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)