Polonaise no. 2



De Brest-Litovski to the Polish-Ukrainian War.

Enshrined in common sense, the adage “the enemies of my enemies are my friends” can be relativized in intricate situations. The great friends of the far-right governments of Poland and Ukraine are the states that control the NATO war machine, to which those two governments remain subordinately linked. Their main enemy is Russia. To that extent, the two are friends.

We know well, however, that the present is full of history. The reciprocal resentments between Poland and Ukraine are old and persistent, fueled by recurring territorial disputes over the centuries. These resentments were reactivated and exacerbated by the complex consequences of the war catastrophe unleashed in 1914, the most decisive of which was the conquest of political power in Russia by the workers, sailors and soldiers of the “Soviets”, opening the prospect of extending the proletarian Revolution to the main imperialist powers in Europe.

Fulfilling the slogan “peace and land”, which mobilized the Russian people for the October 1917 Revolution, the Bolshevik leaders declared a ceasefire on all combat fronts, opening negotiations in Brest-Litovski with the Second German Reich and the Austrian Empire. -Hungarian. Facing from the beginning the civil war promoted by the so-called “white” tsarist generals, Soviet Russia had to accept on March 3, 1918 an extremely onerous peace treaty with the two “central empires”.

It ceded territories where about a third of the Russian population lived, half of its industrial facilities and 90% of its coal deposits. Lenin, who was not given to euphemisms, classified the treaty as a “shameful peace”, but accepted it, because the essential thing to save was the October Revolution. The II Reich took control of the vast majority of these territories, but not for long.

In Ukraine, the context of the October revolution, right-wing nationalists and Bolsheviks entered into a fight. Those proclaimed on November 20, 1917 the National or People's Republic (the Slavic term Narodna supports both translations) Ukrainian. There were, however, many supporters of the revolution and the power of the Soviets. They were treated as enemies by the nationalist right, which tried to expel military units stationed in Russia to Russia. front during the Brest-Litovski negotiations.

The expulsion order was not obeyed. With the support of Ukrainian socialists, Bolshevik soldiers resisted with weapons in hand, promoting an uprising in Kiev in early December. They were defeated and deported. The Petrograd Council of People's Commissars reacted, demanding that the deportations cease. But they continued. The Bolsheviks responded, on December 26, by proclaiming the Ukrainian Soviet Republic and mobilizing, to support it, a body of 30.000 Red Guard fighters, under the command of Vladimir Antonov-Ovsiienko and Mikhail Muravyov.

The two armed formations that the right-wing nationalists had at their disposal, the military caste of the Cossacks and the Sich Riflemen, former fighters of the Austro-Hungarian empire, were unable to contain the momentum of the Ukrainian revolutionary workers and the Red Guard. On February 9, 1918, after more than forty days of fighting, the Bolsheviks took control of Kiev.

The new threat to the Revolution came from Poland, whose supreme military commander and head of state was Josef Pilsudski, already mentioned in Polonaise nº.1. A tenacious and radical nationalist, he fought between 1914 and 1917 against the Russian Empire, at the head of the “Polish legions” and alongside the German and Austro-Hungarian armies.

When the Tsar's regime, his main enemy, was overthrown by the revolution of February 1917, he showed himself to be a lucid strategist, stopping collaboration with the central empires because he assessed that despite the ceasefire on the eastern front, the Franco- Britain was in a better position to win the war and that the troubled situation in Russia opened space for its project of forming, under the hegemony of its nation, a great federation that would include Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania and the other Baltic countries.

The first war that Josef Pilsudski fought in this ambitious perspective took place in Galicia, a province that the Austro-Hungarian Empire had annexed in 1772, in the first partition of Poland between it, Prussia and the Russian Empire. In the western part of Galicia, the population was mostly Polish; in the eastern part, mostly Ukrainian. The Poles refused to accept Ukrainian administrative autonomy in eastern Galicia, despite the multinational character of the Austro-Hungarian empire, but Charles I, the last Kaiser of Vienna, decided to meet the Ukrainians' demand, promising to promote it when the war started in 1914. The defeat in 1918 prevented him from fulfilling his promise, even because his empire was dismantled.

The recognition of the independence of Poland and Ukraine by the victorious Franco-British “Entente” precipitated the reckoning between the two nationalities that disputed control of the province. On November 1, 1918, the national (or popular “) Republic was proclaimed.folk”) of Western Ukraine, with Lwow as its capital. The Poles responded, seizing Lwow on 21 November. Giving free rein to their xenophobic hatred, they celebrated the conquest with a pogrom in the Jewish neighborhoods (which were set on fire), massacring hundreds of unarmed civilians, Jews and Ukrainians.

Better armed, Polish troops prevailed on the ground, especially from May 1919 onwards, when the “blue army”, trained, equipped and staffed by French officers, came into action. In principle, the mission of this army, commanded by General Jozef Haller, was to defend the bourgeois order threatened by the Bolsheviks, facing them in Eastern Ukraine. But Josef Pilsudski, an audacious pragmatist, sent him to annihilate the nationalist forces in Western Ukraine, who were as anti-communist as he was.

The “Entente” governments complained “pro forma” about this misuse of function, but the Polish command ignored the complaint and continued the offensive. At the end of the month, after having broken through the Ukrainian defenses, Jozef Haller responded to the Franco-British, parking himself on the front line. In June, the Ukrainians advanced again with some success, but they lacked ammunition. Josef Pilsudski assumed command of Polish forces at the end of June. Two weeks of intense fighting were enough for him to take over the whole of Galicia, throwing a shovel of lime at the national Republic of Western Ukraine, whose government took refuge in Vienna, from where it advocated in vain the formation of a Republic sheltering Ukrainians. , Poles and Jews.

In November 1919, meeting in Paris, from where it dictated the policy of the victors, the High Council of the Peace Conference gave a veneer of legality to the Polish conquest of Galicia. He set a “pro forma” plebiscite for a quarter of a century later and recognized the Ukrainians’ right to autonomy in the eastern region where they were in the majority. Poland knew that this affection of the liberal empires on the people it had defeated was not to be taken seriously. Josef Pilsudski, meanwhile, had begun, this time with the full support of the rulers of Paris and London, a new and decisive stage of his expansionist project: the invasion of eastern Ukraine and Belarus.

*João Quartim de Moraes He is a retired full professor at the Department of Philosophy at Unicamp. Author, among other books, of The military left in Brazil (popular expression)(https://amzn.to/3snSrKg).

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