In Memory of Heroes: Warsaw's Three Insurrections During World War II



Warsaw belongs to those heroic and
martyrized cities like Stalingrad.
London, Budapest and Berlin that
marked turning points in the war.
But Warsaw is distinguished from
these other cities by this—that the
imperialist war passed through War-
saw at its beginning, at its climax,
and at its end, leaving in its wake
dead and barbarous ruins that have
not been seen since the remote times
of Attila and Genghis Khan.
When Hitler invaded Poland, it was
Warsaw which bore the whole weight
of the Nail military machine for
three weeks. It was neither the "gov-
ernment of the Colonels" nor the
Polish military and bureaucratic or-
ganization that stubbornly resisted
the Nazi-fascist invasion, but the peo-
ple, the proletariat of Warsaw.
It was this same people and pro-
letariat of Warsaw that resisted Mo-
lotov's infamous declaration that "Po-
land, this bastard of the Versailles
Treaty, has been wiped forever from
the map." and that resisted the Nazi-
Stalin military pact which, said Sta-
lin, was "sealed wilh blood."
The people and proletariat of War-
saw resisted and struggled not only
against the Nazi-fascist ofFensiye in
a national war against the invader.
They also fought a spontaneously so-
cial war against the totalitarian reac-
tion, in which they included the na-
tional reaction of their own Polish
"Colonels." None of Pilsudski's gen-
erals, - colonels and ministers were
heroes of this popular war.
It remained for a civic official, a
leader of the Socialist Party named
Nledzialkowski, and another named
Rata], a member of the Peasant Par-
ty, to Indentify themselves with the
movement of popular resistance. They
stayed in the trenches and on the
barricades to meet the invader with
arms in hand, representing:, in a way,
a popular government born in the
heat of struggle. They died with other
fighters before a Nazi firing squad.
The uprising of the Jewish ghetto
in 1943 marked the second time an
isolated and despairing Warsaw rose
up against the Nazis. The extermina-
tion of the Jewish people by the Na-
zis, in tho face of an almost complete
indifference on the part of the great
and "humanitarian" democrats, be-
longs to the most degrading, horrify-
ing and infamous pages in human his-
tory. The United Stales. Great Brit-
ain and Russia did not have the
planes with which to bomb and pul-
verize Berlin in defense of 6,000.000
Jews; repressive measures against
the Nazis were not at hand in the
United States, Great Britain and Rus-
sia; against the Nazi prisoners of war
in order to save millions of lives.
Although it was a question of thou-
sands of pilots and prisoners of war,
Anglo-Saxon blood was too precious,
too costly, to spend to save millions
of humble Jewish workers and arti-
sans in the ghettos of Poland. "The
tragedy of the Jews was conceived of
as something fatalistic in its fright-
fulness by Polish public opinion, and
even more so because the civilized
world did not react in an active way."
(Information Bulletin of AK [Home
Army], April 29, 1943.)
The hopeless resistance lasted from
April until August. At the end of
June, the organ of the underground
"Nowe Drogi" (New Roads) describes
the situation thus: "The Germans met
with desperate armed resistance. Two
or three thousand fighters forced
them to retreat and when they re-
turned with heavy machines, guns
and tanks a bitter battle ensued at
many points. Defense to the last gre-
nade, to the last cartridge. The re-
volt proper did not last long. It was,
of course, drowned in blood."
In the ruins left by the 1939 cam-
paign, in the old labyrinths, tunnels
and sewers, the remaining few hun-
dreds of a people condemned to death
by "capitalist civilization" still re-
sisted. While the great "democracies'*
and the "first socialist country" look-
ed on indifferently, the cowardly Na-
zis burned and crushed them to death
under the ruins, and drowned them
like rats in the sewers. The ghetto,
the Jewish section of Warsaw, was
leveled with the earth. The last few
thousand insurgent Jews lie under
its ruins.
Only the workers' underground
movement of Warsaw tried to help
its brothers, trapped in the ghetto,
with arms, munitions and food, but
faced by the concentration of Nazi
might and the total indifference of
the "democracies,"_this poor and lim-
ited help could not save the ghetto
insurrection of 1943. As in 1939, War-
saw struggled alone and hopelessly,
abandoned by its democratic "allies"
to its own tragic fate.
In 1944, notwithstanding the two
previous crushing defeats, the people
of Warsaw rose up for a third time
against the Nazi hordes. The Warsaw
insurrection broke out when the Rus-
sian armies were already massed on
the left bank of the Vistula in the
Warsaw subilrb of Prague, and while
the Moscow radio and the Polish Sta-
linist radio were calling on the peo-
ple of Warsaw to rise up against the'
Nazi invader, promising the aid and
support of the Russian army. Miko-
lajczyk, who was then in Moscow,
received a solemn promise from Sta-
lin that Warsaw would be liberated
by the Russians in the first days of
Nevertheless, when the revolution-
ary action occurred and dislodged
the Nazis from a good part of the
city, the Russian press and radio be-
gan to slander it as a "bluff" and "an
adventure" without popular support
and later as a "fascist" and "anti-
Soviet" action. The Russians stopped
their advance and the Polish detach-
ments that wanted to come to War-
saw's aid were disarmed. The Allied
and Polish planes could not land be-
hind the Russian front in order to
help the insurrectionaries.
The Nazi general staff, which bad
begun to evacuate Warsaw, was given
fresh courage by the halt of the Rus-
sian offensive and proceeded to the
systematic destruction of the embat-
tled city. They used mortars, heavy
artillery, tanks and aerial attacks
against the insurrectionaries, basing
themselves on the costly experience
of the destruction of the ghetto. The
city was wiped from the face of the
The fighters who had descended to
the modern catacombs, the network
of subterranean tunnels dating back
to medieval times, were exterminated
with gas, drowned like rats in the
water and filth, burned and crushed
to death under the ruins. Approxi-
mately 300,000 people were killed and
600,000 interned in the Nazi death
camps. Faced with the Russian be-
trayal, with the new and silent Nazi-
Stahnist pact, and with the indiffer-
ence of the "democracies," the War-
saw Commune succumbed after 63
days of unequal combat.
Warsaw had been abandoned to its
own fate. The powerful Anglo-Amer-
ican forces, which were able to de-
feat Hitler and demolish the cities
of Germany, could not find the planes
with which to help save the Warsaw
insurrection. So had it been in 1939
and 1943.
The explanation of the Anglo-
American position is to be found not
only in the secret imperialist pacts
signed with Stalin at Teheran and
Yalta, but in the character of the
Warsaw revolution as well. As in
1939 and 1943, Warsaw struggled on
two fronts: not only against the Na-
zis as invaders, but also against the
In the 1944 insurrection, the strug-
gle on two fronts becomes a much
more clearly defined characteristic
than In the two previous instances.
Now it is not only a question of a
national war against the invaders,
but of a social uprising against the
totalitarian reaction. .
The organizers of the Warsaw rev-
olution were the leaders of the anti-
Nazi underground, in the first place
the Warsaw organization of the PPS
(the Polish Socialist Party), the
workers' militias, the illegal trade
unions and the Stalinist militia, the
AL (Armio Ludowa). The Warsaw
proletariat was the backbone of the
insurrection, supported by the im-
poverished "intelligentsia," students,
intellectuals, white - collar workers
and peasants. Politically, the insur-.
rection was represented by the petty-,
bourgeois democracy in arms, the al-
liance between the PPS and Mikolaj-
czyk's Populist Party..
The underground government head-
ed by the Socialists recognized the
factory delegations as the legal and
public administrators of the factories.
The petty-bourgeois democracy in
arms, caught up in an anti-totalitar-
ian insurrection, contained the seeds
of a socialist revolution in mortal
combat with the Nazi and Stalinist
counter-revolution. It represented a
great danger to the forward march
of the victorious Stalinist counter-
revolution, the only force capable of
subduing a rebellious proletarian
movement confronted by the decay
and ruin of European capitalism.
For this reason, all the reactionary
forces, dying Nazism and victorious
Stalinism, democrats and priests, the
agents of the GPU and Wall Street's
mercenaries, joined together against
the people of Warsaw in arms, com-
bined to crush the-seed of the social-
ist revolution in Europe. With rea-
son the London New Leader wrote:
"One of the most revolutionary epi-
sodes in modern history ended as a
In the Europe of 1944 not one pro-
letarian force could recognize the es-
sential character of the Warsaw
Commune. But today, the third so-
cialist force renders posthumous hom-
age to Warsaw.
Labor Action 3 10 1949