeks passed and nothing happened.

In 1962 Witold Jedlicki decided to leave Poland, and before leaving he asked what he could do for me. I had one request — to find the Secretariat of the Fourth International in Paris, and inform them that I was alive and living in Poland. After a few weeks I received a postcard with the news: ‘I was at Peter’s [that is, Pierre Frank, one of Trotsky’s secretaries — LH], and they were pleased to get your greetings.’ This was a very important moment for me; I was not politically isolated.

After some time Jacek Kuron visited me. I knew him previously from the ‘Life’ Club. He brought news that a Fourth International courier had arrived in Poland and was looking for me, so he arranged a meeting with him. I was to wait in a café. At a pre-arranged time Kuron appeared, and we went to Karol Modzelewski’s flat. I only knew the latter by sight, and, I must admit, I was surprised that the meeting was held at his place. The courier, Georges Dobbeler, was a teacher from Belgium. We discussed the situation in Poland and what could be done. Kuron spoke about the existence of a students’ organisation of 500 members, and insisted that the Fourth International publish something especially for Poland, naturally, as he stressed, giving the name of the ‘firm’. I did not say anything about this because I did not see any possibility of a mass distribution. We arranged a further meeting. In May and the beginning of June Dobbeler planned to come to Poland with a group of Belgian students as a part of an official youth exchange with the Socialist Youth Union.

Jacek Kuron: In the autumn of 1963 an activist of the Socialist Youth Union from Belgium came to Warsaw on the invitation of the SYU. He contacted Karol Modzelewski,[27] said he was a courier of the Fourth International, and asked to be put in touch with ‘Monsieur As’. We guessed he meant Ludwik Hass, a prewar Trotskyist from Lwów, who after the Russians crossed into Poland had spent years in the gulag, and only managed to return to Poland from banishment somewhere in the faraway territory within the Arctic Circle after 1957. He came with his little son and Russian wife, a girl from a kolkhoz...[28] I knew Ludwik a little from the History Department,[29] so I told Karol that this guy from Belgium had arrived and wanted to meet him. I went to Hass, who was working at that time in the History Office of the Trade Union Centre, and together we went to Karol. That was the first time I met this Belgian, who used the pseudonym ‘Philippe’. Soon afterwards a group of tourists arrived from Belgium who brought a duplicator in a suitcase together with several thousand copies of a document of some Congress of the Fourth International translated into unbelievably bad Polish.

Ludwik Hass: May passed, then June, and I still had no news. In July, by total chance, I met Kuron on Marszalkowska Street, and to my surprise I found out that Dobbeler had actually come and brought the documents, which, he said, had been taken to Cracow, to the ‘Old Man’ (Kazimierz Badowski).[30] As I found out later, Kuron showed complete ignorance of any conspiratorial practice. He sent a student from France, who did not know even one word of Polish, to Cracow, just giving him Badowski’s address. In those days this was complete madness. Badowski told me later that this young man did the only sensible thing, he left the parcel in the left luggage office, and came to him with just the receipt. Fortunately Badowski spoke French fluently, and they managed to communicate with each other. This mysterious document was the Polish translation of the Resolution of the Fifth Congress of the Fourth International in 1957, The Decline and Fall of Stalinism.[31]

At the same time I found out that Kuron’s group had stopped distributing copies of the resolution because one of their members had been arrested, and they were negotiating conditions for his release with Wladyslaw Bienkowski.[32] I asked Kuron about this [resolution] a number of times, and his answer was always ‘tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow’.

I also found out that Jacek was in discussion with Kolakowski and Jan Strzelecki. I was surprised at his choice of company because wider circles, ranging from Wiez[33] to ourselves, did not hold Strzelecki in very high regard, as he was considered an opportunist, a zealous supporter of unity between the Polish Workers Party and the Polish Socialist Party, and well known for changing his political views and attitudes. Kuron’s argument was that it was necessary to unite the opposition, but he convinced nobody.

About the same time a Parisian solicitor[34] visited Warsaw, and, at the request of Pierre Frank, the Secretary of the Fourth International, found me in order to establish contact. He was an elderly man, born in Warsaw and brought up in Moscow, had been a member of the Cadet Youth Organisation[35] who after 1917 had come to Warsaw, and in 1924 had emigrated to France. I gave him my article about the present political situation in Poland, and we arranged ways to keep in touch. This article never reached Paris. This person imagined he was under observation on his way to the airport, and destroyed the text.

Around 1963 I established close relations with 23-year-old Romek Smiech, an historian and a reader in the sociology department of Warsaw University. We began to work together. He invited me to probably the first meeting of the political club of the Socialist Youth Union at the university, whose chairman was Karol Modzelewski. I spoke at that meeting. From then on I was invited to every meeting by the other members of the executive of the club, too. These meetings enabled me to make the acquaintance of young people. Some of them became our sympathisers.

We never established formal structures. There were too few of us. Our strength lay in the influence we exerted in circles of the young intelligentsia, and through our activity in all sorts of discussion clubs. Of course this was not ideal, but we had to do it. Despite our activity and many attempts, we could never reach the workers. The whole of the apparatus of the Polish People’s Republic carefully sealed off the intelligentsia from contact with the working class.

On the other hand, we realised that we needed a professional team of agitators — people dedicated to the idea, but also steeled in political activity. We did not have such people. We took the road of Ludwik Warynski,[36] small conspiratorial circles, although we hoped the effects would appear more quickly.

Romuald Smiech: In 1957 I had begun my historical studies at the University of Cracow, just at the time of students strikes over the dissolution of the journal Po Prostu,[37] and also the dissolution of the Revolutionary Youth Union. At our department we initiated a group of the Union of Socialist Youth, which had nothing in common with the later official USY. We wanted to be more radical than the Polish Students Union, which we thought was a bourgeois organisation and full of careerists. These were my political beginnings.

Zygmunt Jan: In some circles of the university intelligentsia, Romek found friends who, to his surprise, thought in a very similar way to him. They were students, readers and even older intellectuals, specialists in every field. Sometimes discussions were organised at the university... For some time in the Polish Students’ Union building, under the name of the Language Club, there was a permanent discussion centre. It became so well known in Warsaw that foreigners started coming. Soon afterwards the Language Club was closed down, but it was still possible to give lectures. In the discussions after the lectures there were criticisms, demands were formulated and proposals to solve some of the burning social and political problems were discussed... No-one demanded the liquidation of the party, or the building of new parties alongside the Communist one. No! The demand was for a return to, or rather for the creation of, inner-party democracy. One demand was to end the privileged position of the members of the Central Committee, from both an economic point of view as well as their monopoly of decision. The party structures outside the centre needed to have some autonomy, and to be able to influence the political line of the whole of the party. Free discussion inside the party organisations was demanded with the possibility of grassroots initiatives as well as the freedom to criticise constructively directives coming from the top.

Romuald Smiech: My acquaintance with Ludwik began on a professional level. I came into contact with him whilst preparing my thesis on the history of the Polish Socialist Party left wing’s paper Robociarz [Worker]. Our contacts became closer after I moved to Warsaw, where I began studying sociology at the University, and where I was also a reader. Ludwik Hass is a person with whom it is impossible just to have social contacts; quite gently and almost imperceptibly I became drawn into what he was trying to do.

We all felt the need for people who would be able to put forward a political analysis. Hass was such a person. After a discussion with him you would leave with new horizons. He would pay attention to events which we would not have noticed. Publicly he said things which others at that time were afraid even to think. This was his strength, both in contact with individuals as well as in public appearances. I admired him. To come from a small town to Cracow and then to Warsaw was a big qualitative jump for me. To come from Vorkuta to Poland was incomparably greater for Hass, yet it was he who was dissatisfied and tried to struggle, and not me.

Witold Jedlicki: Hass felt nothing but contempt for the rotten, party regime of Gomulka, corrupt to the core. He never had any illusions in October 1956. He saw more clearly than others that October did not dislocate the existing power structure of the Polish People’s Republic, and that the party still retained full freedom of manoeuvre to use the stick or the carrot, depending on its whim. He loved freedom, real freedom, not some other meaning secretly smuggled in under the name of ‘freedom’, he wanted no ‘understanding of necessity’ or ‘freedom to criticise constructively’...

Hass’s sensitivity to the problems of power was also expressed in another way by his stubborn posing of the paradox of a great dignitary of impeccable manners teaching the ‘plebs’ the advantages of Socialism. Thus he raised the issue of the social distance between the ruling group and the rest of the nation, and the issue of the ruling group’s morality. There was the question of the division of the national income and ‘who is best off in Poland’. There was the issue of the ‘new class’. Hass spoke of all these things, in crowded halls, under the noses of the government officials snooping all round him.

Romuald Smiech: The group’s activity was above all Ludwik’s activity. Badowski was not an activist type, but it was impossible to exclude him because of his wide contacts with the Western Trotskyists. I, on the other hand, was active in the university’s Union of Socialist Youth, and especially in the discussion club. I had contacts with Karol Modzelewski, and I met Jacek Kuron. At that time I went to Cracow several times to see Badowski to deliver papers, and once or twice I contacted him about the duplicator.

Was I a Trotskyist? I have always been someone with left wing views, but I cannot say that I was a Trotskyist. My membership of the group was a choice of a man, and not a political choice. Above all, it was Ludwik who was the Trotskyist.

Witold Jedlicki: Hass always maintained that of all the anti-Stalinist oppositional groups inside the Communist movement only the Trotskyists showed any ability to build some sort of a permanent movement, some kind of permanent forms of organisation on the international scale. All the other groups were ephemeral, and sooner or later they fell apart...

Hass was attracted by the romanticism of the situation in which the Trotskyist movement existed. I think of it as being completely enveloped by provocation and banditry, and as a movement decimated by secret murders... I think that for Hass, Trotskyism was, more than anything, a great longing — a great longing for a revolution which had not yet been turned into an inept and dishonest administration, for fraternity amongst people which had not yet become mutual spying and denunciation, for some elementary honesty which had not been fucked up by inter-party personal intrigues, for an individuality which was not yet nationalistic. And above all, he was for a truth which is not relative, for using the same measure for the same things, and for calling things by their proper names.

Ludwik Hass: At that point we began to get the Fourth International journal, Quatrième Internationale. We tried to translate the essential things into Polish, to type out a few copies and to distribute them. We expected some readers would also type a few copies of this material and distribute it. Our circle began to grow. I also organised a small discussion group. We used to meet in the flat of an employee of the University Library, Zosia Kowalska. Amongst others Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, Wojtek Ziembinski and Jan Józef Lipski[38] used to come. We studied the documents of the International and distributed them. At one of our meetings, Lipski told us about the proposal which later came to be known as ‘Letter 34’. We decided to take part in distributing the letter.

In the end Romuald Smiech and I decided that we should distribute The Decline and Fall of Stalinism ourselves. Looking back I think I made an inadmissible mistake because I promised the Belgian that I would act 100 per cent legally, meaning that we could not be accused of anything. And here I got carried away. Karol Modzelewski gave me the address of Badowski. I had only met him once before. I sent Romek to Cracow to see him. He came back with 100 copies of the document.

After some time, Kuron informed me that they had begun to formulate a programme, but I did not know whether this was that of a party opposition or a new party. I doubted if the situation was right for this. I realised that to write a programme you need more than a few good ideas and a number of intelligent members. One day Kuron told me that the programme was ready, and they wanted me to read it. I read it in his flat. We arranged to meet again to discuss this material in another flat in the same building belonging to some other young man. Karol Modzelewski was also there. I remember that the document had 130 pages which, considering that it had to be distributed secretly, seemed to me to be complete madness. I tried to persuade them to shorten it considerably.

In the first days of October 1964 I suddenly learnt that Kuron, Modzelewski, Stanislaw Gomólka[39] and someone else had been suddenly seized and arrested. It happened like this: one evening they were sitting with their wives — it must have been around 11 o’clock in the evening — when the security forces rang the doorbell. Instead of saying that at such a late hour they would not let anyone in, and meanwhile burn the documents, they completely lost their heads. The security forces took all the men and left the wives. Later on, the reason for the arrests became known. Modzelewski was having an affair with the daughter of one of the assistant secretaries in a department of the Central Committee of the PUWP. The assistant secretaries’ telephones were bugged — to protect them against any threats... In a telephone conversation Modzelewski wanted the girl to spend a weekend in Zakopane with him, but she wanted to fix another date to which Karol answered that it would be too late then. Modzelewski was then already under surveillance, and so they concluded that they were preparing some action, and gave the signal to arrest them all. They were released after 48 hours.

By the time they were arrested we were already distributing The Decline and Fall of Stalinism at full blast. Kuron and Modzelewski did not take part in this, but when they found out about it Kuron came to me for a copy. Later on this copy became one of the threads which led to our group, and was responsible for our arrest. It was found during a police raid on a home of a ‘Maoist’ to whom Kuron had given it with a great pride.

After some time I met Modzelewski again, and he told me that they intended to duplicate the shortened version of the ‘programme’ confiscated by the security forces, and were going to Cracow for this purpose. Immediately after this conversation I sent Romek Smiech to Cracow to explain to Badowski that it was an inopportune time for this sort of activity, and he should not give the duplicator to anyone from Kuron’s group. A mass distribution at that time made no sense — not because it was risky, but because there was no audience for these sort of texts. In my opinion we should work in small groups. Badowski had a slightly different point of view. He had known Modzelewski a number of years, which was why he was willing to give him the duplicator and the printing blocks. And he did just that. He thought that even if they published something incorrect, we could polemicise with them in the press.

Kuron and Modzelewski came to me to find out why I was against the distribution. I repeated my arguments. It was then that Karol made an accusation which, in conditions of illegality, is the worst thing you can say because there is no answer to it: ‘Perhaps you’ve had a fright and are scared you may go to prison again?’ After this psychological blackmail, not even the most sensible argument had any effect. They left.

A few days later Jacek came in the evening. It just happened that one of my distributors was there. When Kuron saw him he called me into the bathroom and gave me two copies of the Open Letter to the Party[40] by Karol and himself — one, he said, for the International and the second for me. He then informed me that tomorrow at 11 o’clock we would start the distribution. He presented me with the accomplished fact. Nothing more could be done. Two days later, on Thursday, Kuron and Modzelewski were arrested. On Saturday the security forces came to arrest me.

There were three or four of them. The search was very thorough. I remember that one of them kept saying how surprised he was that I managed to write so much. They did not find anything incriminating, but only took a photocopy of an article about me by Janusz Kowalewski[41] and a German edition of the history of Russia by Pokrovsky.[42] At the end one of them said with unsuppressed amazement: ‘You must have gone through a pretty good school. At any other intellectual’s we would have found much more than here.’ Later the interrogators spoke about me as ‘a cunning Russian’.

Romuald Smiech: On Saturday at about five o’clock they arrested the whole group. At that time I was renting a room [on the outskirts of Warsaw] in Rembertow. A day earlier I had gone to Gdansk — to see my girlfriend. This was to be my first visit to her parents. The plain clothes policemen made a very thorough search, and found my girlfriend’s address. In any case, my landlady told them where I had gone. They did not pick up my traces until Sunday evening. Until the last moment I did not know anything about the arrest of Hass and Badowski. The police were convinced that I had gone to Gdansk with Trotskyist documents and Kuron and Modzelewski’s Open Letter. They made a thorough search of my girlfriend’s parents’ flat. I need hardly add that hardly anyone introduces himself to his future parents-in-law in this way.

From the prosecution document

1. Kazimierz Marian Badowski, born 15 July 1907 in Regow Stary, son of Konrad and Balbina, maiden name Wosatko; 2. Ludwik Ferdynand Hass, born 28 November 1918 in Stanislawowo (USSR), son of Baroch and Jechewet, maiden name Hoffman; 3. Romuald Smiech, born on 7 February 1940 in Poduchance near Hrubieszow, son of Jan and Wladyslawa, maiden name, Dabrowska, are accused of: Between 1963 and March 1965 in Cracow, Warsaw and Chelmno Lubelskie keeping with the aim of distribution and distributing duplicated texts of a pamphlet harmful to the interests of the Polish state, calling for the overthrow by force of the leading organs of power of the Polish People’s Republic, and containing false information regarding socio-political and economic relations in Poland, a crime according to article 23, paragraph 1 of a decree dated 13 June 1946, and dealing with the crimes especially dangerous in the period of the reconstruction of the state...

Also: Kazimierz Marian Badowski is accused of: In the autumn of 1964 in Cracow he helped Karol Modzelewski and Jacek Kuron to prepare a document with the aim of distribution, which was likely to cause substantial damage to the interests of the Polish state, which contained calls to overthrow by force the leading organs of state power in the Polish People’s Republic, and gave false information regarding socio-political and economic relations in Poland — especially in the following way, that after studying the contents of the document he passed on his remarks, he provided them with the use of a duplicator and several dozen printing blocks, a crime according to article 27 of the penal code in connection with article 23, paragraph 1 of the decree dated 13 June 1946...

And that Ludwik Ferdynand Hass: In the years 1964-65 in Warsaw he helped Karol Modzelewski and Jacek Kuron prepare a document with an aim of distributing, which was likely to cause substantial damage to the interests of the Polish state, containing calls to overthrow by force the leading organs of state power of the Polish People’s Republic, and gave false information regarding socio-political and economic relations in Poland — especially in the following way, that after studying the contents of the document he passed on his remarks, and then kept the manuscripts of the document written in the form of an Open Letter — a crime according to article 27 of the penal code in connection with article 23, paragraph 1 of the decree dated 13 June 1946...

Ludwik Hass: The interrogation began. The security forces had in their hands a copy of The Decline and Fall of Stalinism. At first Kuron and Modzelewski’s cases and ours were kept together, but later they were separated. I even asked my interrogator the reason for this. His answer was logical and simple: ‘Well, we cannot make you into martyrs by staging a big trial for you.’ Sometimes the reaction of the interrogators was quite comical, and one, for instance, accused me of leaving out of The Decline... the question of the peasantry! For many of them the object of the interrogation was incomprehensible. The older ones suffered from something like mental schizophrenia — they read and understood this language, but they did not know what my crime was. They were convinced that this was an internal party dispute. Some of them knew me from the University, and some even greeted me as a good friend.

In prison we were put in with the supporters of Kazimierz Mijala[43] who were on trial at the same time. We were called ‘the Marxists’. After the interrogation ended we were allowed our solicitors. My solicitors were Michal Brojdes and Jan Olszewski.[44] Officially I was accused, under article 23 of the decree of 1946, which related to especially dangerous crimes in the period of reconstruction (immediately after the war!), of spreading false information which could cause public unrest — an act for which the punishment was three years imprisonment. At that time this article of the penal code was going to be changed to carry a lesser sentence, but at the personal intervention of Zenon Kliszko,[45] who supervised the trial proceedings, it was left as it was.

From the prosecution document

The manuscript of the ‘document’ and the Open Letter, which is a shortened version of the document, both contain false information about the socio-political and economic relations existing in Poland, which could cause substantial damage to the interests of the Polish state.

In both of the works there is a call for the overthrow, by means of a revolution, of the leading organs of state power and the party apparatus, characterising them together as a ‘central bureaucracy’ forming a new class. The programme of action has as its aim putting an end to the existing political and economic system of the Polish People’s Republic, in which, according to the authors, the working class is exploited by the ‘power of the bureaucracy exercising undivided control over the socialised means of production’. Besides this, it calls for getting rid of the leading rôle of the Polish United Workers Party in all the domains of socio-political and economic life, and also the disbanding of the forces of law and order and internal security, and their substitution by different organs...

After the statement on the economic and general crisis in Poland, in further extracts of the document it is said that the ‘overcoming of the economic and general crisis is therefore only possible by way of a revolution, or by overthrowing the dictatorship of the bureaucracy’: ‘In this condition of general crisis the bureaucracy is isolated, and no class will come to its defence. The first step of the workers’ struggle against the bureaucracy is the economic struggle for a greater share of the necessary product, that is a strike.’

Elsewhere it is stated that ‘we are living in the condition of a total dictatorship. All publications, including scholarly ones... are subject to severe rules of censorship, that is to say, terror is introduced, which stifles any remnants of freedom.’ Both works deny any gains whatsoever for the working class in Poland in the period of the last two decades. They point out that the working class in Poland ‘under the rule of the central bureaucracy’ does not have any future in a positive sense... The information spread by the accused may undoubtedly cause substantial damage to the state interests of the People’s Republic of Poland.

Romuald Smiech: The arrest was a shock for me. I did not expect it. We had never discussed how to behave in such an eventuality.

First, on Monday night and Tuesday morning I was interrogated at the police headquarters at Palac Mostowskich, and on Tuesday I was taken to Rakowiecka prison. They already knew all about my visits to Cracow and my contacts with Badowski. Throughout the interrogation they threatened to end my academic career. Fortunately, one of my friends arranged an outstanding defence lawyer for me — Witold Lis-Olszewski — a former Stalinist prisoner who had come out of prison in 1957. His relationship towards me was almost fatherly, and he worked out my line of defence. Thanks to him I began to treat everything slightly more lightly.

In April 1965 Kuron and Modzelewski’s trial took place. Our group was used as prosecution witnesses, though rather peculiar ones, as we were brought in chains from prison. I chose the tactic of not saying more than what I had already said. Together with my solicitor we agreed that my attitude would be that of someone who was only connected to the others by ties of friendship, and was not involved ideologically. During the trial I was only asked about the duplicator and my contacts with Hass and Badowski. Had I had any knowledge of the law I might have managed to avoid all this — but...

Jacek Kuron: Hass, who gave evidence as a witness, was brought up from prison. He was accused of the same things as us: spreading false information, spreading the resolutions of the Fourth International, and having a duplicator. He shouted, argued and screamed at the judge, but said exactly what the prosecution and the court wanted in every respect. Probably he then said something of the sort that he had made a very long journey within the Arctic Circle, although he didn’t like travelling. At that moment I felt ashamed that I was inwardly getting angry with him. After all, I was never in prison in the Stalinist period, and what could I know about someone, who, the moment he saw policemen, would go to pieces? I was sure anyway that he was denouncing us because of what had happened in a Stalinist interrogation...

Also another witness, Badowski, a respectable elderly man, was brought from prison. I hardly knew him, having spoken to him only once. The prosecutor, or maybe one of the defendants, asked him whether we were Trotskyists, and he first of all explained the differences, and then he said: ‘When someone is wounded in the leg and is kneeling on the recently ploughed earth, then he may be risking gangrene, but you cannot say he is a corpse. Therefore he will say about us — who are young, noble, brave, although often mistaken — that we are not Trotskyists.’[46]

Witold Jedlicki: Hass was brought in chains from prison... The demonstration outside the court, singing The Internationale, was described at great length, amongst others, in Kultura. So I will not describe that event...

I will only mention that Hass took part in this demonstration, raising his hands in chains to greet the demonstrators with clenched fists. All reports confirm that both during the trial proceedings inside the courtroom, and at a demonstration outside the room, Hass behaved militantly. The disagreement in the report is about something else — the tactics he adopted when giving evidence. Knowing him, I don’t even exclude the possibility of his making a very serious tactical mistake. Probably he either underestimated or overestimated the stupidity of the judges. It appears that Hass, quite correctly, feared most of all the possibility that the court would condemn the accused as an isolated group without any importance, which, in Polish conditions, would have been deadly for the outcome of the case. In order to avoid this, he stressed the international contacts and the influence of the accused. I also heard the accusation that by doing this he was incriminating the accused. But this line of giving evidence might have been agreed with them. Besides, according to another report, Hass took the whole responsibility for the international contacts personally. What I think is most probable is that not all these reports are objective in the sense that Hass’s behaviour is judged through the lens of a philosophy of ‘self-preservation’. But one thing is certain: the very last thing that Hass was thinking about was his self-preservation. Hass is a political man, and in giving evidence he was certainly thinking about its long-term political effects.

Romuald Smiech: Hass did not grass — he simply did not hide his activity, he thought that what he did was not a crime. This was his attitude during both the interrogation and during the trial.

Ludwik Hass: Our trial began on 20 December 1965. Badowski and I agreed that we would not let them finish us off quietly. We did not refuse to give evidence, but we would act during the trial according to the rules of a political case. We decided that we should call each other ‘comrade’. I asked my solicitors to establish whether any of the three judges had taken part in the Stalinist trials.[47] I prepared a statement saying that because this trial concerns the struggle against Stalinism, the judges who took part in such trials could not therefore be objective. Unfortunately my solicitors failed to do this, and — as it turned out later — the senior judge had taken part in such trials.

We were brought into the courtroom. Straightaway I got annoyed because my wife was not there, although I had seen her earlier in the corridor. The prosecutor called for a closed trial. I asked to speak. The judge was so surprised by this that she agreed. I stood up and began to speak: ‘In the past Montesquieu has said that the people themselves could not judge, but they could, through their presence in the courtroom, exercise control over the judges. Attempts are being made to prevent this happening. I see more than this — everything has already been decided in this courtroom.’ I turned to the usher by the door, and said: ‘Who told you to stand by the door and not allow anyone in? Do you know you are breaking the law?’ This was an elderly woman, she looked at me, then at the judge — completely confused by the situation; the accused is asking her questions, and accusing her, when she had done nothing. The judge told me not to speak so loud. I protested: ‘There is no such rule which prescribes whether you should speak loudly or quietly. My friends are standing in the corridor, my comrades, I will not allow them to learn about the trial from informers.’ A whole row was occupied by security men, who were observing the trial whilst on duty. ‘I shall speak so loudly that everything will be heard in the corridor.’ At this point Badowski joined in and supported my demand.

The court took a break to consider the demand. After 10 or so minutes we were informed that the public would be admitted into the courtroom. Then my solicitors asked for an additional break. It turned out that they, knowing about the proceedings of Kuron and Modzelewski’s case, had already told our friends it would be pointless to come because our case, too, would be heard behind closed doors. I think what was decisive in changing the judge’s decision was the atmosphere of scandal we created, and, in addition, we showed that we knew the law, and that it would not be easy for them to deal with us.

The trial then started. We used it as a public platform to tell the history of the Left Opposition and of Trotskyism in Poland. Badowski was the first to give evidence. He began with his political autobiography. The judge tried to interrupt him, using an argument that there were witnesses waiting in the corridor. I spoke loudly, in a high-pitched tone, Badowski quietly in a voice that went through you, caught your attention, and sent shivers down your spine. We became the talk of the town. Although our trial lasted, with breaks, over 10 days, every day the courtroom was full. I remember that amongst others Szymon Szechter,[48] Nina Karsova[49] and Jan Litynski[50] came. Nina Karsova took notes during the trial. She was so angry that at one moment she shouted to me to speak more slowly, because she could not keep up. Typically, she was allowed to take notes, and only later did they search her flat and confiscate them. Smiech spoke as a free man. They thought that they had broken him and made him give evidence incriminating us, but it was the other way round. During the whole of the trial he conducted himself exceptionally well.

Romuald Smiech: I was freed after six months, on 20 September 1965. I was to give evidence as a free person, but the description of my ‘crime’ was changed, and I was threatened with a return to prison. All my solicitor’s efforts were concentrated on changing the sentence. Probably they tried to soften me up in this way. The trial started on 20 December. It was a typical Stalinist trial. They were not so much concerned with us, but above all with Kuron and Modzelewski. I was accused of having contacts with Badowski and of storing and publicising the resolution of the Fourth International. This was an absurd accusation. As far I know, outside a narrow circle of people — Kuron, Modzelewski, Jerzy Robert Nowak,[51] Stanislaw Gomólka and a few more people — nobody was aware of that document. A mass distribution was never discussed.

Ludwik Hass: One of the main prosecution witnesses was Marian Baranski — a nationalist activist — to whom I had given a copy of Decline and Fall... simply because I did not know anything about his views. This copy was found, by the way, in Bielsko-Biala at Henryk Klata’s[52] flat, who admitted that he got it from Baranski, and the latter pointed the finger at me. Baranski was arrested with a whole nationalist group, and came to the conclusion that, because I was his political enemy, he could give evidence incriminating me all the more so because he was promised release from prison for doing just that. This is not just my guess. Some time after my release I met Baranski in the Castle Square. He approached me with these words: ‘When I see you I feel as if someone spat in my face. Why didn’t you tell me that you spent years in the gulags?’ ‘Why should I tell you this?’, I replied. He then told me about his motives for grassing on me. It turned out that his explanation to me was not inspired by a guilty conscience. When he was released he admitted what he had done. Then his comrades explained to him that he had grassed on someone who had spent 17 years in the gulags, and made him promise that as soon as I came out of prison he would explain and apologise personally for this.

Finally the last day of the trial came. About midnight sentence was pronounced. We all got three years.

From the court documents

The court decides that Kazimierz Marian Badowski is guilty of:

1. In the period from the second half of 1963 until 24 March 1965 in Cracow he had in his possession with the aim of distributing texts harmful to the interests of the Polish state such as The Decline and Fall of Stalinism calling for the removal by force of the nation’s ruling organs of power, and containing false information concerning socio-political and economic relations existing in Poland, and for this action, article 23, paragraph 1 of the decree dated 13 June 1946... he is sentenced to three years imprisonment.

2. In the autumn of 1964 in Cracow he helped Karol Modzelewski by promising the use of a duplicator, and provided an unspecified number of printing blocks with the aim of preparing for distribution a document capable of causing substantial damage to the interests of the Polish state, the text containing calls for the removal by force of the nation’s ruling organs of power, and containing false information concerning socio-political and economic conditions existing in Poland, and for this action, article 27 of the penal code in connection with article 23, paragraph 1 of the decree dated 13 June 1946... he is sentenced to three years imprisonment. According to article 31, paragraph 1 of the penal code, Kazimierz Badowski is sentenced to serve three years imprisonment.

Ludwik Ferdynand Hass is guilty of:

1. In the period from the second half of 1963 to March 1965 in Warsaw he had in his possession with an aim of distribution and distributed duplicated texts of the pamphlet entitled The Decline and Fall of Stalinism which was harmful to the interests of the Polish state because it called for the removal by force of the nation’s ruling organs of power, and contained false information about existing socio-political and economic relations in Poland. For this action, according to article 23, paragraph 1 of the decree dated 13 June 1946... he is sentenced to three years imprisonment.

2. In March 1965 in Warsaw he had in his possession in manuscript form and distributed the document entitled An Open Letter, the text of which contained calls to remove by force the nation’s ruling organs of power, and also contained false information about existing socio-political and economic relations in Poland. For this action, according to article 23, paragraph 1 of the decree dated 13 June 1946... he is sentenced to three years imprisonment. According to article 31, paragraph 1 of the penal code, Ludwik Ferdynand Hass is sentenced to serve three years imprisonment.

Romuald Smiech is guilty because in the period from the second half of 1963 until March 1965 in Warsaw and Chelmno Lubelskie he had in his possession with the aim of distribution and distributed duplicated texts of the pamphlet entitled The Decline and Fall of Stalinism which was harmful to the interests of the Polish state, because it called for the removal by force of the nation’s ruling organs of power, and contained false information about existing socio-political and economic relations in Poland. For this action, according to article 23, paragraph 1 of the decree dated 13 June 1946... he is sentenced to three years imprisonment.

According to article 58 of the penal code, the period of the arrest prior to the trial, in the case of Kazimierz Marian Badowski from 25 March 1965, in the case of Ludwik Ferdynand Hass from 22 March 1965, and for both of them until 10 January 1966, in the case of Romuald Smiech from 23 March 1965 until 20 September 1965, is counted as part of the sentence already served. All the accused are ordered to pay 600 zloty court expenses, and collectively to pay the costs of the case into the State Treasury.

Romuald Smiech: It was an exceptionally difficult period for me after the trial. I came out, but the others remained imprisoned. I was treated with a kind of ostracism, and I was boycotted by friends. The unspoken questions hung in the air: why did he come out? At what price? I was made to understand that I was regarded as someone who had grassed.

Two events influenced my situation — one that I was a witness at Kuron and Modzelewski’s trial, and the second that I had written a letter to the Chairman of the State Council asking for a pardon. It turned out to be political suicide for me. Why did I write it? For entirely personal reasons. Why did Ludwik not do this? He thought, on the other hand, that you could not make any deals with the people representing the regime, and the most important matter was to come out and continue conspiratorial work. A certain chapter closed in my life. I never returned to politics.

Ludwik Hass: Straight from the courtroom Badowski and I returned to prison. Of course our solicitors prepared an appeal to the Supreme Court, but the appeal was rejected.

At that time I found out that Witold Jedlicki had published an article about our case in the Paris Kultura, and Jan Olszewski brought me a copy during one of his visits. I found that a big campaign abroad had been started in our defence. My gulag friend, the author and journalist Janusz Kowalewski, living in London since 1945, on hearing about our court sentence immediately went to see Isaac Deutscher,[53] who wrote a letter to Gomulka.

Open Letter to Wladyslaw Gomulka and the Central Committee of the Polish United Workers Party

I am addressing this letter to you in order to protest against the recent secret trials and conviction of Ludwik Hass, Karol Modzelewski, Kazimierz Badowski, Romuald Smiech, Jacek Kuron and other members of your party. According to all available reports, these men have been deprived of liberty solely because they have voiced views critical of your policy or certain aspects of it, and because they have expressed disappointment with the bureaucratic arbitrariness and corruption which they see rampant in their country. The charge against them is that they have circulated leaflets and a pamphlet containing ‘false information detrimental to the state and its supreme authorities’ — the public prosecutor did not accuse them of any crime or offence graver than that.

If this is the accusation, then the persecution of these men is disgraceful and scandalous. Several questions must be asked: Why, in the first instance, have the courts held their hearings in camera? Surely no matter of state security was or could have been involved. All the defendants have been academic teachers or students, and what they have tried to do was to communicate their views to fellow students. Why have they not been given a fair and open trial? Why have your own newspapers not even summarised the indictments and the pleas of the defence? Is it because the proceedings were so absurd and shameful that you yourselves feel that you cannot justify or excuse them; and so you prefer to cover them with silence and oblivion? As far as I know, the prosecutor and judges have not impugned the defendants’ motives or cast any serious doubt on their integrity. The accused men have proclaimed themselves to be, and have behaved like, devoted, non-conformist Communists, profoundly convinced of the truth and validity of revolutionary Marxism.

I know that one of them, Ludwik Hass, was even before the Second World War a member of the Communist, so-called Trotskyist, organisation, of which I was one of the founders and mouthpiece. He then spent 17 years in Stalin’s prisons, concentration camps and places of deportation. Released in 1957, he returned to Poland so free from all bitterness and so strongly animated by his faith in a better, Socialist future that he at once decided to join your party; and he was accepted as a member. No one asked him to renounce his past, and he did not deny his old ‘Trotskyist’ views even for one moment — on the contrary, he upheld them frankly and untiringly. This circumstance alone testifies to his courage and integrity. Do you, Wladyslaw Gomulka, really believe that you have, in your ‘apparatus’ and administration, many people of comparable disinterestedness and idealism? Look around you, look at the crowds of time-servers that surround you, at all those opportunists without principle and honour, who fawn on you as they fawned on Bierut,[54] and as some of them fawned even on Smigly-Rydz[55] and Pilsudski. On how many of these bureaucrats can your government, and can Socialism, count in an hour of danger, as it can count on the people you have put in prison?

Recently your government claimed with a certain pride that there have been no political prisoners in Poland since 1956. This claim, if true, was indeed something to be proud of in a country the jails of which had always, under all regimes, been full of political prisoners, especially of Communist prisoners. You have not, as far as I know, jailed and put in chains any of your all too numerous and virulent anti-Communist opponents; and you deserve credit for the moderation with which you treat them. But why do you deny such treatment to your critics on the left? Hass, Modzelewski and their friends have been brought to the courtrooms handcuffed and under heavy guard. Eyewitness accounts say that they raised their chained fists in the old Communist salute, and sang the Internationale. This detail speaks eloquently about their political characters and loyalty. How many of your dignitaries, Wladyslaw Gomulka, would, nowadays intone the Internationale of their own free will and accord?

I have been informed that before the trial, during the interrogation, the official who conducted it alleged that Hass and other defendants had worked in contact with me. I do not know whether the prosecutor took up the charge in the courtroom. In any case, the allegation is a complete falsehood. Let me say that if the defendants had tried to get in touch with me, I would have readily responded. But the fact is that I have had no contact whatsoever with any of them. I have not even seen a single one of their leaflets or pamphlets. I judge their behaviour solely from reports reaching me by word of mouth or through Western European newspapers.

I ought perhaps to explain that since the Second World War I have not participated in Polish political life in any way, and that, not being a member of any political organisation, Trotskyist or otherwise, I am speaking only for myself. I should add, however, that on a few very rare occasions I have broken my self-imposed abstinence. I protested when you, Wladyslaw Gomulka, were imprisoned and slandered in the last years of the Stalinist era. Knowing full well that I could not share all your views, I expressed solidarity with you. Similarly, I do not know whether I can fully approve of the views and behaviour of Hass, Modzelewski and their comrades. But in their case, as in yours, I think I can recognise reactionary police terror for what it is, and tell slander from the truth.

Another occasion on which I allowed myself to have a say on Polish political matters was in 1957 when I explained in a special essay The Tragedy of Polish Communism Between the World Wars. Perhaps you remember that your censors, Stalinists of the so-called Natolin group,[56] confiscated the essay when Polityka tried to publish it, and that then you, Wladyslaw Gomulka, ordered the essay to be widely distributed amongst party members. In those far-off days, just after the ‘Polish Spring in October’, you held that Polish Communists ought to know my account of the havoc that Stalin made of their party, delivering nearly all its leaders to the firing squad. You knew that I had been one of those very few Communists who, in 1938, protested against that crime and against the disbanding and denigration of what had once been our common party. Moscow ‘rehabilitated’ the Polish party and its leaders only after 17 or 18 years; and then you, Wladyslaw Gomulka, apologised for having kept silent in 1938, although you had not believed the Stalinist slanders. I do not believe that you are right now in persecuting and imprisoning members of your own party and your critics on the left — and I cannot keep silent. May I remind you of your own words, spoken at the famous Eighth Session of the Central Committee in October 1956? ‘The cult of the personality was not a matter just of Stalin’s person’, you stated then, ‘this was a system which had been transplanted from the USSR to nearly all Communist parties... We have finished, or rather we are finishing, with that system once and for all.’ (Your emphasis)

But are you not to some extent re-establishing that system? Do you wish these trials to mark the tenth anniversary of your own rehabilitation and that ‘Spring in October’, during which you raised so many hopes for the future?

In the name of those hopes and in the name of your own record, the record of a fighter and of a political prisoner under Pilsudski and Stalin, I appeal to you and your colleagues of the Central Committee. Do not allow this miscarriage of justice to last! Dispel the secrecy that surrounds the cases of Hass, Modzelewski and their comrades. If you think that they are guilty of grave offences, then publish the full report of the court proceedings and let it speak for itself. In any case, I appeal to you to order an immediate and public revision of the trial. If you refuse these demands, you will stand condemned as epigones of Stalinism, guilty of stifling your own party, and compromising the future of Socialism.

Isaac Deutscher

24 April 1966[57]

Ludwik Hass: In Paris, Berkeley and other cities signatures were collected for a petition demanding our release, and at that point I decided to write to the Chairman of the State Council requesting a pardon for the rest of my sentence. My step was simply a consequence of the letter from Deutscher to Wladyslaw Gomulka and of other protests in the West. I thought that in a situation when the law is an instrument of political struggle, the task of the political activist is to get out of prison (of course without damaging anyone), and to fight on. During an interrogation you give evidence without incriminating other people, and the second rule is that you cannot spit on your convictions and ideas. And I acted accordingly.

The reaction of my social environment to my reappearance was typical. Some of the academics at the University decided to notice me only after a few days — they had to find out whether they could speak to me or not. A worthy exception was Andrzej Garlicki[58] and Professor Henryk Jablonski (at the time I took part in his seminar). In his statement to the court about me the latter stated: ‘Hass’s views have undergone a positive evolution, and after consultation with comrades it was decided to keep him in academic work’ — of course Jablonski knew my views perfectly well, and there was therefore no mistake.

As it turned out I was not left in peace. After a few days my wife began complaining that we could not have a bath in the bathroom because of a gas leak. We contacted the fire brigade with a request to clean the chimney. They came and having climbed the roof, they quickly came down, and did not want to say anything, but only asked not to call them again because they would not come anyway. I guessed that my flat was bugged. After a short search I found a lead in the wall vent. I decided to play a joke on them. I stood up on a chair near the bugging device, and said: ‘I differ from the candidate for leader of the nation in one respect, that is I haven’t changed my name, but the latter, who cannot say his name, will never be a leader.’ (I was thinking about Moczar.)[59] I then tore out the wire.

Next day, returning home in the evening I noticed a few men looking around. One of them was shining a light onto my window. When they noticed me they were a little embarrassed, but they did not stop sniffing. The following day a different team, after disappearing for a few hours into the loft, took out the whole works. It did occur to me that I might be accused of vandalism; for instance, I could be accused of destroying communications between Warsaw and Budapest which went through my chimney.

My situation was very difficult. I had no work, and it was impossible for me to live only on my wife’s wages. I began to write under a different name. I published some of my writings in Wiez — only Zdzislaw Szpakowski, the head of the historical department, knew about this. Tadeusz Mazowiecki[60] — the chief editor then — had no idea until the beginning of the 1970s. I owe a great deal to Professor Boguslaw Lesnodoski, who made it possible for me to publish in the Historical Quarterly. More or less once a year I used to write an application to the Science Department of the Central Committee of the PUWP and to the History Institute of the Polish Academy of Science with a request to be offered some work, but I never received a reply. I remained unemployed until 16 December 1979 — for 13 years.

At the same time it turned out that all our ideological work had to be started again from scratch. We had to fight and search for new directions. The breakthrough came in August 1980 with the founding of Solidarnosc. I had great hopes for this movement, and I was a co-founder of the union in the History Department of the Polish Academy of Science. This was a genuine workers’ movement, and I did not doubt that there would have to be a fight to decide in whose hands the leadership would end up. I made my first appearance after coming out of prison at the Sigma University club in 1981.

After all these years, when I now look back at everything I did, I must admit we did not make any big mistakes. I don’t regret any of my actions or any of my words. I have a feeling of success.

To all those who complain of the weakness of the movement, I say that from my perspective it looks quite different. Now we are stronger than ever, even in comparison with my Lwów days when there was an organisation but there was no audience. Today we are being heard and accepted. We can distribute leaflets outside the factories and we have papers — this was something unheard of, and not only for the political reasons. And, after all, we started with nothing in 1957.

In October 1990 Ludwik Hass, Romuald Smiech and, posthumously, Kazimierz Badowski were rehabilitated by the decision of the Supreme Court.


Communist Anticipations

It is not the left that must be revived, but antagonistic theory. This requires retrieval of the communist perspective.

Communism is not the left wing of socialism, but a qualitatively different project. We have to achieve for theory the integration of needs, desires and free conscious activity that is the actual abolition of the proletarian condition.

Issue no 5 out soon. Includes articles on Trotsky and the Political Economy of Capitalism, the Bolsheviks and the Soviet Working Class, the Situationists, Otto Rühle, Albert Parsons. Back issues also available.

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[1]. LD Trotsky, ‘Hitler’s Victory’, Writings of Leon Trotsky 1932-33, New York, 1972, p134.

[2]. The first small family car produced in Poland by FSO after the Second World War, but no longer made

[3]. Kazimierz Brandys (1916- ) is a Polish writer and an essayist. His books A Question of Reality, The Mother of Kings and Letters to Madame Z, appeared in many languages including English, the latest one being A Warsaw Diary 1978-1981. In the period 1977-81 he was a member of an independent literary journal Zapis, whilst his writings were banned from publication.

[4]. Adolf Rudnicki (1912-1992) was a Polish writer and an essayist.

[5]. Antoni Slonimski (1895- ) is a Polish poet, a founder of a new poetry group Skamander in the 1920s, a journalist and a theatre critic. He spent the Second World War in London, returning to Poland in 1951, and was a recipient of the state prize for poetry in 1955.

[6]. Melchior Wankowicz (1892-199?) was a writer and a journalist. He spent the years 1939-58 outside Poland, and he is much appreciated for his reporting style.

[7]. Stanislaw Cat-Mackiewicz (1896-1966) was a right wing politician, author and a journalist, an editor of daily Slowo (Word) in Vilna in 1922-39, and an MP in the Sejm (Parliament) during 1928-30. He lived in London during the Second World War and until 1956, when he returned to Poland.

[8]. January Grzedzinski was a journalist, a member of the democratic left, and an editor of its ideological journal Czarno na bialym (Black on White) until last June.

[9] Jan Nepomucen Miller (1890-1977) was a literary and theatre critic, journalist and a poet, and was a regular contributor of theatre reviews to the Polish Socialist Party’s newspaper Robotnik during 1932-39. After the Second World War, he was the Secretary of the Polish Writers Trade Union and an editor of Teatr (1945-47), and the artistic manager of a theatre in Zielona Gora. In 1957 he moved back to Warsaw.

[10]. Jacek Kuron (1934- ) was a member of Polish United Workers’ Party, the ruling Stalinist party, who was expelled in 1956 for ‘revisionism’. He was co-author with Karol Modzelewski of the Open Letter criticising the Stalinist model, for which he served three years in prison. Active in politics amongst students and intellectuals in 1967-68, he was sentenced to prison in 1969. He was a co-founder of the illegal Workers Defence Committee (KOR), adviser to Solidarnosc, and was arrested again during the state of emergency in 1981-82. He is now a member of the Council of Unia Demokratyczna (Democratic Union), a pro-capitalist bourgeois party, and a Minister of Employment and Social Affairs in the Solidarnosc coalition governments of 1989-93. Politically, he has ended up as a renegade from Communism, and is a staunch supporter of the restoration of capitalism.

[11]. Karol Modzelewski is an historian. He was a member of the PUWP from 1957 until 1965, and co-author of the Open Letter criticising Stalinism, for which he was sentenced to three years imprisonment. He was sent to prison again in 1969 for political activity amongst students and intellectuals. A member of Solidarnosc, he proposed its name at its first congress. He was imprisoned during the state of emergency. He has been an MP in the coalition Solidarnosc governments since 1989. He was a co-founder of Unia Pracy (Labour Union), a Social Democratic body, and is an advocate of ‘capitalism with a human face’.

[12]. Adam Michnik is an historian and a journalist. He was active in student groups in 1968, for which he was sentenced to three years imprisonment. A member of KOR in 1977-80, he was active in oppositionist circles, and responsible for illegal publications. He was an adviser to the Mazowsze region of Solidarnosc, and edited its paper. He was a minister without portfolio in the first Solidarnosc coalition government of Tadeusz Mazowiecki, and has been an editor of the daily paper Gazeta Wyborcza since it was founded on the eve of the election of the Solidarnosc government in June 1989. After the split in Solidarnosc, he was an opponent of Lech Walesa, and refused to vote for him as a presidential candidate in the second round. He is a member of Unia Demokratyczna, a bourgeois, pro-capitalist party.

[13]. Kultura is a monthly socio-political and literary journal published in Paris since 1947. The standard British work on Poland in this period, edited by RF Leslie, The History of Poland since 1863, Cambridge, 1980, p389, after talking of Kuron and Modzelewski, says: ‘Three senior academics were put on trial at the same time and imprisoned for spreading Trotskyist views.’ This may be a garbled reference to Hass, Badowski and Smiech, as it is followed by the sentence: ‘These trials provoked an indignant protest from the Polish born historian Isaac Deutscher, who published an open letter to Gomulka in the British press.’ The editor and ZA Pelczynski, who actually wrote this chapter, were clearly determined not to give too much publicity to Trotskyists. ‘Unscholarly’ behaviour must be expected of bourgeois as well as Stalinist historians wherever Trotskyists are concerned.

[14]. Wiadomosci was a weekly socio-political and literary paper published in Paris and later in London during 1945-81 under the same editor, Mieczyslaw Grydzewski, who edited its prewar predecessor, Wiadomosci Literackie, which was published in Warsaw during 1924-39.

[15]. For the biography of Ludwik Hass, see ‘Ludwik Hass’ by Elzbieta Z Wichrowska, and ‘Trotskyism, Gulags and Masons’ in this issue.

[16]. Michal Zawadowski was arrested in October 1939 in Lwów by the NKVD, and put in prison where, at a second attempt, he committed a suicide by swallowing a mildewed piece of bread.

[17]. Adam Schaff (1913- ) is a well known philosopher. In 1945-48 he was the head of the Contemporary Social Doctrines Department of Lódz University, from 1948 he was Professor of philosophy at Warsaw University, from 1952 he was a member of the Polish Academy of Science, and from 1957-68 he was a director of the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of the Polish Academy of Science. In the 1960s and 1970s he served as a chairman of the directors’ council of the European Centre of Social Sciences of UNESCO.

[18]. This young worker was Moishe Walker, a porter in a furs warehouse, and a member of the Communist Youth Union of Poland. He broke with Stalinism, and established contact with the Trotskyist organisation in Warsaw. Walker was arrested in September or October 1939 in Lwów by the NKVD, and disappeared in the camps in the USSR.

[19]. Ludwik Hass’s full account of the years 1939-57 can be found in the Polish state’s Eastern Archives section, and some details are in ‘Trotskyism, Gulags and Masons...’, pp69ff above.

[20]. Trybuna Ludu was the daily paper of the PUWP; after its dissolution in 1990, the paper changed its name to Trybuna.

[21]. Polityka was the leading political weekly of the Central Committee of the PUWP from 1957. After the party’s dissolution it continued to be published under the same name.

[22]. The Crooked Wheel Club existed during 1955-62, and was a leading discussion club of the Warsaw intelligentsia, and not only the intelligentsia, because of it made efforts to establish contact with workers through meetings and discussions with workers’ factory councils. During its period of activity it remained independent of the control of the PUWP, and was a place where freedom of expression and free speech were exercised and defended even at the cost of the banning of the club, which happened after February 1962. It was called after a street of that name in the rebuilt Old Town of Warsaw, where it used to meet. At its heyday it came very close to resembling the Petöfi Circle of Budapest, or Belgrade University in the interwar period under the tyrannical monarchy.

[23]. Witold Jedlicki, an author and a journalist, was a member of the organising committee of the Crooked Wheel Club, who introduced Hass to the club. Shortly after the liquidation of the club he emigrated to Paris, where he lived for a time. He is Jewish, and since the early 1970s has lived in Israel, where he takes an anti-Zionist position and is a friend of Israel Shahak. His book Klub Krzywego Kola, published by Instytut Literacki, Paris, 1963, is still the most informative on the history of this extraordinary association.

[24]. Ludwik Hass, Jan Wyka and Jan Wolski were the three ‘extremists’ on the left, the first two being the members of the Communist Party, whose expulsion was demanded by the PUWP and the state at the end of 1961 as a precondition for the Club’s continued existence.

[25]. Marian Marek Drozdowski, is a history professor at the History Institute of the Polish Academy of Science. Now posing as a Catholic, he appeared on television congratulating the Primate of Poland, Archbishop Józef Glemp.

[26]. Leszek Kolakowski (1927- ) is a philosopher and an historian of philosophy who since 1968 has lived outside Poland. At present a determined enemy of Marxism, for many years he was an active member of the PUWP. By the late 1950s his articles were published in the theoretical organ of the Central Committee of the PUWP, Nowe Drogi. In the 1960s he played a big part in the Society for Propagating Secular Culture, and his articles were published in the pro-governmental Argumenty. From 1959 he was head of history at the Modern Philosophy Department of Warsaw University. In 1964 he was made professor at the University. As a party activist, he was a translator of ‘fighting’ Stalinist political writings: J Freville, A Meeting with Thorez, Warsaw, 1950, and D Desant, Tito and his Agents, Warsaw, 1950. Characteristically, in 1964 (probably in November) about one or two hours before the meeting of the PUWP which was to discuss Kuron’s expulsion, he came to him and said: ‘They will be voting [he was also including himself — LH] for your expulsion, but they will be voting without conviction [meaning being forced to — LH].’ This took place in Ludwik Hass’ presence, who immediately said to Kuron: ‘Here you have a justification for vileness before the fact.’ Even then as a member of the PUWP, Kolakowski was an enemy of Trotskyism. In 1964 he said to Kuron that he was prepared to work with all sorts of oppositionists in the party, except Trotskyists. Nowadays he has come to rest at All Souls, Oxford, where he lectures on philosophy and the history of philosophy. Cf also the open letter to him by EP Thompson in Socialist Register 1973, and Kolakowski’s reply ‘My Correct Views About Everything’ in Socialist Register 1974, whose self-justificatory tone is somewhat creepy.

[27]. Modzelewski established contact with Livio Maitan of the United Secretariat of the Fourth International during his period as a student in Italy.

[28]. Kuron is inaccurate. Hass’s wife, Maria, qualified as a teacher at a teacher training institute and taught Russian in schools in Warsaw. There is also a snobbish tone to it, as calling someone ‘a girl from a kolkhoz’ is way of saying ‘a peasant’.

[29]. This is another example of Kuron’s inaccuracy in personal matters. He met Hass in the ‘Life’ Club and not in the history department, as he says.

[30]. For his biography, see the tribute to him by Hass, pp47-52.

[31]. Fourth International, no1, Winter 1958, pp56-75.

[32]. Wladyslaw Bienkowski (1906-1990) was then Minister of Education.

[33]. Wiez is a Catholic political monthly published since 1957. Until 1980 it was published by one of the pro-government Catholic groups. Its chief editor at that time was Tadeusz Mazowiecki, an MP several times in the Sejm (parliament) of the Polish People Republic, where he represented this Catholic group. In 1989-90 he was elected the first non-Stalinist Prime Minister of Poland. This group (and Mazowiecki himself) joined Solidarnosc in the autumn of 1980.

[34]. The Parisian solicitor was Wiktor Borten (1890- ), who lived in Paris on the Avenue Hoche and was a sympathiser of the far left.

[35]. The Constitutional Democrats, or Cadets, were the main Russian liberal party. Formed in 1905, they played a major rôle in the Provisional Government in 1917, and were subsequently banned by the Bolsheviks.

[36]. Ludwik Warynski (1856-1889) was one of the first Polish Socialists and an internationalist, who died in a Tsarist prison after being arrested by the Russian police in 1883.

[37]. Po Prostu was published as a students’ newsletter before 1955, and from then it became a paper of the young intellectuals and the voice of the mass movement in 1956, known as the Polish October. It led the campaign to dissolve the Stalinist Polish Youth Movement, and initiated the setting up of Discussion Clubs of the Young Intelligentsia all over the country. Most of all appreciated for its incisive, factual articles about the real state of affairs in the ruling administrative institutions, especially in the provinces, it advocated the need for radical change. The suppression of the paper in 1957 caused spontaneous demonstrations all over the country, and especially in Warsaw, where the workers rioted and fought with the police and security forces for four days.

[38]. Jan Józef Lipski, who died in 1991, was an outstanding historian, and fought in the Warsaw Uprising of August 1944. After the war, he undertook Polish Studies at the University. He was a contributor to Po Prostu, and a secretary and a leading member of the Crooked Wheel Club. For many years he worked at the Institute of Literary Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences. In 1976 defending the striking workers of ‘Ursus’ in Radom, he and other intellectuals formed the Workers Defence Committee (KOR). He remained active in KOR throughout its existence until its dissolution at the First Congress of Solidarnosc in 1980. Imprisoned during Jaruzelski’s coup in 1981, he was released in mid-1982. In 1987 he refounded the Polish Socialist Party, and until his death he was in its leadership. In the June 1989 elections he was elected as a senator on the PPS slate.

[39]. Stanislaw Gomólka is now a Professor of Economics at the London School of Economics, and an adviser to the Polish government on privatisation.

[40]. Jacek Kuron and Karol Modzelewski, Open Letter to Members of the University of Warsaw Sections of the United Polish Workers Party and the Union of Young Socialists. It first appeared in English in New Politics, Volume 5, nos 2 and 3, and this text was published as a pamphlet, A Revolutionary Socialist Manifesto, International Socialism, 1968, and has been reprinted as An Open Letter to the Party, London, 1987. A fuller version in a separate translation appeared slightly later in Revolutionary Marxist Students in Poland Speak Out, New York,1968, pp15-90.

[41]. Janusz Kowalewski (1910- ) is an author and a journalist. He undertook Polish studies at Warsaw University. He was an editor of Zycie Akademickie, the paper of the Democratic Youth Movement in 1930-32, and Dwutygodnik Ilustrowany in Poznan in 1933-34. He worked as a proof-reader in the Warsaw publishing house Dom Prasy, and later as a reporter on a national daily. A member of the Communist Party of Poland, in 1939 he was a secretary of the editorial board of Glos Powszechny, a trade union paper. When the war started, he was living in Lwów, working for the Stalinist paper Czerwony Sztandar (Red Flag) until January 1940, when he was arrested by the NKVD, and was sent to a labour camp near Kozma in the USSR, where he met Hass. In his Droga powrotna (Return Journey) he describes very movingly his parting with Hass in the camp (Hass, as a Trotskyist, did not qualify for the ‘amnesty’ in 1941), and also paid tribute to Hass’ wife, Maria, who, being married to a political prisoner, had to endure complete social ostracism from all the other ordinary Russians.

[42]. Mikhail Pokrovsky, Russkaya istoriya s dryevnyeyshikh vryemyon, Moscow, 1910.

[43]. This was an oppositional Maoist group on the left led by Kazimierz Mijal, who were supporters of the Chinese road to Socialism.

[44]. In the years 1955-57 Jan Olszewski was a member of the editorial board of the radical anti-Stalinist weekly Po Prostu, which was banned in October 1957 by Gomulka. Later he was a member of the left wing of the Crooked Wheel Club, and was persecuted by the state on numerous occasions so that for some time he was not able to qualify for the bar, and his practice as a solicitor was suspended. He moved to the right, and in 1992 became Prime Minister of a right wing Polish government.

[45]. Zenon Kliszko (1908-90) was then Secretary of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the PUWP, and was responsible for the cadres ideological issues.

[46]. Kuron has clearly changed Badowski’s statement. The latter undoubtedly had no intention of criticising Kuron or Modzelewski, so as not to give the Stalinists any excuse. Nevertheless, he thought of them as politically unreliable, and he explained to Dobbeler that he should not trust them, but should maintain contact with the International Secretariat through Badowski, Hass and Smiech as the only authentic Trotskyist group, which would then, in turn, make contact with Kuron and Modzelewski.

[47]. The judges were Faustyn Wolek and Stanislaw Kurek, with Sabina Pawelec as the senior judge.

[48]. Szymon Szechter was a participant in the resistance in 1941-45, was wounded and then became blind.

[49]. Nina Karsova lives in Britain today.

[50]. Jan Litynski is at present one of the leading politicians of Unia Demokratyczna, the main pro-capitalist party, and is an MP.

[51]. Jerzy Robert Nowak is at present an extreme nationalist journalist.

[52]. Henryk Klata was an MP elected from the list of the nationalist Catholic National Christian Union in 1991-93.

[53]. Isaac Deutscher was born in 1907 in Chrzanow. In his youth he was a poet and a translator of literature from Hebrew and Yiddish. A member of the KPP from 1927, he was expelled from the party in 1932 for ‘factional activity’ (he advocated joint work with the Social Democracy). He was one of the leaders of the Trotskyist group in Poland, whilst at the same time a member of the Polish Socialist Party. He emigrated in 1939, and served in the Polish Army in Britain, during which time he was disciplined for complaining about anti-Semitism in the Polish forces. During the war he became a writer on the Economist, and later The Observer, to which he contributed until his death. He was an author of many books on Soviet affairs, amongst them still the best biography of Trotsky. From the position of ‘a heretic with doubts’, he tried to establish common work with the Polish press in 1956. He died in Rome on 19 August 1967.

[54]. Boleslaw Bierut (1892-1956) was a member of the Polish Socialist Party Left, and a member of the KPP from 1918. Imprisoned during 1933-38, he was from 1943 a member of the Central Committee of the Polish Workers Party (the re-founded Stalinist party), during 1947-52 President, and Prime Minister during 1952-54, and from 1948 the Chairman and from 1954 First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Polish United Workers Party.

[55]. Edward Smigly-Rydz (1867-1941) was a politician and Marshal of Poland. During the First World War he was one of the organisers and leaders of the Polish Military Organisation fighting for independence. From 1928 he held various positions in the Polish Army, and from 1936 was Commander in Chief of Poland, and led the Polish Army in 1939. After the defeat, he escaped to Rumania in September 1939, was interned, and in 1941 returned to occupied Poland, where he died and was buried under the name of Adam Zawisza.

[56]. The Natolin Group was one of the two groups into which the PUWP split under the pressure of the workers’ movement in 1956, and was chiefly characterised by its anti-intellectualism, nationalism and anti-Semitism. It lost out to the cleverer Pulawianie Group, but only temporarily.

[57]. I Deutscher, Marxism, Wars and Revolutions: Essays from Four Decades, London, 1984, pp128-31.

[58]. Andrzej Garlicki is at present professor of history at Warsaw University and the leading member of the editorial board of the weekly Polityka.

[59]. The real name of Mieczyslaw Moczar was Mikolaj Demkov. The son of a Ukrainian political refugee (possibly from the Ukrainian army of Ataman Petliura), he settled in Poland after 1920, and was employed in the Forestry Department. Before the Second World War, he was a member of the Stalinist Communist Youth Union. During the Second World War he was one of the leaders of the Stalinist-backed partisan movement in Poland. In the 1960s he was the leader of the nationalist wing of the party, the so-called ‘partisans’. He personified the logic of Stalinist nationalism: capitulation to great power chauvinism, in other words, the chief spokesman for Great Russian nationalism was a Georgian, and for Polish — a Ukrainian.

[60]. Tadeusz Mazowiecki (1927- ) is a journalist. Initially he was a member of the pro-government Catholic association Pax, and in 1953-55 was the chief editor of one of its papers, WTK. At the end of 1956 he joined the movement of national clubs of the Progressive Catholic Intelligentsia (from March 1957 they were called Clubs of the Catholic Intelligentsia, KIK) initiated by Gomulka’s leadership of the PUWP. He was chief editor of its monthly Wiez during 1967-71. He represented the movement (Parliamentary Club Znak) for three successive terms in Parliament in the 1970s. The Primate, Stefan Wyszynski, did not have a high opinion of him. He joined Solidarnosc in 1980. In September 1981 he was chair of the Advisers Commission to the Inter-Factory Strike Committee in Gdansk. From 1981 to 1989 he was chief editor of the weekly Solidarnosc, was interned in 1981-82, was later an adviser to Walesa, and in 1989 helped negotiate the Round Table agreement, a compromise between Solidarnosc and the bureaucrats’ government. From August 1989 to December 1990 he was Prime Minister, and from then on a founder and leader of the liberal centre right Unia Demokratyczna (Democratic Union, from 1994 Unia Wolnisci or Freedom Union, the leading pro-capitalist, bourgeois party in Poland). From 1991 he was an MP, and in 1992-93 a special adviser to the UN Commission on Human Rights in the former Yugoslavia.