The only guarantee of Polish independence
The following leaflet addressed to "Polish workers and soldiers in Russia" appeared in Petrograd 100 years ago on March 17, 1917 (March 4 according to the Julian calendar in use in Russia), days after the fall of the Tsarist autocracy with the February Revolution.
After the outbreak of the First World War, the bulk of Poland came under German occupation, after having previously been ruled by the Tsarist government. By 1917, roughly 3 million Poles--many of whom had been evacuated from Poland on the eve of the German invasion--found themselves under Tsarist rule. In response, Polish socialist parties began organizing the large groups of displaced Polish workers in industrial cities like Petrograd and Moscow.
Little is known about the initiators of the following appeal. Given its simultaneous stress on class struggle, internationalism and Polish independence, the authors were likely members of the revolutionary Marxist Polish Socialist Party-Left and/or the far left wing of the Polish Socialist Party (Revolutionary Fraction) (see the "Note on the Polish Socialist Party" below). Whereas most Polish nationalists and the moderate leaders of the Polish Socialist Party (Revolutionary Fraction) had throughout the war sought to promote Polish independence through a pact with German or Austrian imperialism, the following appeal makes the case for why national liberation could only be won through the struggle and solidarity of the international working class.
This leaflet was translated and the above annotation written by Eric Blanc. It is part of the an SW series giving a view from the streets during the 1917 Russian Revolution. The series is edited by John Riddell and co-published at his website.
COMRADE WORKERS and Soldiers!
The Russian proletariat took the lead in the fight for the overthrow of the Tsarist government and the establishment of a People's Republic in Russia.
It toppled the despotic colossus, which for decades oppressed its own people and subordinated foreign nations, which headed the reaction in all of Europe by readily helping all the oppressors of Europe suppress the peoples' liberation movements. For decades, the Tsarist regime has been fought by Polish workers, who marked the road toward freedom with their warm blood and the suffering and tears of mothers, sisters and wives.
You comrades, both male and female, pressed forward, always constantly forward. This path led to the Tsarist gallows, which sacrificed as victims our brothers Ossowskich, Kunickich, Kasprzaków and Okrzejów.
In your fight you were alone in the country; the propertied classes because of the nature of their interests could muster only collusion with the minions of the Tsarist government. And your only allies in the arduous work of creating a brighter tomorrow were the Russian workers, who struggled hand in hand, shoulder to shoulder with you, next to the proletarians of the other nations oppressed by the Tsarist government.
Comrades! Today already we hope that our country will gain freedom and independence. Remember that we will not receive an independent Polish Republic from the governments and the bourgeoisie of Europe; remember that the oppressors of the peoples cannot be liberators; remember that the political independence of our country can be built only on the power and cooperation of the peoples; remember that the only real guarantee of the independence of the Polish people is not diplomatic acts and congress decisions, but the international solidarity of the peoples.
Comrades! Today you must fulfill your proletarian duty, your class and national interests. You must fulfill your duty to the Russian democracy, you must offer all your power and strength to help the Russian proletariat lead the so-bravely begun struggle to a victorious end and thus contribute to the victory of the proletariat of all nations. Since the fall of Tsarist rule in Russia undermines the existence of all bourgeois governments, it is a harbinger of the victory of democracy internationally.
Long live the Russian People's Republic!
Long live the Polish People's Republic!
Long live the international solidarity of the proletariat!
Long live socialism!
Polish socialist workers in Petrograd
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Source: Published in Archiwum Ruchu Robotniczego, volume 5, Warsaw 1977, pg. 273-74. Translated by Eric Blanc.
Note on the Polish Socialist Party: In 1906, the Polish Socialist Party (PPS) split. The majority of the party sided with the left wing, which stressed mass action, the need for empire-wide revolution and an alliance with Russian workers in particular; this organization henceforth called itself the Polish Socialist Party-Left. The minority was more hesitant about this orientation toward Russian socialism, stressing instead the struggle for national independence and armed struggle; this organization became the Polish Socialist Party (Revolutionary Fraction).
In 1917, the far left of the PPS (Revolutionary Fraction), unlike the rest of the party, was based out of central Russia and upheld a mostly internationalist orientation. The PPS-Left was consistently committed to internationalism and revolutionary Marxism and went on to co-found the Polish Communist party in 1918 together with Rosa Luxemburg's party.
A note on Russian dates: The Julian calendar used by Russia in 1917 ran 13 days behind the Gregorian calendar that is in general use today. In the "View from the Streets" series, centennials are reckoned by the Gregorian calendar; dates are given with the Gregorian ("New Style") date first, followed by the Julian date in parentheses.