Tag Archives: Petro Poltava

Poltava: On Some Political and Propaganda Mistakes

scan0004The 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:

Петро Федун – «Полтава», Про деякі політично-пропагандивні помилки

Ukrainian “capitulates” after 30 years in prison (1986)


Euromaidan, Mstyslav Chernov

This article was written in 1986. A year earlier Mikhail Gorbachev acceded to power in the Soviet Union. Three months earlier, at the 27th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, he announced a sensational program of reforms. For growing sectors of the left in the world it augured or at least promised a rebirth of socialism in the USSR. My point of view was completely different.

Events at the top of the Soviet power pyramid confirmed that the bureaucratic rule entered a phase of irremediable crisis. On the horizon there was the capitalist restoration and the breakup of the USSR along national lines. What became very probable was a mass upsurge of the oppressed nationalities against Russian imperialism.

It posed the crucial problem: if national revolutions broke out there, how they would be able to combine with sociopolitical revolutions against both the bureaucratic rule and the capitalist restoration?

But at the same time it was very probable that the fall of the Soviet Union and the Soviet Bloc would be accompanied by an enormous political confusion, crisis and fall of the radical left on the world scale. This is why I wrote:

“I read recently that Reagan has declared himself a supporter of Solidarność’s program. How could he say that he is a supporter of a program that calls for building a self-governed republic based on social ownership of the means of production and on workers’ self-management? Why not? If American workers and unionists do not know much more about it than American Blacks and Chicanos used to know about the program of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army? We should realize the kind of world we are living in. The Kremlin satraps lay claim to the tradition of the Russian revolution and declare their support for the Third World liberation movements. The man who led the victorious revolution against American imperialism in Cuba goes to Moscow to proclaim there that ‘you can’t shut out the sun with a finger’. The sun in question is the USSR, which other revolutionists, the Ukrainians, have excoriated as a giant prison house of nations. Some leaders of the Polish revolution, crushed by the totalitarian bureaucracy, have sent the chiefs of US imperialism, which exploits the workers and oppresses the peoples of a good part of the planet, expressions of gratitude for the latters’ intransigent defence of democracy. We have to recognize the devastating consequences these paradoxes have for the consciousness of the workers and peoples throughout the world, in whatever camp they live, whatever immediate enemy they face. You could get the impression that we have set one foot into the Orwellian world in which ‘freedom is slavery and ignorance is power’. But we should not give way to impressions. We should assume our responsibilities.”

Today the challenge is still essentially the same.

The full article is available here:

Zbigniew Marcin Kowalewski, Ukrainian “capitulates” after 30 years in prison (1986)

Jaruzelski launches anti-Ukrainian campaign (1985)

Ethnic cleansing, Poland 1947

Ethnic cleansing, Poland 1947

The Ukrainian national question was always and still is a historical effect of a double, Polish and Russian, imperialist oppression of Ukrainian people and of Ukrainian national struggles against this oppression on both fronts. I began to study this question in 1984, living in political exile in France.

On one side, my goal was to understand causes and history of the dramatic Polish-Ukrainian conflict in the past and its present consequences. The conflict reached its horrible climax in 1943-44, when in western (former Polish) Ukraine guerrillas of both sides mutually massacred civilian populations, and in 1944-47, when the Polish Stalinist regime made a total ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians living inside the new postwar frontiers of Poland. In 1984, General Jaruzelski’s regime launched in the medias a new chauvinist anti-Ukrainian campaign exploiting the legacy of this terrible conflict.

On the other side, I understood  that the deepening crisis of the Soviet system was, at the same time, a crisis of the Russian bureaucratic imperialism announcing a break-up of the Soviet Union along national lines. It was possible and even quite probable that, for the first time since the epoch of the Cossack statehood, Ukraine would become soon an independent state. A new independentist dissidence was growing there quickly and vigorously. For those democratic forces in Poland that continued  to fight the bureaucratic rule after the smashing of Solidarność, the rise of Ukrainian aspirations to national independence was a significant signal.

Among Ukrainian national struggles that needed to be studied, one of the most important was the struggle waged since 1943, first under the Nazi occupation, and later under the Soviet rule, by a large nationalist insurgency and armed underground in western Ukraine. In Poland and in the Soviet Union the history of this movement was submitted to an extremely severe ideological control and incredibly distorted by the bureaucratic powers. In the Soviet Bloc the first scholarly book (even if “politically correct”) on its history was published in 1973 in Poland by two military historians, Antoni B. Szcześniak and Wiesław Z. Szota. It was a historiographical event, but the book was immediately retired from bookstores and libraries and the (nearly) whole print run was destroyed on the order of the Polish Ministry of Internal Affairs.

The Ukrainian wartime and postwar nationalist movement was led by an initially far-right, “integrally nationalist” political current, the so-called Banderaites, or followers of Stepan Bandera (in reality, after his imprisonment by the Nazis in 1941, he neither recovered leadership nor returned to Ukraine). The crucial point, totally obscured by the Soviet and Polish literature on the subject, was that, when this current engaged in a mass national and social insurgency, it turned progressively to the left. In the course of its struggle against the Stalinist regime it adopted a program of building in the future independent state a “classless society” based on the “socialization of the main means of production”, “planned economy” and “political democracy”. One of mains theoreticians of this new, this time genuinely revolutionary nationalism, commander Petro Fedun “Poltava”, explicitly recognized in an internal correspondence: “Our program is, in fact, a program of socialism.”

I discovered it with enormous astonishment. I discovered also that in the past, at the end of the 1940s and the beginning of the 1950s, the political evolution of this nationalist current was very closely followed by a group of Ukrainian diasporan Marxists. They even engaged a political discussion with the leadership of the nationalist underground in Ukraine. Through this group, Western Marxists like Ernest Mandel, Pierre Frank, Livio Maitan, George Breitman and Hal Draper learned about it and some of them commented it publicly.

All of this was the subject of my first writings on the Ukrainian question (signed in general with the pseudonym Arthur Wilkins). They will be reproduced here consecutively, in English, French and Spanish.

The first of the series is available here:

Zbigniew Marcin Kowalewski, Jaruzelski launches anti-Ukrainian campaign (1985)