From The Marxist Archives -The Revolutionary History Journal-Against All Odds –True to the Ideals of his Youth-A Tribute to Kazimierz Badowski
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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.
Against All Odds –True to the Ideals of his Youth-A Tribute to Kazimierz Badowski
Oritinally published in Zdanie, no. 1/1994, pp. 14–16.
Transcribed by Alun Morgan for the Revolutionary History Website.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
This moving tribute to Kazimierz Badowski appeared in Poland in Zdanie, no. 1/1994, pp. 14–16, a journal published by Socialist intellectuals in Cracow. Further details of Badowski’s activities in Belgium can be found in the history of the Belgian Trotskyists by Nadia de Beule, Het belgisch trotskisme de geschiedenis van een groep oppositionale kommunisten, 1925–1940 (Ghent 1980). A resumé of this by Catherine Legien was published by the Cahiers de CERMTRI, no. 27, December 1982, entitled Contribution à l’histoire des trotskystes Belges avant la dernière guerre mondiale. We have translated this latter text, and hope to publish it in a future issue of Revolutionary History. Cf. also his obituary in the Cahiers Léon Trotsky, no. 46, July 1991, pp. 125–6.
Kazimierz Badowski, son of Konrad and Balbina (née Wosatko), was born on 15 August 1907 in Rogów village, near Kozienice. This was the date on his birth certificate, but in reality – as he said himself – he was a year older; the delay in the registration, according to his parents, was meant to delay his later conscription into the army. The future revolutionary came from a typical family of the Polish intelligentsia, which was also apparent in the fate of his brother and sister. His sister became a village teacher in the north-east. Becoming ill with tuberculosis, she died young. His brother, an officer in the Polish Army, during the Second World War found himself in the Middle East in Anders’ army, where he suffered many humiliations because of his left wing views.
Kazimierz attended the gymnasium in Kielce. Here he made friends with Maksymilian Meloch, an older pupil (born on 2 August 1905), the future historian, and then a member of the Union of Communist Youth in Poland (UCY), for which he was imprisoned in 1924–26. The younger boy followed the example of the older one, and Badowski established his first contacts with the Communist movement, becoming an organiser amongst the school youth and in the extreme left wing of the United Free Scouts. As a delegate from Kielce he took part in its third rally in Helenowo, near Warsaw, on 1–3 August 1924. On the last day of the meeting, he, together with other participants, was arrested. A search carried out in his flat did not find anything incriminating. Only an old, prewar edition of the Communist Manifesto, published in Warsaw, was discovered, and a few similarly dated Socialist pamphlets. This christening by the police therefore did not stop him from returning to school, and Kazimierz matriculated the following year.
Soon after he became a member of the Communist Party of Poland (CPP), which sent him to carry out party work in the difficult area of western Poland. In Poznan, to justify his stay in the city, he enrolled in the autumn of 1925 at the university to study law and economics. In the conservative capital of Wielkopolska he energetically embarked on consistent left wing organisational and political activity. He became the secretary of a few local trade unions which were not part of the Polish Socialist Party Trade Union Central Commission. At the same time he taught at the Workers’ University, a cultural and educational association in competition with the Workers’ University Society run by the Polish Socialist Party, and he was also one of the leaders of the unemployed workers’ movement there, speaking at their rallies. At the same time he secretly organised the CPP’s cells, and he was also one of the founders of the CPP’s Regional Committee of Poznan-Pomorze. Together with Alfred Bem, seven years older than him – he very quickly became a left wing workers’ leader in Wielkopolska. Soon he was appropriately ‘honoured’, for on 12 November 1926 he was arrested and accused of anti-state activity. He was one of the accused in the biggest trial of Poznan Communists in the 1920s, and in the prosecution files he was, apart from Bem, the most incriminated. After a three week long court case (7 September–3 October 1927), he did not confess to Communist activity. The court acquitted him, along with eight others accused (including Bem), but the other five were sentenced to between six and 30 months imprisonment.
Released from prison, Badowski was moved to another area by the leadership of the CPP to Zaglebie Dabrowskie, one of the most powerful bastions of the party. In Zawiercie he became the Secretary of the Chemical Workers and Allied Trades Union, which was already under party influence. But he was not active there for long. Already in the summer of 1928 the party leadership told him that a decision had been taken for him to relinquish the post – as he recounted many years later – ‘to a worker formed politically in Eastern Galicia’, and, as he himself also was known to the police, he left to study abroad. He managed to maintain himself there partly because of help from the party, and partly due to his family. This ‘politically formed worker’ was Władysław Gomułka, and in mid-August he took over the position of Regional Secretary from Badowski in the Chemical Workers Union. Badowski began his studies at the Academy of Commerce in Antwerp, and at the same time – as ordered by the CPP – became a member of the Communist Party of Belgium. In Poland, Badowski, as a practical organiser, must have heard very little about the inner-party struggle, which began after the military coup in May 1926, and was still not resolved when he left the country.  The struggle was between the ‘majority’ and the ‘minority’ faction, the latter more and more supported by the Stalinist leadership of the Communist International. On the one hand, this struggle around secondary issues, and on the other the underground activity made necessary by the legal position of Communism in Poland, together absorbed the attention and the energy of the membership of the CPP to such an extent, that for a long time the real principled disagreement, which soon permanently divided the revolutionary movement, and by the Stalin’s will drew the line of division in blood, remained outside its field of vision. The disagreement was around basic questions such as the possibility of ‘building Socialism in a single country’, the formation of a privileged layer of bureaucracy in the workers’ state, inner-party democracy, and the right to have ideological and political factions inside the party. The removal from its ranks of the sympathisers of Trotsky, and the sentencing to exile and imprisonment of others, including Trotsky himself, using an administrative measure by the decision of the Fifteenth Congress of the Soviet Communist Party in December 1927 caused this inner-party disagreement to become one inside the international Communist movement. In the West the supporters of ‘the no. 2 man of the October Revolution’ began publishing their own journals in opposition to the leadership of the Communist parties, and the Communist oppositionists gradually felt the bite of party repression.
Badowski, emotionally and organisationally linked with the Communist movement since he had been at his school desk, could not remain on the sidelines of this principled ideological and political dispute. He found himself in the group of the first Trotskyists in Belgium, or, in the terminology used then, the supporters of the Left Opposition. The International Secretariat of the Left Opposition soon drew the first Polish Trotskyist into work aimed at publicising the views of this dissident current in Poland. At the beginning of 1932 Badowski took part in the preparation of the first issue of the Polish Trotskyist periodical, Proletariat: Polish Organ of the Communist Left Opposition. This 12-page issue, dated May 1932, appeared to have been published in Brussels, according to the name and address of the editor and the name of the printshop. In reality, Badowski, who after finishing his studies was returning to Poland, smuggled a master copy of Proletariat there, which was then used to make more copies, and which was distributed (according to police records) in Bielsko-Biala.
Kazimierz moved to Cracow, and combined his professional life (earning his living as a teacher in secondary schools) with his political activity, first in the ranks of the CPP, as a leader of its Trotskyist opposition in Cracow and Zaglebie Dabrowskie. Now his actions had to be hidden, not only from the police, but also from many party comrades. After all, the Stalinist leadership of the party was increasingly sharpening the struggle against Trotskyism in its ranks. Its supporters were not only expelled, but also terrorised, and even threatened with physical assault. This verbal abuse happened daily. Some Trotskyists at that point broke down, and either became obedient party members, or withdrew from political activity. To uphold one’s views meant breaking off party friendships, which were so valuable in conditions of illegality and conspiracy. Burning powerful conviction and a steeled spirit were needed not only just to uphold one’s views, now so sharply attacked by yesterday’s comrades in struggle, but also to continue to spread them. Kazimierz Badowski was one of the few who did not crack, but continued his activity. After 1933, when the Trotskyists broke with the Communist International and formed their own organisation – the Union of Communist Internationalists in Poland, later the Bolshevik-Leninists – Badowski was active in it. Privately he maintained contact with his political friends in Belgium and France.
In the years of Hitler’s occupation he worked as a chemist in Cracow. After 1944 it turned out that hardly any of his comrades from the interwar period were alive, but he did not lose his conviction in the victory of the ideals to which he had dedicated so many years of his life. He did not give up the thought of rebuilding the Trotskyist organisation in Poland. He therefore renewed his contacts abroad. But the Polish Stalinists did not forget about their old opponent. He was arrested in 1946 and brought to Warsaw, where he was imprisoned for four years. He was interrogated by the infamous Różański , who never managed to extract a denunciation of Trotskyism from him. After he was released, despite the danger it involved, he did not hesitate to get in touch with the leading organisations of the Fourth International in Paris. From then on they maintained a loose contact with him, for instance he received, by various means, its theoretical journal Quatrième Internationale, of which he kept a file, disregarding any possible unpleasant consequences for himself.
When at the beginning of the 1960s an embryonic Trotskyist organisation established contact with Paris, they told the old activist. Immediately he came to Warsaw, and collaborated with those who continued his work. Gomułka’s team, becoming more and more repressive, decided in the early spring of 1965 finally to deal with the Communist oppositionists. Kazimierz Badowski was arrested on 25 March in his flat in Cracow, and was again brought to prison in Warsaw. This incident was mentioned recently in the press.  It needs to be stressed that the old activist of nearly 60 years gave a certain direction to the court proceedings which lasted from 24 December 1965 to 10 January 1966 in Warsaw. He convinced the other accused that the trial should be turned into a political demonstration of the continuity of Trotskyism in Poland, and the correctness of its conceptions and principles. An outstanding speaker and debater, he accomplished this himself in the course of giving evidence lasting several days. He presented his political biography, without any evasions and tactical grovelling to the ruling Stalinists. On Kazimierz’s initiative, the accused, probably for the first and only time in the courts of the Polish People’s Republic, addressed each other during the proceedings as ‘comrade’, which gave the trial taking place in ‘People’s Poland’ a peculiar overtone. The judges did not have the courage to interrupt this political demonstration which took place in the presence of many young people. The accused won – against the opinion of their defending counsel – the demand that the court trial be open to the public. In his closing speech the prosecutor, Lech Pietrasinski, described the behaviour of Badowski and others as a conscious political education of the university students listening to the trial.
The court’s verdict on 10 January 1966 was three years imprisonment for each of the accused. The Supreme Court on 28 June upheld the verdict. After serving three-quarters of his prison sentence, Kazimierz Badowski was conditionally released. Even these experiences did not undermine his belief in the ideas to which he had sacrificed so much of his life. Soon afterwards he came to Warsaw to discuss with the accused the burning question of ‘What Next?’. He remained true to his convictions.
In the 1980s the old fighter had a small satisfaction – he saw the appearance on the Polish scene of the next generation of Trotskyists, the Revolutionary Left Current. The young did not forget about their senior comrade, they visited him, and they gave him their modest publications. Trotskyists from abroad also visited him, wrote of his experiences, and discussed with him.
Kazimierz Badowski died on 6 July 1990 in Cracow, up to the very last moment true to the path he chose in his youth. Political obituaries appeared in two Polish Trotskyist papers, Kret and Platforma. On 22 October 1990 the Supreme Court considered the appeal from the Minister of Justice of 15 January 1990, and annulled the sentences of 1966, so the condemned – he as well as his other two comrades from the trial – were pronounced ‘innocent of the alleged crimes’.
The author of these words can only add one thing. Honour the memory of this firm fighter for the cause of the liberation of the world of labour from the fetters of capitalism.