Friday, July 4, 2014

Chapter 6 - Germany Must Be Beaten: Part 1 - Introduction

Korzybski: A Biography (Free Online Edition)
Copyright © 2014 (2011) by Bruce I. Kodish 
All rights reserved. Copyright material may be quoted verbatim without need for permission from or payment to the copyright holder, provided that attribution is clearly given and that the material quoted is reasonably brief in extent.

In the starting days of the war, Austria-Hungary and Germany (the Central Powers) and Russia (representing the Allies) issued declarations to the Poles under their regimes. Each declaration promised to unify Poland and sought to gain Polish help and recruits for their respective sides. Alfred felt quite sure about what he had to do. Having assessed the possibilities of a return to Polish sovereignty under each side, he decided he must help the Russians. This was not because of any patriotic feeling for the Tsarist dictatorship he had lived his life under. Rather, he had become convinced that the victory of the Central Powers would mean the death of any hopes for the recovery of Polish nationhood. Given the relative weakness of Austria-Hungary, the success of the Central Powers depended on the Germans. As Alfred saw it, if there was any future for Poland, Germany could not be allowed to win.

Korzybski had good reasons for distrusting the Central Powers’ stated good intentions toward Polish nationalism. His views were based on his knowledge of history. Ethnic German expansionism led by the so-called Prussians, at the expense of Poles, had been going on for centuries.(1) More recently, vicious anti-Polish as well as anti-Jewish sentiments had found a nurturing home within German culture. In 1861, Bismarck—who ten years later as German chancellor unified Germany under Prussian dominance—had recommended  genocide against the Poles: “Hit the Poles till they despair of their very lives…if we are to survive, our only course is to exterminate them.”(2) Adolf Hitler’s later doctrine of lebensraum, or living space, which involved the destruction and enslavement of Slavs and the colonization of their lands by Germans, was enunciated much earlier in Frankfurt in 1848 at an all-German conference. This reflected an even earlier Teutonic imperative of  “Drang nach dem Slavischen Osten” (“Push east to conquer Slavic lands”).(3)

German industry, perhaps the fastest growing in Europe, had been mobilized for war. Although not invincible, the relatively unified and efficient German military command had long prepared a detailed plan for fighting a two-front war with France and Russia. Alfred knew the success of the German efforts to Prussianize the Poles in their portion of partitioned Poland, only about fifty miles west of Lodz. Polish towns like Poznan and Wroclaw, had been renamed as German towns (Posen and Breslau). German colonists had come in mass to settle. A large proportion of land there had been bought up by a small number of wealthy German magnates. Although the majority of the population of Prussian Poland still remained ethnically Polish, there were now some districts where Poles constituted a minority. Of all the partitioning powers, the Germans seemed to Alfred the most successful in their efforts to rub out Polish nationality in ancient Polish lands.

Korzybski felt no hesitancy; Germany must be beaten. The success of Germany’s two front war required German and Austrian troops to gain access to Russian Poland, especially to the rich agricultural land there and in the Ukraine, with the least amount of destruction to the local infrastructure. In this way, the Central Powers could avoid getting starved out by an allied economic blockade. Korzybski felt that both the Russian military and civil administrations did not by themselves have the capacity for much sustained resistence to such a German push.

Despite the size of its army (something like 1.5 million troops with another 3 million men in reserves) (4), Korzybski knew from personal experience the general poor quality of the Russian military. He had worked with Russian soldiers since childhood and had observed Russian officers and soldiers who had offices and lived in his family's apartment house in Warsaw. Despite some very competent men, the army command structure had failed to overcome many of its problems—antiquated doctrines, lack of coordination, poor intelligence, inadequate attention to supplies, etc. 

By way of his father’s experiences in the Ministry of Ways and Communications, he was also aware of the vast inefficiencies of Russian government bureaucracy, riddled as it was with self-aggrandizing careerists. Besides this, Korzybski had information from his contacts in the underground that the Tsarist court, civil administration, secret police, army general staff, etc., were riddled with German agents and sympathizers. Polish help, he believed, constituted a major factor to counter these negative influences, bolster Russian resistance, and prevent German victory.

You may download a pdf of all of the book's reference notes (including a note on primary source material and abbreviations used) from the link labeled Notes on the Contents page. The pdf of the Bibliography, linked on the Contents page contains full information on referenced books and articles. 
1. East Prussia (by the early 21st Century, part of Northeastern Poland with a small bit under Russian sovereignty) had long been a German island in the midst of a Slavic sea. In the 13th Century, the Teutonic Knights, a ruthless group of crusaders from the German lands, had been invited by a Polish prince to come and help him in his war against the original Prussians, a pagan tribe on the Polish frontier. The Poles soon regretted this move. For the Teutonic Knights proceeded to brutally wipe out these original inhabitants—taking the Prussian name for themselves. They then captured most of the Baltic coast of Northern Poland including the port of Gdansk and colonized the area with ethnic Germans. The Poles, who had already been fighting German princes to the west, now had a German enemy to the north as well. In 1410, a newly unified Polish kingdom under King Jagiello defeated the Teutonic Knights at the battle of Grünwald and eventually recaptured Northern Poland and part of Prussia. A small Prussian principality was allowed to remain as an ethnic German enclave,  though it came under Polish domination. In the early 17th Century, a Polish king granted rule of Prussia to the Hohenzollern family, descendants of Teutonic Knights from the German town of Brandenburg. Then for over a century, the Hohenzollerns sought to gain Prussian independence and join it to the other German lands. At  the end of the 18th Century, under the leadership of Frederick the Great and his successor Frederick Wilhelm II, they finally succeeded in doing so by destroying Poland via the infamous partitions. Northwestern Poland, Pomorze, became West Prussian Pomerania. Wielpolska or “Old Poland”, the heartland of the Polish kings, became an extension of Brandenburg lands east of Berlin. Southwestern Poland became Prussian Silesia. The partition of Poland made Prussia the largest and most powerful of the German states. This led the way, in the latter part of the 19th Century, to the newly unified—and Prussianized—authoritarian German state.

2. Pognowski 1998, p. 26. 

3. Pognowski 1998, p. 89.

4. Sweetman, p. 45.

No comments: