"Those interests dictate categorically that, in all three states that have partitioned Poland, the Polish workers should fight unreservedly side by side with their class comrades. The times are past when a bourgeois revolution could create a free Poland: today the renascence of Poland is possible only through a social revolution, in the course of which the modern proletariat will break its chains.''
We fully subscribe to Mehring's conclusion. We shall only remark that this conclusion remains unassailable even if we do not go as far as Mehring in our arguments. Without any doubt the present state of the Polish question differs radically from that which obtained fifty years ago. However, the present situation cannot be regarded as permanent. Class antagonism has now undoubtedly relegated na-
tional questions far into the background, but, without the risk of lapsing into doctrinairism, it cannot be categorically asserted that some particular national question cannot appear temporarily in the foreground of the political drama. No doubt, the restoration of Poland prior to the fall of capitalism is highly improbable, but it cannot be asserted that it is absolutely impossible, or that circumstances may not arise under which the Polish bourgeoisie will take the side of independence, etc. And Russian Social-Democracy does not in the least intend to tie its own hands. In including in its programme recognition of the right of nations to self-determination, it takes into account all possible, and even all conceivable, combinations. That programme in no way precludes the adoption by the Polish proletariat of the slogan of a free and independent Polish republic, even though the probability of its becoming a reality before socialism is introduced is infinitesimal. The programme merely demands that a genuinely socialist party shall not corrupt proletarian class-consciousness, or slur over the class struggle, or lure working class with bourgeois-democratic phrases, or break the unity of the proletariat's present-day political struggle. This reservation is the crux of the matter, for only with this reservation do we recognise self-determination. It is useless for the P.S.P. to pretend that it differs from the German or Russian Social-Democrats in their rejection of the right to self-determination, the right to strive for a free and independent republic. It is not this, but the fact that it loses sight of the class point of view, obscures it by chauvinism and disrupts the unity of the present-day political struggle, that prevents us from regarding the P.S.P. as a genuine Social-Democratic workers' party. This, for instance, is how the P.S.P. usually presents the question: ". . . We can only weaken tsarism by wresting Poland from it; it is the task of the Russian comrades to overthrow it." Or again: ". . . After the overthrow of tsarism we would simply decide our fate by seceding from Russia." See to what monstrous conclusions this monstrous logic leads, even from the viewpoint of the programme demand for Poland's restoration. Because the restoration of Poland is one of the possible (but, whilst the bourgeoisie rules, by no means absolutely certain) consequences of democratic evolution, therefore the Polish
proletariat must not fight together with the Russian proletariat to overthrow tsarism, but "only" to weaken it by wresting Poland from it. Because Russian tsarism is concluding a closer and closer alliance with the bourgeoisie and the governments of Germany, Austria, etc., therefore the Polish proletariat must weaken its alliance with the proletariat of Russia, Germany, etc., together with whom it is now fighting against one and the same yoke. This is nothing more than sacrificing the most vital interests of the proletariat to the bourgeois-democratic conception of national independence. The disintegration of Russia which the P.S.P. desires, as distinct from our aim of overthrowing tsarism, is and will remain an empty phrase, as long as economic development continues to bring the different parts of a political whole more and more closely together, and as long as the bourgeoisie of all countries unite more and more closely against their common enemy, the proletariat, and in support of their common ally, the tsar. But the division of the forces of the proletariat, which is now suffering under the yoke of this autocracy, is the sad reality, the direct consequence of the error of the P.S.P., the direct outcome of its worship of bourgeois-democratic formulas. To turn a blind eye to this division of the proletariat, the P.S.P. has to stoop to chauvinism and present the views of the Russian Social-Democrats as follows: "We [the Poles] must wait for the social revolution, and until then we must patiently endure national oppression." This is an utter falsehood. The Russian Social-Democrats have never advised anything of the sort; on the contrary, they themselves fight, and call upon the whole Russian proletariat to fight, against all manifestations of national oppression in Russia; they include in their programme not only complete equality of status for all languages, nationalities, etc., but also recognition of every nation's right to determine its own destiny. Recognising this right, we subordinate to the interests of the proletarian struggle our support of the demand for national independence, and only a chauvinist can interpret our position as an expression of a Russian's mistrust of a non-Russian, for in reality this position necessarily follows from the class-conscious proletarian's distrust of the bourgeoisie. The P.S.P. takes the view that the national question is exhausted by the contrast -- "we" (Poles) and "they"
(Germans, Russians, etc.). The Social-Democrat, however, gives first place to the contrast -- "we," the proletarians, and "they," the bourgeoisie. "We," the proletarians, have seen dozens of times how the bourgeoisie betrays the interests of freedom, motherland, language, and nation, when it is confronted with the revolutionary proletariat. We witnessed the French bourgeoisie's surrender to the Prussians at the moment of the greatest humiliation and suppression of the French nation, the Government of National Defence becoming a Government of National Defection, the bourgeoisie of an oppressed nation calling to its aid the troops of the oppressing nation so as to crush its proletarian fellow countrymen, who had dared to assume power. And that is why, undeterred by chauvinist and opportunist heckling, we shall always say to the Polish workers: only the most complete and intimate alliance with the Russian proletariat can meet the requirements of the present political struggle against the autocracy; only such an alliance can guarantee complete political and economic emancipation.
What we have said on the Polish question is wholly applicable to every other national question. The accursed history of autocracy has left us a legacy of tremendous estrangement between the working classes of the various nationalities oppressed by that autocracy. This estrangement is a very great evil, a very great obstacle in the struggle against the autocracy, and we must not legitimise this evil or sanctify this outrageous state of affairs by establishing any such "principles" as separate parties or a "federation" of parties. It is, of course, simpler and easier to follow the line of least resistance, and for everyone to make himself comfortable in his own corner following the rule, "it's none of my business," as the Bund now wants to do. The more we realise the need for unity and the more firmly we are convinced that a concerted offensive against the autocracy is impossible without complete unity, the more obvious becomes the necessity for a centralised organisation of the struggle in the conditions of our political system -- the less inclined are we to be satisfied with a "simple," but specious and, at bottom, profoundly false solution of the problem. So long as the injuriousness of estrangement is not realised, and so long as there is no desire to put an end radically and at all costs to this
estrangement in the camp of the proletarian party, there is no need for the fig-leaf of "federation," and no use in undertaking to solve a problem which one of the "sides" concerned has no real desire to solve. That being the case, it is better to let the lessons of experience and of the actual movement prove that centralism is essential for success in the struggle waged by the proletarians of all nationalities oppressed by autocracy against that autocracy and against the international bourgeoisie, which is becoming more and more united.