Communist Party of Poland
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The Communist Party of Poland (Polish: Komunistyczna Partia Polski, KPP) was a communist party in Poland. It was a result of the fusion of Social Democracy of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania (SDKPiL) and the Polish Socialist Party – Left in the Communist Workers Party of Poland (Komunistyczna Partia Robotnicza Polski, KPRP).
|International affiliation||Communist International|
The KPRP was founded on 16 December 1918 as the result of the fusion of the Social Democracy of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania (SDKPiL) and the Polish Socialist Party-Lewica (Left) on the basis of the program of the former group. Elections for the Workers Councils which sprang up in 1918 revealed that the new party had a level of support almost equal to that of the Polish Socialist Party (PPS). However this support was undermined by both national feeling and due to the party being driven underground by reactionary legislation. The KPRP would be illegal for the rest of its life but took part, in the shape of Józef Unszlicht, in the founding of the Communist International in March 1919.
Despite the immense difficulties facing the new party the KPRP promoted the unification of the trade union movement and opposed the war against Soviet Russia on the country's eastern frontier. Clashes in this unsettled region became a full-scale war with Russia in April 1920 as Józef Piłsudski, in alliance with Symon Petliura, launched a successful attack into the Ukraine. This was successfully repulsed and the Red Army advanced to the gates of Warsaw only to be pushed back in its turn and defeated on the banks of Vistula. The war ended with the Peace of Riga in March 1921.
The war posed problems for the KPRP as its opposition to Polish nationalism ranged it alongside the invading Red Army, which to many patriotic workers appeared traitorous to the newly established nation-state of Poland. Due to the support of the government by the nationalist PPS, efforts by the KPRP to agitate for workers' solidarity with the Red Army were forestalled, and with the retreat of the Red Army the possibility of Poland becoming a bridge to revolutionary Germany faded. However, at the height of the Red Army offensive a Provisional Revolutionary Committee formed on August 2, 1920 consisting of Julian Marchlewski, Felix Dzerzhinsky, Feliks Kon, Józef Unszlicht and Edward Próchniak. Established as a cadre for a future workers-council state in Poland, its establishment was politically fruitless but for its abandonment of the traditional Marxist position on the land question as understood by the Polish Marxists in favour of Vladimir Lenin's more tactical position.
The period 1921-1926 saw relative political freedom in Poland and the KPRP took full advantage of all legal avenues offered it. Initially gains were made from the ranks of the reformist workers' organisations, and in late 1920 a left opposition from the PPS, led by Stanislaw Lancucki and Jerzy Czeszejko-Sochacki, joined the KPRP, giving the party representation in the Diet. Gains were also made from the Bund (General Jewish Labor Union) when a faction led by Aleksander Minc joined, and also from two smaller Jewish Socialist groups Poale Zion and the United Jewish Socialist Workers Party (Fareynikhte). Rapid gains were also made in the eastern borderlands at this time; see the entry for the KPZU.
The Party's third Conference in 1922 saw the consolidation of the leadership around the "Three W's" - Adolf Warski, Maksymilian Horwitz and Maria Koszutska. The party was able to assume a stable organisational form and founded Red Factions within the unions. An electoral list was constructed called the "Union of Town and Country Proletariat". Yet the party only managed to win 130,000 votes and two seats in the November 1922 elections. In general the idea of the "United Front" - recently made policy by the Communist International (Comintern) - provided a guide for the party's activities.
The Party's Second Congress gathered in Moscow in August 1923 and the leadership took the opportunity to overhaul the Party's program - particularly with regard to the land and national questions, where more Leninist policies were adopted. Autonomous sections of the Party were also recognised as being needed in Poland's borderlands which were inhabited by non-Polish groups. In accordance with party decisions, Communist Parties were then organised both in the Western Ukraine and in Western Belarus. Within the Communist International, the Polish leadership of the Three W's aligned with Grigory Zinoviev and therefore opposed to the embryonic Left Opposition.
Although aligned with Zinoviev within the Comintern, the Polish party was independently minded and made efforts to defend both Leon Trotsky and Heinrich Brandler, the leader of the Communist Party of Germany, in the Polish Commission convened at the Comintern's Fifth Congress. The main persecutor in the case against the Polish leadership was Julian Leszczyński "Lenski", but the Chair of the Commission would wield the decisive blows and the Chair was Joseph Stalin. Lenski's reward was his appointment to a new party central committee, appointed without reference to a Party Congress. His task - to "Bolshevise" the KPRP.
The Party's Third Congress gathered at Minsk in March 1925 with the slogan "Bolshevisation of the Party". This meant that the basic party unit was to be a workplace cell and the construction of an all-powerful party apparatus which decided policy - marked by the banning of all factional tendencies from the party. Significantly the Party's name was changed, with its contraction to "Communist Party of Poland". Despite being endorsed by the leadership of the Comintern, Lenski's leadership group was independently minded enough to adopt positions on Germany, Bulgaria and France contrary to those of the Comintern - and yet another Polish Commission removed it from office. Warski returned to the leadership and the party again embarked on attempts to build a United Front with the PPS.
With rising unemployment and a rapidly deteriorating economic situation Pilsudski staged a coup d’etat in May 1926. Confused as to the meaning of this the KPP engaged in street battles with troops loyal to the Witos government, which it called fascist, in Warsaw and called a general strike with the PPS on May 13. In practice they aided Pilsudski’s power grab and were to pay the price. Having turned a blind eye while events were in progress Stalin would now denounce the Polish leadership and condemn "The May error". In the mean time former leading figures of Polish Marxism passed from the scene or were demoted, which coincided with Stalin’s final elimination of his rivals for power. The KPP was to function from here to the time of its dissolution as little more than a border guard for Russia, as was made clear when it was condemned for failing to realise the danger that Pilsudski posed to the Soviet Union.
The debate over "The May Error" was to grow venomous up to the party’s Fourth Congress in September 1927 in Moscow. The left minority still led by Lenski argued that Pilsudski’s coup was fascist while the right minority claimed it was military dictatorship evolving toward fascism. Finally the victory was to go to the left, although they were not to reap the gains of their victory in full as two representatives of the Comintern were placed on the Central Committee, the Finn Otto Wille Kuusinen and the Ukrainian Dmitry Manuilsky. The party had been beheaded and any independence of thought and action was at an end.
Yet despite internal factional struggles the party was to grow during this period attracting support from the minorities and among the working class outdistancing the PPS in the last more or less free elections held in March 1928. Replacement of the Warski leadership group however would see the party plunged into isolation as it embarked on the "Third Period". Endorsed by the Party’s Fifth Congress in 1930 the "Third Period" saw the party routinely describing the PPS as fascist and revolution was claimed to be imminent. As the country fell victim to the worldwide depression, the KPP found a new internal struggle as layers of the party membership having seen the "Three W’s" finally removed turned to the critique of the Comintern personified by Trotsky. The emerging oppositional grouping was swiftly expelled from the ranks of the KPP forming the Polish wing of the International Left Opposition.
The Nazi seizure of power in Germany forced the removal of the KPP center from that country and made party units within the country harder to communicate with. It also caused a major reversal of policy on the part of the Comintern as unity was sought with any and every force opposed to fascism. This Popular Front strategy meant in Poland the KPP pressed both the PPS and Bund for unity, which both rebuffed, it also saw the communists infiltrate organisations alien to the workers movement such as the Peasant Party and even Catholic groups. Unity remained an impossible goal however but the militants of the KPP did write one last chapter in their party’s history as many joined the International Brigades in Spain to fight fascism. The Dabrowski Battalion, named for the hero of the Paris Commune, would count among its members many non-KPP workers among them members of the PPS but the Brigade was firmly led by the KPP.
Despite that the KPP was now to be swept into the maelstrom of paranoia and suspicion that culminated in the Moscow trials and purges. First a number of its members were accused of being agents of the Polish regime, now led by the Colonels since Pilsudski's death in 1935, and liquidated as a result. Next almost the entire leading cadre of the party were enveloped by the Purges and murdered. Among those killed were: Albert Bronkowski, Krajewski, Józef Unszlicht, Adolf Warski, Maria Koszutska, Maksymilian Horwitz, Lenski, Stanisław Bobiński, Ryng, Józef Feliks Ciszewski, Henrykowski, Sztande, Bruno Jasieński and Witold Wandurski. And still Stalin could not trust the Polish Communists, and so finally the leaderless party was declared dissolved as a hotbed of Trotskyite agents. Most of the activists perished in the Great Purge, but some lower level figures including Bolesław Bierut remained.
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (February 2015)
The Polish Communist Party (2002) claims to be the successor of the party.
- Dyjbas, "A Brief History of the Communist Workers’ Party of Poland," libcom.org/ Dec. 19, 2015.