Poltava: On Some Political and Propaganda Mistakes
The internal instruction published here in Ukrainian is one of the most important political documents of the postwar nationalist armed underground in Soviet Ukraine. It was found in the Sectoral State Archive of Security Service of Ukraine (HDA SBU) and appeared in the second volume of collected writings of Petro Fedun – “Poltava”, edited by Mykhaylo Romanyuk and published in 2013 by the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine.
As the director of the Main Propaganda Center (HOSP) of the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), Commander Poltava issued this instruction in January 1946. He was than 27 years old. It was addressed to militants of the underground movement who were responsible for local propaganda work, and its aim was to correct their often mistaken approaches to several political problems, processes and events.
As I observed earlier on this web site, while Poltava and other Ukrainian revolutionary nationalists made at this time a clear distinction between Stalinism and socialism or communism, they did not see a major difference between Stalinism and Bolshevism. This is very visible in this instruction.
The most important points discussed in the instruction were the following ones.
In the first place, Poltava called on militants to be very clear in their propaganda work concerning the question of Stalinist imperialism. This is not an imperialism of Russian people, he explained, and the Russian people is not responsible for the imperialist policy of the Stalinist regime. This regime oppresses and exploits not only all non-Russian nationalities, but also the Russian people itself, and one of the political tasks of the Ukrainian nationalist movement is to gain the Russian masses for a common struggle against the “Stalinist exploitative regime”. “So, we must speak about Stalinist imperialism, and not about Russian imperialism, about imperialism of the Stalinist Bolshevik clique, and not about imperialism of the Russian people; we must speak about imperialist elements among the Russian people as about Stalinist agents, mercenaries, traitors and enemies of their own people and of working people in general.”
Poltava explained also that another mistake is to call the Soviet regime a communist one, because those who rule in the Soviet Union “are not communists at all” and they did not build a communist society but “betrayed communist ideas”. “True communists should fight, like us, against Stalin – an exploiter of working people and oppressed nationalities.” He explained also that it is a mistake to call them Reds, because those who rule in the USSR, “having nothing to do with either communism or socialism, have also nothing to do with the red flag that symbolizes an essentially just struggle of the working class for its liberation”.
Discussing another point, Poltava wrote: “Frequently we express ourselves as defenders of capitalism. For example, we say that an unemployed worker lives better in the USA than an employed worker in the USSR. To say that means that unemployment is not a particularly bad thing, that is, it means that you accept it.” But the Soviet worker “knows that unemployment is one of the greatest tragedies of the working class in the capitalist system”. “We must say very clearly that we condemn unemployment as something that is intrinsic to putrefying capitalism, that we oppose the capitalist exploitative system in general and that, at the same time, we oppose the newest methods of exploitation of workers in the Bolshevik system. We cannot attack only the Bolshevik system and be silent about capitalism, but we must obligatorily attack at the same time both systems. It arises from our program.”
Several points of the instruction had to do with problems of international politics.
On the United Nations, Poltava commented that “we are for the closest possible cooperation of all nations”, but “we cannot expect anything good for us from the UN”, because it is “an imperialist institution that puts leadership over the world in the hands of three great powers”.
The future inevitable conflict between the Soviet Union and the Anglo-Americans, Poltava wrote, must be explained as an effect of “imperialist antagonism between these states”. We cannot say that England “will not accept that there exists a dictatorship over the sixth part of the world” or that “England will fight to liberate nations”, because “in our opinion, England is also an imperialist state”.
“[Electoral] victories of socialists in England and France should be positively appreciated. We are for the overthrow of exploitation of man by man, for the overthrow of capitalist system, so we consider that the struggle of working people of all countries for their liberation is just and we welcome their successes.” We welcome them especially, observed Poltava, because these parties are independent, not subordinated to the Soviet policy.
The situation is different in the East European countries under Soviet domination. There, the governing “so-called left-wing parties” are Soviet agencies. “Programs of these governments and parties in different countries are just from the point of view of the needs of the popular masses, and reforms that they are doing are necessary.” “If behind these reforms were not the aspirations of the Bolshevik Moscow to dominate these countries politically, economically and culturally, all would be fine.”
For this reason, in their propaganda Ukrainian nationalists should not attack either the programs of these parties and the reforms realized by these governments nor those sectors of the masses that support them, but “only agent, treacherous, renegade leaderships of those parties and agent governments”. “In this manner, we will not march together with some reactionary groups in these countries that, motivated by their egoistic class interests, are opposed to any reforms”.
Poltava pointed to the case of the Polish armed underground that, originating in the wartime Home Army (AK, the mainstream anti-Nazi resistance movement), fought now the new “communist” regime established under Soviet domination. “We have a common enemy – and, in fact, we have nothing more in common”, he wrote in the instruction. “It is like this because while we say clearly that we fight for an Ukrainian Independent United State and want that every nation should live in its own independent national state, the AK is subordinated in fact to its government in exile that strives toward the restoration of Poland in its frontiers from before 1939, that is, also on the Ukrainian and Byelorussian lands. While we are against landlords and capitalists, the AK actively opposes the parcelling out of the landlords’ estates.” Poltava commented, “The same happens with the Rumanian Iron Guard, Serbian Chetniks, Croatian Ustasha and Bulgarian underground groups.”
The last point made by Poltava was the growing anticolonial revolution in Southeast Asia. He wrote, “The struggle in Indochina and Indonesia is an independent struggle for national liberation of colonial peoples (Annamites in Indochina and Malays in Indonesia) against French and Dutch domination. Bolsheviks have no influence upon this struggle. In contrast, the struggle of Azerbaijanis in Northern Iran is inspired by Bolsheviks who, exploiting the Azerbaijani [national] question, that is not solved by the Iranian government, strengthen there their influence, preparing an annexation of this part of Iran with the aim to weaken there the influence of England.”
Edited by Andrew Pollack
The full text in Ukrainian is available here: