A translation of two documents from the 1918 Founding Congress of the Communist Workers’ Party of Poland (KPRP): the political platform of the party and a proclamation directed to the proletariat of Poland. These documents represent the early politics of the KPRP, which have been by some characterised as ‘Luxemburgist’ or ‘ultra-leftist’ (e.g. opposition to national self-determination, rejection of parliamentarism).
Political Platform (1918)
The imperialist war, throughout its entire course, has exposed with incredible clarity the historical bankruptcy of the capitalist system.
Even before the outbreak of the world war, the politics of imperialist expansion – which brought about international conflicts in the Balkans, in Asia, in Africa; the immense growth of armaments; ratcheting up of the tax burden and of prices; increased hostility of monopolised capital towards the working class; the intensification of internal reaction – led to increasingly frequent economic crises, to the tightening of class antagonisms, to more turbulent, more revolutionary mass actions of the proletariat in all capitalist countries.
The outbreak of war interrupted, for the time being, the ripening of the revolution; but the war itself, throughout its course and due to its effects, intensified and multiplied tenfold the factors leading to the revolutionary liquidation of capitalism. On the one hand, through the enormous concentration of capital in the hands of parasitic layers, combined with the proletarianisation of the broadest masses, the degradation of huge numbers of the middle classes into the ranks of the proletariat; on the other, by the slaughter and mutilation of tens of millions of people, by the destruction of countless material goods and the labour of entire generations, by dragging productive forces into the service of war, by the unprecedented rise in prices and famine, by the immense growth of debt in all countries, by multiplying and exacerbating national conflicts.
Attempts at rebuilding a capitalist economy from the conditions created by the war, in a period of generalised disorganisation of workplaces, unemployment, high costs of living and in an atmosphere of emerging European revolution, can only lead to the ultimate catastrophe of the whole capitalist system, to revealing the total inability of the propertied classes at governing the fate of humanity.
The era of the direct struggle for the realisation of the socialist system has opened, an era of social revolution.
Revolutionary Russia has become a pioneer in this huge struggle between the dying and the emerging world. After the overthrow of Tsarist rule, the proletariat in the towns and villages refused all attempts of bourgeois democracy at stopping revolution half-way, it put all power in its own hands and propelled itself – in the toughest conditions, surrounded by enemies internal and external on all sides – to rebuilding the economy and all social life according to socialist principles. After twelve months of titanic struggle, an ally had come in the form of the German Revolution. Conceived in a country economically more advanced, with the experience of the Russian Revolution, the German Revolution resolutely strives towards the dictatorship of the proletariat, towards the direct realisation of the social program of revolution, combatting any attempts to halt her advance by constituent assemblies and “all-national” parliaments.
In countries of the former Austro-Hungarian monarchy, and the Balkans, upheaval so far takes only the form of struggle for the establishment of a number of nation-states; these attempts, carried out under the auspices and with the direct participation of the armed forces of the Allies, lead to incessant conflicts between the expansive aspirations of the bourgeoisie of individual nationalities and various sections of the Allies, to chronic turmoil, resulting in the disorganisation of capitalist society throughout Europe. The entire burden of these disasters and conflicts will fall on the working masses of these countries, in an atmosphere of widespread social upheaval the only way out for them will be the social revolution.
International social revolution will not stop at the borders of countries whose governments suffered military defeat during the world war. Already all neutral countries, connected by a thousand threads to global capitalism and imperialism, are in the grips of revolutionary turmoil.
The fire of proletarian revolution will also reach the imperialist countries of the Allies, which outwardly enjoyed a victory in the war. The realisation of the fruits of their victory requires further military intervention and occupation of half of the globe, demands that Allied troops become the gendarme of an infinite number of peoples; conflicts between these peoples, from which the Allies want to create vassal states based on the principle of nationality, conflicts between various components of the Allies regarding the division of the spoils, and the inability to transform the old capitalist European countries shattered by war or revolution into huge Allied colonies, will mean defeat for the imperialist governments of the Allies. The need for resources and the blood sacrifice required for this new war, the inability to end it with a victory and its blatantly counter-revolutionary character will lead to a revolutionary explosion in the countries of the Allies.
World war leads to world revolution. The war between two imperialisms evolved into a war between capitalism and revolution; each clash of these two hostile powers has an international dimension, is linked to the struggle between an old and a new world. Gradually, the connections between proletarian revolutions in individual countries are strengthened. The more radical the tendencies of the social upheavals, the stronger the determination of the proletariat in carrying out the social revolution, the greater is its strength, not only in the fight against native counter-revolution but also at repelling the efforts of the international counter-revolution, the armed intervention of world imperialism.
In a hard and long struggle the proletariat of all countries will overcome the dark powers of this dying world, and on its bloody ruins it will set up a new world, based on the principles of socialism and the solidarity of peoples.
The Second International, founded at a congress in Paris in 1889, has factually and morally ceased to exist with the outbreak of war. All its character and structure was adapted to the relatively peaceful development of capitalism during the first decades of its existence, marked by a huge increase in wealth, relative rise in prosperity for the organised part of the working class, and steady increases in the numerical strength of parties and trade unions.
In the political field, these parties were adapted only to a parliamentary struggle for reforms; in the economic field, to a struggle for a bigger share in the triumphs of domestic capital. The International was a loose association of national parties, increasingly incorporated into the politics and economics of their capitalist and imperialist homelands. Even before the outbreak of world war, when there were signs of impending cataclysm which produced a revolutionary situation and shook the masses, parties and unions stood against the movement, hindering and deviating it.
The outbreak of war revealed that the overwhelming majority of the parties of the Second International grew to ultimately betray the fundamental postulates of socialism, internationalism and the class struggle, and instead stood in solidarity with the bourgeoisie and their governments, and participated directly in the war under the hypocritical slogan of national defence.
In only a few countries did the majority of parties immediately and absolutely oppose the ideology of war. In others, only gradually there emerged groups to combat the "social-patriotic" position of the majority. Conferences in Zimmerwald and Kienthal were the first attempts to concentrate these elements. But when a significant proportion of the opposition did not go beyond the struggle for peace in the framework of a capitalist society, among the most revolutionary elements there began to crystallise an awareness that the war created the need for a direct struggle for socialism as the only way out of the epoch of imperialist catastrophes.
The course of the war, especially the outbreak and development of the Russian Revolution, meant that this awareness penetrated the broad masses, that the social revolution in which the working class takes power, through a dictatorship of the proletariat, stood before them as the next task.
In this way, a Third International is being created in all countries today, the International of social revolution. Combatting any attempts at piecemeal solutions coming from the undecided elements of the so-called “centre”, it seeks to unite under its banner the vast majority of the working class in each country in the aim of introducing a dictatorship of the proletariat for the realisation of socialism. Coordinating the efforts of the International, uniting it in the heat of battle, becomes one of the most important tasks at the moment.
The policy of the Polish propertied classes in relation to the war was in fact identical to the policy of the imperialist bourgeoisie of all countries. Before the war, by promoting militarism and the foreign policies of the partitioning powers, they prepared for war, striving towards it. After its outbreak, they sided with their governments, worrying themselves only about the share of the spoils, seeking to attain as much land, wealth and people under their control. With the final tipping of the scales in favour of the military victory for the Allies, the whole Polish bourgeoisie, like the bourgeoisie all over the world, found itself in that camp; they call for military help, so that with force and violence over the bordering nations they can build the largest country to control, so that with force and violence they can suppress the revolution in their own country, to secure control of their own people, and make Poland the bulwark of counter-revolution for crushing proletarian Russia.
A reflection of the imperialist and counter-revolutionary policy of the Polish bourgeois classes is Polish "social-patriotism". Being an expression of the shaky ideology of the petty bourgeoisie, it became a tool of this or that imperialist group, Polish or foreign, the loudest promoter of the phraseology of "independence", masking the exploitative reality of the war. In effect, it strives towards an endless circle of nationalist wars between the Polish people and all the neighbouring nations, to subordinate all social life to the interests of possessive Polish militarism. Demagogically and hypocritically pretending to stand under the slogan of socialism, it opposes any outbursts of revolutionary struggle among the proletarian masses, smashes the mass organisations of that struggle, and plays the role of a counter-revolutionary brake in relation to the working class, trampling the most vital interests of this class for an alliance with bourgeois reaction.
The final manifestation of this policy is the so-called “people’s government”. It was not formed on the basis of a revolution of the masses, as the government of Kerensky in Russia or Ebert in Germany, but as an indirect result of revolution in neighbouring countries. As a result, it becomes, to greater extent than others, a cover for bourgeois rule, which exists in Poland in an unaltered form, and which the so-called “people’s government” masks, preventing in this way the outbreak of revolution in Poland.
The tasks of the proletarian revolution in Poland are the same as the task of the proletarian revolution in other countries. Poland, like all countries of the dying capitalist world, is entering a period of social revolution. Economic life, broken and ruined by war and occupation, by the deportation of millions of people, by the cynical exploitative policies of the propertied classes, must be built anew on the basis of the common ownership of the means of production and land.
The bourgeoisie of Poland, for the time being seeking support in the triumphant imperialism of the Allies, speculating on the victory of the counter-revolution in neighbouring countries, getting ready to suppress by any means a revolution by the Polish people and bind them in the chains of capitalist exploitation, must be defeated and prevented from having any impact on social life. All power must pass into the hands of the proletariat of towns and villages, organised in the Councils of Workers' Delegates [Rady Delegatów Robotniczych, i.e. soviets].
In the difficult fight for a final victory, the Polish proletariat will depend on social revolutions in other countries; just like in a socialist system where the social economy is based on the union of all peoples, so in the process of revolution, solidarity and mutual aid, a common front against common enemies, will be the guiding principle of the struggle.
In a period of international social revolution, which destroys the foundations of capitalism, the Polish proletariat rejects any political slogans based on political forms developed in the capitalist period, such as autonomy, independence, or self-determination. Aiming for a dictatorship, countering all its enemies with its own revolutionary armed forces, the proletariat will oppose any attempts at creating a counter-revolutionary bourgeois Polish army.
For the international camp of social revolution there is no question of borders; based on the principle of a commonality of interests between the international working class, it rejects all national oppression and does away with national and linguistic conflicts both within the current territories, as well as in relation to the scattered populations of so-called ethnic minorities.
Upcoming Tasks of the Party
The party is committed to the following direct tasks:
1. To demonstrate to the working masses the need for a direct struggle to abolish capitalism, of which continued existence must otherwise lead to new slaughters of war and bring the working classes under the yoke of increased exploitation;
2. To expose the reality of reactionary and imperialist slogans proclaimed by the bourgeois parties, who both now, as during the war, try to fool the masses with "nationalist" and "patriotic" phrases;
3. To instil in the working masses a consciousness of solidarity and class unity without distinction of nationality, ethnicity or religion; to this end, to ruthlessly combat the parties which spread nationalism, opportunism and social reconciliation within the workers’ movement, therefore the so-called Revolutionary Faction [PPS-Frakcja Rewolucyjna], which under socialist platitudes most radically supports bourgeois nationalism, imperialist wars and reconciliation with the possessing classes, and drives the mass of workers towards any counter-revolutionary action. Similarly, the party must combat the "Bund", which, by organising Jewish workers in a separate party and separate trade unions breaks the class unity of the proletariat, by putting forwards slogans of cultural autonomy and by pandering to religious superstitions (strengthening the ghetto through the struggle for the celebration of the Sabbath, winning over Jewish municipalities, etc.) pushes the masses of the Jewish proletariat into the embrace of nationalism and reaction, by combating and vilifying the proletarian revolution in Russia, by opposing the slogan of dictatorship of the proletariat and promoting the slogan of the constituent assembly instead attempts to seal off the Jewish proletariat from the revolutionary Polish and international proletariat, to prevent them from taking part in a social revolution;
4. To further exacerbate and deepen the confrontations between the working class and the possessing classes which exploit it, through wage disputes, unemployment, massive food and housing usury, lockouts, sabotage etc. and make these daily clashes part of the struggle to abolish capitalism, to establish a socialist economy through the dictatorship of the proletariat;
5. To unite the most conscious and most revolutionary sections of the working class within the party organisation in order to give the whole movement momentum and clarity of goals;
6. To take the most active part in the creation of Councils of Workers’ Delegates of towns and villages, as the organs of struggle of the proletarian masses that unite the entire working class and take dictatorship on its behalf;
7. To take part in linking the Councils of Workers’ Delegates of towns and villages across the country into one big centralised organism, able to take power in close contact with the proletarian governments and Workers' Councils of other countries;
8. To prepare and organise the direct struggle for political power and to spread awareness among the masses that this fight will ultimately be resolved by the armed clash between the forces of revolution and counter-revolution.
[The SDKPiL side of the conference suggested the following amendments to the platform:
In section I, in the “Attempts at rebuilding a capitalist economy” paragraph:
“In these conditions, the catastrophe of the capitalist regime becomes inevitable, and attempts at rebuilding the social economy on the grounds of capitalist ownership must, in the atmosphere of European revolution, exacerbate the class struggles of the proletariat with the bourgeoisie and accelerate the final bankruptcy of capitalism.”
In section II, after the “steady increases in the numerical strength of parties and trade unions” part:
“The nests of opportunism have become primarily the circles of members of parliament, writers and party and trade union functionaries, who, by identifying the interest of the workers’ movement with the narrow interests of party and trade union bureaucracies, obstructed the revolutionary development of the masses.”
In section III, in the “In a period of international social revolution” paragraph:
“The proletariat rejects slogans such as independence and self-determination, which are a result of the influence of bourgeois ideology that obscure the class consciousness of the proletariat, and in the current period of international revolution become the tools of counter-revolution. Based on the principle of an international commonality of interests, the proletariat combats all wars over national borders, because for the camp of international social revolution there is no question of borders; socialism rejects all national oppression and does away with national and linguistic conflicts both within the current territories, as well as in relation to the scattered populations of so-called ethnic minorities. In the same way, the proletariat rejects all attempts at creating a bourgeois Polish army, which must become a tool of division and plunder outside the country, and counter-revolution within it. Striving for the abolishment of bourgeois rule and taking power into its own hands, the proletariat opposes all its enemies, their armies and white guards, with its own revolutionary forces, its own red army.”]
To the Proletariat of Poland (1918)
Two parties: the Polish Socialist Party (Left) [PPS-Lewica] and the Social Democracy of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania [SDKPiL], have merged into one Communist Workers’ Party of Poland, which calls you under our banner of struggle for the dictatorship of the proletariat, for the social revolution.
Under this banner both parties have united at a time when in the whole of Europe the binds of capitalist states are bursting, and the proletariat fights for the conquest of power, so that upon the ruins of the old world of exploitation and oppression it can build a new world, based on socialist property, on freedom and brotherhood. The clarity of the tasks that face the working class today has united us.
The time for the storming of the fortress of capitalism approaches. There is no difference between us in this profound belief and certainty. Our union is the expression of this belief and certainty - a merging of workers’ armies before a pitched battle. We unite as one of the branches of a revolutionary international, advancing towards final decisive battles.
WORKERS! Two hostile, uncompromising powers have clashed with each other. On the one hand, the capitalists and their governments, who, in their greed for profit and conquest, have unleashed an international slaughter of the peoples, and within four and a half years of war have drowned the world in blood and fire. On the other hand, the revolutionary proletariat, which, if it wants to set itself and all of mankind free from savagery and cruelty, must wrest power from the bloody claws of capital.
The heroic proletariat of Russia was the first to shatter the domination of capital in two revolutions in March [February O.S.] and November [October O.S.] last year, through which it put an end to the barbaric war for capitalist spoils within their country. The working people of Austria and Germany have followed the example of the Russian workers, in the recent November revolution bringing down the rule of their war masters and our occupants. And today, the German proletariat storms the last strongholds of the bourgeoisie, in order to give power to the Councils of Workers’ Delegates through a new revolution.
But a proletarian revolution in one country is also a revolution directed against the capitalists of all countries, through this itself it is a world revolution. The capitalist governments of America, England and France throw themselves at workers’ Russia and revolutionary Germany. The Russian bourgeoisie, smashed against the ground, the bourgeoisie in other countries, frightened of upcoming revolution, and the Polish bourgeoisie, all cry for help from the victorious imperialist governments of the Allies. And these governments, in their own interest, rush to their aid in order to strangle the workers.
WORKERS! We ask you: in this enormous brawl between barbarous capitalism and a revolution liberating the world – on whose side will you stand?
If on the side of imperialism, which creates war for profits and capitalist plunder, spreads poverty, unemployment, death and destruction, then stand under the banner of the bourgeois parties, under the endecja [Narodowa Demokracja] banner of hatred and national baiting, of insatiable capitalist greed, then stand under the banner of the PPS Faction [PPS-Frakcja Rewolucyjna], which just yesterday was pushing you into war under the sign of Hindenburg, and which today builds an army led by Tsarist and Austrian generals, the tools of partition and carnage.
If you want war without end, then stand on the side of the government calling itself the government of workers and peasants. Follow the government, which leads a murderous war in Eastern Galicia and Ukraine against the peasants and workers, in defence of Polish magnates and their estates. Follow the government, which prepares a new war against the peasants and workers in Lithuania, again in defence of noble estates. Follow the government which, to the countless dead and maimed, to the one and a half million unemployed, to the hungry and ragged victims of war, wants to add further millions.
Workers, if you want a settlement with the bourgeoisie and secret dealings with the party of capitalists, if you want friendship and alliance with the imperialist bandits of the Allies, and war with workers’ Russia and revolutionary Germany – then stand under the fraki [PPS-Frakcja Rewolucyjna] banner and its government, a government pretending to be that of workers and peasants.
But workers, if you have had enough of exploitation, poverty and ill-treatment, if you do not want a war with your brethren, the heroic workers of Russia, who in the most terrible conditions of cold and hunger, advance in the fight for their and our liberation from the yoke of capital, if you do not want a war that would bring even more destruction and disgrace to a Poland already ravaged and trampled, if you want to put an end to the crimes of capital – then stand under the banner of the COMMUNIST WORKERS’ PARTY OF POLAND.
WORKERS! The Communist Workers’ Party of Poland promises you nothing but gruelling sacrificial struggle, nothing but what the working class alone, in the heat of battle and revolution, can build, consolidate and develop. Only by your own hands can you seize power, only through your own efforts can you topple that old edifice of exploitation and tormenting oppression, to build a society of common ownership and common labour, freedom and the brotherhood of peoples.
The bonds of occupation have fallen from the Polish working class. The Polish bourgeoisie has lost its strongest tool of class oppression. But this loosening of our shackles we do not owe to a revolution in Poland, but to the Russian and German revolutions. That is why new furious attacks by the bourgeois counter-revolution threaten us constantly, as they increasingly embolden the conciliatory nature of the governments of Piłsudski and Moraczewski, at every step betraying the interests of the people.
If we do not want to be bound in new shackles, we must spark our own revolution in Poland, tear down the rule of the bourgeoisie, give power to the Councils of Workers’ Delegates.
We have put forward the slogan for the creation of Councils of Workers’ Delegates of towns and villages in Poland, in the firm conviction that they will become the organs of struggle for the broad masses of the proletariat. Against the bourgeois classes, united with the international imperialist counter-revolution, oppose the united strength of the working class, shoulder to shoulder with socialist Russia and the revolutionary proletariat of all countries.
Long live the international struggle for revolution!
Long live the dictatorship of the proletariat!
Long live the social revolution!
Founding Congress of the Communist Workers’ Party of Poland (united SDKPiL and PPS-Left)
[Over 200 people participated in the Founding Congress of the KPRP, which took place in Warsaw, in December 1918. The congress elected the first central committee of the party, chosen to represent both the SDKPiL and the PPS-Left – from the SDKPiL: Władysław Kowalski-Grzech, Henryk Stein-Domski, Franciszek Grzelszczak-Grzegorzewski, Franciszek Fiedler, Adolf Zalberg-Piotrowski and Szczepan Rybacki; while from the PPS-Left: Józef Ciszewski, Maksymilian Horwitz-Walecki, Henryk Iwiński, Maria Koszutska-Kostrzewa, Stefan Królikowski and Wacław Wróblewski. The original documents from the congress can be found in a 1919 pamphlet titled ‘Sprawozdanie ze Zjazdu Organizacyjnego KPRP’. For more about the KPRP see: A Brief History of the Communist Workers’ Party of Poland]