As it is known, until the Bolshevik revolution of 1917 recognized and made a reality the right to the self-determination of Poland, from the XVII century in which this country suffered its first dismemberment, its history was a succession of struggles that its people fought against the political domination and the foreign cultural hardship of Austria, Prussia and Russia.

The insurrection of 1863 was another episode in all this process. Its significance for the topic that occupies us consists in that it constituted part of the historical material on which Marx and Engels based themselves to elaborate their doctrine of national self-determination, which Lenin took up again between February and May of 1914.

This insurrection had its record in another one that took place in November of 1830. Lead by the high polish nobility, this movement was crushed by the czarist nobility in February of 1831. The main cause of this defeat was that it did not seek to accomplish a national revolution (since it excluded three fourths of the polish population) neither was it a political or social revolution, since, if triumphant, it would not suppose any change in the situation of the popular masses. This experience inspired a more radical movement headed by the small nobility and bourgeois elements, that adopted a democratic program where they incorporated favourable measures for the peasants.

This new movement organized a new insurrection, this time of popular and national character, carried out in February of 1846, and that the Prussian police achieved to spoil due in large through the detention of its main organizers. But having exploded in several places, it was in Cracov where the revolutionaries achieved - if only briefly – to be the masters of the situation; formed a national government that launched a manifesto abolishing the duties and feudal links. Finally, the Austrian troops crushed the movement around the beginning of March.

Marx and Engels laid down testimony of their homage to this "glorious" insurrection of Cracow, in two speeches pronounced during an act celebrated in Brussels on the 22 of February of 1848. The most important part of these testimonies lies in having discerned that the insurrection of Cracow had shown that a national liberation movement in that era, was authentic and, therefore possible, only if at the same time it was a bourgeois social revolution process. Distinguishing between the insurrection of Cracow and its previously immediate precedent of 1830, Marx was saying the following during that speech in Brussels:

<<The men at the head of the revolutionary movement in Krakow were most deeply convinced that only a democratic Poland could be independent, and that a Polish democracy was impossible without an abolition of feudal rights, without an agrarian movement that would transform the feudally obligated peasants into modern owners. Put Russian autocrats over Polish aristocrats; thereby you have merely naturalized the despotism…The Krakow revolution has set all of Europe a glorious example, because it identified the question of nationalism with democracy and with the liberation of the oppressed class…Again it is Poland that has seized the initiative, and no longer a feudal Poland but a democratic Poland; and from this point on its liberation has become a matter of honor for all the democrats of Europe.>> (K. Marx Op.cit.)

In 1863 the insurrection broke out again in Poland. Of the same character of the immediately previous one in Cracow and directed by the same sector of the subordinate polish nobility. This time it begun as a popular response to the special recruitment campaign ordered by the czarist government and the government of Poland, in order to remove the revolutionary polish youths from the cities. At the beginning, the insurrection was commanded by a Central National Committee formed in 1862 by the party of the small nobility, popularly known as "the reds". Their program vindicated the national independence of Poland, founded in the equal rights for all the male inhabitants of the country, without distinction of religion or origin; the handing over without compensation in property to the peasants of the land they were cultivating; the abolition of the personal provision; the compensation to the landowners for their land at the expense of the State funds etc.

In the course of the insurrection elements grouped around the party of the great agrarian aristocracy and of the great bourgeoisie known as "the whites" joined the movement, who were attempting to use the movement to renegotiate in better conditions to their interest the continuity of the czarist dominance in Poland.

Due to the lack of firmness of the party of "the reds", the command of the insurrection passed to the hands of the party of the "whites", sealing their defeat in advance that was consummated in the summer of 1864 through a brutal crushing in the hands of the czarist troops. With the same spirit that carried him to support the revolutionaries of Cracow during 1846, this time on behalf of the migrant Germans in London Marx wrote an appeal in which he exhorted to help the polish insurgents of 1863.


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