From The Marxist Archives -The Revolutionary History Journal-Poland-Ludwig Hass
Every once in a while it is beneficial to go back to the archives to see what our political forebears were up to. And since we are very much in a period where the study of Marxist classics, and socialist concepts in general, is on the order of the day Trotsky, a central leader of world socialism in the first half of the 20th century, has something to tell us about how to organize those inquiries.
THE PARIS MILITANT
Published: Fourth International, Autumn 1959
Trotsky stayed in France at various periods, but it was only during the two years he spent in Paris during the First World War that he could operate as a militant free to move about as well as to speak and write. That freedom was only relative, because it was that of the state of siege and censorship, but in that he was in the same boat as the French themselves, and what may here seem paradoxical is easily explained by reference to what the situation then was. In Vienna, where he had been living at that period, Russia’s entry into war had made him an enemy alien, whereas in France the “alliance” protected him, while at the same time Paris would be for him the best combat post in the hard struggle for the defense of socialism. Experience showed that this reasoning was correct: for nearly two years he was able to battle just as much among the French workers as in the emigré circles. If it all ended badly – by expulsion – there also Trotsky shared the fate of his French comrades at a time when the growth of opposition to war worried the government and led it to take open measures of repression. In his case, Petrograd was giving orders to Paris, for the expulsion, several times requested already, was finally demanded – in which Stalin was later to repeat Czarist policy, and on two occasions.
On his way toward France, Trotsky’s first stop-over was Zurich. He lingered there, staying three months, so warm and encouraging was the welcome he received from the section of the Socialist Party. In those first days of August, the Swiss socialists were, like those of all countries, overwhelmed by the collapse of the International; but, not being involved in mobilization, they were all there, especially the youth, discussing, trying to understand the meaning of the war amid the confusion created and maintained by rival propaganda. Trotsky brought them the stimulant they needed to keep clear heads. Like them he had gone through the German school of socialism: its Social-Democracy was not a party of the International but the party par excellence – one more reason for fighting mercilessly against the betrayal of its chiefs. Their collapse was a tragedy and, at first glance, the outlook was very sombre; that might lead to erroneous conclusions. But what was this war? A clash of imperialisms, of two great formations of antagonists. Of course, but there was a deeper and general meaning: the war marked the revolt of the forces of production against the outdated political form of the nation and the state; and, as the Socialist Parties were in fact national parties, they collapsed with it. Conclusion: all efforts to save the Second International would be useless; it was not socialism, however, that had collapsed, but its temporary external historic form.
An eyewitness, a member of the section and a participant in these discussions, Fritz Brupbacher, wrote later that, with Trotsky’s arrival at Zurich, life was renewed in the workers’ movement, and that his influence had such a power of attraction that they wanted to give him the mandate to represent the section at the next congress of the party. Though Switzerland. would have afforded him a less exposed place of refuge, it was in the heart of a France at war that Trotsky wanted to settle: he wrote in haste a pamphlet in which, under the title Der Krieg und die Internationale, he assembled and developed the ideas that he had just been setting forth to the Zurich socialists, a pamphlet that was so substantial and still so timely that in 1918 an enterprising American publisher made a whole book out of its translation into English.
In Paris there was another paradox: it was through the Vie Ouvière, a revolutionary syndicalist organ, that Trotsky’s liaison, neither ephemeral nor accidental, with the workers’ movement, functioned. Yet there was a Socialist Party there that persisted in calling itself the “French Section of the Workers’ International” but when Trotsky, for a specific purpose, went to the offices of the party’s daily newspaper, he there found its leaders, Cachin among others, going along with the current as usual, therefore ultra-chauvinist; after a few useless attempts at discussion, they made it clear to him that he was an undesirable: they expelled him from l’Humanité before rejoicing to see him later expelled from France by Briand.
As soon as he had found a possible boarding-house – in the Pare Montsouris neighborhood, one of the emigré quarters of Paris – he sent for his family, Natalia and the two sons Leon and Sergei, to join him; from then on he could organize his activity in such a way as to be able to carry out successfully what was going to be his triple task. The articles that he was sending to the Kievskaia Mysl obliged him to follow closely both French politics and military operations: he was a skilled newspaper-reader, and quickly understood what each represented and what must be expected of it. As for parliamentary life, it was then so limited, so non-existent, that the government had to be sought out rather at Chantilly (General Headquarters) than at Paris. But his articles also gave him the opportunity of making research field trips throughout France, of meeting socialist and trade-union militants, of sounding out the state of mind of the average Frenchman: conversations with a Liège anarchist had enabled him to learn about and give an exact description of the resistance movement that had set a notable part of the population – and even the anarchists – against the German troops.
The main work of the day was, naturally, Nashé Slovo, the newspaper, and the group that gravitated round it. The editors met every morning at the printshop in the rue des Feuillantines to discuss that day’s issue and prepare tomorrow’s, on the basis of information that came in, and of discussions about the conceptions defended by the various tendencies of Russian socialism, of polemics with the “defensists” and also with Lenin, who, from Geneva, was defending his own position with vigor and even brutality. Martov, right from the beginning, had been, before Trotsky’s arrival, a sort of editor-in-chief; his anti-war attitude had helped to bring him close to the other sectors of the opposition. It did not correspond however, to that of the majority of the Mensheviks whose representative to the International Socialist Bureau he was; he was embarrassed thereby, to the extent of being unable to accept having certain questions even raised and discussed such as that of a new International. The clashes with Trotsky grew gradually more frequent and sharp, and as it was evident that Trotsky better expressed the conceptions of the paper’s editorship, Martov resigned and left for Switzerland.
It was through him that the first contact had been made between the Russian socialists in Paris and the centre of opposition, then numerically tiny, represented by the Vie Ouvière; a letter he had written to Gustave Hervé, which the latter had published, had been the occasion for their meeting. And it was he also who announced to us the forthcoming arrival of Trotsky and who brought him around as soon as he did arrive. We used to meet in the evening, once a week, and when our little group was reinforced by these new allies, our horizon, until then sombre, lightened up. With Trotsky and Martov there came Dridzo-Losovsky, long settled in Paris, and a Polish socialist, Lapinsky. When, one evening, the Swiss socialist, Grimm, accompanied them, there could be conceived a rebirth of proletarian internationalism, and we already began arrangements which ensured us serious international liaisons, since, through the Swiss, it would he possible for us to remain in contact with the German opposition.
Of these meetings Raymond Lefebvre painted a faithful picture in the preface to L’Eponge de vinaigre. They were kept up all winter, but were abruptly ended when the government profited by a revision of draft exemptions to call up all known oppositionals who had escaped conscription and send them to the armies. At that moment the idea of an international conference had already taken sufficiently specific form so that practical preparations for holding it were being thought out. It was known that inside the French Socialist Party discontent was growing against the nationalist and pro-government policy which the leadership was integrally imposing on the party; a manifestation of this discontent and its importance was the position taken by one of the best provincial federations, that of the Haute-Vienne, and rendered public by a report signed by all the federations’ elected office-holders. The socialists of Nashé Slovo hastened to make contact with some of them who happened to be in Paris. Meetings were held at Dridzo’s place: they were not very encouraging, for the Limousins, though very firm in their criticism of the betrayal of socialism, shied away when we talked about the action that must be taken, obsessed by fear of a split, which they absolutely refused to face. The arrival in Paris of the Italian socialist Morgari, in search of participants in the future international conference, brought about the last meeting. Trotsky has amusingly described in My Life how, when Morgari suddenly spoke of underground activity, the worthy Limousins hastened to disappear. It was impossible to think of adding to the French delegation: Merrheim and Bourderon remained alone to represent the opposition, though, for that period, they represented it very well, even if they refused, despite Trotsky’s friendly insistence, to go further than their resolution at the confederal conference, which had, however, become insufficient, for it no longer corresponded to a situation that events were changing every day.
At Zimmerwald, the already known tendencies became specific. Lenin wanted acts: refusal of war credits by the Socialist parliamentarians; preparation of the new International; appeals to the workers for anti-war demonstrations. As against this clearly defined programme, the Italians set up a waiting policy: they refused to consider that the Second International was dead already; they wished for a rapprochement with the German centre (Kautsky-Bernstein) ; that was also the position of the Mensheviks. Trotsky was in agreement with Lenin (except on the question of defeatism), but he was in a position to understand better than Lenin what it was possible to ask of the conference at that stage: his Paris activity had permitted him to measure the strength of the opposition; in the same way, through his contacts with Grimm and Morgari, he knew exactly the current conceptions of the Swiss and Italian leaderships, of whom it could not be said that they did not represent the feelings of the rank and file. His speeches seemed so convincing that, at the end of the discussions, he was entrusted with the task of drafting the manifesto, which all the delegates approved. Lenin was not entirely satisfied, but that did not prevent him from considering that it was “a step forward,” and that one could be satisfied with that much for the moment.
This fortunate outcome of the conference was going to permit Trotsky to find in France a base for his activity. The manifesto restored confidence, and the opposition, till then skeletonic and dispersed, penetrated into the workers’ movement. A committee had been created for the revival of international relations; its plenary meetings brought together a growing number of militants; one of its most active members was Trotsky, who soon dominated it. Its secretary was Merrheim; with the Metal-Workers’ Federation behind him, he had, right from the beginning, courageously carried on the fight against the confederation’s leadership; now he became too prudent, already disturbed at seeing the committee drive further than he had decided to go. And so he opposed all proposals made by Trotsky to carry the activity of the committee out into public, taking up again at every session his suggestion for creating a Bulletin, indispensable for the committee’s own life, for circulating information verbally communicated during the meetings which it was important to take down and make known to all those who, in the trade unions and in the Socialist sections, were beginning to break away from the lies and illusions by which they had been lulled in order to drag them into the war. Merrheim resisted, grew impatient when he saw the ascendancy that Trotsky was winning over the assembly, but he could do nothing against his clear comments on events, fed by an exceptional experience, against a well-reasoned revolutionary optimism that carried conviction. At the end of the meetings, militants of all tendencies, socialists, anarchists, syndicalists, approached Trotsky, questioning him about points which were not yet clear to them; dates were arranged to permit continuing such fruitful conversations. One of them, F. Loriot, a member of the Socialist Party, definitively won over to the opposition, whose leadership he was to take within the party, wrote a pamphlet whose contents he had studied out with Trotsky, Les socialistes de Zimmerwald et la guerre, which took its place among the clandestine publications of the committee.
The Czarist government could not understand how an ally could allow a newspaper like Nashé Slovo to he published on its territory. On several occasions it had asked that the paper be suppressed and its editors imprisoned. The operation was difficult, being contrary to the policy of the French government at that period, when the Socialist ministers were explaining that persecution of the opposition could only aid it by making it better known – much better to stifle it by censorship. A grave incident that took place among the Russian detachments brought to France at the request of the French government was to he the occasion of an intervention that was this time decisive. The soldiers of this detachment were subjected, in France, to a regime that the surroundings rendered unbearable; the officers treated them like brute beasts. A soldier, slapped in the face by a colonel, retorted with such ardour that death ensued. Nashé Slovo, declared responsible, was immediately prohibited, and an order of expulsion announced to Trotsky. Different interventions enabled him to gain a little time and to try to choose the place to which he was to be deported. All was in vain. The family was then living in the Gobelins quarter, quite close to the hall of the Reine-Blanche, where there had taken place the deeply moving August 1914 meeting at which the various Russian parties tore one another apart, the “defensists” signing enlistment papers in the French army. It was here that two policemen came to take him and conduct him to the Spanish border. But even from Cadiz, where he was stopping temporarily, Trotsky found the means of participating once more in the committee for the revival of international relations, and precisely on the occasion of the pamphlet that he had prepared with Loriot. The growing influence of Zimmerwald had led the minorityites in the Socialist Party to organize themselves on an extremely moderate basis, their position not being essentially differenciable from that of the chauvinists of the leadership, of which they denounced only the “excesses.” This semiopposition represented a danger; there was a risk that it would get some Zimmerwaldists to make a bloc with it against the leadership – which the pamphlet had foreseen. And so complaints arose from the minorityite members, accusing the Zimmerwaldists of “dividing” the opposition. One of these criticisms was communicated to Trotsky, who replied immediately: “Political forces are not ‘divided’ by clarity any more than they are added together by confusion. Three viewpoints, three motions: clarity is political honesty.” And so ended, in an exceptional prolongation, his career as a Paris militant.
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Peter Paul Markin comment on this series:
This is an excellent documentary source for today’s leftist militants to “discover” the work of our forebears, particularly the bewildering myriad of tendencies which have historically flown under the flag of the great Russian revolutionary, Leon Trotsky and his Fourth International, whether one agrees with their programs or not. But also other laborite, semi-anarchist, ant-Stalinist and just plain garden-variety old school social democrat groupings and individual pro-socialist proponents.
Some, maybe most of the material presented here, cast as weak-kneed programs for struggle in many cases tend to be anti-Leninist as screened through the Stalinist monstrosities and/or support groups and individuals who have no intention of making a revolution. Or in the case of examining past revolutionary efforts either declare that no revolutionary possibilities existed (most notably Germany in 1923) or alibi, there is no other word for it, those who failed to make a revolution when it was possible.
The Spanish Civil War can serve as something of litmus test for this latter proposition, most infamously around attitudes toward the Party Of Marxist Unification's (POUM) role in not keeping step with revolutionary developments there, especially the Barcelona days in 1937 and by acting as political lawyers for every non-revolutionary impulse of those forebears. While we all honor the memory of the POUM militants, according to even Trotsky the most honest band of militants in Spain then, and decry the murder of their leader, Andreas Nin, by the bloody Stalinists they were rudderless in the storm of revolution. But those present political disagreements do not negate the value of researching the POUM’s (and others) work, work moreover done under the pressure of revolutionary times. Hopefully we will do better when our time comes.
Finally, I place some material in this space which may be of interest to the radical public that I do not necessarily agree with or support. Off hand, as I have mentioned before, I think it would be easier, infinitely easier, to fight for the socialist revolution straight up than some of the “remedies” provided by the commentators in these entries from the Revolutionary History journal in which they have post hoc attempted to rehabilitate some pretty hoary politics and politicians, most notably August Thalheimer and Paul Levy of the early post Liebknecht-Luxemburg German Communist Party. But part of that struggle for the socialist revolution is to sort out the “real” stuff from the fluff as we struggle for that more just world that animates our efforts. So read, learn, and try to figure out the
wheat from the chaff.
The first article originally appeared in the April 1966 edition of Kuhura, a Polish-language journal published in Paris, and was translated into English for inclusion in International Socialism no.27, Winter 1966-67, pp.22-5, by E. Sanspere, who added the first paragraph and footnotes.
The second item is the history of the Polish Trotskyists during the inter-war years written by Hass himself, which is translated from his pamphlet Ruch bolszewikowleninistovv (IV Miedzynarodowka) w Polsce do 1945r. Added to it is a translation of the abstract of his speech in German to the International Trotsky Symposium held at Wuppertal from 26 to 30 March this year. It was delivered under the title of Trotzkis Schriften in Polen der Zwischenkriegszeit, and adds valuable background detail on the extent to which the Polish organisation, working all the time under conditions of illegality, had access to the material issued by Trotsky during this time.
At the time of his arrest Hass exercised a major influence on the then Socialist Jacek Kuron, who has now taken a portfolio in the Solidarity government, and Karol Modzelewski, well known for their Open Letter, with its ‘new class’ analysis of Polish society. The most convenient version of this is contained in Revolutionary Marxist Students in Poland Speak Out, Pathfinder, New York 1970, for bound up along with it are Antoni Zambrowski’s Reply to the Control Commission of the United Workers Party, and Isaac Deutscher’s Open Letter to Wladyslaw Gomulka and the Central Committee of the Polish Workers Party, protesting at the arrests. Deutscher had already provided the background history of the party in his essay The Tragedy of the Polish Communist Party, 1958. Both of these can be found in Deutscher’s Marxism, Wars and Revolutions, London, 1984, pp91-131.
Outlines of the events in Poland from 1944 to 1956 that can be conveniently consulted are to be found in Chris Harman, Class Struggles in Eastern Europe, London 1988, pp.26-7, 29-30 and 88-118 (reviewed below by Al Richardson), and Ian Birchall, Workers Against the Monolith, London 1974, pp.100-11 . The main documents produced by this ferment are collected together by Jean-Jacques Marie and Balazs Nagy (Michel Varga) in Pologne-Hongrie 1956, Paris 1966.
A number of small pieces by Trotsky circulated in Poland in addition to those mentioned by Hass. One was his Preface to the Polish Edition of Lenin’s Left Wing Communism: An Infantile Disorder, 6 October 1932, Writings of Leon Trotsky 1932, New York 1973, pp.221-7. In 1932 Isaac Deutscher published a transcript of Trotsky's speech to the special commission of the Communist International in July 1926 on the support given by the Polish Communist Party for Pilsudski's coup d'etat, together with a preface written for it by Trotsky on 4 August 1932, entitled Pilsudskism, Fascism and the Character of Our Epoch, Writings of Leon Trotsky 1932, pp.156-65 and n206, p390. (Cf 'Bonapartism and Fascism', 15 July 1934, Writings of Leon Trotsky 1934-35, New York 1971, p.56 and n56, pp.329-30, and Isaac Deutscher, The Prophet Outcast, Oxford 1970, p.276, n1).
There was, of course, other material written by Trotsky for the internal information of the Polish Trotskyists. In his Greetings to the Polish Opposition, 31 August 1932, Writings of Leon Trotsky 1932, pp.180-1, he mentions the ‘double illegality’ of Pilsudski and Stalin under which the Polish revolutionaries were operating, as well as making reference to their circulation of other Trotskyist literature. On 22 August 1933 he wrote to the Polish comrades to assure them that the discussions for a common platform with the left Socialist and Communist parties (ILP, SAP etc) did not imply any endorsement of the group associated with them in Poland, Dr Joseph Kruk’s Independent Socialist Labour Party (Reassuring the Polish Section, Writings of Leon Trotsky: Supplement 1929-33, New York 1979, pp.275-6), and three further letters were written to them on 28 February and 18 and 28 July 1935 to acquaint them with the affairs and orientation of the international Trotskyist movement (Centrist Combinations and Marxist Tactics, Writings of Leon Trotsky 1934-35, New York 1971, pp.199-205, and Perspectives in Poland, Writings of Leon Trotsky 1935-36, New York 1977, pp44-8).
1. Ludwik HassLudwik Hass, together with several others, was arrested in April 1965 for publishing a pamphlet criticising the Polish government and was sentenced to three and a half years imprisonment in January 1966. He was tried separately from his comrades and they appeared in each others’ trials as witnesses, the apparent object being to place each in a position where he would either commit perjury or incriminate his friends. At the trial of two of them, Modzelewski and Kuron, Hass (although a ‘witness’) was brought to the courtroom in handcuffs. A demonstration took place in which he participated – singing the Internationale and giving the clenched fist salute to the defendants in the dock. During the trial, rather than play down the evidence in order not to incriminate his friends, he stressed the international connections of the group. Jedlicki believes that this line may have been agreed by them beforehand and that Hass on no account wanted to risk the group appearing isolated and unimportant.
Ludwik Hass was born in 1919 or 1920. Before the war he began his studies at Lvov university. There, he entered the KPP (Polish Communist Party) but remained a member only briefly. Disillusioned, he became associated with a Trotskyist group active at the university. He was co-author of the Polish Trotskyist protest against the dissolution of the KPP.  This would have been sufficient to have cost him his life when the Russians entered Poland in 1939, but owing to an administrative error, he was mistaken for his father and given eight years imprisonment plus ‘free exile’ in Russia for life, a standard sentence given by the occupation authorities to politically inconvenient persons. He was sent to Vorkuta prison labour camp. According to his own accounts he endured this solely by watching the camp accountant at work. He learnt accounting in this way and subsequently earned his keep during his ‘exile’.
In exile, he reported weekly to the NKVD , but in spite of this obligation he made some daring excursions into the centre of Russia by train. I think that, as usual, he was less afraid than most people, at least, less afraid than the loyal, innocent Communists. He could always derive satisfaction from the fact that, however he was treated and whatever was done to him, this only confirmed his analysis and predictions on the inevitable evolution of a bureaucratic state, a new class, etc. But above all he had an unusual capacity for physical endurance which, it seems, is an entirely different thing from physical strength, since Hass was physically weak.
In 1956 Hass applied for rehabilitation. The case dragged on, but finally the public prosecutor gave in. In 1957 Hass appeared in Warsaw. After arriving in Warsaw he made two important decisions. Firstly, he joined the Party (now the PZPR); secondly, he entered the History Department of Warsaw University to resume his studies where he had left them in Lvov.
PartyHass had no illusions about the Party he was joining. His attitude to the Party he once summarised by saying: the Party exists in order to realise the social revolution and consequently a Party which does not do this or is not suited to do this should be dissolved. It should be remembered that at this time, the Party had literally been struck dumb. The whole theory revolved around a few flat orthodox phrases: “the vanguard and leadership of the nation”; “the rights of the State”; “the love of nation and motherland”; “political common sense”; “economic incentives”. It was like the old BBWR  before the war, only more conservative, since in the BBWR, there was at least a minority which expected Pilsudski  to implement social reforms. Nothing was expected of Gomulka  except moderation and manoeuvres to sustain the achieved tolerable status quo. Apart from that, it was the time just before the gentle post-October purge which rid the Party of the last few reasonably worthwhile elements. I distantly remember some story told me by Hass about the kind of transactions which took place in special shops open only to Party members. These shops sold products which were either much more expensive elsewhere or else unavailable altogether (e.g. cosmetics, towels, rubber macs, etc.). In order to cover the embarrassment of this ‘special’ transaction the buyer would use a pre-arranged password like “tell me, comrade, what do you wash with?” or “tell me, comrade, what do you wipe yourself with?” How could Hass deceive himself into thinking that a Party which had acquired these habits (to the exclusion of other habits) could have anything to do with social revolution? The term ‘revolution’ he understood literally, not figuratively. Only a few months after his arrival from Vorkuta, he took part in street demonstrations in Warsaw in October 1957. This fact testifies to his loyalties in the permanent war between Party and people. I should say that Hass was above the increasingly popular ‘positivist’ self-justification, of the kind: outside the Party one is condemned to inactivity, or membership of the Party is a condition for achieving anything constructive, or boycott of the Party leaves it open to takeover by the least worthwhile elements; we must enter the Party in order to civilise it; and so on. It is certain that he did not wish to relieve his isolation as a single unattached repatriate. Hass remained a simple poorly-paid official, at first in the Central Directory of Archives, later in the Historical Bureau of the Central Association of Trade Unions. He never exploited his Party card. He never belonged to an influential clique which aimed at increasing its comforts in life. Hass scorned such things. I never asked Hass his motives for joining the Party, but I can responsibly say that they were quite plain to me. For one thing, he did not enter the Party without striking a bargain. Considering the conditions, he gained something quite splendid: the recognition of his membership of the Party since 1938. I remind the reader that Hass left the Party voluntarily and entered the Trotskyist group. Logically the recognition of his membership formed the precedent for the recognition of Trotskyism as an authentic part of the Communist movement, a precedent for the rehabilitation of Trotskyism. Admittedly, the standards of logic in the PZPR are low, and Hass certainly knew this. I wonder what was in the minds of the ‘comrades’ when they agreed to Hass’ request? They might have thought that the PZPR would corrupt Hass as it had corrupted others, so it was safer to admit him. However, Hass had no intention of being corrupted, and in this world of absurdity, he began to apply logic. Loudly and publicly he proclaimed that he was a Trotskyist and that he was a member of the PZPR as a Trotskyist. Did this tactic get him anywhere, or could it ever do so? One must remember the situation in 1957. No one could yet predict how far the process of transforming the Communist movement would go. No one could know what opposition this process would encounter, what compromises it would have to make. Formally the dogma of ‘a return to Leninism’ held. Whatever one thinks of Leninism and however one judges it, the 1957 PZPR was very far from a return to it. The situation offered, as far as the Communist world was concerned, a fairly strong starting point for internal opposition to the Party. It was easy to see that something was amiss with ‘the unity of theory and practice’. A strong Party could easily have defended itself from such opposition. But the Party was weak, internally divided, and its morale was low. Only one condition was necessary for exerting this kind of pressure: one had to know what Lenin had wanted, what he had stated, and what he had opposed. The Communists did not know, for they had mastered with much skill the art of reading and quoting without understanding. The anti-Communists did not know; to them Lenin and Stalin were the same kind of devil. Hass knew. Quoting Lenin and Marx can only be greeted as a revelation in the Communist world. In the West the classics of Marxism are, after all, read and well known.
Hass thought that the process of de-Stalinisation was very important, and watched it with avid concentration. He had no illusions. He saw decisions being made which were mere stopgaps, the continual withdrawal a quarter of the way, the continual evasions. He had no illusions that de-Stalinisation executed from the top would lead to anything. But he saw that even de-Stalinisation from the top gave opportunities to ask awkward questions and bring up touchy subjects. His aim was to bring about not only a revision of the past, but also a revision of the present. A Party of loyal, subservient Government officials and towel salesmen was not the ideal field for this kind of activity, but in 1957 no one could know where the wheels of de-Stalinisation would stop once they had been set turning.
NationalOne more aspect of Hass’ life is fairly important: his national feeling. Hass was a Jew. He had lived on the Eastern borders of Poland, where Jews tended to be assimilated into the prevailing Russian culture rather than the Polish one. This, together with his long exile in Russia and his marriage to a Russian woman, meant that he spoke Russian at home and, especially at first, found Polish difficult. When he applied for rehabilitation in 1956, it would have been quite feasible for him to stay in Russia or to go to Israel. He did not have a family in Poland – they had all been murdered by the Germans. He is thus essentially a Pole by choice. Sometimes I think he chose badly. I am not concerned so much with the fact that, as a consequence of his decision, Hass has again gone to prison for a long time, because Hass never thought in terms of his own skin. What I mean is that if he had chosen differently perhaps he would not have been condemned to such isolation, and perhaps his choice would have been more widely recognised and appreciated. Nowadays the idea of nationality is increasingly often equated with an acceptance of a certain set of beliefs. Words like ‘un-American’ or ‘anti-Soviet’ are evidence of this attitude. ‘A Pole’ is, by definition, generally regarded (by other Poles) as a gentleman who cares for Polish interests above all, regards ‘not rocking the boat’ as a holy obligation, supports the Oder-Neisse line , regards the German border revisionists as Enemy Number One, and does not permit others to disparage Poland. Hass did not hold with this ‘Polish creed’ at all, and publicly said so.
I know that for many, Hass’ concept of Polish nationality will not be acceptable. I am not concerned here so much with simple Jew-baiters who will never forgive Hass for not being Nordic. I am more concerned with those who think that such things as language and place of habitation are merely superficial signs of nationality, and that a more important aspect exists in terms of a willingness to subject oneself to some kind of discipline and sacrifice one’s own individuality to a ‘national interest’, namely all the things which Hass rejected. However, Hass's idea of nationality, although different from this, by no means confined itself to questions of language and geographical location. His Polish nationhood continually expressed itself in such things as a stubborn reiteration of the responsibility of the Polish government for the pacification of eastern Galicia  (before and after the War), and for the forcible resettlement of Ukrainians and Germans.  He had similar attitudes towards the Western territories, holding, in the spirit of Lenin and Rosa Luxemburg, that the Potsdam annexation  of these territories was a partition treaty in true imperialist style. Theoretically speaking, as an international Communist he should have cared equally about the repression of the Kurds in Iraq or the Pathans in Pakistan. However, the oppression of the Ukrainians by the Polish Government clearly interested him far more than either the Pathans or the Kurds. Theoretically also he could have been interested equally in the massacres of Poles by the Ukrainians – he knew of these and had not the slightest intention of denying them. However, he was much more interested in the massacre of the Ukrainians by the Poles – for he was chiefly interested in Poland and did not want to see it as an oppressor of other nations or a camp for forcibly resettled people. Hass continually challenged the classical idea of patriotism by loudly proclaiming unpleasant facts which traditional patriots would rather forget. He identified himself unreservedly with the oppressed minorities in Poland - even such unpopular ones as the Ukrainians and Germans. However strange this may seem to traditional patriots, I can only say that he understood his nationhood in just this ‘unpatriotic’, ‘anti-nationalist’ and ‘treacherous’ manner.
CriticismHass’ Trotskyism should also be discussed. Trotskyists are often regarded as Stalinists who lost. It is said that if Trotsky and his supporters had not been defeated, they would have used the same methods of terrorism and dictatorship as Stalin. Their criticism of Stalin is regarded as a propaganda tactic on the same lines as the Stalinist criticism of Auschwitz. This is not the only source of their unpopularity. Trotskyists are generally regarded as typically emigre, salon politicians, their hair-splitting discussions dealing with questions which exist only in their own minds and which lead them from factional split to factional split. Many regard Trotskyists as a group operating with outdated concepts, unaware that times have changed and that their dogmas no longer apply to the modern world.
All these criticisms were levelled at Hass. I am not here to discuss whether they are justified in relationship to Trotskyists in general, for the article is about Hass, not about Trotsky. However I can show that as applied to Hass these remarks were completely untrue and unjustified.
Let us begin with the simplest – the assertion that someone is a salon politician and spends his time splitting hairs; this is quite stupid if the person is risking his neck. Such criticism of Trotskyists may be justified in Paris or New York (and even then not always) but levelled at Trotskyists in Warsaw or Vorkuta it is simply nonsense. Such criticism is a symptom of ‘neo-positivism’, a theory currently popular in Poland, that one should ‘talk’ less and ‘act’ more. If one is to treat such a theory seriously, one could say it completely misses the point and that exerting an influence on public opinion is a legitimate form of activity and not mere ‘talk6. Less seriously, one could say that what this theory really says is ‘listen and don't upset the Government by asking awkward questions’.
The allegation of operating with concepts from a past century is also completely untrue. My main motive in writing this article is not to record Hass’ heroism or dedication, but stems from my conviction that he was of greater value than all these ‘positivists’, was far more aware of reality, and had a far better analysis of the present situation. One of Hass’ basic attitudes was that this ‘regard for reality’ was not a legitimate political attitude but merely a means to get moral comfort when one’s political conscience was not quite clean. It is an illustration of Hass’ better understanding of the current situation that, probably as a result of what he had seen in Russia, he was able to forsee this crisis of theory and the rise of political ‘positivism’.
Finally, the criticism that Hass was an unsuccessful Stalinist – a supporter of dictatorship and terrorism. His understanding of the problems of leadership he expressed in several ways. He felt nothing but contempt for Gomulka’s corrupt regime. He had no illusions about October, and knew that the Party was still quite free to use the whip or the carrot as it pleased. He once said that a return to normal bourgeois parliamentary democracy would, in Poland, be a step forward. This does not say anything about his attitude to the West, with which he did not identify himself at all. The whole question he considered in the light of a choice between the lesser of two evils. However, this opinion states a lot about his attitude towards Gomulka. As well as this, continually and stubbornly, he brought up discussion on such matters as the social gap between the ruling group and the nation; the paradox of a great dignitary of impeccable manners teaching the ‘plebs’ the advantages of Socialism; the mannerisms of the ruling class; the division of the national income; the question of ‘who is best off in Poland now?’. Hass spoke of all these things, in crowded halls, under the noses of Government officials snooping all round him.
LongingWhat was Trotskyism to this man? He once said that of all the anti-Stalinist opposition groups which arose in Russia, only Trotskyists had the international organisation which gave them a potential for survival. Personally I think that for Hass, it was an expression of revolutionary longing, a yearning for comradeship and plain speaking. He was all too familiar with the empty verbiage of Stalinism. Trotsky, even if he had been a supporter of dictatorship and terrorism, was above that sort of pantomime.
It must have occurred to those who sang the Internationale on that day of the trial that by their action they could do harm to the defendants, give the authorities a pretext for further repression etc. Yet, as facts show, they dismissed the idea immediately. This fact must not be underestimated. It marks the end of the acceptance of the universal panacea: ‘by rebelling, you are endangering not only yourself but others’. It marks the beginning of a new generation of revolutionaries, who reject this kind of well-meaning appeal and thereby deprive the authorities of the most effective way of paralysing the opposition. Already there is evidence that the regime has reacted with alarm – and in this we may find the explanation for the handcuffs on the hands of the prisoner. The first steps of the new revolutionaries have been successful.
Notes1. The KPP was dissolved in 1937 by the Comintern.
2. The Soviet secret police.
3. A coalition of Centre and Left parties which backed Pilsudski after his 1926 coup.
4. Pilsudski was Inspector General of the Polish Forces. He would not accept any official political position, even though he was virtual dictator.
5. The Secretary General of the PZPR.
6. The postwar boundary between Poland and Germany.
7. Eastern Galicia contained two million White Russians (out of a total population of 40 million). Some of them belonged to a Ukrainian nationalist-terrorist organisation, the OUN, which aimed at a split from Poland. The OUN received financial aid and arms from Germany.
8. Resettlement resulted from the acquisition by the USSR of territories in Eastern Poland, and the acquisition by Poland of lands previously in eastern Germany, part of the general Potsdam settlement.
9. International postwar treaty which laid out the boundary changes in Eastern Europe.