Arsenal of Marxismn

Nationalism or Internationalism? 

The question is posed by the Russian Revolution

By Chris Kinder

Part 1

Only the victory of the working class can bring about the complete liberation of all nationalities. —Lenin

November 2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the Armistice that ended the horrific so-called “Great War”—World War I. A brutal inter-imperialist conflict, this war had as its chief purpose the defense of, and the acquisition of colonies and the resources they contained, by the “great” powers. Four imperialist hangovers from times past—the Germany of Wilhelm II, Austro-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire and the Russian Empire—all collapsed as a result of this war and their own internal contradictions. The victorious Britain, France and the late-arriving U.S. proceeded to restructure Europe and the Middle East, creating new puppet nations out of old empires and dividing up territory between them. But only one country—revolutionary Soviet Russia—had a unique and liberating approach to the colonial/national oppression that continued to plague Europe and the world.

The Russian (Bolshevik) Revolution of October 1917 addressed the question of the rights of nations for self-determination—for liberation from oppression—in a way that was unparalleled before or since. The Revolution defined the connection between the liberation of oppressed nations, and the liberation of all working people worldwide, both in its time, and for today. Its first act was to denounce and withdraw from this unspeakable war. This included publishing the secret treaties by which imperialist powers had arranged and coordinated their colonial ambitions with their allies; and renunciation of the Tsar’s own imperial designs and interventions, the tentacles of which, like the designs of Britain and France, extended into the Middle East.

Fundamental law: national rights 

The Fundamental Law of the Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic (RSFSR), adopted in July 1918, abolished discrimination on the basis of race or national origin, and affirmed the equality and rights of all national minorities. It also granted full citizenship rights to all working-class immigrants who did not employ the labor of others.1

In short, the Bolshevik Revolution dealt with the national question through the prism of the class struggle, which for Marxists is the principle dividing line in a capitalist, and imperialist world. Under the pressures of the need to survive in a brutal civil war, the Bolsheviks made mistakes but on the whole did very well in implementing these principles. A century later, the lessons from this historic revolutionary experience still begs our attention.

The counter-revolutionary
power in Europe

Like the other soon to collapse empires, the Russia of the early Twentieth Century was a semi-medieval prison house of nations. Ethnic Russians were a minority of about 45 percent within the Tsarist Empire at that time. The empire had been built not as a nation in the modern bourgeois sense, but as a collection of conquered peoples from times past, starting largely in regions obtained by the Rus from the retreating Mongol Empire. These lands, as well as later conquests in Europe, were colonized by feudal/settler expansion, and expanded through warfare.2

In the late-18th and 19th Centuries—chiefly in response to the bourgeois revolution of 1789 in France—Tsarist Russia became a bastion of reaction. Motivated chiefly by reversing the bourgeois-revolutionary gains made in Poland in 1791—just two years after the French Revolution of 1789—the Tsars plotted to reduce Poland to the state of a Russian province in the partition of 1795, which (with Prussia and Austria) wiped Poland off the map for 123 years!3 Russia fought against Napoleon’s subsequent military advances; and after its defeat of the French invasion of Russia in 1812, the Tsarist empire emerged as the chief bulwark against any further advances of the revolution in Europe. Under Nicholas I, Russia eagerly helped suppress revolts against other monarchs—even when Tsardom had no particular interest itself—by intervening in the Mehmet-Ali revolt in Syria (Ottoman Empire,) the Krakow uprising of 1846, and the Hungarian revolt in 1849, among others. 

War and revolution revealed weakness

In the Crimean War of 1854 however, Russia suffered a setback. Russia had gone to war for its long-sought naval access to the Mediterranean from the Black Sea, through the straits of Bosphorus and the Dardanelles. But it was defeated militarily by Britain and France, which had long since dispensed with the need for Russia as a reactionary ally. These more advanced imperialist rivals also sought to gain from the decline of the senile Ottoman Empire. This wake-up call prompted the Tsar to modernize by promoting capitalist development, yet the “borderlands,” as they were called—like the rural areas of Great Russia itself—still languished in the background of semi-feudalism. 

While Tsardom continued to expand its holdings—Russian possessions reached as far as China and Alaska—the Empire’s acquisition of Manchuria led to conflict with Japan, which provoked the disastrous (for Russia) 1904 Russo-Japanese War. This in turn led to the 1905 Revolution—a mass uprising of working people, and a harbinger of things to come.

A mere nine years later, the “Great War” brought the contradictions of Tsarist Russia to the fore, along with those of Austria-Hungary and the Ottomans. These empires all shared the characteristic of not being nations, but collections of nationalities under archaic monarchies. Unlike the states of Western and Central Europe, which had established coherent nations with a common language and culture, these entities had not gone through completed bourgeois revolutions.

Class divisions in the borderlands

Just as in Great Russia, the borderlands had their own sharp contradictions. In the Ukraine and White Russia (today’s Belarus,) the landlord, capitalist, lawyer, or journalist was Russian, Polish, Jewish or other foreigner, while the rural population was Ukrainian or White Russian, except in Eastern Ukraine, where Russians were more prominent. The Baltic States had German, Russian and Jewish bourgeoisie and landowners while the populations were Lettish (Latvian) or Estonian. In the cities of the Caucasus, Georgia and Armenia, a Russian and Armenian elite dominated; as they did also in Azerbaijan, where there was a major divide with the local Turkish-speaking rural population.

Some Tsarist possessions in the West, such as Poland and Finland, had developed working classes. While economically more advanced than Russia, they were sill entwined in its ancient imperial web, and even more class divided. In contrast, most of the central Asian borderlands were relative backwaters, dominated by Russian or Russian-allied privileged minorities such as traders and merchants, concentrated in the cities. Language barriers between the native peasants and the Russian-oriented elites in the cities were present in most borderlands. The bourgeois elements were generally loyal to the Tsar, while the countrysides were the realm of local peasants who were oppressed and not (yet) politically conscious or active in a class or national sense, although hatred of the landlords was simmering as usual. All these contradictions were soon to come to a head. 

Enter the “War To End All Wars”

At the beginning of the war in 1914, the Russian borderlands experienced a wave of patriotism just as did Great Russia and the other imperial powers. Millions of working people fixed bayonets to slaughter each other in the trenches, while their so-called “leaders”—the Social-Democratic parties of the 2nd International—abandoned their verbal internationalism and endorsed the war aims of their national bourgeois ruling classes. But all three of the aristocratic old empires began to crack, and Russia fractured first. In February of 1917 a mass uprising broke out in Petrograd, mainly over the privations of the war. Soldiers in the trenches and local garrisons—made up of peasants who came from all the nationalities of the empire—soon went over to the revolution. The Tsar’s support dispersed like so much dust in the air, and he fled in disgrace.

As with all other questions of the Revolution, the February Provisional Government led by the bourgeois-democratic Cadet party, and later by the Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries who followed them in Tsardom’s Winter Palace, had no clue of how to deal with the national question in Russia. The Provisional Government’s goal right up to its demise in October was to keep all the Russian imperial domains together in the interest of pursuing the still-raging war. Autonomy? Self-determination? We’ll see, they said. Just wait for the Constituent Assembly! 

The Provisional Government did proclaim rights such as free speech and an end to discrimination against any nationality, but even under the Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries, who in theory recognized the right of self-determination of nations, the Provisional Government refused to declare self-determination of the borderland nations even as a goal, however vague, until September of 1917, just a month before it drew its last breath!

Nevertheless, the fragility of this formerly-Tsarist regime was shown, at least in part, by how quickly local nationalities began both to assert their nationalism, and disintegrate into their linguistic and class components. As requests for recognition of autonomy, local governance, etc., poured into Petrograd following the February uprising, they were just as quickly put off. As Trotsky put it,

“The chief service of the February Revolution—perhaps its only service, but one amply sufficient—lay exactly in this, that it gave the oppressed classes and nations of Russia at last an opportunity to speak out.”4

The Bolsheviks—under Lenin—had a program

The program of the Bolshevik Party included the same national self-determination clause as did the Mensheviks, but before Lenin’s return from exile in April, this was just a slogan without much substance. This was the period in which the Bolsheviks, as led by Stalin and Kamenev, were giving critical (“in so far as”) support to the bourgeois Provisional Government, which was vacillating on granting anything to the Russian borderland possessions.

The Bolshevik program on the national question was clear, however. It had been affirmed in 1913, and described by Lenin later in that year:

1) The Bolsheviks were for “full equality of all nations and languages” and recognized “no compulsory official language,” as in instruction in schools, for instance. Such instruction was to include “all the native languages.” This point included the right of “wide regional autonomy and fully democratic local self-government” for nationalities. 

2) Opposition to “the division of the educational affairs of a single state according to nationalities.” This was a reference to the plan developed by certain Social Democrats in the Austro-Hungarian Empire to promote “cultural-national autonomy,” which would have replaced national self-determination with separate facilities—chiefly schools—for each nationality/ethnic/linguistic group within this multi-national empire.

3) “The interests of the working class demand the amalgamation of the workers of all the nationalities in a given state in united proletarian organizations—political, trade union, co-operative, educational, etc.” Lenin’s position on the national question emphasized international working-class unity across national divisions as equally important to the right of self-determination of nations. 

The right of self-determination equals the right of secession

4) The Bolsheviks were for “the right of the nations oppressed by the tsarist monarchy to self-determination, i.e., the right to secede and form independent states.” Lenin went on with, “this is dictated by the struggle of the Great Russian inhabitants themselves for freedom, for it will be impossible for them to create a democratic state if they do not eradicate Black-Hundred, Great Russian nationalism...” Elsewhere, Lenin made it crystal clear that the right of self-determination applied unequivocally to ALL nations, not just oppressed nations. This point is often missed today.


5) The Bolsheviks asserted, most importantly for today’s conditions, that, “The right of nations to self-determination...must under no circumstances be confused with the expediency of a given nation’s secession.” The question of secession must be decided “exclusively on its merits in each particular case in conformity with the interests of the proletarian class struggle for socialism.”5

Lenin’s arrival was critical 

After his arrival in Russia from exile, Lenin soon reminded the Bolsheviks as to what their program actually was: no support to the bourgeois government, all power to the soviets, and a program on the nationalities that actually had some meat on its bones. This latter point had to do with Poland particularly, and with its right to secede from the Russian empire.

At the All-Russia Bolshevik party conference in April 1917, Lenin railed against comrades of the Polish Socialist Party, including Rosa Luxemburg, who refused to recognize the right of Poland—then still largely part of the Russian empire—to secede. Based on her argument that the Polish workers, being dominated by virulent nationalists, and being industrially more advanced than Russians, would do best to unite with Russian workers. Lenin recognized the Polish socialists as internationalists who had broken with mainstream Social Democracy by opposing the war; and he recognized their right to oppose independence for Poland. But he objected to the Polish Socialist Party generalizing its stand on Poland to include the Russians and other Russian-dominated peoples. 

“Why should we Great Russians, who have been oppressing more nations than any other people, deny the right to secession for Poland, Ukraine or Finland?” Lenin asked...“Freedom to unite implies freedom to secede. We Russians must emphasize freedom to secede, while the Poles must emphasize freedom to unite.”6

The program Lenin hammered home at that conference had been worked out during the last years of his exile, in 1911 through to the outbreak of the war. The question now is, how did this revolutionary program actually work out in the Russian Revolution?

The Bolsheviks in power
faced the world

The Bolsheviks came to power in October 1917 not just to save the February Revolution from inevitable extinction at the hands of the Russian reaction, but to carry the revolution forward to working-class power, which alone could complete the democratic tasks thus far left undone, such as the national liberation of the borderlands. And in order to make democratic gains such as this permanent—as Lenin and Trotsky agreed—it was necessary for the working class to proceed with its socialist tasks.

Within its first year, the Bolshevik government achieved a great deal on the national question. None of it was simple, and all of it involved dealing with the class struggle within the borderland countries, and with the imperialist powers, which were constantly attacking Soviet Russia or looking to acquire Russia’s former borderlands for themselves. 

The Duchy of Finland was first 

The allegedly “autonomous” Duchy of Finland, in which the Tsar was the head of state, was the first thorn in the side of the Provisional Government, as Trotsky put it. When the Seim (parliament) in Helsingfors (Helsinki) asked for local self-rule, the “socialist” Provisional Government ministers moved to dissolve what was at that time the only Social-Democratic majority parliament in Europe, and even sent troops to the doors of the Seim. So much for Finland’s “autonomy!” New elections put rightists in a slim majority however, and in reaction to the October Bolshevik insurrection, they decided on full independence of Finland. The Bolsheviks moved toward granting independence in December 1917. 

However, the working class, centered in the cities and the industrialized south of Finland, now with soviets led by Bolsheviks, would have none of it. Inspired by the October Revolution, and influenced by the sharp radicalization of the Russian troops who had been stationed in Finland during the war, they rose up in revolt. While the bourgeoisie now sought full independence, the working class fought for its liberation from capitalism. The Bolsheviks tried to help with arms and aid, but were limited in what they could do, having just demobilized the troops. The rural and aristocratic reactionary Whites based in north and central Finland secured the help of German military units, and won the day, in a brutal civil war. 

The working class having lost in the Finnish civil war, the Soviets honored Finnish independence. But this pattern, in which bourgeois forces switched from working with the Provisional Government to fleeing Bolshevik Russia after October; while workers and peasants, who at first wanted freedom from Tsarism but then became participants in the Russian Revolution, soon became the norm.7

“Independence” of borderlands under German diktat 

The Bolshevik principles of support for the right of secession, and of commitment to the international class struggle, were applied in all cases in the former tsarist empire. Yet the war with Germany continued to threaten revolutionary Russia, and necessarily modified the situation. The war had been renounced by the Bolsheviks, but the Germans—now relieved of an active opponent on their Eastern front—kept advancing. Peace was necessary for the survival of the revolution, but the compromises on the national question were immense. Despite mass opposition to German landowner domination in Baltic nations, exemplified by the famous Lettish (Latvian) riflemen, who were among the first in the borderlands to ally with the Bolsheviks, the Germans dominated in this area.

The Third All-Russia Congress of Soviets in January of 1918 had this to say:

“The Central Empires [Germany and Austria] are getting under their sway the Poles, Lithuanians, half of the Latvians, part of the Ukrainians, Belorussians and Estonians and, depriving them of the right to genuine self-determination, are forcibly affirming in their midst the rule of the privileged and propertied upper crust...[This annexationist policy] will prove powerless to cut off the working people of Russia from the working people of Germany and Austria-Hungary.”8

In a grueling internal political struggle the Left Socialist Revolutionaries who were in the coalition with the Bolsheviks opposed signing the German diktat of Brest-Litovsk. While Trotsky, the chief negotiator at Brest-Litovsk, tried to maintain an unviable middle-position, Lenin insisted on it as a vital necessity under the circumstances. The Soviet Government signed the Treaty in March of 1918, which ended the war for Russia (and precipitated the Socialist Revolutionaries’ leaving the Soviet government.) But the treaty required the surrender of the German-occupied territories detailed above, which now included even more of the Ukraine under German-Austrian military occupation than a month previously. As with Finland, the so-called “independence” of most of these nationalities, took place literally at the point of an imperialist gun. 

Class struggle vs. nationalism
in the Ukraine 

Of all of Russia’s borderland nationalities, the Ukraine was not only the most important in Russia’s over-all economy, but also one of the most internally conflicted on both the class and national questions. Ukrainians and Byelorussians were largely Russian in ethnic composition, going back as far as the medieval kingdom of Kievan Rus’. The population of these areas became divided however as some moved north, and the Poland-Lithuanian Commonwealth dominated all of Byelorussia and most of Ukraine. In the middle ages in the West, in a large South-Western swath of the Ukraine known as Galicia, Polish occupation lasted more than a hundred years, and included both large Polish landholdings as well as Polish nationals forming a majority in Kiev itself.9 

The Ukraine, in fact, was so divided up that for most of its history, Ukrainian nationalism was not an issue. A mostly academic, petty-bourgeois nationalism did develop in the 1800s, and after the February Revolution, a nationalist Central Rada (Council) was formed by Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries, headed by Vladimir Vinnichenko, and an Socialist Revolutionary journalist, Symon Petlyura, who would soon play a devastating role. The Rada struggled with the Provisional Government for autonomy within Great Russia, but as soon as the Bolsheviks took power, this bourgeois body was all for independence at any cost. And that cost was heavy.

The Rada refused to cooperate with the Soviet government’s attempts to fight the reactionary White armies mobilizing to the East and South of the Ukraine, which were for restoring Tsarism throughout the former empire. Newly-formed Red Guard units moved in, and following a workers’ uprising in Kiev, they took the city. Realizing it had no support in the country, the Rada under Petlyura made a deal with the Germans: “independence” (so-called) for Ukraine in exchange for Germans driving out the Reds! During the Brest-Litovsk peace negotiations in March, the Germans had occupied virtually all of Ukraine, and the Soviets were forced to sign onto this “independence” in the final treaty. The Germans appointed a puppet government under a wealthy landowner and former aide to the Tsar, Pavlo Skoropadski, who declared himself “Hetman” and protector of landowners; and who was soon to be forced to flee the Ukraine. So much for “independence” under alliance with imperialists!10

German occupation prompts resistance

Just as in Great Russia, peasant soldiers streaming home from the front in the Ukraine spurred a peasant rebellion, land seizures, and armed opposition to the occupiers. Peasant-based partisan bands fought the Austrian and German troops, who were conducting grain seizures to feed themselves and populations at home. But the occupying army was also crumbling. “In Austria-Hungary revolts were shaking the government; and in the Ukraine, crowds of Austrian troops mutinied, killed their officers, and started for home, ‘selling their arms and ammunition to the local population.’”11 With the defeat of the Central Powers in the European war in November, these troops were already streaming out of the Ukraine. 

This left Ukraine with armed partisan bands who were peasant-based, and tinged with nationalism to varying degrees. Some were more left than others, but all were determined to defend peasant smallholdings, and to achieve some sort of independence for Ukraine. These movements were petty bourgeois in nature, opportunist, and prone to seek alliances with White reactionaries just as easily as with the Bolsheviks.12

Workers soviets were developing, mainly in the industrialized areas of the East, such as Kharkov (where a communist government was briefly formed,) the Donbas region, and in Kiev; but these had been driven back by the German advance in early 1918 and were still relatively weak. Many Ukrainian Social Democrats gravitated away from socialism all together and toward a peasant-based independent Ukraine.

Pogroms, and the Poland-Ukraine connection

The “Directorate,” the nationalist center, which came to displace the Rada after the collapse of the German-backed “hetman,” Skoropadski, soon came under the leadership of the rightist Petlyura. The Directorate restored the rights of small peasant landholders, which the German occupation government had suppressed; but under Petlyura, deadly pogroms against Jews took place. Pogroms were endemic in Ukraine; the Bolsheviks had to devote forces to stopping them. Petlyura’s defenders claim that he tried to curtail them, but his efforts were weak and inadequate. Some tens-of-thousands were killed and half-a-million left homeless in Petlyura’s genocidal rampage.13

The Bolsheviks were busy fighting the Whites in the Ukraine during most of 1918-19, defeating Denikin by autumn 1919. Now a powerful force in Ukraine, they began to close in on Petlyura’s forces. Facing defeat, this “nationalist,” who had earlier allied with the Germans to drive back the Reds, now made an alliance with Polish forces who, under the soon-to-be dictator Marshall Pilsudski, sought to re-establish centuries-old control by the Polish in Galicia and Western Ukraine. Some nationalists opposed Petlyura’s Polish gambit, but this underscores the weak and confused nature of Ukrainian nationalism. Little more than a 19th Century academic construct originally, nationalists were now united only by anti-Semitism, anti-communism, and peasant property rights. The ramifications of this confusion persist in today’s Ukraine, where anti-Polish sentiments thrive under a monument to the pogromist Petlyura as a national hero.14

A tactical misstep by the Bolsheviks

In negotiations between the Soviet and Polish governments in late 1919, the Russians offered generous boundaries to the new Polish state, but the Poles refused to sign a treaty. The Polish feared the Russian Whites more than the Bolsheviks, but with the winding down of the Civil War, that fear evaporated. The British, who were done with interventionist adventures against Russia, even urged the Poles to accept the Soviet’s peace offer, but the Poles would have none of it. Then, with Petlyura’s plea for Polish help in Ukraine, and arms supplied by the Entente powers, Pilsudski saw a chance to restore Poland’s imperial greatness. He invaded Ukraine, and took Kiev within a week in May 1920. Petlyura, specifically gave up Galicia to its former feudal ruler, Poland.15

Now it was the Bolsheviks’ time to have none of it. The Red Army intervened, and quickly drove the Poles out of Ukraine. This then set up a discussion within the 2nd Congress of the Communist International, which was meeting in Petrograd and Moscow in July-August 1920: should the Russians take their offensive into Poland itself to spread the revolution? Trotsky was against, but Lenin became convinced, and the invasion commenced. A June Communist International executive manifesto had earlier set the context:

“Workers of all countries: ...Who is responsible for these hostilities? ...the Soviet Government recognized the independence of the Polish Republic from the very first day....You know that to spare the lives of Russian and Polish workers [the Soviet Government] was ready to make territorial and economic concessions. You know that, firmly convinced that the Polish workers, allies of the Russian proletariat, would sooner or later take power into their own hand, the Soviet Government was even ready to transfer for the time being to the Polish ruling classes the territory which, by the composition of its population, should not belong to Poland. ...Poland replied to the Soviet Government’s peace proposals by a treacherous attack on the Ukraine.”16

The Soviet invasion of Poland approached Warsaw, but then failed because the Polish working class did not rise up in sufficient numbers. The Bolsheviks had miscalculated. Russia had been for centuries the chief imperial oppressor/occupier of Poland, which had only just been reestablished as a nation; and the Red Army peasant recruits, while willing defenders of the Revolution in Russia against the White armies, were not enthusiastic about taking the war into another country. This was a tactical, but not a principled error: the Soviets were correct to try to spread the revolution, but mistaken as to the readiness of the Polish workers in 1920. 

Trotsky’s permanent revolution characterized the national

Even though Soviet-inspired revolutions had failed in Finland in 1918, and Poland in 1920, the dynamics of the national question remained the same: bourgeois nationalists, acting in the name of “independence,” allied with any and all imperialist powers to prevent workers’ revolution from exploding into “their” domains. The working masses of these nationalities on the other hand, like the workers of Great Russia itself, put their class interests first.

As Trotsky explained,

“The irrevocable and irresistible going over of the masses from the most rudimentary tasks of political, agrarian, and national emancipation and abolition of serfdom to the slogan of proletarian rulership, resulted not from ‘demagogic’ agitation, not from preconceived schemes, not from the social structure of Russia and the conditions of the worldwide situation. The theory of Permanent Revolution only formulated the combined process of this development.”17

Oppressed nationalities of Russia, as well as targets for Tsarist colonization, all went through this process, with differing outcomes. In Part 2, we examine developments in the Trans-Caucasus, the Middle East, the relevance of “cultural nationalism” among Russian Jews, and the light this sheds on the phenomenon of nationalism today. 

1 First Decrees of Soviet Power, November 1917 to July 1918, Lawrence and Wisehart, London, 1970, p. 154.

2 The Rus’ were an ancient people at least partly derived from Viking colonization, who settled in what is now north-central European Russia, and built the Medieval kingdom of Kievan Rus’. The Mongol Empire of Genghis, Kublai, and other Khans, conquered the lands of Rus’, Central Asia, and moved into Europe, before breaking up in the mid-late 1300s. The Khans left spin-off communities behind, such as the Turkic-speaking peoples of Anatolia, Azerbaijan and others, many of which eventually came under Russian dominance.

3 There had been two earlier partitions of Poland, which enabled Great Russian landowners to move in and ally with the Polish aristocracy against the encroaches of “Jacobinism.” This alliance set up and secured the final partition.

4 Trotsky, History of the Russian Revolution, Haymarket Books edition, Chicago 2017, p. 648.

5 Lenin, “Resolutions of the Summer, 1913, Joint Conference of the Central Committee of the RSDLP and Party Officials,” Collected Works vol. 19, March-Dec 1913, p.419. See also, “Theses On the National Question,” same volume, p. 243.

6 Lenin, “Speech on the National Question,” at the 7th All-Russian Conference of the RSDLP (B), April 29th 1917, in Lenin, Collected Works, vol. 24, Moscow 1964, p. 297.

7 See Trotsky’s chapter on “The Problem of Nationalities” in History of the Russian Revolutionop.cit., vol. 3, for more on this history.

8 Resolutions on Peace Adopted by the Third All-Russia Congress of Soviets, (Bolsheviks), in First Decrees of Soviet Power, ibid, p. 81-82. The SRs also passed a resolution at this Congress, which projected that “...staunch defense of the Russian revolution’s formula of peace will frustrate [German annexationism].”

9 Kiev lies on the northern right bank of the Dneiper River, which roughly divides the Ukraine along East-West lines. Prior to the partitions of the 1700s, Poland had been a large aristocratic kingdom, incorporating Lithuania and much of Ukraine, among other territories.

10 “Hetman” means “chief.” See Trotsky, How the Revolution Armed, New Park, 1979, p. 552.

11 Arthur E Adams, Bolsheviks In the Ukraine, the Second Campaign, 1918-1919, Yale University Press, 1963, p. 13.

12 Nestor Makhno’s anarchist movement was an exception: revolutionary in intent, it refused to ally with the Whites, and did ally with the Bolsheviks against Denikin’s reactionary “volunteer army.” But Makhno opposed all authority, including that of the world’s first workers state, which soon necessitated a break between his movement and the Bolsheviks.

13 See These numbers may be high estimates, but pogroms were in fact endemic in Ukraine. In exile in Paris in 1926, Petlyura was assassinated by a Jewish anarchist who had lost 15 family members to Petlyura’s pogroms in Odessa.

14 During German occupation of the Ukraine in World War II, Ukrainian fascist/nationalists slaughtered both Poles and Jews in genocidal attacks in Western Ukraine.

15 Petlyura explicitly recognized Galicia as part of the lands of the Crown of Poland. Despite on-going discussions with Moscow over establishing trade relations, Britain and France still supported reactionaries like Pilsudski as a bulwark against the Soviets. See EH Carr, The Bolshevik Revolution, 1917-1923, vol. 3, Pelican, p. 160.

16 “Extracts from an Executive Committee of the Communist International Manifesto on the Polish attack on Russia,” 18 May 1920, in The Communist International Documents, vol. 1 1919-1922, Jane Degras, ed, London, 1971, p.90.

17 Trotsky, History of the Russian Revolution, ibid, p. 655.