25th Mar, 2022
Published here is a series of rare texts of the debates of the Ukrainian Marxists of the Ukrainian Social-Democratic Workers’ Party at the crucial turning point of the revolution in January 1919. Christopher Ford is author of UKAPISME - Une Gauche perdue, Le marxisme anti-colonial dans la révolution ukrainienne 1917 – 1925 (Ibidem verlag, 2021), and of a forthcoming study in English of this party during the revolutionary era.
Within a few weeks of the ending of the First World War on 11 November 1918, a revolutionary wave arose surpassing even the climactic years of 1789 and 1848. This affected not only the metropolis but colonial countries of the European empires with mounting movements for national emancipation. This was the setting for the ‘Ukrainian November Revolution’ of 1918 against the conservative regime of Hetman Skoropadsky, who was placed in power by a coup d'état sponsored by Germany on 29 April 1918. This restored the Ukrainian People’s Republic (UNR) founded in October 1917.
The primary organisational initiative to reconstitute the UNR came from a coalition headed by the Directory of the UNR, led by two opposing figures - Symon Petlyura and Volodymyr Vynnychenko.1 Both member of the Ukrainian Social-Democratic Workers’ Party. The “November Ukrainian Revolution” was conducted exclusively by local forces and, from the start, it was clear the subjective forces were radically to the left of the Directory. The “Sovietophile” majority of the Ukrainian Party of Socialist Revolutionaries (UPSR), the Borotbisty, already declared their opposition and large sections of the army - the red militias - supported soviet power. With the hoped-for socialist resurgence underway in Europe, the pro-Soviet left of the USDRP organised into a faction, the Organising Committee of the USDRP Nezalezhnyky, (Independents or Independentists) established in early December 1918.2 They made their first challenge at the State Conference convened by the Directory in Vynnytsia on 12-14 December where Myhailo Avdiyenko argued it was necessary:
1: to recognise that a profoundly socio-economic, as well as political, revolution is taking place in Ukraine; 2. to recognise that its engine is the proletariat and the toiling peasantry, and 3. in accordance with this, to declare the principle of the dictatorship of the toiling masses in the form of councils of workers' and peasants' deputies.3
The moderate and conservative leaders of the UNR, viewed the Nezalezhnyky faction with increasing suspicion.4 The Nezalezhnyky also differentiated themselves from the Communist Party (Bolsheviks) of Ukraine (KP(b)U). Considering that it was not genuinely Ukrainian but a subordinate of the Russian Communist Party, RKP(B), they took issue with the Bolsheviks' view of the workers' and peasants' councils and the character of the dictatorship of the proletariat:
It is a party that aims not for the dictatorship of the proletariat and the revolutionary peasantry, but for the dictatorship of a section of the proletariat and of its own party. It is, therefore, profoundly violent and it will replace proletarian dictatorial violence against the bourgeois order with the violence of a small group.5
It had proven itself “a hypocritical party which continually violates its own principles” and in view of this “cannot be trusted until it is transformed organisationally and merges with the interests of the Ukrainian toiling people”.6
The revival of the Ukrainian People’s Republic was also accompanied by an extreme regressive trend. Some of its administration and military were inherited directly from the previous Hetmanate regime. These conservative elements engaged in pogroms and indiscriminate repression of the labour and peasant movement.7 The middle class and moderate elements, though favouring a parliamentary democracy, found themselves political prisoners of this element on whom they were reliant.8
After the initial success of the November Revolution, there arose an intense dispute over what was to happen after, of the nature of the revolution and the Ukrainian People’s Republic. Centre stage in the debates was the Ukrainian Social-Democratic Workers’ Party (USDRP) which had played a leading role in the revolution since 1917 and held leading posts in the new government, the Directory and its Council of Ministers.9
The debates took place at the Sixth Congress of the USDRP followed by the All-Ukrainian Labour Congress convened by the Directory to ratify the form of government and establish a solid foundation for the Republic. These debates are set out in the following texts translated here; they are still little known in the English speaking world and greatly neglected elsewhere.
Andriy Richytsky moved the Nezalezhnyky theses; the task it was stated was “the transformation of the sovereign and independent Ukrainian People's Republic into the sovereign and independent Ukrainian Socialist Republic”.10 Power would be organised on the “principle of the dictatorship of the urban and rural proletariat and the poorer toiling peasantry, organised in worker-peasant councils”.11
A majority of the Central Committee spoke in favour of the Nezalezhnyky position, the opposition was a combination of the centrists and the right wing “Katerynoslav group” of Issak Mazepa, Panas Fadenko and Ivan Romanchenko, joined surprisingly by Mykola Porsh.12 It is debatable how representative the conference was in a situation where members of the Central Committee could not sleep in their own beds for fear of arrest.13
After their resolution was defeated, the Nezalezhnyky walked out and launched Chervony Prapor [Red Banner] on 22 January.14 It included a Declaration written by Tkachenko and Richytsky stating it was now time to move from a “passive waiting state to an active and creative struggle for the reconstruction of the whole socio-political and economic order of Ukraine”. At the Sixth Congress, the question was sharply posed “either the old or the new - and the official party stood between them”.15 Responding to the fear of the dominance of the “non-Ukrainian urban element” they pointed out that the “proletariat was not entirely foreign” and emphasised that in “Ukraine can and must come to power together with the revolutionary peasantry”.16 In the course of the revolution, the non-Ukrainian workers would be drawn more and more into all forms of internal life in Ukraine and “rid themselves of the remnants of old Russia and will join the Ukrainian people and proletariat”.17
The left-wing leader of the Ukrainian Socialist-Revolutionaries Pavlo Khrystiuk considers the Nezalezhnyky were bound for too long a time to the Directory.18 In practice, their approach during the period December 1918 to January 1920 involved a combination of tactics of reform and revolution. The Nezalezhnyky did not possess sufficient strength to overthrow the Directory on their own, nor was it necessarily desirable from the standpoint of their pluralist objective of a “provisional worker-peasant government composed of representatives of parties and groups that stand for the power of the soviets”.19 In an attempt to establish a more unified approach, a meeting of the Ukrainian and non-Ukrainian socialists was held in the middle of January attended by the Nezalezhnyky, the Bund, the United Jewish Socialist Workers’ Party and the Menshevik Internationalists.20 The meeting produced no concrete results beyond resolving to maintain in contact “in order to defend the worker-peasant revolution in Ukraine, to mollify the national struggle and to correct the political line and the tactical errors of the Russian Bolsheviks in Ukraine”.21
I declared that I would go on the condition that decrees on the transfer of local power to the Soviets and a call for a congress of Soviets (and not a Labour Congress) to be published immediately, as well as on the condition that the communist party would be legalised. For this, of course, I was ostracised by the Directorate.23
The left claimed the mission was sabotaged by the right wing of the UNR which secured a declaration of war on Soviet Russia on 16 January 1919.24 By this time, Chekhivsky and Vynnychenko had resigned from the government over its pro-Entente turn.25 The Nezalezhnyky turned to the establishment of soviet power by force through the red militias.26 Its main centre of strength was in the Kyiv region; at a congress in Hryhoriv, the Dniprovska Division of the UNR army renamed itself the First Kyiv Soviet Division along with a Revolutionary Committee joined by the Nezalezhnyky.27
On 4 February 1919, the Directory of the UNR withdrew from Kyiv in the face of the advancing soviet forces, Chervony Prapor concluding “the Directory's positive role was finished”.28 Yurii Lapchynsky wrote that in 1919 the “communist movement and Soviet power in Ukraine were built in a political situation, which was totally different to the first period”.29 Peasant brigades defected en masse to parties adhering to a soviet platform; the situation could not have been more favourable for a convergence between the Ukrainian and the Russian revolutions and the creation of a republic based on the councils with a plurality of pro-soviet parties was more viable than at any other time.
The USDRP (Nezalezhnyky) would continue to play a significant role in the life of Ukraine during the tumultuous period of the second Soviet Government, under Khristian Rakovsky. Their struggle for truly self-governing Soviet Ukraine, with a coalition of the soviet parties gained international significance winning the support of Bela Kun’s Soviet Hungary. In 1919, commanding a section of the Red Army, the Nezalezhnyky led a pro-soviet rebellion larger and far more serious than the Kronstadt uprising. Following the catastrophe of the Rakovsky government and collapse of the Ukrainian SSR, the Nezalezhnyky would re-launch on 21 December 1919 as the Ukrainian Communist Party.30 The independent UKP, known as the Ukapisty would play an important role in Soviet Ukraine, holding government positions in 1920-21. They were one of the last legal-opposition parties until their disbandment under pressure in March 1925.31
The texts outline the key positions of the two main currents which emerged in the USDRP. The first are of the Congress of the USDRP held in Kyiv in 10-12 January 1919. The Resolution on the Current Moment was supported by Isaak Mazepa, Panas Fedenko of the Katernynoslav current and subsequently adopted by the congress. This was published in a special supplement of the USDRP paper Robitnycha Hazeta and translated into German and circulated to parties of the Socialist International.32
The alternative position proposed by the Fraction of the Nezalezhnyky, the Independents or Independentists, was published in the first issue of their paper Chervony Prapor on 22 January edited by Mykhaylo Adviyenko, previous editor of Robitnycha Hazeta. The formal Declaration the Fraction of Nezalezhnyky written by Mykhaylo Tkachenko and Andriy Pisotsky (Richystky) appeared in the same issue of Chervony Prapor and also in Kharkivsʹky Proletar, paper of the Kharkiv committee of the Nezalezhnyky.
The Declaration of the USDRP was published in Robitnycha Hazeta and also submitted to the Socialist International. The Resolution adopted by the Labour Congress on 28 January 1919 was published in Chervony Prapor, on 30 January, drawing upon the points made in the Declaration of the Fraction of the USDRP to the Labour Congress on 26 January.33 This was issued officially by the UNR as a proclamation of the Law passed by the Labour Congress On the Form of Government in Ukraine, signed by Congress Chairman Semen Vityk a leader of the Ukrainian Social-Democratic Party in Galicia and the Congress Secretary Serhey Bachinksy, of the Ukrainian Party of Socialist Revolutionaries, Central Current.34
The Declaration of the Fraction of the Nezalezhnyky was submitted to the Labour Congress on 26 January 1919. The declaration of the left-bloc of parties favouring a soviet platform was published by Chervony Prapor on 30 January. The Report on the Activities of the USDRP was made to the International Socialist Bureau in Amsterdam in February 1919 in French. This was their last report to the International whilst USDRP was still organised in central Ukraine. The congress was attended by Ivan Romanchenko. The report originally in French is published here in English translation.
Sixth Congress of the Ukrainian Social Democratic Workers Party
10-12 January 1919
1. The VI Congress of the USDRP recognises that the capitalist world is already on the path of socialist revolution. This revolution is unavoidable in all countries, but distinct in each separate country, both in its tempo and in the forms and methods of socialist reconstruction of present society. It is distinct because of the differences in the degree of capitalist development, the class structure of society and the national composition of the states, and dependent on the extent of the destruction caused by the war on all aspects of the economic and political life of a country.
2. By its history and by the present state of its own revolution, as well as by the development of the revolution in the West, Ukraine comes under the powerful influence of the inevitable world revolution, which must be marked in the whole economic and socio-political life of the Ukrainian people. But Ukraine occupies a special position in the capitalist world both in terms of economics and national politics. Ukraine is a country of small peasants, which were its mighty foundation throughout the Ukrainian revolution, for whom the Ukrainian revolution meant, first of all and mainly, an agrarian revolution. The role of the industrial proletariat in the economy is very limited and its political influence on the revolution and its direction was and is extremely insignificant: the small development of industrial capitalism and therefore the small size of the proletariat.
The dominance in industry of mining and agriculture and therefore the low consciousness and organisation of the proletariat, the national conflict between town and village, and thus between the proletariat and the peasantry - such are the main reasons for this phenomenon. The current imperialist war, which has economically debilitated even the most developed countries, has brought agricultural countries, including Ukraine, to economic catastrophe. Final ruin of the feeble Ukrainian industry (lack of materials and machinery), the ruin of agriculture (livestock and property), billions of paper dollars, the unprecedented destruction of transport, frenzied inflation - such are the severe and catastrophic consequences of the world war in Ukraine. And, as a result of this, the severe competition between town and village, peculiar to the capitalist world, reached the most severe and threatening proportion for the fate of the revolution. The Ukrainian nation, broken into pieces among various countries (in Galicia, Bukovina, Hungary, Bessarabia, Kuban and the Don) advances amid the most difficult financial, economic and international circumstances, surrounded by imperialist and counter-revolutionary enemies (Polish, Romanian, Don, [Russian] Volunteer, Entente and Soviet attack Ukraine), advances toward union in the national-sovereign forms of political life.
3. On the basis of these internal and international circumstances, the Ukrainian proletariat cannot now and does not, without endangering the revolution, have the right to take the national economy in its hands in order to socialise it decisively and without principle by means of a workers' dictatorship. Its task at the present moment is - taking part in state power and building, supporting with all its strength the national-political union of the parts of the Ukrainian nation - to construct the road to the rule of labour democracy in the Ukrainian republic, to spread workers' organisations, to carry out a careful and solid socialisation of the mature branches of the national economy and to draw the peasantry into the process of socialising the whole economy.
Taking all of this into consideration, the VI Congress of the USDRP has resolved:
On the problem of power:
1. In view of the fact that socialist revolution is a long process, which can be realised only by the organised and conscious proletariat with the help of revolutionary democracy generally, the congress believes that in the given initial moment of the socialist revolution central and local power must be such as to guarantee completely the free development of the democratic forces. The present revolution in Ukraine is only the beginning preparatory stage of the socialist revolution, a stage of realizing first all general democratic reforms, a stage of the rule of genuine democracy, on the basis of which and through which the successful transition to socialism is possible. On this basis, the congress supports the convening in the near future of an organ of all-national representation, a parliament, elected on the basis of a general electoral law. Taking into account the important transitional moment through which Ukraine is now passing, and also considering the urgent need for the government to have for its activity an organi,ed base with representatives of revolutionary democracy, the congress supports the immediate convening of the All-Ukrainian Labour Congress, with the participation of the workers and peasants, as a provisional legislative organ.
Until the Labour Congress is convened, all power will belong to the Directory, whose work must be directed toward consolidating the gains of the revolution and toward the immediate implementation of a series of reforms directed to the initial stage of socialist transformation.
The congress supports holding immediately new elections to the organs of Zemstvo self-government. Until the re-election of local self-governments, local authority will belong to the commissars, who work in contact with and under the control of local labour councils as organs of the united revolutionary democracy, organised from proportional representation of workers and peasants. Commissars are elected by local labour councils and ratified by the central government. Power must be centralised and military power must be subordinate to civilian political power.
On the program of internal politics
The congress believes that, in the present transitional moment, it is more necessary that ever to have a strong organisation of workers to carry out such great tasks as those that face the proletariat of Ukraine, toward the preparation of socialist reforms. In order to accelerate the preparation for the transformation of the Ukrainian People's Republic into a socialist republic, the tasks of the proletarian party are:
1. the destruction of all vestiges of the autocratic landowner order in all its manifestations and above all a resolute purge of all counter-revolutionary and anti-state elements from the government apparatus, both locally and centrally, in all branches of administration;
2. the immediate implementation of all worker and peasant reforms in the direction of the party's programme, first of all the immediate introduction of the land reform in accordance with the party's programme adopted by the VI Congress of the USDRP;
3. the immediate nationalisation of the most advanced and prepared branches of industry, such as railroads, sugar refineries and others;
4. the immediate introduction of broad financial reforms toward transferring the burden to the owning classes and, as a first priority, the creation of our own currency; the immediate organisation of a strong popular army on the basis of firm discipline for the defence of the Ukrainian People's Republic from attack by external enemies.
On the programme of international policy
On the basis of recognising the sovereignty of the Ukrainian nation, the VI Congress of the USDRP defends the complete independence of the Ukrainian People's Republic.
On the basis of this, the congress resolves to support the aspirations of the Ukrainian people to complete self-determination and to fight any attempt on the independence of Ukraine, whether by the Soviet Russian Republic or by any other state.
The VI Congress of the USDRP recognises that the states of the Entente are pursuing only imperialist aims in Ukraine and that the occupation of Ukraine by the Entente would be the beginning of the restoration of the monarchy and reaction in Ukraine.
In relation to the Soviet Russian Republic and its policy toward Ukraine, the VI Congress of the USDRP must say a word of condemnation of the usurpation plans, so harmful for the party of the proletariat and socialist power that the Soviet government is making against the Ukrainian People's Republic. The Soviet government, unable to repair the rift it caused between the workers and peasants of Russia, in order to continue its rule even by openly plundering the Ukrainian peasantry to satisfy the needs of the unemployed Russian workers, and this explains the Soviet army's attack on Ukraine. Protesting against the attack of the Soviet army, the congress allows for peaceful relations and trade with the Soviet Republic only when the Russian army's attack on Ukraine is stopped and when foreign Soviet troops are withdrawn from Ukraine.
The VI Congress of the USDRP recognises as the desired goal for all states that have taken the path of revolution the closest economic union in the struggle against the imperialism of the states of the Entente. Therefore, the policy of the government of the Russian Soviet Republic, aimed at the conquest of Ukraine, breaks all agreements, destroys mutual understanding and undermines the hope of the international proletariat's success in the struggle against imperialism and capitalism.
Ukrainian workers have already once lived through the most fierce monarchist reaction (the Hetmanate) because of the aggressive policy of the Soviet government, and now, at an hour of danger for the existence of what the Ukrainian proletariat and revolutionary democracy have created - the Ukrainian People's Republic - the VI Congress of the USDRP declares that the organised Ukrainian workers will fight with all their strength hostile reactionary attacks, whether by the states of the Entente or by the Russian Soviet Republic.
The Ukrainian workers will spare no effort to save the foundation of their normal development - the Ukrainian People's Republic - from all imperialists, no matter what fine words they use to conceal their avaricious attempts on the independence of the Ukrainian people and of the Ukrainian proletariat.
On the current moment
1. The IV Congress of the USDRP recognises that all Europe is today living through the epoch of socialist revolution, prepared by the whole preceding development of the capitalist economy and the world imperialist war.
2. The present Ukrainian revolution is one of the phases of the socialist revolution in national Ukrainian forms, and as such presents the proletariat of Ukraine with the following tasks:
a) the transformation of the sovereign and independent Ukrainian People's Republic into the sovereign and independent Ukrainian Socialist Republic;
b) the organisation of power on the principle of the of the dictatorship of the urban and rural proletariat and the poorer toiling peasantry, organised in worker-peasant councils, with the complete removal of the bourgeoisie, landowners and wealthy peasants from political power. The power of the councils must be planned and organised from the centre, constitutionally, without disorganised and anarchic seizures of power by separate local councils;
c) the organisation of Ukraine's entire national economy on a socialist basis, for which there must be a planned nationalisation of land, credit for all means of production and transport, subject to the general plan of the state economy.
On the matter of reorganisation of power
1. Since, in accordance with the course of the world revolution and its own internal development, Ukraine must be a socialist republic, where power belongs to the proletariat and the revolutionary peasantry, the Congress of the USDRP resolves that the present government must be reorganised on the basis of representation from revolutionary Ukrainian parties which stand for, a) the independence of the national Ukrainian Socialist Republic, and b) the power of the worker-peasant councils. This government is transitional until the organisation of the government by the All-Ukrainian Congress of Worker-Peasant Councils.
On the matter of international politics
1. On the basis of the independence of the Ukrainian Socialist Republic and the beginning of the world socialist revolution, the USDRP defends the independence of the Ukrainian Republic with all means and demands from the Ukrainian government:
a) a rapprochement with the Russian Soviet Republic, on the basis of mutual recognition of the sovereignty of both socialist republics, complete and mutual non-interference in the internal affairs of the neighbouring republic,
b) the immediate withdrawal of Russian troops from the territory of Ukraine (including the Crimea), their non-interference in the internal affairs of Ukraine and, in the case of refusal, an active defence of the Ukrainian Socialist Republic against imperialist attack.
Fraction of Nezalezhnyky of the USDRP
Declaration the Fraction of Nezalezhnyky
Comrades, workers of the towns and villages,
More than a year ago, the IV Congress of the USDRP indicated that the world war, having brought about the complete ruin of the capitalist economy, caused the total collapse of capitalism’s organising abilities and aspirations. As a result, capitalism and imperialism are bankrupt and the world imperialist war is being transformed into a world socialist revolution.
But, during the IV Congress, the moment for liquidating the war was not yet apparent. The ripening of the revolution in the highly developed capitalist countries was unclear and, therefore, at the IV Congress the USDRP did not clearly take the path of socialist revolution, but assumed a waiting position, setting itself the task of organising the Ukrainian republic internally as a necessary condition for the successful course of the socialist revolution in Ukraine.
The further internal development of Ukraine and a whole series of international circumstances more and more drew Ukraine into the vortex of the international struggle and placed its fate in close connection with the sharply defined transition of the world war to the process of social revolution, with the breakup of old states into national organisms. this breakup of the old, violently built multi-national states and the creation of new national republics is necessary beginning stage of the socialist revolution, which can take place only on an international scale and, from now on, only within the forms and boundaries of national political-economic organisms.
The beginning of the socialist revolution in Germany and all the signs of its possibility in other countries determined the further course of the Ukrainian revolution as a social revolution. The more so since during the rule of the Hetmanate the bourgeoisie showed its complete bankruptcy and its inability to manage the economic life of the country; it is now clear Ukraine, in spite of its agrarian character and economic backwardness, can come out of the state of economic ruin only by organizing the national economy on a fully socialist basis.
In the epoch of the world's division into two hostile camps - the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, which is already ending its rule, at a time when throughout the whole world new waves are growing and rolling, it is not possible to retain the old forms of economic and political life. From today, every attempt to reform them without destroying the basis of this economy - private ownership of the means of production - will inevitably bring with it the destruction of Ukraine and its subjugation by stronger states.
So, life itself has placed before the Ukrainian proletariat and the USDRP the task of going from a passive waiting state to an active and creative struggle for the reconstruction of the whole socio-political and economic order of Ukraine, according to a definite plan based of the aims, tasks and understanding of a process that embraces all of Europe.
These new tasks of the party have been felt most keenly by the group of Nezalezhnyky of the USDRP. Under its influence, the VI Congress of the party, which was held recently, had to stand for the socialist revolution. But, unfortunately, it went only half way, without drawing the necessary conclusions, without resolutely taking the path of the new creativity, of continually building the economy, but on a new, genuine socialist principle. The majority of the VI Congress stayed with the hopeless attempts to maintain the old bourgeois order, to patch it up somehow, failing to understand the unity of the state’s economy, at once trying, not to shake the old order, but to strengthen it. Such work leaves life at a dead end and neither allows the old order to strengthen itself nor the new to achieve its destined course. This introduces and will introduce disorder, anarchy and decay into economic life and leaves the new reformist patches hanging in the air without real implementation, without their organic inculcation into life itself. The party faced the question with all its sharpness: either the old or the new - and the official party stood between them. Therefore, its creative activity has been stopped and will continue to be stopped. Its influence on the workers and peasants is being undermined. They cannot be satisfied with the standstill that the USDRP offers.
We, the fraction of Nezalezhnyky of the USDRP, stand clearly and unequivocally on the new path in this our first tactical split with the rest of the party. We must take the new path if we want to save the economic and social life of Ukraine, that is, its national-political life, for the one is closely connected with the other. In principle, as it were, both the fraction of Nezalezhnyky and the official section of the party stand for socialist revolution, both sections of the party recognise that the socialist revolution in Ukraine can take place only in the form of an independent Ukrainian Republic. But the dead end reached by the IV Congress is a heavy blow, first of all to the independence of the Ukrainian Republic, because it does not allow Ukraine to stand firmly in the middle, that is, at a time when the world war is breaking up into a whole series of partial wars, on the basis of the necessity for the socialist revolution of being introduced in national-political forms.
Basing itself on a common understanding of Ukraine's autonomy and independence as an essential and necessary form for carrying out the socialist revolution, the fraction of Nezalezhnyky, however, sharply splits with the official party on the forms of power, capable of bringing about a socialist revolution. While the only form of power for the socialist revolution that the fraction of Nezalezhnyky recognises, at least in its present stage, is the dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry in the form of workers' and peasants' councils, the official party admits complete confusion: The Labour Congress and a parliament with four tails, and locally - the organs of self-government, and the commissars, and the labour councils. By its tactic, the official party ruins the only organs it can rely on - the workers' and peasants' councils.
We, the fraction of Nezalezhnyky, cannot take responsibility for this. We believe that, if the USDRP cannot sharply change the direction of the government's course, then it must recall its representatives from the government and begin to fight for a genuine people's government, for a government of worker-peasant councils.
The official party thinks it can save the revolution by seizing on democratic formulas, afraid clearly to take the path that is unavoidable for a party of the proletariat at the present moment. Democracy does not and will not provide the strong centralised power that alone can carry out the revolution. Democracy in Ukraine will inevitably be transformed into the dictatorship of the middle classes, which, of course, cannot be the agents of a socialist revolution. In a parliamentary order the popular masses will be excluded from creative action. The socialist revolution demands a centralised government, both centrally and locally, but a government based on the active participation of the working masses. The form of such a government is the government of the councils.
Fear of a victory by non-Ukrainian urban element played no small role in the vague and ambiguous position taken by VI Congress. But a government of councils does not at all mean the dictatorship of the proletariat in its pure form, and the proletariat is not entirely foreign. It is possible to organise a government of councils without giving workers a majority in these organs, the more so in Ukraine where the working peasantry plays a basic role. Only as the class that is alone destined to bring socialism to full fruition must the proletariat be guaranteed a strong influence, appropriate to its strength, in future socialist action. But, for now, during the transitional epoch, until the struggle between socialism and capitalism is world-wide, the proletariat in Ukraine can and must come to power together with the revolutionary peasantry. True, a large section of the proletariat in Ukraine is still blinded by the chauvinism and imperialism of Russian Bolshevism, but, objectively, this proletariat must, in the course of the Ukrainian revolution's development, be drawn more and more into all forms of internal life in Ukraine. And we are certain that all non-Ukrainian workers will soon rid themselves of the remnants of old Russia and will join the Ukrainian people and proletariat. But for this a strong position is needed. We, the Ukrainian Social Democratic Nezalezhnyky, provide such a clear and firm proletarian position.
During the revolution in Ukraine, the Bolsheviks demonstrated all the inconsistency and worthlessness of their anti-Ukrainian tactic which brought the workers to utter defeat. By the very development of events the non-Ukrainian workers must be drawn into work of the social-political construction of the independent Ukrainian Republic. A repetition of the Bolsheviks' anti-Ukrainian experiments would be very quickly defeated by the course of the national movement itself. But the workers must not suffer a new defeat. We believe that the time has come for the non-Ukrainian workers to be drawn into the work of the social-political construction of the independent Ukrainian Republic, and that this can take place most quickly and best through a government of councils, in which the workers are guaranteed not less than one their representation in the appropriate organs of the councils.
Such are the differences between the fraction of Nezalezhnyky and the rest of the party. A different understanding of the socialist revolution and the methods of implementing it force us to create a fraction of Nezalezhnyky within the USDRP with an independent political line and tactics. We do not take responsibility for the policy adopted by the VI Congress of the USDRP and we consider it harmful for the Ukrainian revolution. The fraction of Nezalezhnyky of the USDRP will work among the masses on the basis of its resolution under the slogan of the struggle for a worker-peasant government of councils in an independent and autonomous Ukrainian Socialist Republic. But our fraction does not make a final break with the party because it believes that the entire party will be compelled to take our position in the course of the revolution. We are also convinced that the Ukrainian worker masses will be with us and not with the official leadership of the party that thinks it can save Ukraine by putting socialist patches on the bourgeois base.
Our attitude toward the Ukrainian government is determined by our general position. We do not support the present government of Ukraine - the Directory. By means of our clear criticism, we push it onto the path of liberation from bourgeois fetters, while at the same time we reveal to the masses it’s every error, its every betrayal of the people's interests.
Our understanding of the socialist revolution sharply distinguishes us from the Bolshevik-Communist party, whose work harms the workers of Ukraine, because it draws them toward Russia and does not seek its support in the centre of Ukraine. Therefore, the work of the party in Ukraine is imperialist and it leads to Ukraine's subjugation to Russia, which we, the Nezalezhnyky Ukrainian SDs, cannot permit because we are, first of all, that political group that sees the success of the revolution only in the Ukrainian worker-peasant masses and relies only on them. What differentiates us from the Bolsheviks is also the fact that we do not now recognise the possibility of a pure dictatorship of the proletariat, but we put forth, as a present necessity, the dictatorship of the proletariat together with the revolutionary peasantry - in the form of a government of worker-peasant councils.
We, the Nezalezhnyky Ukrainian SDs, going out to the worker-peasant masses, use every opportunity to influence the masses. Therefore, we do not refuse to take part in the Labour Congress, although we do not place great hopes in it. We cannot make use of this surrogate, because its days are short: it must yield power either to the right or to the left. We, the Nezalezhnyky, do not accept assertions about the apolitical nature of the army. The army is the workers and peasants and they are fighting for their own worker-peasant interests.
We demand, therefore, that the army be represented in political organs, including the Labour Congress and the councils. But we do not distinguish the political role of the army from its strategic and operative roles. There must be strict discipline here and complete submission to the military authorities, established by the worker-peasant government.
So, having indicated its political line, the fraction of Nezalezhnyky calls on all comrade workers, revolutionary peasants and soldiers of Ukraine to organise and fight for socialism and the international under our red banner.
Long live the Ukrainian autonomous and independent socialist Republic!
Long live the power of the workers' and peasants' councils!
Long live harmony among socialist republics!
All to the struggle against reaction and imperialism!
Fraction of Nezalezhnyky of the USDRP
The All-Ukraine Labour Congress
23-28 January 1919
Statement of the Ukrainian Social-Democratic Workers’ Party delegation at the Congress of Working People of Ukraine.
26 January 1919
The delegation from the Ukrainian Social-Democratic Workers’ Party, which, together with all other Ukrainian socialist parties, has successfully led to victory the national revolution against all enemies of the social and national liberation of the working masses of Ukraine, now makes the following statement on behalf of the organised and class-conscious body of Ukrainian workers:
As a result of the war and the unparalleled crisis of the capitalist economy, Ukraine, as an overwhelmingly agricultural country, became to a growing extent a country with an innumerable proletariat where work on the land and the processing of the agricultural goods produced by the peasant population play the greatest role. The results of the World War in the international context have led to the states of Europe entering the path of revolution which, in its further development, will unquestionably flow into a socialist revolution. While socialist transformation will be the task of the near future in the economically more-developed countries, Ukraine should not be left behind in relation to her future, basing her development exclusively on the capitalist order, which must collapse in the face of the forces it has called forth. The prerequisites for the development of agriculture, the basis on which economic policy must be structured, which differs from socialist reforms in relation to its tempo, the forms it takes and the manner in which it is carried out, are however different in different countries. The sharp economic contradiction between town and country and Ukraine’s territorial dismemberment at the hand of reactionary imperialist states oblige us to adopt a negative attitude towards the (illegible) of the immediate socialisation of the whole national economy and against the attempts of certain groups to seize power for the purpose of carrying out this socialisation by way of a proletarian dictatorship in the form of councils of workers’ and peasants’ deputies.
Only the socialist and democratic front is able to preserve and consolidate the achievements of the revolution in Ukraine. Entirely rejecting the organisation of power in the form of councils of workers’ and peasants’ deputies at the centre and in the provinces at this given moment, the Ukrainian Social-Democratic Workers’ Party delegation upholds only that principle of power based on universal, direct, equal and proportional suffrage in a secret ballot and conceives the power of the working masses of Ukraine in the form of the democratically-elected Parliament of the Ukrainian People’s Republic. In the countryside, too, power should belong to organs elected by universal suffrage.
In relation to the uncertain state of war the republic is currently experiencing, the Ukrainian Social-Democratic Workers’ Party delegation believes that it is possible and indeed essential that, until a Parliament is convened, supreme power in our republic should lie in the hands of the Directory of the Ukrainian Peoples’ Republic with the addition of a representative of Western Ukraine. Moreover, the Congress should establish standing commissions from its own ranks with supervisory powers etc: Commissions for agrarian, administrative, political, military, international, financial, educational, and labour matters.
The state of war which fully takes the attention all the forces of the leading centre makes necessary the greatest centralisation of power. Therefore, until local self-government organs can be re-elected, commissars with full powers from the government should exercise power in the provinces, who would have to work under the control of and in contact with local district and Guberniya councils elected proportionally by workers and peasants.
For the purpose of consolidating the revolutionary forces, the government of the Ukrainian People’s Republic should tirelessly continue the annihilation of feudal and absolutist order. And undertake the most important of the reforms, i.e. land reform and the reform of labour in the interests of the workers and the peasantry of Ukraine as well as purging the official apparatus of counter-revolutionaries and elements hostile to the state. At the same tim,e the government has the duty to be vigilant in defence of the civil rights of all members of the Ukrainian People’s Republic and take energetic steps to foil a repetition of the pogroms against Jews organised by counter-revolutionaries.
In the economic sphere, the Ukrainian Social-Democratic Party delegation is in favour of the government taking steps towards the planned nationalisation of the most highly-developed businesses such as railways, sugar refineries, mines, etc.
While still committed to the organisation of the army as a people’s militia, the Ukrainian Social-Democratic Workers’ Party delegation nevertheless believes it necessary, for the purpose of the current defence of Ukrainian independence, for the government to take steps to organise a well-disciplined regular army, without which, at the present moment, our Republic cannot possibly exist.
The Ukrainian Social-Democratic Workers’ Party delegation salutes, as absolutely essential for the republic’s normal development, the unification of the two parts of the today indivisible, sole, independent and sovereign Ukraine and approves all decisions and mutual commitments of the united parts.
Standing for the Ukrainian people’s right to full self-determination, the Ukrainian Social-Democratic Workers’ Party delegation declares that all hostile attempts, from whatever source, to impose a foreign will, hostile to her independence, by force of arms, will encounter energetic resistance on the part of the Ukrainian proletariat and peasantry.
The Ukrainian Social-Democratic Workers’ Party delegation believes that a military alliance with and dependence on the part of Ukraine on the Entente Powers as arbiters of international politics is impermissible, and protests against foreigners intervening in Ukraine’s internal affairs in pursuit of their imperialist goals.
On the other hand, the Soviet Army’s campaign against Ukraine, the aggressive attack by the Don Cossacks and [Russian] volunteer hordes, the Polish offensive in Galicia and the Romanian invasion of the Bukovyna and the Ukrainian parts of Bessarabia make it necessary to put on the agenda the organisation of the defence of the nation against the incursions on all sides of counter-revolutionary foes.
Representing the organised proletariat of Ukraine, the Ukrainian Social-Democratic Workers’ Party delegation calls on the Directory Government to act energetically to ensure that not a single drop of Ukrainian peoples’ blood is shed in vain. Notwithstanding its efforts to achieve good mutual relations with foreign powers, the government of the Ukrainian People’s Republic should value its relations with the Ukrainian people greater. It should not allow itself to be moved from its democratic and socialist course either by threats or by tempting and treacherous promises. It should be guided purely and simply by the interests of the working masses of the Ukrainian People’s Republic.
The mighty uprising of the Ukrainian toiling peasants and workers obliterated the Hetmanate-landowner reaction in Ukraine that was forcibly planted here by German imperialism. The popular working masses began to fight oppression, exploitation and slavery with unprecedented strength.
This great Ukrainian revolution, taking place in nationally Ukrainian forms and limits, is at the same time closely connected with the course of world events and with the West European revolution. The overthrow of German imperialism by the revolution in Germany and its weakened force in Ukraine provided favourable conditions for the success of the Ukrainian revolution.
Closely connected with the European socialist revolution that has seized a large part of the world, the Ukrainian revolution is taking on the aspects of a socialist revolution and is assuming the task of fundamentally transforming the economic and political relations on the socialist principle.
In its first stage, the socialist revolution leads to the disintegration of the old imperialist states and to the creation of new national-political organisms by the liberated peoples. The further process of transforming the national revolution into a social revolution and of reconstructing economic life takes place within the forms and limits of these organisms and, therefore, for its successful and even development the Ukrainian socialist revolution demands that its national-political Ukrainian forms be safeguarded.
Thus, in the present moment of the socialist revolution, the Ukrainian Republic, without excluding treaties and alliances for common aims with other socialist republics, must in the interests of revolution maintain its independence as a definite national and economic organism.
The Directory of the UNR had to choose correctly the moment for raising the slogans of the uprising among the Ukrainian popular masses; it provided the organisational cells of that nucleus whose circle produced the mighty popular force. The Directory played its own great organisational role in the Ukrainian revolution.
But it could not stay on the path by which the Ukrainian socialist revolution must develop, it could not appreciate the tasks and aims put forth by the world revolution, it could not stand firm on the social basis and caused the social foundation, which alone could strengthen the revolution, to loosen.
The reasons for this are both the very structure of the Directory's power and the circumstances in which it managed to carry on its activity. The character of the Directory's composition as a coalition of national revolutionary Ukrainian parties and the absence a clearly defined class character (only class power can carry out a socialist revolution) determined the vacillating and indecisive character of both its internal and external policy.
Having raised the slogan of the dictatorship of the working people, the Directory, at the same time, instead of relying on the organisation of this dictatorship, instead of giving the energies of working masses an organised input, to calling these bodies into power, began to persecute and destroy them.
Instead of becoming a ground for restructuring all life on a socialist basis, the Directory took the path of mending the bourgeois system with social patches, trying to hold up the bourgeois system, and even these patches hang in the air, because it does not have the force to translate them into life.
The Directory entered into conflict with the working masses, and it disorganised and ruined the revolutionary forces, it turned this conflict into a civil war engulfing almost the whole of Ukraine.
In the course of this conflict, the Directory turned more and more to the right, workers' organisations were persecuted, revolutionary parties and leaders were plagued with repression and terror, and the Directory’s authority became a military-bourgeois dictatorship.
To a great extent, this course of events was fostered by Ukraine's international position. Finding itself between two foreign powers - Soviet Russia on the one hand and the imperialist Entente on the other - the Directory did not take a decisive attitude toward the Entente out of fear. At the same time, the attack of the Soviet Russian army and the Pyatakov government's adventure caused government policy in Ukraine to go to the right rather than to the left as might have been expected. As a result, we have a war with Socialist Russia and the possibility of an alliance with the imperialist Entente.
We cannot allow this. The only way out of this situation that can maintain the revolution and prevent it from being strangled, that can provide the revolutionary masses with organising slogans and lead them to the struggle, is the quickest possible transfer of power to the worker-peasant councils.
The Labour Congress is the fruit of the Directory's vacillating and ambiguous policy. In convening the Labour Congress, the Directory intended to satisfy both the social and imperialist forces and satisfied neither.
We cannot consider the Labour Congress a genuine representative of the revolutionary masses of Ukraine either in its construction or in the way elections to it were carried out. The representation of workers does not correspond to their significance in the national economy; the revolutionary army was deprived of the right to participate in the Labour Congress. The Labour Congress was convened simultaneously with the destruction of the organs of the working people, or the prevention of their local existence; elections were held under government pressure, without freedom of agitation; the bunching up and speed of the elections in unfavourable military conditions - all this deprives the Labour Congress of true representation of the revolutionary masses and gives no force to its work, because it lacks the organs that might support it.
Therefore, if the Directory transfers all power to it, the Labour Congress lacks the right to keep it in its own hands and must transfer this power to the true representative of the revolutionary masses, the only one capable of carrying out the great tasks of the Ukrainian social revolution - the worker-peasant councils.
In view of all the above, the independent faction of the Ukrainian Social-Democratic Party at the Labour Congress demands the following:
1. Having received full power in the Ukrainian republic from the Directory, the Labour Congress does not keep it in its own hands, but transfers it to the only true representative of the force and will of the revolutionary peasants and workers - the councils of workers' and peasants' deputies.
2. The Labour Congress proclaims Ukraine an independent Socialist republic.
3. The Labour Congress proposes that the Soviet Russian government enter peace negotiations and agreements between the two socialist republics.
4. The Labour Congress demands the withdrawal of foreign imperialist troops from Ukraine and the non-interference of imperialist states in Ukrainian affairs.
5. The Labour Congress puts together a provisional worker-peasant government composed of representatives of parties and groups that stand for the power of the soviets. On specific instructions of the congress, this government will be charged with transferring power to the worker-peasant councils and convening a congress of worker-peasant councils in Ukraine, which is to create the normal order of the Ukrainian Socialist Republic of Councils and organise a permanent government.
6. After this, the Labour Congress must be dissolved.
Fraction of the Nezalezhnyky U.S.D.
The Congress of the Working People of Ukraine, having heard the reports of the Directory and its ministries and bearing in mind the declaration of the Directory on its readiness to relinquish its authority, has resolved:
1. To express its full trust in and thanks to the Directory for its great work for the liberation of the Ukrainian people from landowner-Hetmanate power.
2. Considering the threatening internal and external position of our republic, to cease our meetings and create a commission from among ourselves, with legislative and control functions, which are to draft bills for the next session of the Labour Congress and help the government in curing the administrative apparatus of counter-revolutionary and anti-state elements. New commissions on the following must be created: 1. defence of the state, 2. land, 3. budget, 4. foreign affairs, 5. provisions, and 6. culture and education. The general composition of the commissions will be determined by elections on the basis of proportional representation from all factions of the congress:
1 representative for 15 members of the congress. The division among individual commissions and their agendas will be established in meeting of all deputies elected to the commissions.
3. In view of the dangerous military situation, to charge the Directory of the UNR, supplemented with representatives from Dnieper Ukraine, with the authority to defend the country until the next Labour Congress becomes the supreme power, and to pass laws necessary for the defence of the republic, which laws are to be ratified at the next meeting of the Labour Congress.
The executive power of the UNR belongs to the Council of Ministers, which is formed by the Directory and during the first session of the congress is responsible to the Directory.
4. To charge presidium of the Labour Congress to convene the next session of the Labour Congress, in agreement with the Directory, as soon as normal work is possible.
5. The Congress of the Working People of Ukraine stands against the organised dictatorship of the workers and for a democratic order in Ukraine. In order to strengthen the democratic order, the government of the UNR together with its commissions must prepare a law for elections to the all-national parliament of the Great Pan-Ukrainian Republic.
6. On the basis of all-national voting, new local organs of government are to be convened and, in the interests of national defence, local authority will belong to the confidants of the government of the UNR - the commissars, who must work in contact with and under the control of the local labour councils, elected proportionately from peasants and workers.
7. Regarding the seizure of Ukrainian territory by the states of the Entente, by the Soviet, Polish, Don, Volunteer and Romanian armies, the Congress of the Working People of Ukraine resolutely protests attempts on the unity, autonomy and independence of the Ukrainian People's Republic. The Ukrainian people want to be neutral and to have friendly relations with all other peoples, but it will not tolerate any state's imposing its will on the Ukrainian people by armed force.
8. The Congress of the Working People of Ukraine issues its Universal on its resolutions to the Ukrainian people and a memorandum to the peoples of the whole world.
Supported by the Ukrainian Social-Democratic Workers’ Party (official) and part of the Ukrainian Party of Socialist Revolutionaries (central tendency).
Not recognising the competence of the congress from the very beginning, as we have noted in our declaration, we have seen it as our sole task to use the tribune of the congress to proclaim the demands of the toiling peasantry and proletariat, who are fighting for socialism and the power of the soviets. In the two days of the congress's work, this task has been accomplished. On the other hand, from the declaration of the factions that make up the majority of the congress it is evident that: 1. the congress completely approves of the policy of the Directory, which carries on a struggle against the revolutionary masses, 2. the congress approves of the war with Soviet Russia and the agreement with the imperialist governments of the Entente, hiding behind a mask of neutrality. The government, which convened this congress on uncertain grounds and under conditions of repressions against the revolutionary socialist parties, attained its aims and won an obedient majority. Once again, we declare that this government has no right to speak in the name of the toiling masses of Ukraine. Fulfilling the order of their electors, the above mentioned factions leave the congress and reject all responsibility for the resolutions of the congress and their consequences.
Ukrainian Social-Democrat Nezalezhnyky
Ukrainian Party of Socialist Revolutionaries (Left)
General Jewish Labour Bund
Report on the Activities of the Ukrainian Social-Democratic Workers’ Party to the International Socialist Bureau in Amsterdam
The Ukrainian Social-Democratic Workers’ Party came into being in 1900. It was called the Revolutionary Ukrainian Party from 1900 to 1905. In 1905, the party’s second congress adopted a social-democratic programme and took the name of “Social-Democratic Workers’ Party”.
The party has already presented reports on its activities to various International Socialist congresses – in Amsterdam, in 1905; in Stuttgart, in 1907; in Copenhagen, in 1910 and at the International Socialist Conference in Holland in 1916. There is therefore little point in discussing the party’s activities from the time it changed until 1907. We shall only discuss the recent period, from the time of the Russian Revolution to date. In common with all other socialist organisations, the Ukrainian Social-Democratic Workers’ Party was terribly oppressed by the Tsarist regime and the war had increased the number of repressive acts. Newspapers were outlawed and the Ukrainian proletariat had no opportunity to get any information on events in their own language. From the very outbreak of hostilities, almost the entire territory of Ukraine was declared to be in a “State of Siege” and all the Ukrainian press offices were closed down by order of the military authorities. Moreover, the party was seriously weakened by the departure of a great number of its members for the front. Despite this, the organisations continued to function in the large cities of Ukraine where the largest numbers of the proletariat lived and also in Petrograd and Moscow and other Russian cities. For military reasons, the Petrograd garrison had been reinforced from within the regiments of the Imperial Guard who made up the largest part of the garrison. The Ukrainians, men of great presence, were still very numerous and the organisers of the party in Petrograd were able to disseminate their revolutionary work among the soldiers. It was the Ukrainians who, assisted by other socialist organisations, made the Volyn regiment and other regiments in the Guard rise up in rebellion. These uprisings made the Duma Committee stop their hesitating and resulted in the development of the events that are already well-known.
After the victory of the revolutionaries, the “underground” doors opened and work was done in the light of day.
The party conference which took place at the beginning of April 1917 already recorded the existence of five newspapers, in Kyiv; Kharkiv, Katerynoslav, Petrograd and Moscow. The conference decided to produce a Central Publication of the party, Robitnycha Hazeta. At the same time, books were beginning to be published, organisations, libraries and Community Centres were established in different areas of Ukraine. The party was heavily involved in the union and cooperative movements and also in the workers’ councils which were created in Ukraine in order to coordinate the activities of democracy.
The Ukrainian Social-Democratic Workers’ Party has struggled from the very beginning of its existence for democracy in order to free the proletariat and all citizens from all kinds of oppression, including from national oppression. This is why the Ukrainian Social-Democratic Workers’ Party became very active in the national movement which spread throughout the entire territory of Ukraine during the first days of the revolution. Conferences, meetings and demonstrations supporting Ukrainian democracy all took place in order to complete national, territorial autonomy. The party took an active role in all the above. In order to crown the efforts of the party in its fight in favour of socialism and in order to give all the Ukrainian people forms of free and democratic life, an institution to represent the people had to be created – a Constituent Assembly elected by a universal, secret and direct vote which would be both equal and proportional. Since the Revolution and the war were not yet over, it was impossible to realise these aspirations. Before convening the Constituent Assembly, it was therefore of the utmost importance to create a temporary, representative institution which would bring together the different forces of Ukrainian democracy. Together with other political parties, the USDRP therefore took the initiative to create the Central Rada which was made up of representatives from all the political parties in the country, whatever their nationality. The party had 142 out of 800 representatives in the Central Rada. There were also several party members in the General Secretariat which was responsible to the Rada.
The party believed that the Russian Constituent Assembly should not limit the rights of the people in Russia, but should rather give them the freedom to decide their own fate, even going so far as to envisage complete separation; that the representatives of the largest nation should no longer decide on any matter concerning the fate of the smaller countries. The party thought that the only task of the Russian Constituent Assembly should be to establish the principal laws of the Russian Federation. All matters relating to establishing democratic regimes in the parties of the former Russian Empire should be decided by the local Constituent Assemblies. The party took part in the elections for the Pan-Russian Constituent Assembly, together with other Ukrainian parties, and won around 550,000 votes. The party also took part in the elections for the Ukrainian Constituent Assembly, this time with no alliance with the other parties, and obtained 700,000 votes. When it took part in the local elections, the party won 800,000 votes. It is necessary to point out that the party’s influence on political life in Ukraine has been more important than the figures would seem to indicate. This can be explained by the social-democratic method followed by the party in its activities and also by the large numbers of very popular politicians, such as Petlyura, Vynnychenko, Porsh, etc. As far as relations with the other political parties in Ukraine are concerned, we shall merely mention the social-democratic parties of other nationalities in Ukraine and also the Ukrainian Socialist Revolutionary Party.
The USDRP is divided from the Russian Social-Democratic Workers’ Party over the national question. In a country made up of so many nationalities, the USDRP believed that it was essential to create proletarian organisations in respect of each nationality and to bind them together by means of federative links. The steps taken by the party in this regard never had any success because the Russian Social-Democratic party refused to recognize not only these principles but also the national, territorial autonomy of Ukraine. This independent position of the Ukrainian party did not stop it from contributing to the proletariat’s struggle on a practical level – political demonstrations, strikes, etc. Relations with the Polish and Jewish Social-Democratic parties were closer because the latter contributed to the proletariat’s national claims.
The Ukrainian Socialist Revolutionary Party differs, not because of the national but rather the agricultural question. It should be remembered that Ukraine is an agricultural country and peasants make up 85% of the population. For the peasants, the revolution was simply an agricultural matter. In its programme, the Ukrainian Social-Democratic Workers’ Party restricted individual property to a specific number of hectares (40 deciatines42). The party also demanded that large agricultural properties should be expropriated, that assets belonging to the Crown and the Church, etc. should be confiscated, that these assets should be nationalised and used by the communes and small landholders.
The Ukrainian Party of Socialist Revolutionaries took the socialisation of the land as a slogan for its programme. This slogan which, for the peasants, meant sharing land, brought the Socialist Revolutionary Party a large number of followers.
As mentioned above, the Social-Democratic Party entered the 1917 revolution putting Ukrainian autonomy in its programme. When, at the second congress in 1905, the party put Ukrainian autonomy in its programme, it acted according to the following considerations:
- National oppression in contemporary bourgeois society is the cause of the cultural, economic and political decadence of the oppressed people. This impedes the development of proletarian consciousness
- National oppression causes the stirrings of nationalism and solidarity and confuses the interests of the proletariat with those of the bourgeoisie in different groups of the ruling nation and the oppressed nation.
- The process of economic centralisation is only one facet of economic development. The other facet is economic decentralisation which leads to political decentralisation.
- The democratisation of state control requires the decentralisation of legislation, of government and also of the law.
- The second congress of the USDRP included Ukrainian national territorial autonomy in its programme, with a legislative parliament. The congress considers Ukraine within its ethnographic borders.
In order to understand the evolution of the Ukrainian Social-Democratic Workers’ Party which replaced Ukrainian autonomy with independence in its programme, we must take a look at the series of events which took place in Ukraine. The history of the party during this period is inextricably linked to all life in Ukraine and to the activities of her government which included, as it had previously, a number of party members. The aim of all the demonstrations, congress, meetings etc., which took place in Ukraine at the beginning of the 1917 Revolution, was Ukrainian autonomy. The Central Rada, born of the people and of all the democratic parties, including the USDRP, demanded that the Provisional Government should recognise Ukrainian autonomy and stated the same demand in the First Universal. Given the number of different nationalities in Russia, the Provisional Government, was unable to appreciate how important it was for it to resolve the national question out of everyone’s best interests, published the Order, dated 4th August 1917, in which it granted Ukraine limited autonomy and only in respect of five guberniya (Kyiv, Volhynia, Podolia, Poltava and Chernihiv, without including the districts of the North).
This autonomy was so limited that the appointment of the commissars/commissioners (who replaced the governors of the previous regime) was made without giving prior notice to the General Secretariat of the Central Rada and these commissars/commissioners received their instructions directly from the Provisional Government in Petrograd. It was the same centralising system, under a change of name. The Order of 4th August 1917, cutting a piece of Ukrainian territory and leaving the most industrial part of Ukraine outside the power of the General Secretariat (Kharkiv, Katerynoslav, steel factories and collieries) clearly revealed to the Ukrainian people the imperialism that fed Russian power did not wish to take into account the national claims made by other peoples. A general malaise among the masses was the result of such a policy. And, when the order came without any discussion in the Central Rada, the majority of these members demanded that the General Secretariat should refuse to obey the order, immediately break with the Provisional Government and declare the independence of Ukraine.
The USDRP believed this decision to be premature and, through its representatives at the Central Rada, demanded that the order be accepted in order to serve as the basis for the future development of the gains of the revolution. This opinion prevailed and the Central Rada adopted the motion of the USDRP.
Life is stronger than the piece of paper by which the Provisional Government intended meeting Ukrainian national claims. Indeed, events showed that only the USDRP had understood the steps to be taken since the Central Rada and the General Secretariat, while keeping to the 4th August Order, would become the government organs of power which would lead all Ukraine and would assume the responsibilities of Parliament and of the Ukrainian ministries.
The coup d’état in Petrograd on 25th October 1917 which brought the Bolsheviks to power, at the same time, made the organs with which the General Secretariat would have been able to lay down their conditions, disappear. In effect, the Central Rada accepted neither the tactics of the Bolsheviks nor their program of socialisation as they understood it. On 7th November 1917, it also declared the independence of the Ukrainian Peoples Republic. It should be emphasised that, while declaring the independence of Ukraine, this Universal also expressed the desire to forge federative links with the Greater Russian Republic at some later point. The USDRP agreed with the Central Rada and recognized that, in order to break this impasse, there was no other issue.
The Lenin government which, from the very beginning, wanted to do the exact opposite of the Kerensky government and to create a large number of partisans in the masses officially recognised the independent Ukrainian Republic on 4th December 1917. At the same time, the Bolsheviks and their official newspapers began spreading propaganda and stirring up unrest against the government and the Central Rada, accusing them of being bourgeois. A congress of workers’, peasants’ and soldiers’ representatives, in the spirit of the leaders of Smolny, took place in Kyiv on 5th December, at the instigation of and on the initiative of Russian Bolshevik organisations to which the independent Ukrainian Republic had guaranteed free existence. This Congress was to overturn the Central Rada and its General Secretariat and give power to the Soviets. This Congress had assembled 2,000 representatives, who with fifty votes less than a unanimous vote, stated their confidence in the Central Rada and its activities. These 50 members of the congress left Kyiv for Kkarkiv and, appealing to Russian Bolshevik elements of the garrison and after having received several detachments from the centre of Russia, began an offensive against Ukraine. Until that time, the Ukrainian government had been unable to form a strong and well-disciplined army because of the obstacles put in its way by the Provisional Government in Petrograd. On the other hand, the general morale of the Ukrainian soldiers was not strong enough to resist the charms of the Bolshevik slogan “Everything for everyone” and, finally, there was a great feeling of weariness prevalent among all the military officers due to three hard years at the front. After bitter fighting, the forces of the Ukrainian army had to fall back when faced with the Bolshevik masses and ten days of fierce fighting having shown that all resistance was impossible, the Ukrainian Government and most of the members of the Rada abandoned Kyiv to the Bolsheviks and withdrew to Zhytomyr.
Members of the Ukrainian Social-Democratic party took part in the fighting, weapons in hand, and many of them died, massacred by the Bolsheviks both in Kyiv and in other villages of Ukraine, in the face of the International, we the Ukrainian Social-Democrats, must state that, in this struggle, the masses of Russian peasants and workers, dressed in their grey greatcoats have not marched against the Ukrainian bourgeoisie, but only against the Ukrainian proletariat which is also made up of workers and peasants. We must also point out that a large part of the Bolshevik troops was made up of elements which, with much assistance given by the Bolsheviks have entered the Red Guard as a stopgap. The regime established in Kyiv instigates terror and suppression against anyone suspected of having any sympathy with Central Rada. Some Ukrainian newspapers were suppressed and those that were able to be published were severely censored. Robitnycha Hazeta, our party paper, was only published five or six times under the Bolshevik regime and, even then, secretly.
The Bolsheviks, being unable to maintain their administrative apparatus and finding no support among the masses, in their turn, had to withdraw in the face of superior forces: Ukrainian regiments, trained in Volhynia and reinforced by German troops entered Ukraine by means of the Brest-Litovsk treaty.
On returning to Kyiv, the Central Rada and its General Secretariat were unable to remain in power for long. Thanks to the assistance given by German troops, the large Russian landholders, unhappy about agrarian reform which had taken away their land, gave support to the government under the name of the Hetman, General Skoropadsky, a great favourite of the imperial court. This was the beginning of the Ukrainian reaction.
The government called to power by General Skoropadsky was largely made up of the party of Cadets. The other Ukrainian political parties refused to participate and joined the opposition. The agrarian law voted in by the Central Rada was repealed and the rights of the large property owners were restored. An offensive against democracy began, with arrests, imprisonments, firing squads, denunciations; freedoms of speech and meetings, etc., were outlawed under the pretext of stopping Bolshevism.
The Ukrainian Social-Democratic Party returned to the underground, but with difficulty as the number of its supporters had increased, the revolutionary movement continued to evolve and the struggle continued. In Ukraine, as in the Don and Kuban, reactionary organised under the standard of the Volunteer Army.
On the other hand, the Skoropadsky government called for assistance of tsarist bureaucrats from Petrograd and from Moscow, who came very willingly to find shelter from the Bolshevik regime in Kyiv. When reactionary elements began to suppress the national and social gains of the Ukrainian people, the USDRP, shoulder to shoulder with the other Ukrainian parties, entered a decisive war against the Skoropadsky regime.
The specific insurrections continued throughout all of Ukraine. The German troops, who made up more than 500,000 men on Ukrainian territory, energetically defended the interests of the Hetman. The blood of Ukrainian peasants and workers flowed and the German artillery razed entire villages. At last, when the Skoropadsky government openly broke with the Ukrainians and appealed to the Russian monarchist circles, the Ukrainian National Union, made up of representatives of all the democratic parties, including the USDRP, organized a general uprising. A Directory of 5 members was elected and two of the Representatives of the USDRP, Vynnychenko and Petlyura joined.
Beginning on 14th November, this movement was followed by a mobilisation of the Ukrainian people who, within a few days, provided 800,000 recruits, of whom 200,000 were kept back through a lack of clothes and munitions, and in less than three weeks, a popular army was organised. The necessary weapons were obtained by disarming Skoropadsky’s detachments of voluntary officers and especially from the German troops. This movement concluded in the complete victory of the revolutionary people, village by village, town by town, all of Ukraine came into the hands of the Committee. Petlyura’s troops entered Kyiv on 14th December. The Hetman, together with several of his ministers, sought asylum in Germany. The officers from the voluntary detachments dispersed in all different directions and many were taken prisoner.
The Directory formed a democratic government and four members of the Ukrainian Social Democratic party joined it. Once again, many different activities were undertaken. The agrarian law that the Central Rada had voted in but not yet enforced was revived. The Directory signed the decree by which the Labour Congress, made up of peasants, workers and democratic intellectuals, was convened.
However, the government’s position and the position of the parties who had given it their support became serious. Ukraine had to withstand war on several fronts: in the Donets basis and the region of Odessa, against the Volunteer Army who had seized the Katerynoslav mines and put in place a regime of terror, also seizing nine hundred truckloads of coal which the Ukrainian railways desperately needed; in Galicia, against the Poles who had seized Lviv. Ukraine was forced to fight a difficult war in the north where Bolshevik detachments had already begun an offensive in the guberniya’s of Chernihiv, Kharkiv, and Kursk.
Furthermore, there were many bands of brigands throughout all Ukraine, the most important of which was Makhno’s (the current general of the Bolsheviks in Crimea), who carried out his misdeeds in the region of Katerynoslav.
It had not been possible to organise an army with reliable foundations during the German occupation, under the Hetman regime. This popular army which had given back power to the Committee needed to consolidate the lack of coal resulting from the occupation of Donets stopped all traffic and did not allow the Committee to position its troops in the areas where they would have been necessary.
However, the Bolsheviks in the north massed their forces in the guberniya of Kharkiv and of Kursk and unleashed their offensive against the Ukrainian troops. The Ukrainian troops who, from the beginning, fought the Bolsheviks and who, for the reasons outlined, were not able to receive reinforcements, had to sustain attacks by superior Bolshevik forces, commanded by the tsarist general Glagolev, and others.
Some Ukrainian political groups, among them the extremist Party of Socialist Revolutionaries, believed that, given the impossibility of withstanding fighting on several fronts, it was necessary to come to terms with some elements of the enemy. Since a peace treaty with the Volunteer monarchists or with the imperialist Poles who wanted to seize eastern Galicia could not be signed, they said that a peace treaty could be entered into only with the Bolsheviks.
Negotiations began and Ukraine included an indispensable condition that Bolshevik troops should withdraw from Ukrainian territory following the negotiations. Lenin’s refusal led to Ukraine declaring war. On the other hand, the same Ukrainian groups began to disseminate propaganda about putting power back into the hands of the Ukrainian soviets, believing that this was the only way to safeguard the independent Ukrainian Republic. The 6th party Congress which met towards the middle of January, unanimously less 10 votes decided that it was premature to give power to the Soviets and that the Ukrainian proletariat, united with all the people, had to defend, weapons in hand, their territory against any invasion and against any kind of violence, from wherever these would come: imperialist, Bolshevik, etc.
The Labour congress convened by the Committee met in Kyiv towards the end of January 1919 and was made up of only representatives from the workers’ party; the bourgeois having no right to vote. Many representatives of Ukrainian Democracy were unable to attend, Kharkiv, Chernihiv and Poltava, being already in the hands of the Bolsheviks. The congress unanimously ratified recognition of the Ukrainian People’s Republic. The congress made several amendments to the draft agrarian law and approved the rights of small landowners over land already in their possession. Unfortunately, the congress did not have the calm conditions required in order to give itself over to its work; the evacuation of Kyiv began. It moved to Vinnytsia, in Podolia where the Ukrainian government also came to be installed.
Today, Ukraine continues its bitter struggle against Bolshevik invasion and if the lack of weapons forces the army to withdraw to the western border, the workers’ party has confidence in the cause it is defending and is firmly resolved to achieve the triumph of the democratic Ukrainian Republic, whatever the cost, and will spare no effort nor no blood to ensure that democratic Ukraine has the right to create in her own territory whatever form of government it wishes for the victory of democracy, the basis of the triumph of socialism.
- 1. The Directory members were: Vynnychenko, as Chairman, Petliura, F. Shevets of the Peasant Union, P. Andriievsky, Independent Socialists, and A. Makarenko representing the rail workers trade union.
- 2. The Nezalezhnyky counted a number of prominent figures in its ranks: Mykhaylo Tkachenko, their main theorist, had been Minister of Internal Affairs of the Central Rada; Volodymyr Chekhivsky, the Head of the Council of Ministers of the revived UNR government. The other leading theorist was Andriy Richytsky; he was one of the editors of the USDRP central organ Robitnycha Gazeta in 1917. Mykhaylo Avdiyenko was the most active practical figure, originally from the strong Petrograd USDRP organisation where he was soldier; later in Kyiv he was close to Vynnychenko. Another prominent member was Antin Drahomyretsky, a Kyiv functionary and Yurko Mazurenko; he was in command of the USDRP Revolutionary Committee and in 1917 played a key role in blocking the passage to Petrograd of Kornilov.
- 3. Khrystiuk Pavlo Zamitky i materiialy do istori ukrains'koi revoliutsia 1917-1920, Vol. IV Chapter III 52.
- 4. When the Dniprovska Division entered Kyiv on the defeat of Skoropadsky it was under red banners and slogans of “All power to the Soviets!” and “All land to the peasants”. Fearing they would make an attempt to take power, Petlyura transferred them from the city. Petrichenko, KB — “Malovidomi Fakty z Zhyttya ta Diyalnosti Danylo Ilkovicha Terpylo (Otaman Zeleny)”. Unpublished paper, Institute of Ukrainian Studies Kyiv, December 2006
- 5. Ukrainian People's Socialist Republic December 1918 (Robitnycha Hazeta, 7 January 1919, Khrystiuk. Zamitky i materiialy, Tom. IV, pp. 55-56).
- 6. Ukrainian People's Socialist Republic December 1918 (Robitnycha Hazeta, 7 January 1919, Khrystiuk. Zamitky i materiialy, Tom. IV, pp. 55-56).
- 7. An illustration was Colonel Bolbochan, the former Hetmanate commander of the Zaporozhian Division, who was appointed the Directory's commander in chief in Left-Bank Ukraine. Bolbochan instituted a reign of terror against the resurgence of the agrarian revolution and the workers' councils (Baker “Peasants, Power and Revolution in the Village” 167-8).
- 8. Assessing what had arisen in the UNR, “Andr. Mykh” of the Nezalezhnyky wrote: “Whatever was alive and popular in it has passed to the masses where it works. But remnants of the nationalist bourgeoisie and intelligentsia cling to the blue and yellow banner, arrange buffoonery, meetings to the sound of church bells, prayer services and other attributes of national sentimentalism, which only serve to discredit the popular movement and its leaders. Our task and the task of the Directory at the present moment is to break completely with remnants of the national front” (Robitnycha Hazeta, December 1918, pp. 55-56).
- 9. The Council of National Ministers was re-established on 26 December 1918, members of the USDRP included: Prime Minister .V. Chekhivsky, Minister of Finance V. Mazurenko; Minister of Food Supplies B.Martos; Minister of Arts D. Antonovych; Minister of National Health B. Matiushenko; Minister of Labor L.Mykhailiv.
- 10. Khrystiuk. Zamitky i materiialy, Tom IV, p. 69
- 11. Khrystiuk. Zamitky i materiialy, Tom IV, p. 69
- 12. The discussions that Porsh held with Mazepa on their own do not explain such a volte-face by Porsh. One can only surmise that the experience of the Bolshevik rule in Ukraine had seriously disillusioned Porsh, as it had others. It was his last speech to a USDRP audience in Ukraine after which he was dispatched as UNR ambassador to Germany. In January 1921 he began to adopt a more sovietophile politics; he made a speech at a student meeting calling on the émigrés to recognise the Soviet Ukrainian government and return to the Ukraine. Porsh applied to return to the Ukraine himself in 1922 and in January 1923 the Ukrainian Politburo decided to allow him to return though he never took up the offer. He started to drift away from political activity and suffered a tragic death in Germany in 1944.
- 13. Vynnychenko Vidrodzhennia natsii, Kyiv-Vienna, 1920,Vol. 3 242.
- 14. Chervony Prapor 22 January 1919.
- 15. Chervony Prapor 22 January 1919.
- 16. Chervony Prapor 22 January 1919.
- 17. Deklaratsiya Fraktsii Nazalezhnykh USDRP, Chervony Prapor, 22 January 1919.
- 18. Khrystiuk. Zamitky i materiialy, Tom IV p.13.
- 19. Chervony Prapor 22 January 1919.
- 20. Khrystiuk. Zamitky i materiialy, Tom IV, pp. 49-54.
- 21. Khrystiuk. Zamitky i materiialy, Tom IV 12.
- 22. There is speculation that it was without Lenin's knowledge that the Red Army advanced into Ukraine in late December 1918 (Adams 82-5).
- 23. Mazurenko Dokymenti Trahichnoi Istorii Ukrayini 248-53.
- 24. An act complemented by Red Army commander Antonov also lobbying Moscow against an agreement stating there was “nobody in Ukraine with whom we should negotiate” (Stachiw 258).
- 25. Mazurenko's efforts are considered to have been sabotaged by the new head of the Directory of the UNR. (Vynnychenko Vidrodzhennia natsii Vol. 3 279-80).
- 26. Most successfully in Left-Bank Ukraine in Kharkiv, Chernihiv and Katerynoslav guberniya the Directory was overthrown. On the Right Bank attempted risings occurred in Volhynia, Zhytomyr and in the Obruch district where the Otamanshchyna responded with pogroms. In Vynnychenko's estimation in the territory under their control: “There was neither punishment, nor justice, nor trials, nor control over these criminals and enemies of the revolution and the national movement. The whole system of military authority was constructed and consciously based, by the chief otamany, on the principle that there would be no control” (Vynnychenko Vidrodzheniia natsii Vol. 3 188).
- 27. Petrichenko.
- 28. Chervony Prapor 6 February 1919.
- 29. Chervony Prapor Kharkiv 11 July 1920.
- 30. Chervony Prapor 21 December 1919.
- 31. Halahan, Mykola (1925) Likvidatsiya UKP. Nova Ukraine (Prague) 1 , pp. 26-38.
- 32. Resolutionen Des VI Kongresses Der Ukr.Sozialdemokr.Arbeiterpartei, Institute of Social History Amsterdam, 815/- 816, Robitnycha Hazeta, 5, 14, 16 January, 1919, Kyiv.
- 33. Deklaration der Fraktion der Sozialdemokratischen Arbeiterpartei der Ukraine auf dem Kongress der arbeitenden Völkes der Ukraine, Institute of Social History, 8116/12-15.
- 34. Zakon, ukhvalenyy Konhresom Trudovoho Narodu Ukrayiny na zasidanni, 28 January, 1919 , ‘Pro formu vlady na Ukrayini’, Institute of Social History, Amsterdam, SAI, 816/6
- 35. Rezolyutsiyi po suchasnomy momentu VI Kongresy USDRP, (Institute of Social History, 015/1)
- 36. Chervony Prapor , No.1, 22 January 1919
- 37. Chervony Prapor , No.1, 22 January 1919
- 38. Chervony Prapor, No.2, 1919
- 39. Chervony Prapor, No.3, 30 January, 1919. The Resolution was proposed by S Bachinsky of the UPSR (Central Current) and based on the Declaration of the USDRP (official) to the Congress.
- 40. Chervony Prapor No.3, 30 January, 1919
- 41. Rapport sur les activités du parti social-démocrate au Bureau socialiste international D’Amsterdam, (The International Institute of Social History - IISH/IISG), this report was submitted by to the Socialist and Labour Conference at Berne in February 1919. The conference was to make arrangements for the resumption of the previous socialist international which broke up during the war. This was organised by a revived International Socialist Commission based in Amsterdam. The initiative rivalled the Russian Bolshevik Communist International centred in Moscow.
- 42. 1 deciatine = 2.70 acres’; a measurement of land in the Russian Empire, equivalent to 1.09 hectares’.