A Revolutionary Classic: On the Current Situation in Ukraine

Ukrainian Revolution anniversary- shakhray

One of the most important and influential books published during the revolutionary period was the  До хвилі  On the Current Situation: (What is Happening to and in Ukraine?), published at the beginning of 1919 by Serhiy Mazlakh and Vasyl Shakhray.  As part of our series to mark the centenary of the Ukrainian Revolution of 1917-1921, Ukraine Solidarity Campaign is pleased to present below to readers key sections from this revolutionary classic:

  • War and Revolution
  • The Trend of the Ukrainian Movement: An Independent Ukraine
  • Revolution in Austria: Galicia
  • The Ukrainian National Movement against the Background of the Modern Capitalist-Imperialist Economy
  • The Proletariat Allied with Petty Bourgeoisie Against World Imperialism




VASYL SHAKHRAY, was of a Ukrainian family in Pyriatyn in Poltava Province, he was a leading figure in the revolutionary events in Ukraine, andShakhray 1917 active socialist since 1907 – he joined the Social Democratic Workers Party in 1913.   In March 1917 he was elected to the Poltava Council of Workers and Soldiers Deputies, and was a delegate at the First-All Russia Congress of Soviets in Petrograd and the All–Ukraine Congress of Soviets in Kyiv in 1917.  In 12(25) December 1917, at the following  All-Ukraine Congress of Councils of Workers’, Soldiers’ and Peasants’ Deputies in Kharkiv, Shakhray was elected the Peoples Secretariat of the Ukrainian People’s Republic, where he held the post of Secretary of Military Affairs. He was organizer of the Red Cossacks and accompanied Trotsky to the Brest Litovsk peace negotiations.

SERHIY MAZLAKH  was of a Jewish family in what is now Antratsyt district, Mazlakh_S_MLuhansk region, he spoke a wide range of languages including Ukrainian. An active Russian Social-Democratic Workers Party RSDRP(b) since 1899 and for many years in underground revolutionary activities, before the war and for a period in exile in Switzerland.  He was a popular figure in Poltava in 1917 and edited with Shakhray the Bolshevik paper Molot, (The Hammer), paper of the Poltava Committee of the RSDRP(b).  He was leader of the Committee for Defence of the Revolution in Poltava during the Kornilov coup and was member of the City Duma. 

When the Tsar was overthrown in 1917 the Russian Social-Democratic Workers Party (Bolsheviks) – (RSDRP) had no separate Ukrainian organisation or centre of coordination. It was composed to a significant degree of Russian or russified urban workers; they made no effort to appeal to Ukrainians in their own language.  Overall the Bolsheviks in Ukraine were not accustomed to thinking in Ukrainian terms and looked to Moscow for guidance and the groups in Ukraine had little contact even with each other.  

By the time of the October Revolution in 1917, the Bolshevik organisations in Ukraine were in complete disagreement amongst themselves and with their Party’s Central Committee concerning policies to be adopted in Ukraine.  Throughout the spring and summer of 1917, the mass Ukrainian movement centred in its revolutionary parliament – the Central Rada (Council) – had been in struggle with the unelected Russian Provisional Government –  in defiance the First Universal of the Central Rada declared autonomy of Ukraine.  On July 16th, 1917 the Provisional government recognised the limited autonomy of Ukraine.  At this time Lenin defended the Ukrainian movement  against the Provisional Government, in contrast to most other Russian parties.  Whilst Ukrainian Social-Democrat’s republished Lenin’s articles – this viewpoint did not go unchallenged amongst the Bolsheviks in Ukraine.  

These views are referred to in On the Current Situation below as belonging to ‘Kievan’s’ and ‘Katerynoslavian’ viewpoints, these were two of the main currents of opinion amongst Bolsheviks in Ukraine.  In Kyiv RSDRP(b) Yury Pyatakov, a supporter of Rosa Luxemburg, objected to Lenin’s views on the nationality question, believing the right of nations to self-determination would encourage separatism, violate proletarian internationalism and undermined workers unity, socialism would transcend national divisions.

Another group, that even Lenin called a right-wing current, the ‘Katerynoslavian’ were concentrated Katerynoslav (Dnipro) RSDRP(b) committee – an industrialised city in south east Ukraine.  Led by E.I.Kviring and Yakovlev-Epshtein, based on a largely Russian membership they disputed the existence of Ukraine, and that they were not part of it, despite being in a province of which Ukrainians were 68.9% of the population. They sought regional autonomy for themselves, and “did not want to hear anything about some so-called Ukraine and have nothing in common with it”.  They were compared to the role of Ulster separatists within Ireland at the time.

These differences created problems for sections of the Bolsheviks isolating themselves from the Ukrainian Revolution raging around them. It was only after June 1917 that the Kyiv Bolsheviks supported the Central Rada’s demand for an autonomous Ukraine.  During the summer and autumn they participated alongside Ukrainian Social-Democrats and Socialist-Revolutionaries at meetings and demonstrations opposing the Provisional Government, joining the Central Rada in August 1917. Later as part of the Central Rada’s ‘Committee for Defence of the Revolution in Ukraine’ the RSDRP(b) fought alongside it against the garrison loyal to Kerensky’s Russian Provisional Government.

Polatav soviet 2
News of the Poltava Council of Workers and Soldiers Deputies – 1917


Another current of Bolsheviks, who came chiefly from the Poltava and Chernihiv RSDRP(b) organisations, took a different approach.  Their spokesperson was Shakhray who set forth his ideas in two books; The Revolution in Ukraine and On the Current Situation.  They endeavoured to demonstrate, that Ukraine was a distinct nation and those questioning it were reminiscent of traditional Russian nationalism whose views had no place in a socialist party. The Ukrainian national movement, as with those of all oppressed nations was not a hindrance to workers unity but progressive in character in the era of world revolution.  

For the Ukrainian workers and poor peasants, class and national emancipation were fused into the single aim of an independent Ukrainian workers and peasants republic.  Shakhray and Mazlakh welcomed the Central Rada’s struggle for autonomy, and independence.  They argued the Ukrainian workers needed their own party, the Russian Social Democratic (Bolsheviks) Party appeared as a Russian party in Ukraine. At the December 3-5 1917, the first conference of Bolsheviks in Ukraine was held, and Shakhray, along with others such as Volodymyr Zatonsky and Yury Lapchynsky who had a greater grasp of the national question argued for the renaming of their party – which became the “RSDRP – Social Democracy of Ukraine”. Shakhray was elected to its central committee. Shakhray argued that it was clear from the experience of 1917 the powerful national rebirth of Ukraine was an irrefutable fact and that without it the Ukrainian people could not achieve total emancipation.  They wrote in On the Current Situation:

“The surge in national consciousness and intense will for a free, sovereign, and independent life revealed by the Ukrainian revolutionary national movement completely preclude the very thought of Ukraine’s return to the status of a colony of some other power.”

Following Brest-Litovsk Treaty in 1918 the Austro-German occupation overthrew the Ukrainian Peoples Republic. They suppressed both the Central Rada’s and it’s governing General Secretariat and before that its rival the Bolshevik led People Secretariat.

In April 1918 as Germany troops advanced through Ukraine the Bolsheviks held a consultative conference in Tahanrih, also attended by left-wing Ukrainian Social-Democrats from Kharkiv and other cities. The majority voted to form a new independent Communist Party in Ukraine, connected with the Russian Communist Party through the third international.  But when in July 2-12, 1918 the First Congress of the CP(b)U was held in Moscow, it constituted as a mere sub-branch of the Russian Communist Party. Shakhray and Mazlakh had argued such a party be a “genuine unity” formed “as a process resulting from the everyday revolutionary struggle in Ukraine”.  Of equal concern was the formation, in Russia, of a ‘Provisional Worker-Peasant Government of Ukraine’ Pyatakov, which wrote Shakhray “with some exceptions, have no feeling of personal responsibility for the country which they are trying to rule”. 

It was after this period of the first year of the revolution and the start of a new powerful upsurge that Shakhray published Revolution in Ukraine in November 1918, one of the first histories of the revolution, which has recently been republished in Ukraine. Pointing to the experience of 1917 and the Bolsheviks who failed to appreciate the Ukrainian national question he responded:           

A people that oppresses other peoples cannot be free, nor can a people that is oppressed by another people be free. The socialization of the means of production eo ipso still does not eliminate the rule of the one and the enslavement of the other nation; it does not eliminate, does not solve, does not “render obsolete” the national question. The national question remains; the socialization of the means of production creates only the most favorable conditions for its solution. And so long as the national question is not solved, so long as one nation rules and another is forced to be subordinate to it, what we have is still not socialism but only the socialization of the means of production. .. .the national question simply cannot be proclaimed solved “on the second day” after the socialist revolution. It can and must be solved before, during, and after the socialist revolution. “First the social question and then the national question” is just as false and hypocritical as the opposite formula, ‘ ‘first the national and then the social question”.[1]

Shakhray (and Mazlakh) considered the first soviet government of Ukraine, the People Secretariat existed under difficult circumstances and “made many mistakes, and we could blame it for much, but nonetheless it did some good”.  Shakhray emphasised despite their differences that at the time, those who elected the Peoples Secretariat:

When open, armed struggle with the Central Rada began, Bolsheviks from all parts of Ukraine…were of one mind in proposing that a Soviet centre should be established in Ukraine as a counterweight to the Central Rada, and not one responsible member of this party ventured to protest against the promulgation and creation of the Ukrainian People’s Republic. On the contrary, in complete agreement with the programmatic demand of the right of every nation to self-determination, they openly or at least tacitly stood on its [the Republic’s] ground. The will of the Ukrainian nation emerged, the Ukrainian people separated into a Republic in federative union with other parts of Russia. Well and good! We in this Republic will wage a war not against the Ukrainian People’s Republic, not against the Ukrainian people, not in order to strangle it. No! This will be a struggle for power within the Ukrainian People’s Republic–this will be a class struggle…. [2]

In the Revolution in Ukraine, Shakhray records that the congress of soviets (councils) having elected a Central Executive Committee, and formed a government in Kharkiv based on soviets, it struggled then to establish recognition and coordination.  There was “in effect in antagonism between the Central Executive Committee and People’s Secretariat on one side, and local Bolsheviks and local Soviets – on the another side.”

This government had actually nobody to rely upon but the soviets, and the soviets organized the Central Executive Committee and didn’t want to recognise or depend on the Soviet Government. The disorder may be explained by national motives, since the Ukrainian masses either backed the Rada or stayed aside, suspiciously viewing the events, which were unfolding before their eyes. And the events were of such a kind that it was quite difficult to attract the Ukrainian masses to your side. At the same time, the non-Ukrainian masses were not interested in creating a new separate political centre of the Ukrainian Republic.   

Shakhray, the Peo­ple’s Secretary for Military Affairs, had in a conversation with Lapchinskiy, his comrade in the Secretariat bemoaned:

What sort of Ukrainian government is that whose mem­bers do not know nor do not want to know the Ukrainian language? Who do not only lack any influence among the Ukrainian community, but whose very names were not even heard by it earlier? What sort of ‘Ukrainian Military Min­ister’ am I when all Ukriainianized units in Kharkiv have to be disarmed by me as they do not want to go with me for the defence of the Soviet power? For the entire military support for our struggle against the Central Rada, we have only the army brought to the Ukraine from Russia by Antonov, which look upon everything Ukrainian as inim­ical, counter-revolutionary?[3]

There was significant venting of frustration in Shakhray’s views, but there was truth in what he wrote of this attitude. In April 1918, Stalin, Peoples Commissar for Nationalities telegraphed Mykola Skrypnyk Chair of the Peoples Secretariat: “Enough playing at a government and a republic. It’s time to drop that game; enough is enough.”   Earlier, during the All-Ukraine Congress of Workers, Soldiers and Peasants Deputies – which the Bolsheviks convened – on 17-19 December, 1917 –the Russian Soviet government declared war on the Ukrainian Peoples Republic.  The Bolsheviks in Ukraine were never even informed or consulted. This war caused immense divisions; many socialists in Ukraine were stunned by it, even considering it a betrayal of the revolution.  This happened at a time when there was a sharp swing towards the Bolsheviks and the radical left of the Ukrainian Social Democrats and Socialist Revolutionaries.


Nardny Secretariat 1917
The Peoples Secretariat – Shakray bottom right


Shakhray criticised Russian chauvinism amongst the Bolsheviks citing the experience of the Red forces that entered Kyiv in 1917 commanded by Russian SR, Muravyev, who along with another commander Antonov-Ovseyenko refused to recognise the Peoples Secretariat as the Ukrainian government.  As a result of the German occupation however Shakhray records positive steps. In March 1918 at the Second All-Ukraine Congress of Soviets, in Katerynoslav: “Thus, the Ukrainian Soviets, by the very progress of events, had to face a quite ominous ‘fact’. The connection with Petrograd (later – with Moscow) was lost. To untie its own hands for the struggle against the Germans and Haidamaky, the Ukrainian soviets declared an independent Ukrainian Workers’ and Peasants’ Republic …”  Shakhray considered the Ukrainian movement had proven its strength of support and the tendency was toward independence, the radical socialists had to recognize there was only one way out:  


Ukraine must and will be (if the socialist revolution and socialism are not to be just phrases and chicanery) united and in­dependent. .. .Victorious socialism absolutely must realize complete democracy and, it follows, not only establish the complete equality of nations but also realize the right of oppressed nations to self-determination, i.e., the right to free political secession.

Socialist parties that do not show by their actions now, during the revolution, and after its victory that they will liberate the enslaved nations and establish relations with them on the basis of a free union—and free union is only a false phrase without freedom to secede—such parties would be traitors to the cause of socialism. .. .the international revolution is the only path to a really free, really independent Ukraine.

The international revolution is a fact of today. Independent Ukraine is a fact of tomorrow. And after today tomorrow will come.

Long live the independent Worker-Peasant Soviet Ukraine![4]

In January 1919 On The Current Situation was published under circumstances where they felt immense frustration a failure by the Bolsheviks leadership to learn from 1917.  The authors warned, in a passage relevant today that:

“If the Ukrainian question is not settled now, during the revolutionary era, if it is handed down onto posterity, like rust it will corrode the socioeconomic and cultural-political developments of Ukraine and its neighbours.” 

When On the Current Situation was published Pyatakov condemned the book and

do khvyli 2
The original cover of On the Current Situation

ordered it removed from book stores, then in March 1919 exiled the authors and expelled them from the Party.[5]  Nevertheless On the Current Situation became widely known and a handbook for a generation of revolutionaries of this period who believed in an independent socialist Ukraine. It was carried forward not only by the Federalist and other currents of Ukrainian Bolsheviks, but the Borotbisty, the left of the Ukrainian Socialist Revolutionaries and the Ukapisty, left Ukrainian Social Democrats.  It influenced the powerful current that drove forward the renaissance in Soviet Ukraine in the 1920’s.  This book is as an important today as it was in 1919, as we have seen a significant retrogression in approaches to the Ukrainian question; we read accounts by so-called experts on Ukraine, which remove the entire revolution of 1917 from history – reducing it to no more than states sponsored by Germany and France.[6] The work of the Ukrainian Marxists Shakhray and Mazlakh strikes against such fraud. [7]  




Demonstration in Kyiv – 1917

War and Revolution

The days pass, the nights fly by

And Ukraine is burning, as you know. . .

Not only Ukraine is burning, but the whole world. It has been burning for five years. The world conflagration, the historically un­precedented war which flared up in 1914, is turning into a new revo­lutionary conflagration. Provoked by the imperialist war for the bene­fit of our own and foreign capitalists, large landowners, bankers—a war for new markets, a new division of the world, the partition of “small, oppressed nations”—the revolutionary conflagration is flaring up and spreading, “purifying” and burning out everything which remained after the ruin of 1914-18, turning to ashes the corpse of the old bourgeois society.

Ukraine had the misfortune of being one of those countries, like Belgium, Poland, Serbia, Armenia, and others, where the bloody events of the present war took place, and the fate of the plunderers of the world was decided. Ukraine paid dearly with the blood and toil of her sons for the honor of being the arena of these events, of witnessing them and standing at the forefront of the world move­ment. And there will be more to pay later—this will be seen to by the new conqueror of the world, the ruler of the imperialist bourgeoisie, the apostle of the “self-determination of small nations,” the president of the United States, Woodrow Wilson.

The World War and the World Revolution are the two out­standing facts of the era in which we are living.

War and revolution represent a crisis of society, of the social community.

“Every crisis rejects the conventional, tears off the outer shell, casts out the antiquated, reveals deeper springs and forces.”[8]

What has this present crisis revealed? The World War has mani­festly laid bare the contradictions of contemporary bourgeois, capital­ist, imperialist society. This society is founded on the division between the producer and the means of production and exchange—land, fac­tories, and railways—on the private ownership of the means and in­struments of production and exchange, and on the expropriation and proletarization of the laboring masses; on an opposition between life­less things and the living producer, between the forces of labor and the products of labor, between capital and labor; a society in which the primary motive of social production and social life is not the satisfaction of human, social needs, but the unending pursuit of gain, profit, and lucre; a society which discovers in every acquisition or conquest—whether of a country or a branch of social production— only a new boundary, and thereby arouses in itself a burning desire to dominate, seize, and appropriate all it surveys. This society has de­veloped productive forces so gigantic as to be able, in a short time, to deluge the world with its products and capital. Yet at the same time it is unable to satisfy the needs of its own populations and free them from the threat and horror of famine, cold, poverty, and disease. The world is divided among the individual plunderers, the great powers, whereas each of them in fact needs a whole world for itself. Produc­tive forces cannot be left to lie idle, capital must be invested and must bring profits—the rest is none of our business.

Vivat profitum, pereat mundus! Apres nous le deluge!

“War is the continuation of politics by other means.” This lofty saying of the German imperialist Clausewitz reveals the true mean­ing of the present imperialist war. What could not be accomplished through peaceful competition, peace treaties, customs, and policies, had to be gained through war.

The war erupted, with the necessity of natural law, from the jungle of contemporary society—and this is why no one can discover who started it or who is to blame for it.

It is the present social structure which is to blame for the war.

The war has manifestly demonstrated its inability to settle the questions which it was supposed to resolve. It should have abolished the contradiction between the huge productive forces of society and social relations based on the ownership and exploitation by capital of a living labor force, on the insatiable desire for new markets and profits.

Not only did the war fail to abolish this contradiction, it aggra­vated it, leading society to the verge of generalized misery, savagery, and destruction. So as not to perish, society has made powerful efforts inn a new direction, hastening to settle by other means the issue which the war could not resolve.

The revolution is the extension of politics and war—only by other means.

Like the Roman aristocrats who gorged themselves with fine food and then vomited so as to be able to begin gorging again, the previous politics and war were supposed to abolish the contradictions between social relations and their own forces of production through a “just” (i.e., on the principle that the “loser pays”) 2 division and redivision of free lands and nations embodying the unscrupulous de­struction and waste of human labor, finished products, and produc­tive forces.

The revolution is an attempt to turn these productive forces to the satisfaction of human needs, to improve the life of the working masses, and to abolish the contradiction between labor and capital by destroying capital.

The revolution is a war against the old society for the sake of a new socialist society—to counterbalance the imperialist war within the old capitalist society which was supposed to prolong the life of that society.

The war among the imperialists of different nations gave birth to revolution—a war of the proletariat and peasantry against all im­perialists, native and foreign.

And as the process continues, the anti-imperialist struggle is in­creasingly replaced by the revolutionary struggle against imperialists of all kinds, waged by the broad toiling masses led by the proletariat. The imperialist war has been replaced by a civil war.

This is the basic fact of the present era.

Ukrainian Demonstration in Kharkiv (East Ukraine) 1917
Ukrainian demonstration in the East Ukrainian city of Kharkiv 1917

The Trend of the Ukrainian Movement: An Independent Ukraine

What path and what direction should Ukraine pursue to attain its goal of full and complete liberation?

This question leads to another:

To whom shall we look for advice, for an answer to this question? Should it be sought from lesser and greater personages, should it be sought in various general principles, noisy slogans, or legal definitions?

We cannot rely completely on these sources for an answer to our question, no matter how useful they may be, because eminent people, both great and small, either keep silent or evade the question, or at the most give unclear answers. Why they talk this way and not otherwise is another matter—but persons of greater or lesser eminence are subject to the same weaknesses as commoners for whom der Wunsch ist Vater des Gedankes. It is impossible to rely on general principles or legal definitions, because these principles and defini­tions are the work of people and, even against the will of these people, often play the role of juridical law. As the Russian saying goes: the law is like a wagon-tongue; whichever way it’s turned, that’s the way you go!

And since we consider ourselves influenced by the present time and place, we must find the source which is least influenced by sena­torial explanations, which would of itself preclude intentional or unintentional misconstructions.

We want to warn the reader now that we are not free of Ukrainian feelings. We have them “in us,” and not only “for us.” Of this we can convince the Katerynoslavians who view themselves as vessels of pure internationalism, pure socialism, pure communism. They have, for instance, “in themselves, for themselves” no Great Russian national­ism or chauvinism. God forbid that we should even think such things.

To avoid as much as possible the personal feelings of ourselves and others—even those of the “pure internationalists”—we should turn to the real process of the Ukrainian revolutionary movement, lend an ear to the language of facts, feel by intuition the real trend of the Ukrainian movement. Facts are stubborn things, say the English.

To analyze and discover the trend of the Ukrainian movement it will suffice to examine the development of this movement in the years 1917 and 1918. Previous history serves only to prepare and explain, illuminating particular features and details. Revolution, as we know, unveils the real forces and the real tendency of every social movement, tears away the coverings which conceal historical figures and tendencies during the period of peaceful organic evolu­tion. Thus the revolutionary years 1917 and 1918 are incomparably more important for an understanding of the character and tendencies of the Ukrainian revolutionary movement than even the whole pre­vious hundred years of the movement.

One has only to give thought to the history of Ukraine in the last two and a half centuries to realize how extraordinarily diffi­cult and distressing were the conditions in which the Ukrainian move­ment existed and developed. All the fearful powers and dreadful weapons made available by feudal serfdom and bourgeois-capitalist society were used to destroy the Ukrainian movement—not only by the bureaucracy but also by the Russian establishment (the large landowners, the bourgeoisie, and the “third element”), and even by the non-Ukrainian proletariat.

Kiev central 1917


Ukrainian Demonstration in Kyiv – 1917

We may be reproached for comparing the non-Ukrainian prole­tariat with the large landowners and the capitalists, or for opposing it to the Ukrainian proletariat. We may be told that we thus disunite the proletariats of different nations and push the proletariat into an alliance with the bourgeoisie. We live in a time of such “pure inter­nationalism” that we must foresee such reproaches, pay heed to them, and answer them seriously. To those who try to catch us we say that we speak not of how it should have been but of how it really was. And the reality was that the non-Ukrainian proletariat was hostile to the Ukrainian movement, as it was to all national movements generally. It tolerated this movement but warned against nationalism. This movement could be against monarchy, large landowners, or capital­ists, but it should go no further . . . this was chauvinism! We shall encounter this fact again. This, and only this, is what we have in mind when we say that measures for the destruction of the Ukrainian movement were employed not only by the bureaucracy, but also by the Russian establishment. In different ways, using different methods—but with the same result. Conditions of development were worse than merely difficult or unfavourable. Police proscription, prison, church, press, school—all combined for a single purpose.  It was

Vse k tsele odnoi (“all heading for the one goal”).

All sorts of idealistic, pragmatic, social, and personal considera­tions were used, different measures adopted, and different methods pursued, and, in short, whether consciously or unconsciously, de­sired or not desired, the result was the same.

During the war the difficult position of the Ukrainian movement became unbearable. What papers still remained in existence were muzzled; all who seemed infected by “mazepism” came under the suspicious and importunate attention of the tsarist police and were scattered and deposited in various corners of not so distant places. Conquered Galicia, where active Ukrainian patriots found refuge when the Russian Ukraine was no longer bearable, was “blessed” by the benefits of Russian culture in the form of various kinds of police, as well as by governmental, pedagogical, Black-Hundred, and liberal Russifiers up to and including P. Struve, that enfant terrible of op­position to his majesty. Whole villages and towns were destroyed by cannon fire, fields crisscrossed by trenches, people driven from their homes. The country was being ruined, and it seemed that Ukraine could not arise from these devastations. . .

The notorious Black Hundreds – Russian nationalists march in Odessa


Thus even greater significance should be accorded to the scale of the revolutionary-national Ukrainian movement which appeared from the very first days of the 1917 revolution. After what happened only those who cannot learn, or who do not want to see what is clear to everyone, who consider themselves (and not only “for them­selves”) vessels of pure internationalism, can say everything remained as it was, that there is occupation and only occupation. Only a blind man can fail to see the basic trend of this movement—to form an independent sovereign state. Independence may be viewed as a re­jection of the occupation in the heads of some fellows with un­expected Ukrainian feelings to precisely the same extent as, for in­stance, the Katerynoslav point of view may be regarded as “pure, in themselves and for themselves, internationalism.” Independence, as the goal of the Ukrainian movement, cannot be viewed as identical with the independence of the hetman’s regime. On the contrary, the independence of the independent hetman and the Katerynoslav point of view are two sisters, and both caricatures: one of independence and the other of internationalism. If the hetman’s independence reflected the independence which is the aim of the Ukrainian movement, that independence should be buried as deep as possible. And if the Katerynoslav point of view were a real mirror-image of international­ism, and not its caricature, a cross should have been raised over it [internationalism—Ed.] long ago. But a caricature is a caricature and only a caricature!

Independence is the real content of the Ukrainian movement. That the Ukrainian movement will be satisfied by permission to publish a Ukrainian primer or newspaper, or to allow a Ukrainian play on the stage with music and dancing, or to wear the red trousers and blue cossack mantle, or to cook dumplings and varenyky—you yourselves know quite well who could think this way. And what remains of the “inflamed” (as Kommunist puts it) Ukrainian national question after the partial solution offered by the Communists of Ukraine?

Let us look at the facts. At the outbreak of the 1917 revolution numerous resolutions of many Ukrainian rallies, meetings, and congresses of soldiers, peasants, and workers, as well as of party, professional, and educational organisations, were presented to the Provisional Government with two essential demands (i) National-territorial autonomy in a federation with Russia, (2) Ukrainian representation at the future international congress on the [peace treaty—Ed.].

We need not dwell on the legal definitions of autonomy and federation and their differences. We are interested in the meaning which the Ukrainian organizations attached to these demands. Re­gardless of our attitude toward the Central Rada’s invitation to the occupiers of Ukraine, we cannot ignore the fact that the Central Rada was very influential in Ukraine, and that her demands and Universals reflected the main lines of the Ukrainian movement—in every case embodying either a past or a future standpoint of the move­ment and in every instance marking the beginning of a new chapter in the history of its development. Thus, to understand the essence of the concept of national-territorial autonomy we need only turn our at­tention to the decrees of the Central Rada.

The First Universal, which proclaimed the autonomy of Ukraine after a three-month quarrel with the Provisional Govern­ment over this inflamed question, directly indicated the will of the Ukrainian people for independence and autonomy in Ukrainian internal affairs. “Henceforth we will manage our own lives,” stated the Universal.

The General Secretariat of the Central Rada – sought to become the government of Autonomous Ukraine

How the Central Rada interpreted this formula is seen from the “Constitution of Ukraine,” a statute on the General Secre­tariat adopted at a session of the Little Rada on July 16, 1917, “on the basis of an agreement with the Provisional Government reached on July 3, 1917.” That is, after the reaction to the June 18 offensive and on the eve of the “July Days” (July 3-5) in Petrograd and Kyiv; that is, as a result of concessions and compromises with the Provisional Government due to the dubious state of the revolution; that is, after the decline of revolutionary energy in general, and of the Ukrainian movement in particular, and after the increase in the strength of the counterrevolution. It should not be forgotten that the “agree­ment of July 3” contributed (together with other events) to the July catastrophe.


How does this statute define the rights of the General Secre­tariat?[9]

ARTICLE 1. The supreme State Organ of the Government in Ukraine is the General Secretariat of the Central Rada, which is formed by the Central Rada, is responsible to it, and is con­firmed by the Provisional Government.

ARTICLE 19. All the laws of the Provisional Government are binding in Ukraine as of the day they are promulgated in the Ukrain­ian language in the State Government Herald.

“Note: In extraordinary cases the General Secretariat will pro­claim them in a different way.”

Everyone knows that the First Universal was proclaimed at the Second Military Congress when the indignation of the Ukrainian soldiers over the procrastinations of the Provisional Government and Kerensky’s prohibition of the [Military—Ed.] Congress had led to extreme tension. The demands of the First Universal may be con­sidered as lacking in energy; it was mild by comparison with the spirited speeches and sharp feelings disclosed by the Congress. It diminished, not enlarged, the demands of the Ukrainian masses. At the time V. Vynnychenko had to argue that it was not necessary to ask for more, nor to proclaim an independent republic, because (1) we did not have enough time to organize properly, (2) we did not have sufficient troops, while our enemies had their own troops in Ukraine, (3) the large cities would not take our side since their populations were mostly non-Ukrainian. In view of the situation [he continued—Ed.] we had to take what we could get at the time. Even­tually we would arrive at the [status of a—Ed.] republic.[10] 

Volodymyr Vynnychenko – President of the General Secretariat

Vynnychenko expressed the official intentions of the Ukrain­ian masses. Its gist was autonomy now with status as an independent republic later. In this example we find proof of Lenin’s remark:. . . autonomy, as a reformist measure, differs in principle from revolutionary freedom to secede. This is unquestionable. But as everyone knows, in practice reform is often merely a step toward revolution. Autonomy is what enables a people forcibly retained within the boundaries of a given state to crystallize into a nation, to gather, assess, and organize all its forces, and to select the most opportune moment for a declaration … in the “Norwegian” spirit [a reference to the Norwegian Parlia­ment’s 1905 resolution to separate from Sweden]: “We, the au­tonomous diet of such-and-such nation, or of such-and-such ter­ritory, declare that the Emperor of all the Russias has ceased to be King of Poland. .. .”[11]


This was also the true meaning of the First Universal.

We may be told that others thought differently.

We agree and will go even further: When you look more closely at the leaders of the Ukrainian movement, you see that they could not keep up with events, that “The owl of Minerva took to flight only at dusk,” that im Anfang war der Tat and the “word” appeared later. But this to us is even more significant as an indication of the depth of the national-liberation movement. The masses chose their way instinctively and spontaneously, groping, tearing all kinds of mild forms and harmony from all kinds of sweet and resounding theo­ries. .. .

The second demand—for admission of a Ukrainian delegate to the future peace conference—convinces us of this even more. If we are not mistaken, the Ukrainians were the first of all the peoples of Russia to advance such a demand. The Ukrainian movement sup­plied an example for others—it was heeded and followed by other national movements in Russia. One does not have to be highly intelligent “in and for oneself” to grasp the idea that the representative of a people living within the boundaries of an alien state can appear at an international forum side by side with the representatives of this state only when this people have actually achieved independence and only lack the pretext for issuing a declaration in the Norwegian Spirit. And only a people which actually has the courage to become independent can issue such a demand, such a declaration in the Norwegian Spirit—although “in and for itself” unable to become conscious of this fact. As an illustration we present the statement of a delegate to the Second Military Congress:

How did we become samostiinyki? [Independentist] We learned of the ban on the Congress, and of the Provisional Government’s answer, and we realized that we had pleaded enough; we had to carry on our work independently—and we called ourselves samostiinyki. But now we see that there are samostiinyki who want to form a separate Ukrainian state. We do not belong to such a party.[12]

This example may serve to convince the Katerynoslavians that in and for the people the idea of independence is “discredited” (to use the word of the above-quoted resolution on Ukraine and Rus­sia), and at the same time the people will declare: we have pleaded enough, we have to carry on our work independently! And what peo­ple can carry their work to a conclusion in a state of dependence? Try to place them on the bed of “proletarian centralism,” if the term is taken in its true meaning and you will see before you samos­tiinyki. For example, it may happen in the following way: Soviets, let us say, have again been formed in Ukraine. To make good on its promises the Katerynoslav government summons a congress, or one may be held spontaneously. And it happens that the samostiinyki, those who want to declare the Soviet Ukraine independent, gain the majority at the congress.

What must the Katerynoslav government do? Of course, disperse them because they are chauvinists, against pure internationalism.

What will then be said by the masses who have begun to realize that in and for themselves the best thing is independence? Of course, they will say: “We have had enough of the ‘Katerynoslavians.’ We have to carry our work to a conclusion independently.”

“Henceforth we will manage our own lives.”

But what happened was not at all what had been anticipated. The June 18 offensive, the July 3-5 events in Petrograd, the July 5-7 events in Kyiv (the disarmament of the Polubotok Regiment), the execution of the Bohdan Khmelnytsky Regiment, and the institu­tion of the death penalty at the front put the brakes on the cause of Ukrainian autonomy until Kornilov’s adventure smashed the evil force of the counterrevolution. The former Russian Empire broke apart, and “authority fell into the hands of the local people.” The Central Rada seized power; it was strong enough to do so and was not afraid to proclaim a Ukrainian People’s Republic in a federal union with Russia (November 7).  At the time such a republic did not satisfy the people, but … no further step could be taken: Ukraine was full of cossack and Russian troops hostile to separation. “In due course independence will come of itself.”[13]   In closing the First Kyiv Congress, at which the split occurred, the head of the Central Rada, M. Hrushevsky, noted in his short speech what had been accomplished, adding that such a course would lead to inde­pendence and that independence might perhaps be achieved sooner than anticipated. We know that at the Second [Military—Ed.] Con­gress V. Vynnychenko estimated that we would arrive at the [status of a—Ed.] republic in about two or three years!

That independence was the ultimate aim is also seen from the, at that time ridiculous and wholly counterrevolutionary, theory of the “federative socialist government” proposed by the Central Rada, which did not and could not become a reality. The Rada wanted to form a Russian government by way of agreements among the sepa­rate parts of the former Russian Empire: Ukraine, Great Russia, the Don, the Caucasus, and Siberia. But such agreements could arise only if these lands were politically equal, independent, and sovereign. This theory was not defective in itself, but it was untimely and incon­sistent with Ukraine’s actual position. The Central Rada declared that the Central All-Russian government—the Council of People’s Commissars—did not exist and wanted to reach agreement with it only as the government of Great Russia. Ukraine was a part of Russia (that is what it was, and that is how the Central Rada viewed it), but it acted like an equal and independent body. This was in con­tradiction with the state in which Ukraine found itself at the time.

Herald of the General Secretariat of the Ukrainian Peoples Republic (Kyiv)

This contradiction became apparent in another case as well. The Central Rada sent a separate delegation to the Brest Litovsk peace negotiations. Like a mentor “wise after the fact” (so to speak), the Katerynoslavians talk contemptuously about the error of the All-Russian delegation’s “recognizing” the delegation of the Central Rada at Brest Litovsk.[14]  The Katerynoslavians should give a little thought to the matter and recall the objective position not only of Ukraine and its delegation but also of Russia and its delegation. What would the Katerynoslavians have had the All-Russian delega­tion do? Not recognize? But then all the negotiations would have come to nothing, since they were based on the “right of nations to self-determination”—the ninth paragraph of the Bolshevik Pro­gram, the principle which the Katerynoslavians recognize even to­day. The Russian delegation had to recognize the delegation of the Central Rada because “facts cannot be ignored,” as was clear to Count Lvov, the head of the Provisional (not the present) Government. Facts are stubborn things, and one has to have a Katerynoslav head not to understand it.


Not to recognize was impossible, even though the recognition was incomplete, insincere, improperly explained. On the other hand, the declaration of the Central Rada’s delegation was also incomplete and insincere in talking about the unity of the revolutionary front and claiming to stand on the same side of the barrier as the Russian delegation while actually ruining the revolutionary front in the pres­ence of the Austro-German imperialists and polemicizing, thus dis­crediting the authority of the Russian government.

The contradiction in the Ukrainian position became even more apparent when another Ukrainian delegation arrived—from the Central Executive Committee of Ukraine.

Regardless of who stood in the position of the Central Rada, what could it or Ukraine have done? The only solution was a declaration of independence.

The Central Rada reached this logical conclusion at the session of January 11 (24), 1918. The Fourth Universal proclaimed the inde­pendence and sovereignty of the Ukrainian People’s Republic.

4th UNiersa
Fourth Universal of the Ukrainian Central Rada declares an Independent Ukraine – 1917


The “i’s” were dotted and the contradictions resolved. The dele­gation of the Central Rada concluded a separate peace, and the Rus­sian delegation broke off the negotiations with the well-known dec­laration: “No peace, no war.” No peace, because that would mean agreeing to the ultimate demands of Germany and thus recognizing the treaty signed by the Central Rada; that is, recognizing the Central Rada as the legal government of Ukraine and itself as the aggres­sor—admitting the Central Rada’s assertion that the war between itself and the Bolsheviks was a war between Ukraine and Russia. No war, because the war could not continue for lack of troops.

Thus the Central Rada arrived at independence, not through conscious leadership but because it was impelled by the facts. It cherished (“in and for itself”) mild sweet thoughts about a mild organiza­tional effort in order, slowly and with brief rests, to attain full independence. But behind it was something stronger than itself: facts, the real and objective processes of life which impelled it, stimulated its thoughts, forced it to reach suitable logical conclusions.

Let us now examine the position and role of the other factor in the Ukrainian revolutionary process—the Soviets and, in particular, the Bolshevik Party.

The following quotation from Kommunist, No. 5, states: “We … provided no general answer to the question of the kind of relations demanded by the Ukrainian proletariat. Did it demand regional au­tonomy, federation, or independence; or would it perhaps have pre­ferred no political separation at all, but direct ties between every local Soviet and the All-Russian centre.”

There is much truth in this assertion. We gave no answer to the Ukrainian question, indeed, because we were not aware of it and considered it only a petty-bourgeois whim (we speak only about the factual relations of the Bolsheviks in Ukraine, not about person­alities). But this means that at the time we were unaware of any Ukraine; there was only “Southern Russia,” and we did define an at­titude to that: “no political separation, direct ties between every local Soviet and the All-Russian centre.”** This, it is true, was connected with “the right of nations to self-determination,” but “this was to come later”—”maybe, most likely, somehow!” Just now there could be no “political separation, only direct ties between every local Soviet and the All-Russian centre.”

This view, it would appear, guards against any kind of chauvin­ism, against any kind of independence, even “in and for ourselves.”

But where did we actually end up? At independence! This is a fact.

We are attacked at this point by the Katerynoslavians, screaming with contempt and indignation about the “rash recognition, after federation, of the independence of the Central Executive Committee of Ukraine and of the Ukrainian Central Executive Committee’s playing at government.”! But there was really no other way! If the Katerynoslavians knew how to reckon with facts, they would under­stand this. Then they would understand the fact that, while denying the very existence of Ukraine, they themselves form a separate party and a separate government for this non existent country; they would understand that “in and for themselves” they confirm the existence, as a state-political unit, of the country whose existence they deny, but that they do it blindly, damaging their own cause. Facts are stubborn things, and even a copper forehead cannot cope with them! [Ukrainian saying—Ed.]

We demanded “direct ties between every local Soviet and the All-Russian centre”—and under the pressure of events the Kateryno­slavians should have formed a Central Executive Committee of Ukraine, that is, a centre which would rally the disunited Ukrainian Soviets and become a connecting link between every local Soviet and the All-Russian centre.

We did not want any kind of political separation and rashly had to recognize independence after federation because, asleep, we missed the Ukrainian movement and did not arrive at a positive answer: yes or no on Ukraine (indeed, this could not have been done at the time). We had to act rashly because facts are stubborn things— just as the Katerynoslavians had to hurry after the Directory, al­though they clamoured and made a lot of fuss about an insurrection.

Herald of the Ukrainian Peoples Republic – Central Executive of the All-Ukraine Congress of Councils of Workers, Soldiers and Peasant Deputies


In order to oppose the Central Rada we had to form the Central Executive Committee of the Soviets of Ukraine, thus to complete Ukraine’s organization into a state-political unit and to confirm it in fact. Let the Katerynoslavians try to delete this point from the history of Ukraine!

To oppose the Rada in the international arena we had to send a delegation to Brest; although it was not our intent, we thereby con­firmed in the international arena Ukraine’s status as a state-political unit. Let the Katerynoslavians strike this point from the his­tory of the Ukrainian nation!

One is driven to both laughter and tears in reading how the pres­ent Central Committee of the Katerynoslav party attempted from Poltava to outwit the German socialist government at a time when the Central Committee was still very far from Poltava, which was the seat of either Skoropadsky or Petlyura.24 No matter how curious this act may appear to us, even in caricature, it still serves to confirm that facts are stubborn things!

To fight the Germans called in by the Central Rada, we had to proclaim the independence of Ukraine. We had to, we had to, we had to….

While we can discuss the Central Rada only cum grano sails, with many reservations, about us one can sing without any reservations:

They married me without me

I was in the mill. [Russian saying—Ed.]

In the same mill where the Katerynoslavians have lived to this day. They have good reason to write with this song as a pattern: “in them, for them” and “me without me!”[15]

Compelled by facts, events, and the logic of the real revolutionary national liberation movement in Ukraine, the country’s two most authoritative organizations, the Central Rada and the Central Executive Committee of the Soviets, came to the idea of indepen­dence.

The outcome of all of the various designs, viewpoints, desires, and philosophical, socio-political, and ideological considerations— the ultimate point at which all arrived—was independence!

Certainly there were mistakes, vacillation, and inconsistencies. But to explain the outcome only by “mistakes,” “vacillation,” “in­consistencies”—would be …

“Always ‘good luck’—grant me at least a little bit of brain!” said Suvorov to those who explained all his victories and conquests by good luck and accidents.

We maintain: “Always ‘mistakes’ and ‘inconsistencies’—give us at least a bit of historical content in this process.” And we add: “be­cause nothing in history can be understood by following the method of the Katerynoslavians.”


Lviv WUNR 1918
Lviv – the West Ukrainian Peoples Republic Established November 1918

Revolution in Austria. Galicia

Our analysis of the trend of the Ukrainian movement would be incomplete without an analysis of still another inseparable feature of this movement.

The revolutionary Ukrainian movement was concentrated chiefly in the Russian Ukraine. But its events had their counterparts also in Galicia, the Austrian part of Ukraine.

These two parts, forcibly torn asunder, had never lost contact even in the past. From the natural, ethnographic, social, and eco­nomic points of view Ukraine and Galicia, separated by an arti­ficial boundary, form a single whole with its own historical traditions. Hence the Ukrainian movement on one side of the border had a great influence on the fate of the other side. In territory and population the Russian Ukraine is almost ten times as great as Galicia, but the political conditions in which it lived were far more difficult. The chains of tsarist despotism were far heavier than those of the Habsburg fragmentary dual or triple monarchy.

For this reason Galicia played a major role in the development of Ukraine. As a centre of the Ukrainian movement it was known as the Ukrainian Piedmont. Its beacon, never extinguished, threw sparks across the border.

The Russian revolution made a profound impression on the Galician citizens and the Galician political parties. All who were politically independent and nationally conscious were hostile to “Muscovy”.  Muscovy has destroyed the political freedoms of Ukraine; Muscovy throttles the Ukrainian movement; our chief enemy is Muscovy—such was the general feeling. Everything is permitted, everything is right, which leads to the liberation of Ukraine from Muscovite enslavement. From this it was only a step to the “Union for the Liberation of Ukraine,” which did not shun direct assistance from the Austro-German government.

“In the current war the general staffs are making the utmost use of any national or revolutionary movement in the enemy camp: the Germans utilize the Irish rebellion, the French—the Czech move­ment, etc.”[16] Nor were the Austro-German imperialists reluctant to exploit the Ukrainian movement, to give it money or to permit it to spread propaganda among prisoners. There is no doubt that some parties and groups accepted this assistance, but for this reason to consider the Ukrainian movement an Austro-German invention suits only the Russian bourgeoisie which was always frightening the masses with German money—one judges others by one’s own standards.

With the Russian revolution came a change in the attitude of the Ukrainian parties, even that of the Union for the Liberation of Ukraine. The dazzling slogans of this revolution awakened hopes for immediate “peace and good will among men.” The old tsarist chains dropped to the ground, and with great enthusiasm the peoples of Russia strove for “peace based on national self-determination.”

Is it possible that one’s own country will be denied self-determi­nation?

Many Galician political and social leaders were scattered in various corners of Russia. Now they gathered in Kyiv, and thus direct contact was made with Galicia.

The Galician parties openly and directly advocated two complementary objectives: (i) unification of the two parts of the Ukrainian people, Russian and Austrian, into (a) a single, independent, sovereign state.

In the Russian Ukraine only the second objective played an ac­tive role—the demand that the Ukrainian people organize a free, independent, sovereign state. The first objective had no operative meaning, not because it was redundant or unimportant for the national liberation movement but because at the time the Russian revolution was limited to the remaining territory of the former Russian Empire. It seemed that the revolution would find no response on the other side of the front but that the war in any case would soon be over, and the national question would be decided at the imminent peace conference. Therefore, even greater importance was attached to the demand that representatives of the Ukrainian people be admitted to this conference without distinguishing between the Russian and Austrian parts.People only talked about the peace conference, no one did any­thing—no one even asked when and where it would take place. But there was much talk about the socialist conference in Stockholm. The Ukrainian socialist parties were briskly discussing the questions of the future conference and preparing to send a delegation. The Galician Social Democrats even sent delegates to Stockholm with a memorandum advancing, among other things, both of the above demands.


Thus, although it did not play an active propaganda role in the Ukrainian national revolutionary movement, the demand for union with Galicia was not forgotten. The feeling was that “It will come of itself in due course.”

Here the occupation of Ukraine was of primordial impor­tance. Although the influence of this factor cannot even be fully measured, one thing should not be forgotten. Regardless of how we view the invitation to the German troops, regardless of how we cen­sure and condemn this act of the Central Rada, regardless of how pejorative a light it cast, among the Ukrainian masses, on the very act of national liberation, it accomplished one thing without any doubt: in severing the connection with Russia the occupation drew the Russian Ukraine closer to Galicia. But this had another aspect: in drawing closer to Galicia, Ukraine was at the same time draw­ing Galicia closer to itself. The Austrian delegation headed by Czernin, and the Austrian government in Vienna, understood this quite well, and that is why they were so cool to the idea of peace with Ukraine. That is why the Reichsrat was slow to ratify the Ukrain­ian treaty.

The Ukrainian parties appear not to have placed much hope in the Austrian (and German) revolution. They intended and de­sired to follow a policy of peace and diplomacy.

The Austrian revolution set the Ukrainian question on a new course of revolutionary struggle and added the creative power of the broad national masses.

We have only fragmentary reports about the events in Austria, but the basic features of this movement are known to us. The former Habsburg Empire has been replaced by separate national inde­pendent republics. Although this process may lead to a new unifica­tion, to us it seems pointless to hope that the old boundaries will be preserved.

An interesting aspect of the Austrian revolutionary movement reported in the press is the existence of an “Eastern People’s Repub­lic,” a republic in Ukrainian eastern Galicia headed by a National Rada. We hear further of preparations for a con­stituent assembly. We have news reports about battles between Ukrainians and Poles for possession of Galicia (the Poles consider Eastern Galicia a Polish land). Although incomplete, these news items make one thing clear—with the outbreak of the Austrian revo­lution a new chapter opened in the history of the Ukrainian move­ment. The course of events has placed on the agenda the slogan, “Union of Galicia and Ukraine”—and you have to reckon with it willy-nilly.

Thus the principal trend in the Ukrainian national-revolution­ary liberation movement is that the Ukrainian people should con­stitute themselves a nation—an independent, self-governing, and sovereign political organism—irrespective of the former boundaries.

Vpered USDP
Vpered (Forward) Paper of the Ukrainian Social Democratic Party in Galicia



The Ukrainian National Movement Against the Background of the Modern Capitalist-Imperialist Economy

One need not have studied in a seminary to know that we live in the epoch of the higher stage of capitalist development, the epoch of the domination of finance capital, the epoch of capitalist imperialism.

In this epoch the tendency of the capitalist economy to involve all parts of the globe in world trade, all-encompassing economic ties, and economic interdependence is becoming extremely powerful, and finance capital has all the necessary means for implementing and putting into effect this tendency.


The network of railroads covers almost the whole globe; every day gigantic steamships ply the seas and oceans in all directions; subways, submarines, and airplanes, telegraph and telephone wires enfold the earth like a spider’s web, under water and in the air. Thou­sands and millions of people communicate over them every day and every minute; goods are moved; every news event is broadcast over the whole world within a few minutes; every inquiry or disturbance is at once echoed in the most distant lands. The thousands of eco­nomic ties stretching out in every direction are supplemented by those of a cultural character. Financial ties among banks, enterprises, and states; commercial deals; international syndicates and trusts; trade agreements, colonial policies—all establish the closest ties among the countries of the world, strengthen them, and make them more all-encompassing. The bears’ dens whose inhabitants never leave and never hear any news, whose interests do not extend beyond their village, district, or region, are steadily vanishing.


The multilateral international interdependence of individual institutions and of the whole economies of various countries; the international organization of banks, enterprises, and trade relations; the internationalization of learning, literature, languages, technology, arts, fashions, manners, and customs; the many-sided continuing, lively, political relations; the continual intermingling of people of different nations—in a word, the internationalization of all spheres of life by the gigantic productive forces of contemporary capitalist society, are indisputable facts.

But there is another side to this increasing interdependence of modern society and the increasing involvement of outlying areas in its economic life. Side by side with this internationalization of eco­nomic, social, political, and spiritual culture goes a nationalization, an intensification of national feeling in the masses, an awakening of their national consciousness. This leads to the consolidation of nations, revives backward and seemingly lost nations, leads them from a state of helplessness and ignorance to one of national consciousness, and impels them to create their own literatures.

And this is entirely understandable. The development and spread of capitalist production among backward peoples draws them out of their patriarchal and feudal conditions of life, by destroying their old methods of production and introducing them to new goods, new ideas, new customs and needs promotes their advance, and by com­pelling them to seek work in factories and in cities, on railways, leads them into the new culture. Regardless of how simple it is, factory or railroad work demands greater intelligence than work in a village. All this impels them to study, faces them with the necessity of learn­ing how to read and write in order not to get lost, so as to better their position. Before them are spread the wonders and riches of modern capitalist culture. If they are not adopted by the people, they will crush them. But this culture can be adopted only when presented in a suitable form, in a language the people understand. Although some are able to learn one or more foreign languages, and thus acquire an alien culture, the whole nation cannot do this. The people can­not spend so much time in study: one must work, keep house, earn a crust of bread. Someone, therefore, must undertake to acquaint them with the results of scientific investigations and artistic achieve­ments in a suitable form—that is, in their native language. Their children must be schooled in their native language, and this means a need for teachers. They need officials (whether elected or not is unimportant here) who know and use the native language.

In thus awakening the national masses of the most oppressed, crushed, and undeveloped nations, capitalism creates the need for conscious and educated men—the intelligentsia.

The intelligentsia is generated out of the people, although the birth process differs from one nation to the other. Different classes have participated in different ways in contributing to the intelli­gentsia: bureaucrats, teachers, parliamentarians, party leaders, lawyers, engineers, writers, technicians, speakers, and scholars. We know that every social class has its own intelligentsia. But irrespective of these different class origins and views, the intelligentsia of all classes have common features which justify our viewing them as a separate social group. The principal feature or characteristic of the intelli­gentsia as a social group is its role in satisfying the spiritual needs of society or of some special social group or class. To perform this task properly the intellectual needs an appropriate means of production. The intellectual’s means of production is the word—his language. In addition, every group of the intelligentsia needs its own special means of production: the physician, medicine and medical instru­ments; the writer, paper and pen; the scholar, office or laboratory. But the primary and essential means of production of each of them is language—the printed or spoken word, literature, knowledge.

These productive forces affect the intellectual in many ways. On this base is erected the superstructure of the intelligentsia with all of its features good and bad: altruism and the sincere love of one’s own people and of all humanity, disdain for the material side of life, a broad outlook: but also the desire to become a bureaucracy, to live more gaily and spaciously, narrowmindedness, petty-bourgeois attitudes, and timidity.

The intelligentsia is an indispensable product and agent of bourgeois society. In a communist society it may be possible to abolish the intelligentsia as a separate group by transforming all classes into intelligentsia. But until this happens, no class or group can dispense with the intelligentsia. Nor can any nation do without its national intelligentsia.



Army of Labour
Army of Labour – poster 1918

A nation is interested in having its own intelligentsia to care for its spiritual needs, but on the other hand, the intelligentsia is con­cerned that the nation be great, strong, and educated because these factors determine the demands for the books of its teachers, officials, authors, and doctors. The capitalist mode of production enforces an increasingly extensive division of labor, the improvement and per­fecting of instruments, machinery, and so on. It also leads to an improvement in the means of production of the intelligentsia—his language—because on this depends his ability to express the subtlest variations of thought, feelings, impressions, and so on, and even the further development of the nation. Furthermore, pedagogy holds that the education of the child and his further development as a human being are promoted more effectively by teaching in the native lan­guage. This is true generally for all members of a given nation, but it has additional importance for the child who will become an intellectual, for in this way he will learn the language better and use it in all its strength, beauty, and richness—thus with more success. With the exception of a few particularly talented persons, only one who has used a language from early childhood will gain a deep knowledge of it. In modern education it appears that, as a rule, only the native language can be used accurately.



“To master the accomplishments of international culture the intellectual should learn foreign languages, but if he is to make a contribution to culture, this must be done primarily in his native tongue. His initial audience are the members of his own nation. That intellectual is fortunate who is a member of a great nation, and espe­cially of a nation whose language has become a world language. In such a case he speaks to the whole world. On the other hand, the intellectual from a minor nation which is, furthermore, poor and backward, can of course acquire a profound knowledge of interna­tional culture by learning foreign languages, but his own contribu­tion to this culture will often fail to reach a public even though his works show extraordinary genius. He is forced to use a foreign language in which his thoughts are less well expressed.

“For this reason no one so ardently desires to see his nation achieve greatness as an intellectual from a minor nation.

“It is precisely those well-educated people who have mastered foreign languages, are most influenced by international culture, and are most concerned with the purity of their own language, who worry about expanding the area in which it is used and about reducing the number of people who read only foreign authors. In short, the most internationalized elements of the nation at the same time appear to be the most nationalistic.”[17]

But we should warn the reader against an error which is often set forth as absolute truth. This is the view that the nation is the invention of the intelligentsia. We must warn the more strongly against this error in view of the currently widespread fashion of scolding the intelligentsia. The intelligentsia indeed deserve this rebuke, but it is not necessary to throw out the baby with the bath water. The intelligentsia may be punished, may be brought to its knees, but the nation cannot dispense with it without doing harm to itself. This is the more true in view of the fact that the sharpest re­bukes also come from the intelligentsia.

The intelligentsia’s role in modern society in general, and in national movements in particular, can be explained by analogy with the role of machinery in contemporary capitalist production. The analogy extends to cover the mode of coping with the shortcomings of both intelligentsia and machines.

There can be no doubt that the existence of machines has placed another weapon in the hands of the capitalists for use against the proletariat and against the broad masses of toilers; that machines have given rise to an unprecedented exploitation of the workers; and that they have, by accelerating production, helped the capitalists to gain domination over millions of toilers, thus leading to expropria­tion, proletarization, and hardship. But there can also be no doubt that the movement against the use of machinery in production which arose in England in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, at the dawn of the modern capitalist era, hurt the workers and not the capitalists. Not only did it fail to help in the struggle with hardship and misery, it even worsened the position of the workers. One should not oppose the machines, but rather their cap­italist exploitation at the expense of the toiling masses. One should not abolish the intelligentsia but rather use it in one’s own interests, thus to free all from slavery, transform everyone into intelligentsia, and abolish the abyss between mental and physical labor.

The intelligentsia’s role in a national movement is analogous to the role of the machine in capitalist production. It is not because of the machinery that capitalism exists, develops, and expands; on the contrary, machinery exists because of the existence, development, and expansion of capitalism. National movements do not come into existence and wax strong and active because of the national intelligentsia; on the contrary, the national intelligentsia comes into being because national movements exist and become strong and active.

Capitalism uproots millions of people of different nations, moves them from place to place, mixes them all together, pounds them in the mortar of capitalist production, cooks them in the boiler of the factory, grinds them in the mill of combined enterprises, melts them down in the ovens of “metallurgical colossi,” and shapes them into a new type of iron, cast iron, and steel. Thus nations are born and develop, and national movements appear over and over again, grow stronger, and demand autonomy and independence. This is not reasonable; the productive forces of certain shopkeepers, philistines, and financial titans grow angry at it—but what can you do, history is so foolish, it did not study at the Katerynoslav seminary.

Delegates to teh frst conf of soviets of Donbas Bakhmut March 1917
Delegates to the congress of Soviets in Donbas, east Ukraine 1917

The observation and study of national movements, of the awakening and development of nations, show that the existence of a peasantry is of prime importance for the preservation and formation of a nation. Capitalism, with its capacity for cracking the concrete and iron Chinese walls of particularism and provincialism, even affects the peasant masses when conditions are suitable: a territory, large or small, inhabited by more or less the same nationality. Capital­ism wakens these masses, forces them to leave their villages and dis­tricts, makes them aware of problems beyond what can be seen from the village belfry. The peasants who migrate to the cities become workers or intellectuals. Although at the beginning of the process isolated workers and intellectuals are quickly assimilated, acquire the veneer of the new culture, and are ashamed of their peasant lan­guage and peasant origin—as the process continues, and as they learn more about the new and higher culture, they come to under­stand the deep abyss which exists between the more cultured and edu­cated and their own browbeaten and illiterate village people. Then they return to their own villages and begin to work with enthusiasm at awakening the peasants’ consciousness, at raising them to the higher cultural level.


“The prestige of the nation to which they belong is not a mat­ter of indifference to the elements in the framework of capitalist production—and least of all to the existing classes and to the wage-worker”  The history of the past century presents much glaring evi­dence that workers do borrow these and other national slogans.

But, although the wage worker can learn a foreign language quickly and become assimilated (this applies likewise to the capitalist, the landowner, and the intellectual), the peasant has no such opportunity. He lives in a village where foreigners do not penetrate, or at the most pass through for brief visits. He himself rarely visits a for­eign city, and, if he does, for such a short period that it is pointless to talk of his acquiring a foreign language.

Thus the peasantry, as the base, and the intelligentsia as the ideologues, the superstructure, have (in recent decades, at least) been the principal agents of any national movement. This contrasts with the beginning of the capitalist era, the period of its struggle with feudalism, when the national liberation movement was headed by the urban bourgeoisie and intelligentsia. To be sure, even today, the bourgeoisie takes quite an active part in the national struggle, as does the proletariat. None of the attempts yet made to remove the proletariat from the national movement, to place them outside or above it, has yielded definite results. Each class or group of course interprets the movement in its own way, but all participate in it.

Delegates to the All-Ukraine Congress of Peasants

National movements, in the modern acceptance of the term, appeared at the same time as capitalism itself. And they have appeared not because they were invented by one or another exploiting class of capitalist society for the interest or profit of that class (this feature is very important for national and other movements), but because capitalism has involved the most closely knit and diverse groups of people in world trade and in a common economic—meaning a common spiritual—life. National movements are more closely associated with the progressive aspect of world capitalism than with its destructive tendencies, its exploitation and degradation of the national masses. This latter fact has a considerable impact on the development of national movements, but the movements, and their depth and pervasiveness among all classes of contemporary society, cannot be explained by this fact alone. No class, including the proletariat, fails to participate in national movements or to advance nationalist de­mands. Of course, this does not mean that all classes advance the same demands with the same force and enthusiasm. At different times and in different places various classes have espoused various national de­mands with varying force and obstinacy.


The two eras of national movements must be distinguished from the general historical point of view. The dividing line between these eras was the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71 which brought about the national unification of Germany.

“There is, on the one hand, the period of the collapse of feudal­ism and absolutism, of the formation of the bourgeois-democratic so­ciety and state, when the national movements first became mass movements and through the press and through participation in representative institutions involved all classes of the population in political life. On the other is the period of fully formed capitalist states with long-established constitutional regimes and a highly de­veloped antagonism between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie—a period which may be called the eve of capitalism’s downfall.

“The typical features of the first period are: the awakening of national movements and the involvement in them of the peasants, the most numerous and most sluggish sector of the population, through the struggle for political liberty generally, and for the rights of the nation in particular. The typical features of the second period are: the absence of bourgeois-democratic mass movements and the prominent position of the antagonism between the internationally united capital and the international working-class movement, this being due to the fact that developed capitalism brings closer together the nations that have already been involved in commercial inter­course and causes them to intermingle in an increasing degree.”[18]

Lenin continues in the same vein:

“Of course the two periods are not partitioned off from one an­other; there are numerous transitional links, as countries differ from one another in the rapidity of development of their national move­ment, in the national composition and distribution of their popula­tions, and so on.”[19]

In another place he gives the following classification of countries “with respect to the degree of their self-determination”:

  1. The advanced capitalist countries of Western Europe and the United States. Here the progressive bourgeois national movements have long since come to an end. Each of these
    “great” nations oppresses others in the colonies and at home.
  2. Eastern Europe: Austria, the Balkans, and especially Russia. Here bourgeois-democratic national movements have devel­oped, and the struggle has intensified, particularly in the twentieth century.
  3. The semi-colonial countries, such as China, Persia, Turkey, and the colonies, with a combined population of one billion (1000 million). Here the bourgeois-democratic movements have either hardly begun or else have a long way to go.[20]

The above description of the two periods in the history of na­tional movements is evidently applicable only to countries of the first type, but even with respect to them, some limitations must be introduced. England falls in the second group of states with respect to the Irish question. And Norway’s separation from Sweden occurred in 1905, that is, only in the second period.

Again, the description of the second period as characterized by the “absence of mass democratic movements” can be regarded as ac­curate only within distinct limits. Of course there are no democratic mass movements where bourgeois-democratic movements have ended, where nationally homogeneous capitalist states have been formed, and where a constitutional order has been established—this is only a tautology. But where this has not occurred we see an altogether dif­ferent phenomenon. We can call it an exception, if that is convenient, but an exception that violates the very rule.

The most characteristic point of difference between the two periods relates to the question: “Who heads the mass democratic movements?”

Formerly it was the bourgeoisie; now it is the proletariat. This is agreed in any discussion of democratic movements generally. But when it comes to that sub-variety of democratic movements which is the national-democratic or national-liberation movement, the ob­jection is at once raised in international phrases that the working class, the proletariat, is an international class concerned with international problems, that it is indifferent to the national question, that the proletariat should pay no attention to national matters, and that nationalism is an invention of the bourgeoisie to deceive the proletariat. These accusations are all absolutely correct when used properly, but harmful if used to attack the essence of the national liberation question. For the gist of every national liberation question lies precisely in the fact that each nationality strives for the formation of its own independent sovereign state. Now what is, and should be, the attitude of the proletariat toward this aspiration to form a national state?

Historical experience shows that the proletariat participates di­rectly in the national liberation movement and cannot stay away from it. It cannot be set aside, placed above the national movement, or in any other neutral position. And regardless of how many inter­national phrases are used, the national question cannot be ignored. The task of the proletariat is not to ignore it, but to solve it.

International social democracy has also proclaimed the “right of nations to self-determination,” that is, to the formation of sovereign, independent national states, as a way of solving the na­tional question. International social democracy set itself the task formerly performed by the bourgeoisie—when it was revolutionary, when it was destroying absolutism and feudalism.

“Social democracy inherited from bourgeois democracy the striv­ing for a national state. Of course we are not bourgeois democrats, but we resemble them in viewing democracy as more than a trifle, as something superfluous and unnecessary. As the lowest class in the state, the proletariat can only assert its rights through democracy. But we do not share the illusion of bourgeois democracy that the proletariat will gain full rights when it does achieve democracy. Democracy is only the basis for the acquisition of its rights. The liberation struggle of the proletariat does not end with democracy but merely takes on a different form.

“Democracy is a vital necessity, not for the bourgeoisie, but pre­cisely for the proletariat. The bourgeoisie has now renounced its for­mer democratic ideals and, at the same time, the idea of a national state. Its present concept of the ideal state goes beyond the boundaries of the national state. It throws these survivals of liberalism into the warehouse of historical curiosities. But we have no reason to do this. We should not take the materialist interpretation of history to mean that the proletariat had to adopt the general tendencies of bourgeois development just because they are determined by economic relations. The proletariat has its own tendencies of development, which are no less economically determined, and it should follow them without worrying about whether or not they contradict bourgeois tenden­cies.”[21]

Thus we see that national movements admit of only one solution —full democracy. And full democracy means the organization of sovereign and independent national states. This was true for the era of the destruction of feudalism and absolutism and the birth of bour­geois-democratic states. And it is also true for our own era, the era of imperialist capitalism, and the eve of the birth of socialism. The same will be true for socialism. We see the past and the present, and we see what will be in the future. And in saying what things will be like under socialism we base ourselves not on what has already been ac­complished but on that “tendency in the development of the prole­tariat” mentioned by Kautsky.

This is what Comrade N. Lenin states:

“Victorious socialism must necessarily establish full democracy and, consequently, not only introduce the complete equality of nations but also implement the right of oppressed nations to self-determination, i.e., their right to free political separa­tion. Any socialist party whose activity now, during the revolution, and after victory does not make clear that it will liberate the enslaved nations and establish relations with them on the basis of a free union —and free union is a false phrase if it does not include the right to secession—would be betraying socialism.”[22]

“Marx wrote in his Critique of the Gotha Programme: ‘Between capitalist and communist society lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of one into the other. In this period of political tran­sition the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.’

“Hitherto this truth has been indisputable for socialists, and it includes recognition of the fact that the state will exist until vic­torious socialism develops into full communism. Engels’ dictum about the withering away of the state is well known.

“And since we are discussing the state, this means that we are also discussing its boundaries. In his article, ‘The Po and the Rhine/ Engels writes, among other things, that during the course of historical development, which swallowed up a number of small and non-viable nations, the ‘boundaries of the great and viable European nations’ were increasingly determined by the ‘language and sympathies’ of the population. Engels calls these boundaries ‘natural.’

“Today, these democratically determined boundaries are being increasingly broken down by reactionary, imperialist capitalism. There is every indication that imperialism will bequeath its successor, socialism, a heritage of less democratic boundaries, a number of an­nexations in Europe and other parts of the world. It is to be supposed that victorious socialism, which will restore and implement full democracy all along the line, will refrain from demarcating state boundaries democratically and ignore the ‘sympathies’ of the popu­lation?”[23]

In this we see how deeply and strongly the national liberation movements are linked to the progressive side of the world develop­ment of capitalism. Of course, the national liberation movement is not an exception among democratic movements and has other aspects which should not be forgotten. Of course it can be exploited by the bourgeoisie. It should be clear enough that we are speaking here of a “tendency which is to be followed, not blindly, but in full aware­ness.’[24]

The Ukrainian movement does not appear to be a unique phenomenon in history, but it has assumed such vivid forms and developed in such a distinct and classical manner that it is very im­portant for understanding the character, essence, and laws of develop­ment of national liberation movements in general. This study is, and will be, of not only theoretical interest. “Today, these democratically determined boundaries are being increasingly broken down by reactionary, imperialist capitalism [of the great and viable European nations whose boundaries were earlier being increasingly determined by the language and sympathies of the population—V. Sh.-R.]. There is every indication that imperialism will bequeath its successor, so­cialism, a heritage of less democratic boundaries, a number of annexa­tions in Europe and other parts of the world.”[25]

The Ukrainian movement, along with others, will supply much material for working out the principles and tactics of the proletariat. While the proletariat’s attitude toward national movements has been, up until recently, more negative, when it has to act as the “dominant class of the nation” it will be forced to adopt a. positive policy.

The Ukrainian nation inhabits an uninterrupted area from the Carpathians in the west almost to the river Don in the east, and from the Black Sea in the south to the line of the Prypiat in the north. The area of this territory is nearly 850,000 square kilometers’.[26]

Even if this figure is considered exaggerated, it will be clear that territorially Ukraine does not fall among the smaller countries.

Here are the areas of some of the larger states of the world with­out their colonies:

PopAnd there are other states with territories of less than 400,000 square kilometers. So even if Ukraine’s area were reduced by half, that is, if we took only the eight provinces (gubernias) of the former Russian Ukraine (Poltava, Kyiv, Kharkiv, Katerynoslav, Chernyhiv, Volyn, Podillia, Kherson) in which the Ukrainians comprise an absolute majority of the population, it would still be territorially comparable to France, Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Spain, and greater than any other European state except Russia.

We cannot say precisely how many people inhabit this territory, but an estimate of 35 million cannot be an exaggeration. Thus even with respect to population Ukraine occupies approximately the same place among European states. The number is equally valid as an expression of the population of the territory where Ukrainians form an absolute or a preponderant majority or as an expression of the total Ukrainian population, including those living outside this terri­tory.

Map 3

For a better understanding of the character of the Ukrainian national movement, its class essence and its various forms, it will suf­fice to give information on the above eight provinces alone. They differ in no way from the rest of the territory, and their characteris­tics may thus be considered typical.

Of the 22 million persons inhabiting these provinces in 1897, 16.4 million or 74.6 percent were Ukrainians, 2.4 million or 10.7 percent were Russians, 1.9 million or 8.5 percent were Jews, 0.4 mil­lion or 1.9 percent were Germans, and 0.4 million or 1.9 percent were Poles.

Of the Ukrainians 90 percent are peasants, and the cities are in­habited predominantly by non-Ukrainians. The following are a few characteristic figures:[27]




For this reason one significant characteristic of the Ukrainian movement has been the opposition between the Ukrainian village and the non-Ukrainian city.

Furthermore, social contradictions have been clothed in national colors. Manufacturers, merchants, and landowners were usually either Russians, Poles, Jews, Germans, or Ukrainians of the Skoropadsky type. The Ukrainian noble strata had been russified or polonized dur­ing the preceding two and one-half centuries. Only during the revolu­tion, when the strength of the national movement became clear to everyone, did some landowners begin to recall their Ukrainian an­cestry. All of the grand bourgeoisie—landowners, merchants, entre­preneurs, and bankers—had close ties with Russia because of profit­able business interests. Separation of Ukraine brought them only clear loss. And when the landowners and capitalists now do every­thing possible to regenerate the one and indivisible Russia, they show a much better understanding of their own interests than Comrade Kulyk imagines.

It could, of course, be maintained that the aristocratic intelli­gentsia has played a prominent role, especially in the early stages of the new Ukrainian movement in the first decades of the nineteenth century. Thus one could “write history” as follows: I. Kotliarevskii’s  Aeneid “gave birth” to the Ukrainian national movement. And Kotliarevskii was (1) of the intelligentsia, (2) a bureaucrat and high official of the Poltava governor-general, and (3) concerned with the problems of landowners (he was an official for special assignments of the governor-general who was himself a landowner). Ergo, as early as the end of the eighteenth and beginning of the nineteenth century the landowners and intelligentsia foresaw the 1917 revolution, and the fear of this proletarian revolution forced them to seek shelter. Their prognostications came true, and we see them first seeking refuge with the Central Rada and then dispersing it and setting up Skoropodasky! But this made the productive forces angry, and Shevchenko was made a soldier while Minister Valuev (who was clever, even though a landowner!) said: There were no Ukrainians, there are none now and there will be none in the future!

No, the Ukrainian movement depended mainly on the village and was led by an intelligentsia in constant communication with the village. The Ukrainian workers also played an important role in awakening and activating the national consciousness of the peasants and maintained contact with the village. The Ukrainian worker felt the national oppression on his own neck.

The central figure of Ukrainian literature and of the intelli­gentsia is Taras Shevchenko, son of a peasant serf. Throughout the century Ukrainian literature and art bore a primarily rustic charac­ter. It depicted peasant life, took its heroes from the village, and was imbued with a deep and sincere love of the illiterate, browbeaten, and helpless village population. Not from the national character but through a consideration of the Ukrainian people’s exceedingly dif­ficult and abnormal living conditions can one understand the ideal­istic enthusiasm which runs like a red thread through the history of Ukrainian literature and social thought and of the Ukrainian intelligentsia. The role and character of the intelligentsia in the Ukrainian national liberation movement is better understood if compared with that of the Russian intelligentsia in the general history of the revolu­tionary destruction of serfdom and despotism. Not in vain did they live together under the roof of the tsarist autocracy!

It was hard work! The enslaved village was silent, only occasionally sending out its sons to announce that

 The species has not perished,

The country is still alive.

But conditions changed at the beginning of this century. The capitalism which invaded Ukraine with a clattering and whistling of locomotives and a wailing of factory sirens also aroused the village. Ukraine was lighted up by the glowing coal of the blast furnaces; the straw-thatched villages were set afire by the sparks from locomo­tives and factory chimneys. It is no accident that the rise of capitalist production in Ukraine, the peasant insurrections in Poltava and Kharkiv (Kharkov) provinces, the divisions among Ukrainian groups along party lines, and the advent of an urban type of literature (particularly in the writings of the talented V. Vynnychenko) all occurred at the same time. “The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” That very same 70 percent of coal, 99 percent of beams and channels, 79 percent of rails, and 68 percent of shaped iron with which the Katerynoslavians attempt to strangle and bury the Ukrainian movement were the base of this movement. Ukrainian independence rests precisely on this industry, and not on any higher feelings (“in them, for them”) of these or other “benefactors.” The same combined enterprises which the Katerynoslavians use to offer the Ukrainian people a combined unity will see to it that the Katery­noslavians are left with combined enterprises made up of their own fingers.

We know that revolution rejects all that is superficial and con­ventional and reveals the sources of deep springs and forces. A revolution is an examination. What do we learn from the revolutionary national liberation movement.

As early as May, 1918, we wrote (in a book which was never pub­lished) :

The national movement for the first time gives evidence of its own vigor and strength. Before the revolution the general attitude was that the Ukrainian movement was the invention of an eccentric “Little Russian” intelligentsia, was incompatible with the interests of a majority of the population, had no mass following, and was not supported by any wide circles of “Little Russian” citizens. The movement was considered as limited to so-called cultural demands: schools in Ukrainian, free use of both spoken and printed Ukrainian, etc. The desire for autonomy, for the organization of Ukrainians into a political unit, was viewed as “separatism,” “an Austrian orientation,” “supported by German marks” in order to arrive at the police deduction: “grab ’em and hold “em.”  Although formerly one might have thought that the Ukrainian movement could not pass beyond literary, cultural, and educational matters, since the revolution only those who are hopelessly ignorant of its real relation to political life can call the Ukrainian movement a “bourgeois invention” or can advance such petty arguments as that the peasants understand Russian better than “Galician” and so on. These views would not be so annoying if held only by the common people, but it is regrettable that even those in high positions in our party advocate them even after the proclama­tion of the Ukrainian Republic.

Only the blind can fail to see that the movement has em­braced the broadest and deepest circles of Ukrainian citizens and has revealed their general desire to become not only a cul­tural, linguistic, and ethnographic group, but also a sovereign political nation. The initial demands for national territorial autonomy and then for republican status in a Federated Russia evoked a broad and immediate response.

All congresses—peasant, worker, military, party, profes­sional, or educational, whether All-Ukrainian, regional, or dis­trict—have unanimously adopted this objective.

The power of this movement for rebirth of the nation in statehood has been so unexpected that even the leaders of the movement can hardly give it suitable political expression. The movement has also been very influential in Galicia and has awak­ened the desire to do away with the border dividing the two parts of the Ukrainian nation.

It can be stated with certainty that Ukraine will not agree to die, or to accept national captivity, regardless of what misfortunes may befall it. This should be kept in mind by every party working in Ukraine.

The will to organize Ukraine as a state-political unit within ethnographic boundaries is an incontrovertible fact.

What “ideological” elements enter into the Ukrainian move­ment?

First, the language. One’s native language, one’s own word, evoke the deepest national feelings. Every Ukrainian has loved his native tongue. In it are historical memories, songs, literature, and also the social-national protest of a people using a “peasant” language against those speaking “noble” languages (Russian or Polish). It contains a vision of equality with the “noble” na­tions. It contains the recognition of national unity: we are Ukrainians above everything else.

There were recollections of the historic past—the Cossack campaigns, the struggles with Poland and Muscovy—whose strength was a source of delight. Others—the Petrograd erected on Cossack bones—awoke bitter feelings about a greater culture and enlightenment in the past.

There was protest against socioeconomic and national-political oppression by the Russians, Poles, Rumanians, and Hungarians who were the large landowners, merchants, manu­facturers, and officials.

There was protest against the city which leads a luxurious life on the power and money it derives from the village and gives hardly anything in return.

Among Ukrainians there was a desire to organize their own land fund, to increase production, to raise their culture to a higher level.

There was protest against the centralism and imperialism which returned to Ukraine only half of the taxes which it paid.

There was the desire to exercise one’s own will and power in one’s own house.

Ukrainians felt that they represented the only democracy in Ukraine—in contrast to the other nationalities which they viewed as autocratic.

“We have no bourgeoisie, only democracy.”

“We have only socialist parties!”

In the detailed memorandum sent to the Provisional Gov­ernment and the Petrograd Council of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies we read:

“The ruling circles of Ukraine are not Ukrainian. Indus­try is in the hands of the Russian, Jewish, and French bourgeoi­sie, and the capitalist traders, together with a large proportion of the agrarian bourgeoisie are Poles and Ukrainians who have long since called themselves ‘Russians’ [italics ours]. Similarly, ad­ministrative posts are all in the hands of non-Ukrainians.

“But the exploited strata—the peasantry, a majority of the urban proletariat, the artisans, and petty officials—are Ukrain­ians. Hence, at the present time there is no Ukrainian bourgeoi­sie [italics in the memorandum] which considers itself Ukrainian. Although the class interests of some individuals and small groups are identical with those of the economically dominant classes, no bourgeois class, we repeat, exists.

“This is why no Ukrainian party has yet failed to include the idea of socialism in its platform.”

What forms did this movement take? How did it make itself noticed?

Through gigantic rallies, mainly of soldiers, in places such as Kyiv and Petrograd where there were many Ukrainians; through thousands of peasant congresses, military congresses, and workers’ educational, cultural, and party congresses; through meetings in villages, cities, railroad yards, and factories.

And at times of particular tension it took the form of near-insurrections. There were three such occasions: in the early days of June when Defense Minister Kerensky forbade the convoca­tion of the Second Military Congress, and it assembled in spite of him (the upshot of this “peaceful” insurrection was the proc­lamation of the First Universal and the declaration of auton­omy) —then during the October revolution when the Third Military Congress carried with it the vacillating Central Rada (resulting in the Third Universal and the proclamation of the Republic) —and finally there was the insurrection against the “Bolshevik Russian” government and the Fourth Universal pro­claiming independence and appealing to the “German people” (in reality, to Kaiser Wilhelm, Hindenburg, and Hertling) for help against the “Russians” and “Bolsheviks” . . .

We have not even mentioned the newspapers, proclama­tions, announcements, and so forth.

But after all this has happened some people still call it an “invention”—a “bourgeois invention” perhaps, but an “inven­tion” nonetheless!

In the same way the Cadet Rech, and even the left-wing Zimmerwaldists in Berner Tagwacht, called the Irish insurrec­tion a “Putsch.”

Here is what N. Lenin wrote about this “Putsch,” this “in­vention”:

“The term ‘putsch’ [and ‘invention’], in its scientific sense, may be employed only when the attempted insurrection is ex­posed as nothing but a circle of conspirators or stupid maniacs who have aroused no sympathy among the masses. The centuries-old Irish movement, after passing through various stages and combinations of class interest, manifested itself, in particular, in a massive Irish National Congress in America (Vorwarts, March 20, 1916) which called for Irish independence; it also took the form of street fighting by a section of the urban petty bourgeoisie and a section of the workers after a long period of mass agitation, demonstrations, suppression of newspapers, etc. Whoever calls such a rebellion a ‘putsch’ [or an ‘invention’] is either a hardened reactionary or a doctrinaire, hopelessly incapa­ble of envisaging a social revolution as a living phenomenon.”[28]

The Ukrainian people as a nation, regardless of class, have expressed their will with respect to self-determination and their political status.

In tens and hundreds of resolutions at meetings, at con­gresses of various kinds, large and small, in the party and the public press, in demonstrations on an imposing scale, in armed clashes—the desire has everywhere been expressed to:

  1. Organize themselves as a state-political nation.

  2. Unite the various Ukrainian lands and regions in which there is a Ukrainian majority, regardless of existing political boundaries, into a united Ukrainian Republic.

  3. Declare themselves for an independent republic not in theory but through personal experience and through the course of events.

This we wrote eight months ago.


The Proletariat Allied with the Petty Bourgeoisie against World Imperialism

The Ukrainian revolution revealed another glaring fact.

While in Russia the petty bourgeoisie (meaning the peasants who made up its great bulk) went along with the workers from the very beginning and during the whole course of the revolution, the Ukrainian peasantry from the very beginning followed a course dif­ferent from that of the workers.

The unity of the Russian proletariat and petty bourgeoisie was reflected in the joint Soviets of Workers’ and Peasants’ Deputies, in the alliance between the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries until October, and in the alliance between the Bolsheviks and left Socialist-Revolutionaries after October until, in July, 1918, the left Socialist-Revolutionary adventure discredited the advocates of rebel­lion and pushed the poor peasant toward the Communist Party.

In Ukraine the worker and peasant movements went sepa­rate ways from the very outset, and there was no lasting or stable al­liance between the Peasants’ and Workers’ Soviets. On the contrary, from the very outset of the revolution we find two centers—the Cen­tral Rada and the Soviets—sharply and tensely opposed to one an­other.

If we characterize the events in Ukraine, which were largely the outcome of the relations between the Central Rada and the So­viets, as a division into separate peasant and worker movements, this must be taken with some reservations, cum grano sails. We mean only the prevailing trend, the dominant coloration of what we perceived in the relations between the Central Rada and the Soviets.

In the first place, the Central Rada included, besides a Council of Peasants’ Deputies and a Council of Soldiers’ Deputies (whose class content was the same since the Council of Soldiers’ Deputies represented the same villagers, only the most competent and energetic ones, dressed in uniform), a Council of Workers’ Deputies whose one hundred members were elected at the All-Ukrainian Workers’ Congress on July 11-15 But even before this Congress the Ukrainian workers had taken part in the national liberation struggle, the most striking evidence being the existence of the Ukrainian Social-Demo­cratic Workers Party, which was born in 1904-5 and appeared on the historical scene not as an invention of the intelligentsia but as a re­sult of the 1902 wave of peasant uprisings in the Poltava and Kharkiv (Kharkov) regions.

RH Revolu 3

Workers Gazette – Paper of the Ukrainian Social Democratic Workers Party declares ‘Long Live the Revolution!’.

One needs a really thorough knowledge of Ukraine, as derived from the windows of the Hotel Marseille in Kyiv, to state as absolute truth, with the supreme arrogance of a man “who has seen everything by just peeking out,” that “the Ukrainian prole­tariat is purely Russian in origin.” As usual, the “thorough” Kh. Rakovsky “missed the elephant.” If the chairman of the peace delega­tion in Kyiv had been a little more interested in Ukraine than he was in last year’s snow, even without leaving his room in the Marseille he could have read M. Porsh’s little pamphlet about the Ukrainian worker, based on the same 1897 census quoted by Kh. Rakovsky. To our regret we have no copy of this pamphlet handy and thus cannot give its title or the relevant figures. But, as far as we can remember, M. Porsh, on the basis of a thorough (not Rakovsky’s type of tho­roughness) analysis and investigation of the 1897 census (and the defects of this census are well known), concluded that at that time there were about 500,000 (we think the exact figure is 416,000) non-Ukrainian workers in Ukraine—thus, unless we are mistaken, only one-third of all the workers in Ukraine. Even on the assump­tion of an increase in the number of workers of purely Russian origin, they would still be no more than half of the Ukrainian proletariat. Thus at least one half is of purely Ukrainian origin.


If not, perhaps the Marxist intellectual, Kh. Rakovsky, can ex­plain how the Ukrainian Social-Democratic Party could exist and be­come so influential.

Thus the workers also participated, and are still participating, in the Ukrainian national liberation movement. But because of the gen­erally lower educational level of the Ukrainian masses (the result of the tsarist educational policy and national slavery) the Ukrainians were found mainly in the lower strata of workers, maintained ties with the village, and played a secondary role in the workers’ movement. The leading role in the workers’ movement was played by the more developed non-Ukrainian workers (not only those of purely Russian origin), while the peasantry was the backbone of the national liberation movement. What is characteristic, however, is that the principal leaders of this national liberation movement were not the Ukrainian Socialist-Revolutionaries, but the Ukrainian Social Democrats.

On the other hand, the Soviets were not pure class organizations any more than the Central Rada was a purely national organ. Only a lax Russian or “internationalist” intellectual, like the eternal stu­dent and drunkard Onufrii from L. Andreev’s Days of Our Life who looked for a “quiet family” in which to cause a scandal with much face-slapping, would look everywhere for “pure internationalism” in order the better to set off his “pure” Russian or Rumanian origin! For two and a half centuries Ukraine was a Russian colony. For two and a half centuries the truly Russian Rumanians, Purishkeviches, “cosmopolitans” of the Russian breed (Valuevs, “Ukrainians,” ” ‘Me-too’ Little Russian” Rodziankos and Skoropadski’s) tried to drive out of the foolish “khokhol” heads various peculiar separatist thoughts. For whole centuries national and international science tried to prove that the “ethnographic differences between Ukrainians and Russians are in themselves insignificant” because both walk on two legs, because Ukrainians also speak a human language (although to the educated international intellectual the Ukrainian version seems very simple and naive), and even because Ukrainians have the same kind of noses as Russians. The intellectual, V. Vynnychenko, lied when he stated at the Second Military Congress that the Ukrainians do not yet have noses of their own! For centuries science has been trying to prove that Ukrainian peasants have no national conscious­ness, that they are jostling and clamoring to get into Russia. We don’t want Ukraine! they shout in unison when “court officials of the Shelukhyn variety” (where does this cursed weed come from?) try to draw them in by force. Kornfeld Satirikon, had to be assigned to duty in the Main Guardhouse in 1912 to learn from an old newspaper pasted over a hole in the window that the first State Duma had been dissolved; he then took this “discovery” to the cap­tain in command. Kh. Rakovsky had to stay in the Marseille three months to be able to report to the Russian proletariat the “discovery” that neither in Bucharest, nor in Moscow, nor even in the Marseille in Kyiv was there any national consciousness. Can you imagine: twenty-five thousand peasants writing every day and clamoring: “Po­lice! Help! ‘Ukrainian again!’ ” And the peasants wrote below the Russian language proclamations: “Read with pleasure!”

Ukraine, like the rest of Russia, was militarized. The result of the tsarist system of troop distribution, taken over by the Pro­visional Government, was that Ukraine was covered with garri­sons of Russian and Polish troops while the Ukrainians themselves were scattered on the northern front, in Petrograd, and along the Volga.

Thus the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies in Ukraine had a more non-Ukrainian look because they were composed mostly of workers, soldiers, and intellectuals of purely Russian origin. Here again, of course, we are talking only about the dominant coloration.

This should be borne in mind in forming a judgment about the revolutionary movement in Ukraine, in comprehending the real nature of the hostility between the purely national Central Rada and the purely class Soviets, in understanding why the Ukrainian workers, who associated with the villagers, were more national, and why the non-Ukrainian petty bourgeoisie, who associated with the workers, was more international. In the same way the Ukrainian de­tachments in Petrograd were noticeably revolutionary and interna­tionalist, and when they returned to Kyiv, they became nationalist and counterrevolutionary. “Why stick your noses into our business?” they said. “Go and play the master at home in Russia, and let us manage things in Ukraine! We can take care of our own bour­geoisie.”

In general terms, the division of democracy in this area into Ukrainian and non-Ukrainian was another manifestation of the hos­tility between an alien, non-Ukrainian city and our own Ukrainian village.

This division in the workers, with the alienation of the mass of the peasantry from the more advanced workers, was the fundamental and salient fact of the revolution. This split came to the surface in November, 1917 – March, 1918.

The character and meaning of this split is best illustrated by one of the Ukrainian peasantry’s most important demands—nationaliza­tion of the land and creation of a Ukrainian land fund, so as to bring it under the control of the Ukrainian democratic state. Comrade Kulyk states that the prosperous peasants did not want to share the land with the Russian peasants. This is true, and the prosperous peasants did not want to share their land with Ukrainian peasants either. Thus such a simple and easily understood explanation of the demand for a land fund is suited only to children of the first grades of the Katerynoslav seminary. If it is recalled that Ukraine dur­ing the last two decades supplied the largest number of settlers in Siberia, Turkestan, and other regions, the peasantry should have wanted something else (following this “pickpocket” argumentation). Because if you demand your own land fund, not subject to alien management, you may be treated the same way yourself. Such con­siderations as Comrade Kulyk points out were probably present, but the gist of the matter was not in them. This demand is to be under­stood only within the framework of the general political, national, social, and economic demands of the Ukrainian masses. Then the de­mand for a land fund is seen to have the same meaning as all the other demands: Ukraine does not want to be a foreign colony, a servant to the Russians and the Poles, but wants to live for itself.7 The de­mand for a land fund was just one more link in the chain of Ukrain­ian efforts to constitute a nation, one more stage in the progress of the self-awareness of the Ukrainian spirit, enabling them finally to declare with Fichte: “I am I!” The Ukrainian land fund is that “not I” which leads eventually to “I”!

Thus the fight of the Ukrainian peasants (and workers), as the largest group in the Ukrainian movement, for their socioeconomic and national-political demands, which were aimed ultimately at creating a nation, a state-political organism, gave rise to language which always led ultimately to the Ukrainian Rome, that is, to Kyiv. At the same time the most highly developed and influential segment of the Ukrainian workers of purely Russian origin (and also of the petty bourgeoisie, soldiers, and intelligentsia of purely Russian ori­gin) was pursuing its own policy of stronger ties with Russia—differ­ing from the landowners, capitalists, bureaucrats, shopkeepers, and intellectuals of purely Russian origin only in using words about the right of nations to self-determination, in being friendly to the Ukrain­ian movement when a common front against the counterrevolution was necessary, in being neutral when the Ukrainian movement re­mained confined to local matters, and in treating the movement with hostility when it seriously threatened the unity and indivisibility of the class struggle or the birthright.

Kharkiv July Days 1917.jpg
Demonstration in Kharkiv in the July Days 1917

One need only note that this discord was terribly harmful to revolutionary progress, and even fatal to it during the disaster of December 1917 – March, 1918. The Central Rada and its delegation were not alone in seeing the German troops as liberators. And only the occupation and only occupation changed the feeling of the Ukrainian masses into its opposite. Only rule by an imperialist occu­pation army, the horrors of management by landowners, capitalists, bureaucrats, gendarmes, and Ukrainians of purely Russian origin, plunged the Ukrainian masses into that despair which is reflected in, among other things, the peasants’ letters to the Marseille. And at this time, with the Entente’s defeat of Germany and the establishment of Woodrow Wilson’s hegemony, Ukraine’s objective position was such that her only course was union with Russia. The de facto situa­tion impelled the Ukrainian masses to union with the Russian prole­tariat. We have discussed this de facto situation sufficiently in previous chapters, but our pamphlet has been delayed by printing difficulties, and in the meantime this de facto situation has disclosed still another interesting feature and some striking details on which we may dwell. This new feature is Poland’s declared intention to include within its boundaries its own historic lands9 of Galicia, part of Volyn (Volhynia), and Lithuania. The Allied counterrevolution will doubtless try to take advantage of the great-power dreams of the Polish, as well as the Russian, counterrevolutionaries. Suffice it to say that these in­tentions of Poland, added to the ancient historical hostility, are driv­ing the Ukrainian masses to a union with the Russian proletariat.


Here are some details of the de facto international position of Ukraine as outlined in the earlier chapters.

The December 20, 1918, issue of Pravda (No. 277) published the following telegrams from the representatives of the Entente (the “Allies”; the Anglo-French-American Capitalist Union):[29]

  1. To the President of the Directory, Vynnytsia (Vinnitsa), and Kyiv. The Entente’s aim is to fight the Bolsheviks. Conse­quently, first, the Volunteer Army detachments in Kyiv should be considered as army detachments under the command of their officers and wear their military insignia; second, the Volunteer Army detachments should retain their arms—if they have been disarmed, their arms should be returned to them immediately; third, under these conditions the Volunteer Army detachments will preserve strict neutrality toward the Directory; fourth, I will come to Kyiv after contacting the command of the allied troops now in transport; fifth, after my arrival the Volunteer Army detachments will take part in the fight against the Bolshe­viks and will be sent to Odessa to join the army of General Denikin. I remind you that General Denikin’s army enjoys the moral and material support of the Allied States (Entente). Please acknowledge receipt of this telegram and inform what measures have been taken. December 20, 1918.



  1. Kyiv. To the German High Command, copy to the Kyiv Council of German Soldiers. Under the terms of the armistice you should, in behalf of the Entente states, secure and maintain order in the Russian territories under occupation by your troops. The new situation in Kyiv will demand firmer measures than those used hitherto, in order to prevent killing, pillaging, and general disorder. Any failure to undertake such measures will be viewed as a serious offense on the part of yourselves and your government against the Entente states. Acknowledge receipt of this telegram and inform what measures have been taken. December 16, 1918. Enno.

This is open and straightforward. The imperialists of the Anglo-French-American alliance need not concern themselves with anyone or anything. “Their hand is the lord.”

Who will dare stand in their way? Where are those “enemies of humanity and civilization” against whom the democratic position must be defended? “The loser pays again and again!” says Lloyd George. The victors are not judged!

The Entente crushed Germany. Germany lost everything. The successor to all its conquests is the Entente.

From its victory over Russia and the Brest Litovsk peace Ger­many acquired an enormous indemnity. Before the money from Rus­sia could be counted in the Deutsche Bank it had to be shipped on to Paris.

German troops in Kyiv in 1918 – they installed their own puppet government The Hermanate

The victory over Russia gave Germany very large territories in the east that had formerly been part of the Russian Empire. These territories are now at the Entente’s disposal. The troops who are pre­serving peace and order with fire and sword, who had formerly served their imperialist Vaterland, were to continue playing the role of exe­cutioners of the people in the occupied lands. While they formerly played this role for conscience sake, they now had to play it out of fear, because “any failure to undertake such measures will be viewed as a serious offense on the part of yourselves and your government.”


The Entente imperialists not only stripped Germany bare, not only took from her the Rhineland, just as the German imperialists stripped Russia, but also forced the German troops to serve their in­terests. A rope has been placed around Germany’s neck and is being gradually drawn tighter. Under the threat of strangulation the En­tente imperialists want to maintain the German troops in their serv­ice. Thus the German troops must now strangle other peoples to post­pone for a time the ultimate strangling of their own fatherland.

The Entente thinks that the German troops in Ukraine have not yet had time to be “infected” by the revolutionary poison and that they will, for a mess of pottage and the mercy of the Entente, help it to hold Ukraine in bondage until Mr. Enno “contacts the command of the allied troops now in transport.”[30]

The Entente knows very well that a scoundrel can be turned into an executioner. But the executioner’s neck is in a noose, and the rope must be held tight to prevent him from turning his ax against his masters. However thick-skinned the German troops in Ukraine may be, of whatever conservative elements they may be composed, they must have been infected by the revolutionary virus, especially considering that, both there and at home, everything is boiling and struggling and that the Entente troops in Germany are starting to do the same things as the Germans did and are doing in Ukraine. The Entente knows this full well and for that reason is not satisfied with the German troops but is sending its own, as yet untouched by the revolutionary virus.

In the meantime the German troops are to continue torturing the Ukrainian revolution because this was stipulated in the armistice between Germany and the Entente.

Everything is quite clear.

The attitude of the Entente toward the new power in Ukraine, the Directory, is somewhat more complex.

Enno is also very solicitous about General Denikin’s Volunteer Army. “General Denikin’s army enjoys the moral and material sup­port of the Allied States.” Enno requests extraterritoriality for these troops in Ukraine, asks that they not be molested before he contacts the Entente troops on the way. If the Volunteer Army has al­ready been disarmed, the arms should either be returned or … Enno does not say. Let the Directory guess.

Enno mentions only the fight against the Bolsheviks. It is true that the Bolsheviks are ugly people who offended the poor capitalists by refusing to pay back the blood money given to tsarist Russia: they say that Russia has already paid with the blood of her sons.

Well, the Directory does not much like the Bolsheviks either (nor did the Central Rada), and Enno thinks this will help to lure the Directory into the Entente’s net. But what does the Entente offer the directory in return? Enno is silent.

They say that silence is golden.

But this silence is quite eloquent. On many occasions the En­tente has declared itself in favor of regenerating the one and indivi­sible Russia. That is why General Denikin and his Volunteer Army were paid so much attention, and given so much moral and material support, by the Entente. The Entente believed that he would regener­ate the one and indivisible “not out of fear, but for conscience sake.” This was no secret to anyone, including the Directory.

What, then, does Enno’s declaration that the Entente has de­cided to fight the Bolsheviks mean for the Directory?

It means only this: that, along with Bolshevik Soviet Russia, the independent Ukraine and its Directory will swing on the gallows of the one and indivisible.

Is it possible that the Directory will again put its neck in the noose? Will it really return arms to the Volunteer Army which to­morrow will use them against it?

Is it possible that there has not been enough flogging? Or maybe there was, but the lesson did not sink in?

No, there was enough flogging, and the lesson was not lost.

When the Central Rada began to seek protection and help from the German imperialists in February-March, 1918, this was at least understandable because Germany was fighting the Entente. Germany was fighting the Bolsheviks. It was to Germany’s advantage to use the Rada against both of them. It served to protect at least the shadow of Ukrainian “independence.” Although they mocked the Central Rada and dispersed it, setting up the most noble puppet, Skoropadski, they still appeared to favor the independence of Ukraine. At least the Central Rada could console itself with the thought that, even though it was being beaten and Ukraine was being robbed and plundered by the liberators, the Ukrainian people were at least building their own home because the Germans “sincerely” favored Ukrainian independence.

But even these blasphemous consolations can no longer be en­tertained, because right now everything is clear.

The only logical outcome of this situation is the Directory’s ap­parent proposal to negotiate with Soviet Russia. We know this only as hearsay, but it is in no way unbelievable. It completely suits the de facto position of Ukraine. Even the “hopeless” Kh. Rakovsky learned in the Marseille that Petliura is not the hero of any Allied roman. In Pravda No. 3, of January 4, 1919, we find the following note: “Ukraine and the Soviet Republic. We learn from the newspapers that the Directory has taken steps to approach the Soviet government and that during the stay of the Directory and Vynnychenko in Vynnytsia (Vinnitsa) there was a series of conferences be­tween responsible representatives of the Directory and the Bolsheviks from Kharkiv (Kharkov). The subject under discussion was the question of the possibility of good-neighbor relations between the Ukrainian People’s Republic and Soviet Russia. According to rumor, the conferences succeeded in making clear that agreement with the Soviet government may be reached on the basis of: (1) unconditional recognition of the sovereignty of the Ukrainian People’s Republic in exchange for recognition of the Soviet republic by Ukraine; (2) complete noninterference in internal affairs; (3) legalization of the Bolshevik party and of the propaganda of Bolshevik ideas in Ukraine; (4) the convocation of a Worker-Peasant Congress to de­cide the question of the form of the government.

“The Ukrainian Directory proposes to conduct negotiations with the Soviet government in the future, and, if agreement is reached, the possibility of a defensive-offensive alliance between Russia and Ukraine against Russian and Western imperialists is not ex­cluded.”[31]

Whether or not this corresponds to reality is of little concern, since we only want again to underline the direction in which Ukraine is now moving.

But even without such rumors, even before we heard of them, one could observe that the Ukrainian peasants and workers had dif­ferent feelings than before the catastrophe of February-March, 1918. By calling in the Germans the Central Rada “internationalized” the Ukrainian peasantry.

This raises the question: what should be our attitude toward this feeling on the part of the Ukrainian peasants and workers?

We can adopt the same attitude as that taken already (accord­ing to all signs) by Soviet Russia and advocated by that “thorough expert,” Kh. Rakovsky. It even seems to us that Kh. Rakovsky took the liberty to have an independent judgment mainly because the authorities permitted him. This attitude would be as follows: the Ukrainian masses, frightened by one occupation and threatened by a new Allied occupation, will surely throw themselves into our arms. “This will happen of itself in due course.” Why should we usher in some kind of chauvinism or independence, when Ukraine will be ours in any case? Kh.Rakovsky states this quite frankly: “It would be foolish to think that the Ukrainian proletariat (‘of purely Rus­sian origin’!) and the Russian Soviet government will sell their birth­right for a mess of pottage, even if this mess of pottage now takes the form of sugar and grain.” [32]

Well, this is also a point of view, also a proletarian policy. But in accepting it one must reach the appropriate conclusions and be honest with oneself. One must then reject the hocus-pocus of a sepa­rate Soviet government of Ukraine, reject all attempts to calm fears of russification, refuse to create a new Ukrainian culture with the left hand while destroying it with the right. If you drive the truth out by the door, it creeps in through the window. Secure for the Ukrainian peasants schools and an administration in the Ukrainian language (as the Ukrainian Soviet government of Kh. Rakovsky is prepared to do), and tomorrow, when the independence of Ukraine has been done away with, the peasants and workers will issue a new call for the independence of Ukraine. Those Communists of Ukraine who qualified as chauvinism the proposal of the writer of these lines that they use their spare time to learn the language of the people they were preparing to self-determine, revealed a far deeper understanding of the matter than is possessed by Kh. Rakovsky.

picRARakovsky Khrystian
Kh Rakovsky – imposed as Head of the Ukrainian Soviet Government in 1919 – questioned the existence of Ukraine as a nation

And here, to their own way of thinking, they were entirely con­sistent. The present situation is such that to learn the Ukrainian lan­guage and use it in one’s daily work would only swell the stream which drives the mill of independence. One would be a samostiinyk against one’s will. And the Communists of Ukraine are consistent in greeting with ironic smiles the “white crow” among them who starts talking the “vulgar and naive” language of the people whose name they carry. When Kh. Rakovsky wrote, and the Communists of Ukraine read, that they would secure the use of Ukrainian in schools and government institutions better than any intellectuals, they must surely have laughed themselves to death, like the Roman pagan soothsayers. Introducing Ukrainian in schools and institutions at this time would mean that the same cursed intelligentsia would hold all sorts of offices—and where would that leave Kh. Rakovsky and the Communists of Ukraine? Who is an enemy to himself?


No, they will not secure it, but will destroy it so that not a trace of this accursed language will remain—this, in their view, is what should be done. And when the Communists of Ukraine warn against the danger of the national and not the class movement in Ukraine, in their own way they understand the matter well.

Kh. Rakovsky states that “the struggle in Ukraine, as in all of Russia, and as in the majority of European countries, is proceeding on the basis of a class, not a national, differentiation.”

So much for Kh. Rakovsky, who assures us that the Ukrainian workers are of purely Russian origin and that the peasants, whose ethnographic differences are so insignificant, do not even want to hear about the Ukrainian language, saying: “Not again? In Ukrainian?”

No, no! Not to secure, but to uproot completely and deprive of all influence, rivals of the “Shelukhyn type!”

One wants to do it… but it might be painful, and, in addition, the consequences might be unpleasant.

No, one cannot do this. “Believe me, it is the only course!” But to say that Ukraine must become independent is too terrifying.

There is no Ukraine; there was Southern Russia, which became the “southern part of the eastern territories occupied by Germany”— but the Provisional Government of Ukraine was formed: let it be called by that name.

There is no Ukraine, the Ukrainian workers are of purely Rus­sian origin, but even so, let us call the party of the Communists of Ukraine, Ukrainian.

We are told that the peasants do not even want to hear about Ukrainian culture—but why not secure their “vulgar and naive lan­guage” for them? Kh. Rakovsky, however, speaks for others, “even when not asked by them to do so” (are we in error?) because, after all, the Communists of Ukraine have not yet solved the morbid national problem, and maybe they will secure the language and maybe not.

On the above rumors about the Directory’s proposal to negotiate with Soviet Russia Pravda writes that this proposal can be discussed in a “businesslike manner.” What then happens to the Provisional Worker-Peasant Government of Ukraine? Can there possibly have been no alliance with it even yet? Were we possibly correct in writing, about the Organizational Bureau’s proposal (in its theses to the Russian Soviet government) to effect a close union with the People’s Secretariat (resurrected in Moscow on the third day after its death in Tahanrih [Taganrog]):

In vain, boy, you’re coming,

In vain your feet burn,

You won’t get anything,

And, a fool, will home return!  [Russian folk song—Ed.]

Please excuse the word, fool, but you cannot throw it out of the song—this we heard from Comrade N. Lenin as far back as the Fourth Congress of Soviets.

Since the inventors of Ukraine are court officials of the She­lukhyn variety, securing the Ukrainian language in schools and in­stitutions means establishing there court officials of the Shelukhyn variety, as we do not speak it ourselves.

Street, street, why do you hide?

Tell me where is your right-left side!  [Russian drinking song—Ed.]

No, the course proposed by Kh. Rakovsky is too dangerous. Even if it is a success—if the eastern part of Ukraine is annexed to Rus­sia—both Russia and Ukraine will have their Alsace, and both will for a long time remain in the “morbid state of having an un­solved national question.”

And we are convinced by the facts—not only those occurring before the catastrophe of February-March, 1918, but current events as well—that this “morbid question” has played, now plays, and will continue to play an important role (it will not cease until solved). One has only to compare two facts: the permanent Provisional Soviet Government was doing just one thing the whole time—inciting to insurrection, and it twice declared that it would start one by itself if there was any further delay. Yet the leadership of the insurrection fell into the hands of the Directory, the successor to the same Central Rada which was so discredited by the events of February-March, 1918. King for a day, but why did the Permanent Government not become such a king for a day? What can one say? there is no stronger beast than a court official of the Shelukhyn variety, but you cannot ride far on a cat. If the Directory had been riding on court officials of the Shelukhyn variety and only on them, it would have been dead long since.

The Russian proletariat has open to it another possible attitude toward Ukraine—to forget that it was a patrimony, a colony of Russia, to renounce forever their “birthright” in Ukraine in­herited from the tsarist regime of ill memory, to renounce it without any “mess of pottage in the form of sugar or grain” as compensation, but to adhere to the paragraph in its program which states (or for­merly stated) that “nations have a right to self-determination.” The left Socialist-Revolutionary insurrection ended a long time ago, and the time is now ripe to decide the morbid Ukrainian question fully —-not the way the Katerynoslavians and the peace delegation in Kyiv decided it and are still trying to decide it, but along the lines set out in the very valuable articles of Comrade N. Lenin. This way, of course, is more difficult and will not afford an opportunity of pro­claiming victories with much rolling of drums urbi et orbi, or of con­fusing the German government with frightening questions from Kursk, excuse me, from “Poltava” (is it the name of a hotel, or what?) .

By following the Katerynoslav way one can conquer Homel (Gomel), Bilhorod (Belgorod), Sumy, Hlukhiv (Glukhov), Valuiky, Chernihiv (Chernigov), Kharkiv (Kharkov), and other cities and create a Russian-Ukrainian Alsace, thus strengthening the moral-political position of the Directory (the former Central Rada) in the whole of Ukraine. And this can be accomplished to the thunder and clatter of international phrases and frightening “revolu­tionary manifestos.”

To take the other course one will have to go to Kyiv, not only to the Marseille but to St. Sophia Square, and thence conquer Ukraine from the Don to the Carpathians—not for the sake of any­one’s birthright, whether Russian, Polish, or Austrian, but for that of Ukraine itself. One will have to admit (may I here take a deep sigh and add: “Believe me, this is the only course!”) that Ukraine is the same kind of country as Russia, Germany, France, Italy, Nor­way, or England. Like them it not only has the right to exist but is in reality as independent and sovereign as they are. It has the right and the potential to live “by itself and for itself,” just as these countries do. The Ukrainian people are really a nation, not an invention of court officials of the Shelukhyn variety, a nation which wants to live its own free life and has all the necessary prerequisites, whether geographic, ethnographic, economic, moral, physical, historical, spiritual, or other. It is a people which had ceased being “khokhols” and became “Ukrainians” long before the Katerynoslav daddies were out of short pants and had stopped chasing their mammas.

When the Russian proletariat dares adopt this attitude toward Ukraine, and does so openly and sincerely, without ulterior mo­tives or adaptation to local conditions, the sympathies of Ukraine, of worker-peasant Ukraine, will be with Russia forever. This will lead to a much higher degree of proletarian unity than any Russian proletarian dreams of a bygone birthright.

Nor should the following be forgotten. The same catastrophe of February-March, 1918, which severed connections between Ukraine and Russia, which was so detrimental to both, which placed Russia under the irritating scrutiny first of German and then of Anglo-American imperialism, which threw Ukraine into the same tight clutches, had a further result. It completely routed the Ukrainian proletariat of purely Russian origin in causing the deaths of tens of thousands of them in battle and forcing others to emigrate. Before the catastrophe one could hope that Ukraine would be one and indivisible with Russia, but now either a Russian-Ukrainian Alsace will have to be formed or all Ukraine will have to be conquered for itself, for its own sake, just as Russia and every other state exists and fights for itself, for its own sake.

If the first course is followed, it will be necessary every day to ponder: “Where is the right-left side?” Which is better: to form a Provisional Soviet Government of Ukraine or to enter into an alliance with Petliura? And when a Ukrainian government is formed, it will be necessary to think again: “Should we have anything to do with the Directory?” It would be like the maiden who went down the garden path and started every time from the beginning.

If we follow the other course, we will have a free hand, unhin­dered by the Directory. We can discuss a coalition with Ukrainian democracy without paying any attention to the Directory. We will gain the support of the Ukrainian workers and peasants for the sake of their birthright, a birthright not only in name but in fact—the international solidarity of the workers.

Red Cossacks
The Red Cossacks –  of which Vasyl Shakray was a founder




Serhiy (Robsman) Mazlakh, was arrested in 1937 during the Stalin terror accused of being a part of a “counter-revolutionary organisation of the right, and besides, a Ukrainian nationalist”. He was condemned to death on November 25, 1937.

Vasyl Shakhray was engaged in underground revolutionary work in the Kuban region, he was captured and shot during the occupation of Ukraine by the Russia Volunteer Army of General Denikin, in 1919.



[1]  V. Skorovstanskii (pseudonym of Vasyl Shakhray), Revoliutsiia na Ukraine (2nd
Russian edition, Saratov, 1919), p.xi-xii


[2] Vasyl Shakhrai [V. Skorovstansky], Revoliutsiia na Ukraine, 2nd ed. (Saratov 1918), 110-11.


[3] G Lapchinsky, ‘Pershyi period radyanskoi vlady na Ukraini VTsKU Narodniy Seckretariat (spohady)’, Litopys Revolyutsii, No.1, 1928 pp.171-172.


[4]  Skorovstanskii Revoliutsiia na Ukraine (, Saratov, 1919), p.xi-xii


[5]  Painting Imperialism And Nationalism Red: The Ukrainian Marxist Critique Of Russian Communist Rule In Ukraine, by Stephen Velycheko, University of Toronto Press, 2015, pg. 220, note 4.


[6]  An appalling example of this neo-Stalinist historiography  is Empire and Ukraine, Andrew Murray, Manifesto Press, 2015.

[7]  Ukraine Solidarity Campaign is grateful for the permission of Peter Potichny to republish these chapters from the English edition – On the Current Situation in Ukraine, Ann Arbor, University of Michigan Press, 1970.


[8]  [V. I.] N. Lenin, “Itogi diskussii o samoopredelenii,” Sbornik Sotsial-Demokrata, No. i (October, 1916), p. 26.

[9]  Robitnycha Hazeta, No. 87 (July, 1917).

[10]  V. Skorovstans’kyi, Revoliutsiia na Vkraini, p. 26. [ad Russian ed., PP- 37-38—E

[11]  N. Lenin, “Itogi diskussii o samoopredelenii,” Sbornik Sotsial-Demokrata, p. 22.

[12]  V. Skorovstans’kyi, Revoliutsiia no. Vkraini. [ad Russian ed., pp 36-37-Ed.]

[13]   V. Skorovstan’kyi, Revoliutsiia na Vkraini, p. 36. [ad Russian ed., p. 38-Ed.]

[14]   Pravda, No. 132 June 30, 1918,

[15]    [“Natsional’nyi vopros v programme kommunisticheskoi partii Ukrainy,” Pravda, No. 132 (June 30, 1918), p. 5—Ed.]

[16]  N. Lenin, “Itogi diskussii o samoopredelenii,” Sbornik Sotsial-Demokrata, p. 27.

[17]  K. Kautsky, Natsional’nye problemy, p. 49.

[18]  N. Lenin, “O prave natsii na samoopredelenie,” Prosveshchenie, Nos. 4-6 (1914).

[19] Ibid.


[20] [Lenin], Sbornik Sotsial-Demokrata, No. 1 (October, 1916), pp. 3-4.


[21]  K. Kautsky, Nationalstaat, Imperialistischer Staat und Staatenbund (Nurnberg, 1915), pp. 11-12.


[22]  N. Lenin, “Sotsialisticheskaia revoliutsiia i pravo natsii na samoopredelenie,” Sbornik Sotsial-Demokrata, No. 1 (October, 1916), p. 1..

[23]   N. Lenin, “Itogi diskussii o samoopredelenii,” Sbornik Sotsial-Demokrata, pp. 12-13.

[24]  K. Kautsky, Nationalstaat, op. cit., p. 12.

[25]   N. Lenin, “Itogi diskussii o samoopredelenii,” Sbornik Sotsial-Demokrata, pp. 12-13.

[26]    S. Rudnitskii, “Ocherk geografii Ukrainy,” Ukrainskii narod v ego proshlom i nastoiashchem [Ed. F. K. Volkov (Petrograd, 1916), Vol. II, p. 36.

[27]  [A. Rusov, “Statistika ukrainskogo naseleniia evropeiskoi Rossii”— Ed.], Ukrainski narod v ego proshlom i nastoiaschchem, [Vol. II], pp. 386-88.

[28]  N. Lenin, “Itogi diskussii o samoopredelenii,” Sbornik Sotsial-Demokrata, p. 2

[29]  “Pokhod soiuznicheskogo imperializma na Rosiiskuiu Revoliutsiiu,” Pravda, No. 277 (December 20, 1918), p. 2.

[30]  Ibid.


[31]  “Polozhenie na Ukraine: Ukraina i Sovetskaia Respublika,” Pravda, No. 3 (January 4, 1919), p. 2.


[32]   Kh. Rakovsky, “Beznadezhnoe delo: o Petliurovskoi avantiure,” Izvestiia, No. a (554) (January 3, 1919), p.1