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Rosa Luxemburg
The Industrial Development of Poland

Part 2:
Russia’s Economic Policy in Poland

2.4 Russia’s Political Interests in Poland

Although the economic relations between Russia and Poland treated above unquestionably represent the leading feature in the shape of Russia’s economic policy toward Poland, it would nevertheless be one-sided to see this policy as determined simply and solely by the interests of the Russian bourgeoisie. For the present, the absolutist government of Russia is more able than that of any other country to carry through its own political interests, its sovereign interests, as well. In this connection, however, the historic state of affairs between the Russian government and Polish industry has formed a unique relationship. It is easy to see that absolutism’s interests in terms of Poland are based above all on maintaining and fortifying the annexation. Since the Vienna Congress, Russia’s special attention has been directed to tenaciously suppressing all traces of national opposition in Poland, particularly that of the social class which is the pillar of the opposition, the nobility. In this endeavor Russian absolutism saw in Poland’s industrial bourgeoisie a desirable ally. To bind Poland to Russia through material interests, and to create a counterweight to the nationalist ferment of the nobility in a capitalist class arisen under the very wing of the Russian eagle, a class disposed toward servility not through any tradition of a national past but through an interest in its future – this was the aim of Russian policy, which it followed with its usual iron consistency. It must be admitted that the Russian government did not err in its choice of means, and that it had correctly sensed the nature of the Polish bourgeoisie. Hardly had manufacture sprouted in Poland, hardly had it tasted the honey of the Russian market, when the Polish entrepreneurs felt themselves ready for their historic mission: to serve as the support in Poland for the Russian annexation. Already in 1826 the Polish Finance Minister Drucki-Lubecki was delegated to St. Petersburg with the most humble entreaty to completely abolish the customs border between Russia and Poland, “since indeed the two countries form one whole and Poland belongs to Russia.” In this declaration, the entire political program of the Polish bourgeoisie was concisely enunciated: the complete renunciation of national freedom in exchange for the mess of pottage of the Russian market. Since that time, the Russian government has never ceased supporting the Polish bourgeoisie. We have cited the long list of laws that have been issued since the 1820s to aid industrial colonization of Poland and the development of manufacture, the “iron fund” for the subsidy of industry, the establishment of the Polish Bank, endowed with every conceivable privilege, etc., etc.

This policy was most energetically maintained in the later period; even in the time of Nicholas I we see the Russian government issue new decrees to the same effect. Nothing was neglected which might transform the noble, rebellious Pole into a capitalist, tame Pole. And the Polish bourgeoisie showed that it possesses a grateful heart, for it has never ceased to thwart and betray national stirrings in Poland with all its might; its disgraceful conduct in the Polish uprisings supplies sufficient evidence of this fact. The most important milestone of this tendency in Russian policy was the abolition of the Russian-Polish customs border in 1851. A historian intimate with the pertinent archives of the Russian government and the best authority on the history of Russian customs tariffs, the Russian Lodyshenki, wrote on this subject:

“The lifting of the customs line between the Empire and the Kingdom was primarily the result of motives of a political character. As is well known, an intellectual ferment of partly national and partly socialist character began in Europe in the 1840s. This ferment, in which the population of Russian Poland also participated, disturbed the Russian government up to a certain point and moved it to seek out ways to unite Poland with Russia as firmly as possible. One of the main factors which hindered the drawing together of the two countries was their economic separation.”

Thus to eliminate this “separation,” to fetter Poland to Russia by the material interests of its bourgeoisie, the customs border was abolished. The Russian government still holds to the same standpoint today, and still greets the growing Polish market in Russia as the chain that most tightly shackles the annexed country to Russia. Thus Mendeleyev wrote in his preface to the official report on Russian industry to the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893: “The products of this and many other Polish factories find a constantly growing market all over Russia. Through the competition of this industrial district with the Moscow district, the basic goal of Russia’s protectionist policy was achieved on the one hand and, on the other, the assimilation of Poland with Russia, which is appropriate to the peaceable outlook of the Russian people” (read: the Russian government).

This special role that the Polish bourgeoisie plays toward the Russian government as the bulwark of the annexation also is important in explaining the main point under question, i.e., the future of Polish capitalism. It requires, in fact, an enormous dose of naivete to assume that the Russian government, which has given itself precisely the task of cultivating capitalism in Poland and has for more than half a century used all the means at its disposal to do so, now intends to demolish that same capitalism, force the Polish bourgeoisie over to the opposition, and thus wantonly destroy its own handiwork. And indeed, solely out of love for the Moscow entrepreneurs, to whose complaints and lamentations the Russian government has turned a deaf ear for half a century! Unfortunately, the Russian government knows better how to protect its ruling interests. What these interests are in regard to Poland we know from the mouths of its representatives: “the peaceable assimilation” of Poland with Russia, i.e., the strengthening of its rule in Poland at any price. This declaration was made in 1893, long after the presumed new course of Russian policy was supposed to have begun.

The best evidence of our interpretation is provided by the recent history of Russia’s relations with Finland. Here we find on a small scale an exact repetition of Russia’s earlier policy in Poland. Finland, at present, remains cut off from the Czarist Empire by a customs border and maintains an independent customs policy toward foreign countries much more liberal than Russia’s. Finnish industry is now enjoying all the advantages that have already helped Polish industry to blossom. Likewise Finnish products, particularly those of the metal industry, have found access to Russia thanks to, among other things, lower customs at the Russo-Finnish border than at Russia’s other borders, and is now giving Russia’s domestic industry fierce competition. The Russian entrepreneurs, to whom this is a thorn in the side, have, of course, not neglected to set in motion a “most humble and obedient” campaign to protect the “Fatherland’s” industries against “foreign” rivals – exactly like the campaign against Poland. The government has, under this pressure, likewise twice raised the tariffs against Finland as an economically foreign region, because of its independent customs policy, in 1885 and 1897.

If the Russian government were now to make the interests of this or that group of entrepreneurs the consistent plumbline for its economic policy toward the non-Russian-speaking sections of the Empire, then it would consequently have had to continue along the road to cutting Finland off from Russia with a Chinese wall. But precisely the opposite is in fact the case. The government has already ordered the total lifting of the Russian-Finnish customs border for the year 1903 and the absorption of Finland into the imperial Russian customs zone. Thus will the “Fatherland’s” industries be freed of uninhibited “foreign” competition. And if this has not happened even sooner, it is not consideration for the lamentations of the Russian mill-owners that is responsible, but the trade agreement with Germany, through which the Czarist Empire has bound itself for a number of years. It is clear that the impending reform means the beginning of the end of Finnish independence in political terms, even if it proceeds first toward demolishing its economic independence. Here we have before us once more a portion of the general policy of Czarism, which passes over all particular interests in order to spiritually level the various parts of the Empire through the system of Russification on the one hand and, on the other, to give the unity of the Empire a firm material frame by this economic welding process, and to press the whole thing together in the iron clamps of absolute power – a policy which we have already become acquainted with in Poland.

Of course not everything in the world goes according to the wishes of the rulers. While the Russian government economically incorporates Poland into the Empire and cultivates capitalism as the “antidote” to national opposition, at the same time it raises up a new social class in Poland – the industrial proletariat – a class that is forced by its situation to become the most serious opponent of the absolutist regime. And if the proletariat’s opposition cannot have a national character, so it can under the circumstances be even more effective, in that it will logically answer the solidarity of the Polish and Russian bourgeoisie with the political solidarity of the Polish and Russian proletariat. But this distant consequence of its policy cannot divert the Russian government from its present course; for the time being, it sees in the capitalist development of Poland only the class of the bourgeoisie. As long as Russia seeks to maintain its rule over Poland in this way, the riotous bloom of industry in Poland will remain inscribed in the program of the government. Thus those who await a government policy directed toward the economic separation of Poland take for future phenomena that which belongs to the past, and their insufficient knowledge of history for deeper insight into the future.

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Last updated on: 28.11.2008