PrzeglĀd Historyczny, Volume 86, No. 2, 1995
Simoncini, Revolutionary Organizations and Revolutionaries in
A Bibliographical Biographical Study. Mellen Press, 1992.
Gabriele Simoncini, The Communist Party of Poland 1918-1929. A
Study in Political Ideology.
Press, 1993. p. 270.
Gabriele Simoncini, expert in Polish, was for some years a
researcher of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Poland.
That allowed him to gain an intimate knowledge of sources and
literature about the workersí movement in Poland in the interwar
period. The result was the defense at Pisa University in 1982 of a
doctoral dissertation titled: Teoria e prassi nei consigli operai
polacchi del 1918-1919. After receiving the Italian doctorate,
the author continued to research the workerís movement in Poland,
with particular interest in the activities of the Communist Party of
Poland. In his hometown of Volterra (Tuscany), he built a very
valuable collection of archival documents and reproductions,
complete with bibliographic and biographic files.
The first book mentioned
here is a pioneering work. It contains bibliographic
information about revolutionary organizations and their members in
interwar Poland. It contains more than 3,000 entries published
mostly in Polish, but also in major European languages, and
bibliographic information on more than 600 activists of the
communist movement in Poland. Simoncini did enormous work,
work which the Party History Department, later renamed Party History
Institute, and eventually the Archive KZ PZPR, should have done
itself. Apart from the name, that institution was highly solidified
within the party structure, possessing Central Committee Sector
The bookís first part,
titled ďRevolutionary Organizations,Ē encompasses the Communist
Party of Poland (122 pages), the Communist Party of Upper
Silesia, the Communist Party of Western Galicia, the Communist Party
of Western Ukraine, the Communist Party of Western Belorussia, the
Belorussian Agrarian-Worker Hromada, the Independent Agrarian party,
the Union of the Agrarian Left Samopomoc, Kombund, Cukunft, Polish
Socialist Party-Left, and individually: May Day, Red Aid in Poland,
Trials and Prison, and Councils of Workers and Soldiers. Such
divisions are fundamental and ease use.
The second part --
as already mentioned -- contains bibliographic information about
more than 600 communist activists. These are mostly necrologies or
after-death memoirs, but there are also broader texts from the Polish
Biographical Dictionary, the Polish Workerís Movement
Biographical Dictionary, and the biographical section of Z
bibliographic study comprises the years 1918-1990. It would
therefore require an update for the last years. However, this
would be minor, because historiansí interests in the communist
movementís history have diminished very distinctly, not to mention
that publications such as memoirs, popularizations, annuals,
obituaries, etc., have completely disappeared. The bibliographic
study -- as the author states -- grew on the margin of his research
of several years on the history of the CPP, the goal of which was
the preparation of a CPP history. As of now, we have received
the first part, covering the years 1918-1929.
This work has
enormous value because it allows the non-Polish reader to make
acquaintance with a quite fundamental part of the interwar history
of Poland. Until now, this was done only by referring to the book by
M.K. Dziewanowski titled The Communist Party of Poland. An
Outline of History, which today is of very limited value.
the book into five chapters which progressively address the
revolutionary struggle of the years 1918-1920, the evolution
of strategy from 1920-1923, the 1923 Second Congress as a sign of
ideological consolidation, the process of so-called ďParty
BolshevizationĒ in the years 1923-1925, and finally the factional
struggle of the years 1926-1929. His application of chronological
sequence represents a most substantial solution to the history. He
made diligent use of the archival materials then accessible in
Poland and also included published documents, party press
materials, and scholarly literature. He did not have access, because
it was impossible when he prepared the book, to the III
International archive. Nevertheless, this is with no doubt a
valuable book. He frequently stresses the strong
interconnection between the ongoing processes within the CPP and
the internal struggles within the Communist International. The fact
is generally known that the CPP, bearing in its name the definition
ďPolish section of the III International,Ē
was required to execute directives formulated in Moscow.
Nevertheless, Simoncini goes a step further by showing the influence
of Stalinís struggle against Trotsky, Zinoviev, and Bukharin upon
the line of both the III International and the CPP. The III
International archives now accessible to historians should
strengthen our comprehension of the still-fragmented events related
in this book. Perhaps it will also clarify some essential remaining
questions such as the partyís membership in numbers, and the
financial sources for its activities. At present we only have
estimates and assumptions about these questions.
Simoncini very strongly
emphasizes the CPPís lack of ideological and organizational unity.
In contrast to other communist parties that resulted
from schisms within socialist parties, the CPP originated as a
unification of two ideologically distinct parties. Neither was a
Leninist party and both ideological divisions remained visible for a
long time. Simoncini states that not only was the CPP not a Leninist
party, but on many occasions it assumed anti-Leninist positions
(p.235). From the very beginning, deep ideological divisions existed
in its leadership. Thus, in 1926-1929, the period of the factional
fight with a ďminorityĒ against a ďmajorityĒ led in practice
to a party schism.
Simoncini stresses that
the CPP was divided not only with regard to ideological
controversies, but also that the organizational effectiveness of the
Partyís activities left much to be desired. Local party
organizations often acted without support from the central
leadership, which itself remained outside Polandís borders to keep
secure its still illegal activists. Communications were poor,
instructions and directives arrived after delay, and then might be
rejected as being irrelevant to the current situation. The
propaganda spread by opponents of a monolithic, disciplined, and
very well-organized party, had little in common with reality.
In the Polish Peopleís
Republic the studies of the history of the communist movement were
monopolized by party historians who enjoyed a special trust by those
in power, or by those who found themselves on the side of former
Party activists. Even within these groups the level of trust
enjoyed would vary, causing a range of access to sources. This did
not mean that initiates of the inner circles wrote better works.
Often the opposite happened since an inner-circle initiate entered
the arena facing intense ideological pressure.
The Governmentís then
current ideological expectations corrupted works on the communist
movement in Poland, with very few exceptions. This was particularly
evident in the final conclusions and generalizations. Simoncini is
aware of that and very carefully makes use of primary sources,
trying whenever possible to rely on original documents.
The picture of the
communist movement that arises from this book is rather gloomy. The
members spent a great deal of energy in internal fights, while the
Partyís agenda inevitably pushed it into the social margins. The
Party believed at all times that the proletarian revolution was
either an imminent or inevitable fact, and that the Party would then
assume its leadership of a great mass movement. This was an illusion.
Simonciniís book allows
us to look at the history of the communist movement in Poland from a
foreignerís perspective. For that reason too it is a
very worthwhile book.
University of Warsaw
[Translated from Polish]