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2009 | 44 | 5-20

Article title

THE MILITARY POLICY OF THE LIBERAL-DEMOCRATIC GROUPS IN RUSSIA AFTER THE BOLSHEVIK COUP (Polityka wojskowa srodowisk liberalno-demokratycznych na gruncie rosyjskim po przewrocie bolszewickim (listopad 1917 - listopad 1918))


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The Bolshevik coup changed the stand represented by the heretofore political opponents of establishing a Polish army in Russia. The liberal-democratic groups active on Russian soil under the aegis of the Supreme Democratic Committee began to reveal inclinations towards a pertinent agreement with the Polish Council of Inter-party Unification, created by the national democrats. This tendency became discernible already prior to 7 November 1917, and its first symptom were the resolutions passed at the Second Congress of the Polish Democracy, held in October in Petrograd. The change in question was the outcome of three fundamental reasons. The first was the fact that in view of the slight chances for the establishment of a Polish army at home, the Regency Council did not oppose the creation of Polish formations in Russia, especially since 7 November 1917. Secondly, faced with the threat of the Bolshevisation of the Polish military circles, the liberal democrats finally managed to perceive the spontaneous drive among the soldiers towards secession from the Russian army. Thirdly, the liberal-democratic environment was increasingly succumbing to the pressure of the allied conservative groups concentrated around the National Unity Bloc, which placed particular emphasis on the necessity of protecting Polish property and culture in the eastern borderlands against the Bolshevik peril. Conservative politicians maintained that such protection could be guaranteed by Polish armed formations, and thus started to be concerned with the removal of the prime obstacle, i.e. the protests of the liberal democrats. These tendencies in the re-evaluation of the programme lines represented by the liberal-democratic groups and their allies created an opportunity for coming to terms with the Polish Council of Inter-Party Unification. The perspective of embarking upon a joint effort for the creation of a Polish army in Russia became increasingly realistic. The first steps were taken already on 9 November 1917 at a political convention attended by representatives of assorted milieus. Due to the agreement achieved at the convention, its participants established a Polish Security Council, which was to deal with the protection of the property and political interests of Polish citizens in former Polish eastern borderlands. These endeavours, however, did not contribute to obliterating all the mutual antagonisms and programme differences. One of the reasons was the fact that the patrons of the majority of the undertakings pertaining to security were the heretofore political opponents of the Polish Council. Activity was displayed predominantly by the right wing, and especially its members concentrated around the Polish Council of the Land of Minsk and Mohylew and the Polish Council in Livonia. This tendency disturbed the national democrats, anxious about its impact. Although this state of affairs was an essential factor hampering the realisation of a harmonious cooperation of the Polish political environments in Russia, it was by no means the only one. Other factors included the attitude towards the two warring sides in Europe. The liberal-democratic groups and the right wing active on Russian soil invariably supported a neutral stand towards the global conflict. In practice, however, they consistently supported the activist option, which initially denoted backing the Austro-Polish solution, and then was replaced by an analogous Polish-German option. Another consequence of basing the solution of the Polish question on the evolving activist conception was the acceptance of the fact that the First Polish Corps went over to the German side and recognized the supremacy of the Regency Council. The liberal democrats welcomed this step with enthusiasm, and immediately defended General Jozef Dowbor-Musnicki against the charges of treason formulated by the Polish Council. The liberal-democratic activists regarded the decision made by the commander of the Corps as the only way to shield the soldiers from Bolshevik agitation. The propagation of such views by the liberal democrats denoted in practice the elimination of all chances for a campaign conducted jointly with the national democrats and supporting the Polish corps set up in Ukraine and Bessarabia. The only domain, which still managed to preserve the cooperation initiated at the convention of 9 November 1917, was the united front against the agitators from the Social Democracy of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania and the Polish Socialist Party-Leftwing Faction. The Second Congress of the Military Left Wing, which took place on 11-19 December 1917 in Petrograd, became the scene of a battle for predominance among the Polish military under the Chief Committee of the Military Unions of the Polish Left Wing. The military adherents of the liberal democratic groups as well as the leaders of this milieu, present at the convention among the members of assorted political groups, tried to steer the debates at all cost in such a way so that the resolutions passed in their course would not determine the decisions of the Polish soldiers to choose the revolutionary side of the barricade. This objective, however, was not attained. The new leaders, recruited from the activists of the Polish Revolutionary Soldiers' Club, headed by Roman Lagwa, initiated their activity with closer cooperation with the Commissariat for Polish Affairs and the accompanying Council for Revolutionary-Democratic Organisations. The outcome of this decision entailed the establishment of collaboration with the central and local organisations of the Soviet authorities. The ensuing situation predicted the independence of the newly elected Chief Committee from the impact of the liberal democrats. The final blow to the latter's military policies was dealt by the Bolsheviks, who impeded the activity of the Representation of the Regency Council, headed by Aleksander Lednicki.


  • Instytut Historii UwB, Plac Uniwersytecki 1, 15 -420 Bialystok, Poland


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