Communist Party of Western Ukraine

Communist Party of Western Ukraine (Комуністична партія Західної України; Komunistychna partiia Zakhidnoi Ukrainy or КПЗУ; KPZU). Party formed at a conference of a group of Borotbists (Karlo Savrych, M. Khrystovy, and Mykhailo Yalovy) in Stanyslaviv in February 1919 as the Communist Party of Eastern Galicia. In August 1920 the Galician Socialist Soviet Republic was proclaimed in the Ternopil region, which was under Soviet occupation. The head of the Galician Revolutionary Committee, Volodymyr Zatonsky, restored the Party, but it ceased to exist when the Red Army withdrew from Galicia.

A different group of leaders succeeded, in the second half of 1920, in permanently consolidating Ukrainian pro-Communist groups in Galicia into a new Communist Party of Eastern Galicia (KPSH). This party operated illegally. Its organizers and leaders included Osyp Vasylkiv, Roman Turiansky, Karlo Savrych, Roman Rozdolsky, Mykhailo Tesliuk, P. Kraikivsky, Vasyl Korbutiak, Liudvyk Rozenberg, V. Kopach, Stepan Rudyk, F. Bei, and P. Lyshega. Before the First World War most of these men belonged to the left wing of socialist youth groups known as drahomanivky. In the spring of 1918 this wing formed the International Revolutionary Social Democratic Youth. In 1923–4 the active cadres of the KPSH (by then known as the KPZU) expanded, absorbing some former members of the Ukrainian Social Democratic party (USDP). Stepan Volynets, a close associate of Dmytro Paliiv from 1933, held a high post in the KPZU after the dissolution of the USDP.

The leadership of the new party received the support of some of the leaders of the CP(B)U, such as Mykola Skrypnyk and Oleksander Shumsky, but was opposed by others (Volodymyr Zatonsky). While the Communist Party of Eastern Galicia (KPSH) was being formed, Polish Communists such as S. Królikowski and C. Grosserowa were organizing their own party of the same name in eastern Galicia. The two parties were nationally distinct. The first attempts to join these organizations did not succeed because of ideological differences, primarily on the question of Ukraine’s independence and on the extent of the Galician party’s autonomy and subordination to the Communist Workers’ Party of Poland (KPRP, from 1925 the Communist Party of Poland [CPP]). They also disagreed on boycotting parliamentary elections (a policy advocated by the Vasylkivtsi, who were named after their leader’s pseudonym) and on supporting the guerrilla activity and sabotage that were endorsed by most Ukrainian parties. The Vasylkivtsi questioned the necessity of adopting common goals for the revolutionary struggle in all the territories of Poland. The pro-KPRP tendency obtained majority support in Volhynia, even among Ukrainians. The two branches of the party were joined together at the Second Congress of the KPRP in the fall of 1923. Control of the party was handed over to the Vasylkivtsi, and the organizations in Volhynia and Podlachia were brought under their leadership. The party was then named the KPZU. It was given extensive autonomous status within the KPRP because of its connections with the CP(B)U. This autonomy was strengthened by the party’s agreement in 1924–5 with the policy of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolshevik) and the Comintern at a time when the CPP twice openly criticized that policy.

The KPZU published various periodicals in Ukrainian: Nasha pravda (1923–35), the party’s principal theoretical organ; Svitlo (Lviv) (1925–28), a weekly for the peasantry; Kul'tura (1923–31); Profesiini visty (1926–8); Zemlia i volia (KPZU) (1925–9); and others.

In 1926 the KPZU formed a legal party—the Ukrainian Peasants' and Workers' Socialist Alliance, or Sel-Rob—which in 1927 won most of the Ukrainian vote in the local elections in Volhynia.

In regard to the nationality question, the KPZU advocated the incorporation of Western Ukraine into the Ukrainian SSR. The party rejected the demand of the Communist Party of Poland and the Comintern that it limit itself to the requirement of self-determination by the local population, claiming that such a requirement was not comprehensible to the Ukrainian masses. Apart from this, the main goal of the party until 1933, as of all sections of the Communist movement in Poland, was to carry out the revolution and to establish the dictatorship of the proletariat. Later, most of its effort was directed to overthrowing the Polish government, which was considered to be fascist.

At the end of 1927 the Central Committee of the KPZU came to the defense of the opposition in the CP(B)U led by Oleksander Shumsky, the people's commissar of education in Soviet Ukraine. This led to a heated factional struggle and a split within the party into a majority faction known as the Vasylkivtsi or Shumskyists and a minority faction that defended the Stalinist line of the CP(B)U. In the 1928 elections to the Sejm the majority faction defeated its competitor, but after an alternative candidates’ list was drawn up, the executive of the Comintern expelled the majority from the Communist International on 18 February 1928 and henceforth opposed it strenuously. In October 1928, after clarifying its oppositionist platform, the majority faction abolished itself, but its leaders continued their political activities and, until the end of 1929, published Informatsiinyi biuleten', in which they defended the position of the majority faction. In 1930 the oppositionists were forced to engage in self-criticism, and in 1931–2 most of them went to the USSR, where, after a few months or years, they were arrested and perished.

After the suppression of the Shumskyist crisis, power in the KPZU passed into the hands of those who in 1920–3 were opponents of the Vasylkivtsi. The most important among them were H. Ivanenko (pseud, Baraba) and Myron Zaiachkivsky. M. Postolovsky (pseud, Valter), V. Furer (pseud, Roman), and several others who were implanted by the CP(B)U also belonged to the Central Committee of the KPZU. The party’s autonomy was greatly reduced.

From 1929 the influence of the party among the Ukrainian population in Western Ukraine diminished increasingly, but its influence in Jewish and Polish circles grew. On the nationality question the party returned to the slogan of self-determination for the population of Western Ukraine. In the mid-1930s the party supported as a transitional solution the position of the Polish Socialist party that the territory be given national autonomy.

In 1933 H. Ivanenko and Myron Zaiachkivsky, together with many other leaders and members of the KPZU, experienced political repression in the USSR. They were accused of collaborating with the Polish police or of belonging to the anti-communist Ukrainian Military Organization. After that, Soviet repression of the KPZU did not cease, although it did not have a mass character. It was repeated on a similar scale in 1936–7. After 1933 the leadership of the party changed frequently. The last notable leader of the party was P. Zalesky (pseud, A. Tsyvinsky), who until 1928 was the editor of Komsomol's'ka pravda, a newspaper in Kharkiv.

In 1938 the executive of the Comintern dissolved the KPZU and the Communist Party of Poland. In 1956 both parties were rehabilitated, but the Vasylkivtsi were rehabilitated only in 1963.

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Jerzy Radziejowski

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 1 (1984).]




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