Communist Party of Poland
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|Succeeded by||Polish Workers' Party|
|International affiliation||Communist International|
The interwar Communist Party of Poland (Polish: Komunistyczna Partia Polski, KPP) was a communist party active in Poland during the Second Polish Republic. It resulted from a December 1918 merger of the Social Democracy of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania (SDKPiL) and the Polish Socialist Party – Left (PPS – Left) into the Communist Workers' Party of Poland (Komunistyczna Partia Robotnicza Polski, KPRP). The communists were a small force in Polish politics.
The Communist Party of Poland (until 1925 the Communist Workers' Party of Poland) was an organization of the radical Left. Following the ideas of Rosa Luxemburg, the party's aim was to create a Polish Socialist Republic, to be included in the planned Pan-European Commonwealth of Socialist States. The party did not support the formation of the Second Polish Republic in 1918 and supported the Bolsheviks (led by Vladimir Lenin) in the 1920 Polish–Soviet War.
The views adhered to and promulgated by the leaders of the KPP (Maria Koszutska, Adolf Warski, Maksymilian Horwitz, Edward Próchniak) led to the party's difficult relationship with Stalin. The Communist International (Comintern) condemned the KPP for its support of Józef Piłsudski's May Coup of 1926 (the party's "May error"). From 1933, the KPP was increasingly treated with suspicion by the Comintern. The party structures were seen as compromised due to infiltration by agents of the Polish military intelligence. Some of the party leaders, falsely accused of being such agents, were subsequently executed in the Soviet Union. In 1935 and 1936, the KPP undertook a formation of a unified worker and peasant front in Poland and was then subjected to further persecutions by the Comintern, which also arbitrarily accused the Polish communists of harboring Trotskyists elements in their ranks. The apogee of the Moscow-held prosecutions, aimed at eradicating the various "deviations" and ending usually in death sentences, took place in 1937–38, with the last executions carried out in 1940.
KPP members were persecuted and often imprisoned by the Polish Sanation regime, which turned out to likely save the lives of a number of future Polish communist leaders, including Bolesław Bierut, Władysław Gomułka, Alfred Lampe, Edward Ochab, Stefan Jędrychowski and Aleksander Zawadzki (among former KPP members transferred during World War II from the Soviet Union to Poland for conspiratorial work were Mieczysław Moczar and Marian Spychalski). During the Great Purge, seventy members and candidate members of the party's Central Committee fled or were brought to the Soviet Union and were shot there, along with many other activists (almost all prominent Polish communists were murdered or sent to labor camps). The Comintern, in reality directed by Stalin, in 1938 had the party dissolved and liquidated.
The KPRP was founded on 16 December 1918. It joined together the SDKPiL (one of whose leaders was Rosa Luxemburg) and the PPS – Left. It followed the program of the former. Unification of the trade union movement was a prime objective behind the merger.
The members of the new party organized Workers' Councils in Poland, which competed with the more popular Polish Socialist Party (PPS) units for working class support. The KPRP remained a small minority of the leftist movement, in part because of Luxemburg's position that Poland should remain a province of Russia rather than regain independence. In March 1919, through its representative Józef Unszlicht, the KPRP took part in the founding of the Communist International (Comintern or the Third International) in Moscow.
The Polish-Soviet War
The KPRP opposed Poland's war against Soviet Russia of 1919–21. During the fighting, the KPRP's legal status was legislatively taken away; the communist party would remain an underground organization in Poland until its demise. Due to the support for the government provided by pro-independence socialists of the PPS, efforts by the KPRP to agitate for workers' solidarity with the Red Army were forestalled. However, at the height of the Red Army offensive the Provisional Polish Revolutionary Committee was formed on 2 August 1920. It consisted of Julian Marchlewski, Felix Dzerzhinsky, Feliks Kon, Józef Unszlicht, and Edward Próchniak. Its establishment brought no political gains for the party. The traditional Marxist position on the land question as understood by the Polish Marxists was abandoned, in favour of Vladimir Lenin's views.
The period 1921–1926 saw relative political freedom in Poland and the KPRP took advantage of the opportunities. Gains in membership were initially made from the ranks of the reformist workers' organisations and in the late 1920s from a left-wing faction of the PPS, led by Stanislaw Lancucki and Jerzy Czeszejko-Sochacki. They joined the KPRP, giving the party representation in the Sejm (Polish legislature). Gains were also made from the General Jewish Labour Bund in Poland when a faction led by Aleksander Minc joined and from two smaller Jewish socialist groups: Poale Zion and the United Jewish Socialist Workers Party (Fareynikte). In the eastern borderlands, the KPRP and then KPP operated as the autonomous Communist Party of Western Ukraine (KPZU) and Communist Party of Western Belorussia (KPZB); substantial growth in membership was experienced there at this time. In the area of operation of KPP proper (western and central Poland numerically dominated by ethnic Poles), 22–26% of the members were Jewish, according to the party sources.
In 1922, the leadership consolidated around Adolf Warski, Maksymilian Horwitz and Maria Koszutska of the "majority" faction, more moderate and dominant in the party until at least 1924. The "minority" faction was later led by Julian Leszczyński. The party founded the Red Factions within the unions. An electoral list called the "Union of Town and Country Proletariat" was constructed and the party managed to win 130,000 votes and two parliamentary seats in the legislative election of November 1922.
The party's Second Congress gathered in Moscow in August 1923. The leadership overhauled the party program, particularly with regard to the land and national questions, where more Leninist policies were adopted. Autonomous sections of the party were recognised as needed in Poland's eastern regions, which were heavily inhabited by ethnically non-Polish groups (Western Ukraine and Western Belorussia). Within the Communist International (Comintern), the Polish leaders aligned with Grigory Zinoviev and not with the embryonic Left Opposition.
The Polish party was independently minded, and in the Polish Commission convened at the Comintern's Fifth Congress (1924), made efforts to defend both Leon Trotsky and Heinrich Brandler, the leader of the Communist Party of Germany. The main prosecutor in the case against the Polish leadership was Julian Leszczyński, but the Polish Commission was chaired by Stalin. Leszczyński was appointed, without reference to a party congress, to the new party central committee. His task was 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 an all-powerful party apparatus was constructed to decide policy. All factional tendencies were banned. Significantly, the party's name was contracted to "Communist Party of Poland" (KPP). Despite being endorsed by the leadership of the Comintern, Leszczyński's leadership group was independently minded enough to adopt positions on Germany, Bulgaria and France contrary to those of the Comintern. It was removed from office by yet another Polish Commission. Warski returned to the leadership and the party again pursued attempts to build a united front with the PPS.
The KPP and Piłsudski's coup
Poland's democratically elected coalition government was conflicted and in 1926 faced serious trouble of economic and other nature. On 12 May, the still-popular, semi-retired General Józef Piłsudski initiated a coup d’etat. Pilsudski, who in his youth and before World War I was a leader of the Polish Socialist Party (PPS), retained in many circles a reputation as a friend of the Left and the Polish communists were among those confused by his present actions. When railway workers went on strike, the PPS declared a general strike. "Even the tiny and illegal Polish Communist Party announced support for what they termed Piłsudski's 'revolutionary armies'." The railway workers were vital, because during the fighting they blocked troop trains trying to deliver reinforcements for the government. On 14 May, the government leaders decided to stop resisting the coup and resigned.
During Piłsudski's May coup, the KPP engaged in street battles with troops loyal to the government of Wincenty Witos, which it called fascist. The KPP leaders directly aided the coup, for which they would pay a steep price. After the events Stalin sharply denounced the KPP leadership and they were eventually ousted for their "May error".
The debate over the "May error" was getting increasingly venomous before and during the party's Fourth Congress in September 1927 in Moscow. In the aftermath, two representatives of the Comintern were placed on the Polish party's Central Committee: the Finn Otto Wille Kuusinen and the Ukrainian Dmitry Manuilsky; the KPP was no longer in a position to exercise any independence of thought and action.
Despite the internal factional struggles, the party grew during this period, attracting support from the minorities and among the working class. It participated in the 1928 Polish legislative election. However, the removal of the Warski group from leadership resulted in the party plunged into isolation as it embarked on the "Third Period". Endorsed by the KPP'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 was hit severely by the Great Depression, the KPP became embroiled in a new internal struggle.
Polish communists in the 1930s
The popular front strategy was pursued by the KPP in the mid-1930s. The KPP pressed both the PPS and Bund for unity, which both rebuffed. The communists tried to infiltrate organisations alien to the workers' movement, such as the Peasant Party and even Catholic groups. Unity of the Left remained an impossible goal, however, possibly because of the KPP's prior animosity toward other parties and civil groups.
Many militants of the KPP joined the International Brigades to fight the Nationalists during the Spanish Civil War. The Dąbrowski Battalion, named for the hero of the Paris Commune, was led by the KPP but counted among its members many PPS workers and other non-KPP volunteers.
The KPP liquidated by Stalin
In the mid and late 1930s the KPP became a victim of paranoia and suspicion that engulfed the Stalin-led communist movement. It culminated in the Moscow Trials and purges. A number of KPP members were accused of being agents of institutions of Sanation Poland and liquidated. Next almost the entire leading cadre of the party became embroiled in the purges and murdered. Many were summoned to Moscow for "consultations". Among those killed were: Albert Bronkowski, Władysław Stein-Krajewski, Józef Unszlicht, Adolf Warski, Maria Koszutska, Maksymilian Horwitz, Julian Leszczyński, Stanisław Bobiński, Jerzy Heryng, Józef Feliks Ciszewski, Tomasz Dąbal, Saul Amsterdam, Bruno Jasieński and Witold Wandurski. The leaderless party was then accused of Trotskyism among other "deviations" and 16.08.1938 dissolved by the Comintern. Most of the KPP activists perished in the Great Purge, but among those who survived were some of the future leaders of communist Poland.
Policies and positions
The KPP was guided by Marxist ideology under a strictly orthodox interpretation. It opposed the establishment of a politically independent Poland. Its activists functioned as party members and government officials in Soviet Russia. The KPP was against land reform (distribution of property to landless peasants). It aimed to organize the working class and to unify the trade union movement. It adhered to policies established by the Comintern in Moscow. Its status was illegal, as it refused to register as a political party.
The Polish Workers' Party
Arriving from the Soviet Union, a group of Polish communists was parachuted into occupied Poland in December 1941. With Joseph Stalin's permission, in January 1942 they established the Polish Workers' Party, a new communist party.
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- Communism in Poland
- List of Polish Communist Party politicians
- Polish Workers' Party
- Polish United Workers' Party
- Communist Party of Poland (Mijal)
- Polish Communist Party (2002)
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