Tag Archives: Soviet Union

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

L’Ukraine : Réveil d’un peuple, reprise d’une mémoire (1989)


f8Publié par Hérodote. Revue de géographie et de géopolitique en 1989, deux ans avant l’ascension d’Ukraine à l’indépendance nationale, ce long article expliquait les causes profondes de l’essor des aspirations indépendantistes dans ce pays et de l’inévitabilité de sa séparation de l’Union soviétique.

À l’époque, dans le monde entier, l’opinion publique ne se rendait pas compte du fait que la question ukrainienne était la plus grave et explosive de toutes les questions de nationalités qui se posaient en URSS.

L’article avertissait que les tentatives des pouvoirs impériaux moscovites visant à étouffer d’une manière ou d’une autre les aspirations nationales du peuple ukrainien ne pouvaient qu’exacerber la question ukrainienne et risquaient d’« introduire une dimension chaotique dans le processus d’ensemble de l’histoire universelle ».

Le drame actuel confirme pleinement la justesse de cet avertissement.


L’article est accessible ici:

Zbigniew Marcin Kowalewski, L’Ukraine : Réveil d’un peuple, reprise d’une mémoire (1989)

Il y a aussi des fragments en espagnol:

Zbigniew Marcin Kowalewski, Ucrania: Despertar de un pueblo, recuperación de una memoria (1991)

Ucrania: Despertar de un pueblo, recuperación de una memoria (1991)

Mitrophan_Grekov_02Los fragmentos del ensayo que apareció en la revista francesa Hérodote, traducidos al español y publicados en 1991 en la revista Correo Internacional editada en Argentina.

En general, los historiadores de la revolución rusa no ven a Ucrania más que como un territorio que permitió la expansión de esa revolución, en un movimiento desde el centro a la periferia del viejo imperio.

Así, la revolución ucraniana —imbricada en la revolución rusa sin ser idéntica a ella— pura y simplemente desaparece de las páginas de la historia, cuando en realidad constituía un sujeto pleno; fue de hecho la más potente, la más masiva y la más violenta de todas las revoluciones realizadas por las nacionalidades oprimidas del imperio zarista.

En los fragmentos del ensayo reproducidos aquí explico la historia de esta revolución y el dramático conflicto entre los comunistas rusos y ucranianos (bolcheviques, borotbistas y ukapistas) en torno a la cuestión de la independencia de Ucrania. Explico también la suerte posterior del pueblo ucraniano, sometido una vez más a la opresión nacional y explotación bajo el régimen burocrático gran ruso que se instauró en la Unión Soviética en el proceso de contrarrevolución estalinista.

El texto completo de los fragmentos del ensayo es accesible aquí:

Zbigniew Marcin Kowalewski, Ucrania: Despertar de un pueblo, recuperación de una memoria (1991)

El nacionalismo revolucionario ucraniano en el imperio estalinista (1986)

Boris Krimer

Foto Boris Krimer

Este artículo apareció en 1986 en la revista mexicana La Batalla. Se reproduce aquí con el epílogo escrito en 2015.

La cuestión nacional ucraniana siempre ha sido y sigue siendo un efecto histórico de la doble opresión imperialista, polaca y rusa, del pueblo ucraniano y las luchas nacionales ucranianas contra esta opresión en los dos frentes. Comencé a estudiarla en 1984, viviendo en exilio en Francia.

Por un lado, mi objetivo era comprender las causas y la historia del dramático conflicto polaco-ucraniano y sus presentes consecuencias. El conflicto llegó a su horrible climax en 1943-44, cuando en Ucrania occidental (anteriormente polaca) las guerrillas de los dos lados masacraron mutuamente a las poblaciones civiles, y en 1944-47, cuando el régimen estalinista polaco llevó a cabo una limpieza étnica total de cientos de miles de ucranianos que vivían dentro de las nuevas fronteras, las de posguerra. En 1984, el régimen del General Jaruzelski lanzó en los medios de comunicación polacos una nueva campaña chovinista antiucraniana explotando el legado de este terrible conflicto.

Por otro lado, comprendí que la crisis cada vez más profunda del sistema soviético era al mismo tiempo una crisis del imperialismo burocrático ruso que anunciaba una desintegración de la Unión Soviética según las líneas nacionales. Era posible y hasta muy probable que, por primera vez desde la época del Estado cosaco en el siglo XVII, Ucrania llegara pronto a ser un Estado independiente. El auge de las aspiraciones ucranianas a la independencia nacional era una señal significativa.

Entre las luchas nacionales ucranianas que hacía falta estudiar una de las más importantes era la lucha llevada a cabo desde 1943, primero bajo la ocupación nazi y luego bajo el poder soviético, por una amplia insurgencia y una clandestinidad armada nacionalistas en Ucrania occidental. En Polonia y en la Unión Soviética la historia de este movimiento estaba sometida a un control ideológico extremadamente severo e increíblemente distorsionada por los regímenes burocráticos.

En los años de guerra y de posguerra el movimiento nacionalista ucraniano era dirigido por una corriente inicialmente de extrema derecha, “nacionalista integral”: por los llamados banderistas, es decir, seguidores de Stepan Bandera (en realidad, después de su encarcelamiento por los nazis en 1941, él nunca recuperó el liderazgo ni volvió a Ucrania). El punto crucial, totalmente oscurecido por la literatura soviética y polaca sobre el asunto, era el hecho de que al empeñarse en una insurgencia nacional y social de masas, esta corriente se volcó progresivamente hacia la izquierda.

En el curso de su lucha contra el régimen estalinista ella adoptó un programa de construcción de una “sociedad sin clases” en el futuro Estado independiente, basada en la “socialización de los medios de producción fundamentales”, la “economía planificada” y la “democracia política”. Uno de los principales teóricos de este nuevo nacionalismo genuinamente revolucionario, el comandante Petro Fedun “Poltava”, reconoció explíctamente en un correo interno: “Nuestro programa es, de hecho, un programa del socialismo.”

Descubrí todo eso con enorme asombro…

El artículo completo es accesible aquí:

Zbigniew Marcin Kowalewski, El nacionalismo revolucionario ucraniano en el imperio estalinista (1986)

En este sitio hay también artículos sobre el mismo tema en inglés y en francés.

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)

Le nationalisme révolutionnaire ukrainien en Union soviétique (1986)

La question nationale ukrainienne était et reste toujours un effet historique de la double oppression impérialiste, polonaise et russe, du peuple ukrainien et des luttes nationales Nil Khasevytch (1905-1952), artiste graphique de la clandestinité ukrainienne. Xylographe, le 31 décembre 1949.ukrainiennes contre cette oppression sur les deux fronts. J’ai commencé à étudier cette question en 1984, lors de mon exil politique en France. Parmi les luttes nationales qu’il fallait étudier, l’une des plus importantes était la lutte menée dès 1943, sous l’occupation nazie puis sous le pouvoir soviétique, par un large mouvement insurrectionnel et clandestin nationaliste en Ukraine occidentale. Cette partie de l’Ukraine se trouvait historiquement sous la domination polonaise. Dans le bloc soviétique, l’histoire de ce mouvement était terriblement falsifiée. Il fut dirigé par un courant politique dit « banderiste » (du nom de Stepan Bandera qui, après son emprisonnement en 1941 par les nazis, l’a cessé de diriger et n’a jamais revenu en Ukraine). Initiatelement ce courant se situait sur des positions dites de « nationalisme intégral », d’extrême droite. Lors de son éngagement dans le soulèvement national et social de masse, il a tourné progressivement à gauche et, pendant sa lutte contre le régime stalinien qui a duré jusqu’à 1954, il adopta un programme de construction dans le futur État indépendant d’une « société sans classes », basée sur la « socialisation des principaux moyens de production », l’« economie planifiée » et la « démocratie politique ». Aujourd’hui, nous savons même que le commandant Petro Fedoun-Poltava, l’un des plus importants théoriciens de ce nouveau nationalisme, cette fois-ci authentiquement révolutionnaire, a reconnu explicitement dans une correspondance interne : « En fait, notre programme est un programme du socialisme. »

L’article a paru en 1986.

L’article est accessible ici:

Zbigniew Marcin Kowalewski, Le nationalisme révolutionnaire ukrainien en Union soviétique (1986)

Je propose aux lecteurs de voir une introduction et une actualisation en anglais :



An update (2015) to “Ukraine: Revolutionary Nationalism and the Anti-Bureaucratic Revolution (1985)”

Vasyl Kuk

Vasyl Kuk

When the article, Ukraine: Revolutionary Nationalism and the Anti-Bureaucratic Revolution, was written thirty years ago, the Soviet archives were closed for researchers. Many things were still unknown. Today, post-Soviet archives are largely open and we have access to massive evidence that confirms completely the appreciation of the ideological and programmatic evolution of the Ukrainian nationalist insurgency and underground presented in my article. But the article inevitably suffered from serious lacunae. In this update, I try to fill the most important of them.

The update is available here:

Zbigniew Marcin Kowalewski, An update (2015) to “Ukraine: Revolutionary Nationalism and the Anti-Bureaucratic Revolution (1985)

Ukraine: Revolutionary nationalism and the anti-bureaucratic revolution (1985)

Petro Fedun-Poltava

Petro Fedun-Poltava

Today we publish the second article written in 1985, from the series on the wartime and postwar nationalist insurgency and armed underground in Ukraine.

This article is available here:


Zbigniew Marcin Kowalewski, Ukraine: Revolutionary nationalism and the anti-bureaucratic revolution (1985)


It is to be followed by an update.

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)

George Breitman: The National Question and Political Revolution in the USSR and Eastern Europe (1979)

George Breitman

George Breitman

The American Marxist George Breitman (1916-1986) was a founding member (1937) and later a leader of the Socialist Workers Party, from where he was expelled in 1984. He wrote a formidable book, The Last Year of Malcolm X, and authored other fundamental writings on the racial oppression and Black nationalism in the United States. I read this book when I was in my twenties and it marked me for life.

For me, Breitman is one of those very few socialists in the imperialist countries who understood well the national oppression, the nationalism of the oppressed nations, and the revolutionary dimensions or potentialities of the struggles for national independence. He firmly supported such struggles as “a main point, and  under certain conditions the main point”, of the socialist program for the revolution in the Soviet Ukraine, in other republics of the Soviet Union and in the whole Soviet Bloc. In 1979 he made a strong statement on this issue in a discussion bulletin of the SWP, as a contribution to an internal debate inside the Fourth International.

In April 1985, I began to write on the Ukrainian national question and the political evolution of the wartime and postwar nationalist underground in Western Ukraine under the Nazi and Stalinist rule. It was exactly one year before Breitman’s death. He warmly welcomed my initiative, approach and viewpoint inspired by his book on Malcolm X, and encouraged me to go ahead.

George Breitman, The National Question and Political Revolution in the USSR and Eastern Europe (1979)

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