Ukrainian Social Democratic Spilka

Ukrainian Social Democratic Spilka (Українська соціял-демократична спілка; Ukrainska sotsiial-demokratychna spilka). A party formed by Mariian Melenevsky and other orthodox Marxists who left the Revolutionary Ukrainian party (RUP) in December 1904. They rejected as bourgeois and nationalist the program of the RUP majority. They saw as their primary goal social revolution and fusion with the Russian Social Democratic Workers' party (RSDRP) as the unitary, centralized workers' party of all nationalities in the Russian Empire. In January 1905 the Spilka (the Ukrainian word for ‘association’ or ‘union’) was constituted as the autonomous, territorial section in Ukraine of the Menshevik wing of the RSDRP to do political work on its behalf among the Ukrainian-speaking rural proletariat. Because the Spilka worked closely with the Russian and Jewish Mensheviks and the Jewish Workers' Bund, in 1905–7 it built a mass-based organization in Ukraine's villages and small towns that was stronger and had more influence than RUP and its successor, the Ukrainian Social Democratic Workers' party (USDRP). The Spilka had within its ranks not only nationally conscious Ukrainians (eg, Hryhorii Dovzhenko, Mykola Halahan, P. Kanivets, M. Korenetsky, Pavlo Krat, Vasyl Mazurenko, Melenevsky, Oleksander Skoropys-Yoltukhovsky, H. Tkachenko and Mykhailo Tkachenko) and nationally indifferent ones (Pavlo Tuchapsky), but also ethnic Ukrainians who were hostile to the Ukrainian national movement (I. Kyriienko) and non-Ukrainians (Yu. Larin, V. Perekrestov, A. Podolsky [Hoikhberg], R. Rabinovich, A. Rish, L. Slutsky, S. Sokolov, Y. Soroker, S. Zavadsky).

During the Revolution of 1905 the Spilka's 3,000 to 7,000 members organized and led many strikes and other disturbances in Chernihiv gubernia, Kyiv gubernia, Kherson gubernia, Podilia gubernia, Poltava gubernia, and Volhynia gubernia. At the same time, through its organ Pravda (1905) and its propagandistic brochures in Ukrainian and Russian, the Spilka waged a fierce ideological struggle against the USDRP and thus gained the support of many former RUP cells. From December 1905 the Spilka published themonthly Pravda and most of its literature in Russian. The Spilka's gains were the greatest during the elections to the First and Second Russian state dumas, and in the Second State Duma it had 14 delegates (the USDRP had 1). At the Fifth RSDRP Congress in London in May 1907, the 10 Spilka delegates constituted 25 percent of all delegates from Ukraine.

During the tsarist reaction of 1907, mass arrests brought the Spilka to nearly total collapse, and several of its leaders (eg, R. Rabinovich, A. Rish, Y. Soroker, H. Tkachenko) were exiled to Siberia. Thereafter the Spilka had little impact in Ukraine. In 1908 Mariian Melenevsky moved the Spilka center from Kyiv abroad and formed small fraternal groups in Lviv, Vienna, Paris, Geneva, and Zurich linked by Leon Trotsky's Menshevik paper, Pravda (1908–12), published in Lviv (nos 1–4 in Ukrainian) and then Vienna (in Russian). Because its leaders increasingly compromised with the centralist, Russian chauvinist tendencies within the RSDRP at a time when national consciousness was on the rise within the Ukrainian peasantry, many of its remaining Ukrainian members left the party and joined the USDRP, and the ‘internationalists’ joined the RSDRP or the Bund. The Spilka held its last conference in 1909, and its last document, an appeal by Melenevsky, appeared in 1912. By 1913 the Spilka was defunct.

Rish, Arnold. Ocherki po istorii ukrainskoi sotsial-demokraticheskoi ‘Spilki’ (Kharkiv 1926)
Halahan, Mykola. Z moïkh spomyniv (80-ti roky do svitovoï viiny), 1 (Lviv 1930)

Roman Senkus

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 4 (1993).]

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