Grigory Zinoviev, born and raised in central Ukraine, visits after Poland’s offensive on Kiev in April, 1920 and wrote this report of his meetings and impressions. First published in “Izvestia” and “Pravda” of June 2, 1920.
‘The Polish War in Ukraine and the Don Territory’ by Grigory Zinoviev from Soviet Russia (New York). Vol. 3 No. 9. August 28, 1920.
“If the Polish gentlemen did not exist it would be necessary to invent them.” Beginning with this formula I find it easier to recount the impressions I obtained from my trip through Ukraine and the Don district.
The whole population in the towns, with the exception of the Polish spies, who are paid, and the men who are otherwise profiteering, is entirely on our side in our war against the Polish league of nobility.
Among the workers at Kharkov the Mensheviki have hitherto had a certain influence. At one of the most important factories in the town, engaged in the manufacture of locomotives, the Mensheviki received at the election to the Soviet of Kharkov a few months ago, about two-thirds of all the votes. In the Kharkov Soviet the Mensheviki have 200 delegates of the entire thousand there. The situation has already changed, and continues to change daily.
Some little time ago I had an opportunity to attend a labor meeting at this same locomotive factory, in addition to a few thousand locomotive workers, there were workers gathered from six nearby factories, making in all a gathering of 8,000 men. The Mensheviki had sent their speakers, who had unlimited freedom of speech. These speakers adapted themselves to the sentiment among the workers. They spoke against the Poles, they declared that they would go to the front to defend the Soviet Power in its struggle against the Polish bourgeoisie, and they made only one “change” in our resolution. The alteration reads as follows: “To win an increased success in the struggle of the Soviet Power against the Poles, all Socialist parties must form one front. It is necessary that the Communists take the initiative in this union…”
Obviously, on this basis, it would appear easy to win at least some of the workers, especially those who for one reason or another had hitherto belonged with the Mensheviki. But the workers immediately apprehended the Polish tone, and understood that if the Mensheviki were honestly willing to fight against the Poles, no special agreements about unity in the matter would be necessary. And the large meeting demonstratively rejected the change of the Mensheviki leaders, with a crushing majority, and joined our side.
Such is the situation in the railroad and other factories. The Mensheviki loudly declare that they are for the Soviet power at the present time, and that they are ready to go out and fight against the Poles. But at the All-Ukrainian Congress they were conspicuous by their absence, because they were insulted that the Soviet of Kharkov had not given them a minority representation. The workers of Kharkov had understood that one can see anything except honesty and consistency in the present attitude of the Mensheviki towards the Russian-Polish war. And those places which a few months ago elected Mensheviki to the Soviet of Kharkov are now recalling one after another of the Mensheviki delegates and replacing them with our party comrades. The sentiment among the workers is everywhere the same, a concentrated increasing hatred for the Polish gentlemen who have interrupted us in our peaceful reconstruction.
A labor meeting at Lugansk, which was attended by 20,000 people, was aroused to passionate demonstration at the mere mention of the Polish bourgeois forces. Among the rural workers in Nikitovka, where 10,000 people had gathered at a meeting, the same condition existed. The labor meeting at Rostov was especially grand. We had not had in a long time such an audience to address. Upon the immense open place outside the town not less than 40,000 people had assembled. A real proletarian audience. And everyone was animated by the same thought, to defeat the Poles and to assist the Soviet power. A half-hearted attempt of an anarchist to bring about dissension met with unanimous opposition among the assembly. For fifteen minutes after the meeting was over it was impossible to leave the place, young and old participating in an improvised enthusiastic demonstration for the Communists.
But the sentiment among the peasants is of still greater importance. Our chief difficulty in Ukraine up to that time had been that we lacked sufficient support among the population in that country. And now we can say “there is nothing so bad but that there is some good in it.” The campaign of Petlura and Pilsudski has, without doubt, created a closer connection between the peasants and us. One must have seen the numerous peasant representatives at the fourth congress, one must have heard the delegates who came from the governments of Kharkov and Poltava, and who appeared at the Congress and made their simple but sincere speeches against Polish gentlemen, one must have read the numerous resolutions which came from the peasant meetings out in the country districts, and one must have been at the congress when the manifesto concerning the Polish offensive was read, which went through the whole audience like an electric thrill. One must have seen the peasants from the vicinity of Kharkov, assembling with rapture to the banner consecration of the Ukrainian Republic, one must have seen the recently mobilized men from the district of Kharkov, — in number 120 per cent larger than estimated. It is clear to the Ukrainian peasants that Petlura and Pilsudski have split Ukraine into three parts, one for the Poles and two for the Ukrainian land owners. These Polish and Ukrainian gentlemen have already this year confiscated the crops from the farms of the peasants. The peasants understand, and that is enough.
Soviet Russia began in the summer of 1919, published by the Bureau of Information of Soviet Russia and replaced The Weekly Bulletin of the Bureau of Information of Soviet Russia. In lieu of an Embassy the Russian Soviet Government Bureau was the official voice of the Soviets in the US. Soviet Russia was published as the official organ of the RSGB until February 1922 when Soviet Russia became to the official organ of The Friends of Soviet Russia, becoming Soviet Russia Pictorial in 1923. There is no better US-published source for information on the Soviet state at this time, and includes official statements, articles by prominent Bolsheviks, data on the Soviet economy, weekly reports on the wars for survival the Soviets were engaged in, as well as efforts to in the US to lift the blockade and begin trade with the emerging Soviet Union.
PDF of full issue: https://www.marxists.org/history/usa/pubs/srp/v3n08-aug-21-1920-soviet-russia.pdf