English

Wystawę zrealizowało Stowarzyszenie Społeczno-Kulturalne Warszawa w Europie

Ignacy Daszyński – a socialist and defender of both democracy and the parliamentary system

Author: Leszek Lachowiecki

Realisation: Stowarzyszenie społeczno-kulturalne Warszawa w Europie

The exhibition was financed in part through funds from the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation.

In the sixth year of age I went to school, namely the Bernardine Monastery School in Zbarazh. After father passed away, mother moved along with the younger children, ie. with Feliks, Zofia and me, to Stanisławów, wherein I soon enrolled to the local middle school. As there was a lack of funds to ensure proper education for the children, I started giving lessons to my colleagues while still in first grade. Already in the first years of middle school I became influenced by my brother Feliks, a fervent Polish patriot. At that time we already had our own secret patriotic union, which associated over a dozen young boys from all high schools in Stanisławów.


I settled in the Galician hell and I had the opportunity to get to know Borysław – the Galician “California”, filled with the moaning of paupers and the rapidly growing wealth of merely several dozen individuals. Each week, Borysław devoured several dozen corpses and over a dozen cripples. Each inconvenient worker was immediately arrested or underwent a short trial: during the night, hired “crouches” threw him to a deserted random “cavity”, ie. a shaft flooded with water. The atmosphere in Drohobycz encouraged my rebellion.


In Drohobych I met Ivan Franko, who at that time had been the loudest Ruthenian socialist. He was living with his stepfather in the nearby Nahujowice, where I visited him as well. All our trips were full of discussions about socialism.
Poverty drove me to the country, where some old friends of my family provided me with a tutor.


In the fall of 1887 I moved to Kraków with a strong intention to pass my maturity exam and attend a university. I enrolled to the Faculty of Philosophy in Kraków and I decided to study and nothing more, just study.

1895 – certificate of the Faculty of Philosophy of the Jagiellonian University in Kraków for the first-year student Ignacy Daszyński.

1887 – review of Ignacy Daszyński as tutor.

In 1882 I was, therefore, a socialist and hence began the work and struggle which have been continuing to this very day. My field of public work – in which I submersed myself unreservedly – consisted for more than a quarter-century of Galicia and Cieszyn Silesia. At that time, Galicia was a land where a vast majority of its unfortunate inhabitants were plagued by poverty and social underdevelopment. Considered a colony by the Austrian government, Galicia was, in political terms, indeed a manor leased to the Polish nobility. In those days there were two socialist magazines issued in Lviv: “Work” and “Worker”. We would launch “The worker’s social-democratic party”.

On 9th April 1890, while in Paris, I received a telegram from Merano informing me about the death of Feliks. I felt that I lost my one true friend and companion, that I became an orphan as a child after the death of its parents. For me, the year 1891 was rich in events. During winter I worked feverishly among the workers in Lviv and took part in the election campaign, in spring I underwent a nearly three-week criminal trial in Kraków, in the summer I attended an international congress in Brussels, and in the fall I was appointed editor of the newly-established “Workers’ Newspaper” in Berlin.
Logo of the Polish Social-Democratic Party of Galicia and Cieszyn Silesia, founded in 1892 as the Polish Social Democratic Party of Galicia – a component of the Austrian social democracy.

In January 1893, I was summoned by the Kraków-based organization to run the editorial office of “Forward”. Eight subsequent issues of “Foward” were confiscated by the attorney’s office, and the unit finally came up with the wild idea of sealing of the magazine’s entire typographical system until reaching a court settlement! The fledgeling weekly presented an extremely sharp undertone, which had been in the “intelligence” circles ironically referred to as a “forward style”, meaning a brutal one. The first thing is the magazine’s feature of a militancy organ of the revolutionary working class. All revolutions worldwide wrote sharply-worded articles and refrained from mincing allegations down into bland platitudes.

In 1882, I was a socialist and hence began the work and struggle. The socialist program of Independent Poland was revolutionist in the most strict sense of that word. It aimed at the three most powerful thrones, it addressed the authority of the Roman Catholic Church in secular matters and, at the same time, it threatened the Polish propertied class, landed gentry, wealthy burgess, the higher bureaucracy, all those who have entered or sought to enter into an agreement with the invaders and “set themselves” for hundreds of years of captivity to their class advantage. And yet I was never engaged in the fight against religion as a need of the human mind.

For ten years (1897-1907) I had actually been the sole Polish socialist deputy in the Vienna parliament. I did not feel as I had lost the fight for in the year 1907 there could be elections held on the basis of equal, secret, direct and universal suffrage applicable to all adult males, and the number of people equaled in terms of their right to vote amounted to millions and thus prevented the former brutal types of fraud. The electoral reform, or rather the struggle for achieving it, constituted an excellent means of class awakening of the workers; the labor movement finally ceased to be a secret sect and became a powerful political factor. It had always been my dream.

In the bright glow of the fire that destroys the house of bondage, the tsardom, not only the workers noticed a clear offset from all their rights, their political misery, but luckily for the state, luckily for many and many state institutions, it also convinced the government that it should not dare delay its decision on establishing a universal, equal and direct suffrage any longer. When taking into account the objectives, such as the overthrow of the tsarist regime and the establishment of the Constituent Assembly in Warsaw, the main question will be how to rouse the rest of the people?

Socialists fight with neither sword nor flail, but with a quite different weapon. All the mutually associated workers, peasants, teachers, merchants, and officials who together call themselves socialists and share common principles of socialism, all these people together call themselves the social democratic party. This party has its own magazines and journals, it publishes books, runs agitation works, convenes meetings, establishes associations, arranges demonstrations, educates its people, supports strikes – if they are sensible – and sends its agitators to all parts of the world as well as tries to elect its members to the commune office, to the Sejm, to the parliament.

The Supreme National Committee was found due to two factors: the consent of Vienna for the establishment of such an organization, which would create the Polish Legions, and the simultaneous difficulties that Piłsudski’s troops had to tackle during their development. The latter encouraged the representatives of PPSD to protect the army by means of compromise. This compromise was based on the fact that the Temporary Commission of Confederated Independence Parties was to merge with the national-democratic “Central National Committee” (CKN) operating in Lviv to form – under the patronage of the Polish Circle, and thus most of the Polish parties – the “Supreme National Committee”.

The war, which would be fought on Polish soil, would also trigger an organized revolutionary movement in the Polish proletariat, and the aim of this movement can only be the struggle against the Tsarist imperialist. The blood of a Polish peasant and worker can only be shed in order to liberate them from the foreign oppression and from the yoke of capitalist exploitation. We do not want to constitute a limp loot for any of the powers at war, we do not want to be an unaware instrument of any diplomacy. If the fate of Poland will have to be solved on Polish land, we will shape it with full knowledge and strength.


How to create a Polish army without asking the society? The Military Department of NKN answered that one can create a Polish army even without the permission of the Polish society in the Kingdom and called it “a state-forming policy of NKN”. The Socialists were of a quite different opinion and it seems that society took their side. For them, the Polish army was to be the first guarantee of the independence of Poland. A great impulse amongst the Polish community in Galicia resulting from Piłsudski’s wartime initiative along with the historical role of Galicia as “Polish Piedmont” created a national institution that could take on the tasks of great importance within the policy of the Polish nation.

Three days ago, the Provisional People’s Government of the Republic of Poland was formed in Lublin on the part of Polish land liberated from enemy invasion. Its most important task is to protect people from hunger and deprivation. Rural people must receive their workbench – soil. Mines, railways, great forests and large industrial plants must become the property of the nation. An eight-hour working day must be established everywhere . On the third day of its existence, the government set detailed provisions of the Act on Elections to the Polish parliament, giving the right to vote to every man and woman over 21 years of age.

The Polish state regained its freedom and independence after over a hundred years of slavery. Three million of Russian, Prussian and Austrian soldiers were guarding us from dropping our fetters; one hundred thousand officials executed alien, hostile rights towards us whereas the Polish language was expelled from our schools and offices. The Polish land was taken away or bought from us by force. Any Polish worker was paid for his job less than any German, Czech or Russian worker. The mountain forests were robbed by foreigners, coal and crude oil were bought by foreigners for nearly half the price; salt was taken by foreign governments as state property.

Socialism does not deny nationality, but rather triggers it and informs. Democracy is not the destruction of nationality, but the highest form of government. That is why, you, the People of Poland – must go and dare to vote for Poland! Vote for yourself, vote for the freedom and independence of your nation! Do not be ashamed of yourself! Be free and happy in a free and happy Poland! Without a word, as an expression of the soul, there will no rise of an aware public deed. Because the word is the expression of the spirit, much more than deed. The word gives the deed what we call ideology, and provides the motive of the deed, its illumination and purpose.

The clergymen interfere with schools and communities because they want the teacher to be a passive, obedient tool subject to their will, and make the school – as it used to be in the past – an addition to the church. No one can resist this, because a priest will condemn such person from the pulpit without any appeal, and often even defile that person brutally. If anyone objects, such person will be punished for insulting the church as well. Without education, the working class will not gain any influence within the society, will not maintain the gains achieved in the once favorable conditions, will not beat the fraudulent demagogy that divides it into warring camps.

Marshal Piłsudski spares no harsh words that stigmatize the Polish cowardice, Polish treason, Polish bribery, powerlessness and humility towards foreigners. What did Marshal Piłsudski want on 12th May upon marching on Warsaw with two thousand troops? First of all, he wanted resignation of the Witos government, and second of all – he wanted to take over the army. The entire democratic Poland watched with the greatest hopes a man who proudly called himself a democrat. People awaited a redemptive word from the Marshal, a word – program, a word that would focus a vast majority of the nation. Alas, Marshal Piłsudski spoke not such word.

Józef Piłsudski, who on 12th May 1926 performed a coup d’état and overthrew the government and the President of the Republic of Poland and thus established an authoritarian government.

On 27th March 1928, the head of government Marshal Piłsudski appeared in the Chamber and hideous accidents took place … At about 4 o’clock in the afternoon 90 armed officers of the Polish Army burst with force to the parliament’s building. They rejected my reasonable request to leave the building and remained close to the boardroom. It was time to vote. I was elected Marshal.
Józef Piłsudski: I am asking whether you intend to open the session?
Ignacy Daszyński: Under threat of use of bayonets, revolvers and sabers, I will not open it. There are armed officers in the lobby.

But my program included, and it still does to this very day, a harmonious cooperation between the government and the Sejm. As long as fascism or dictatorship prevail in Poland, until democracy obtains a level of influence in Poland, so long the program will be reasonable and necessary. True, I did not understand the subtle schemers in their elegant uniforms, who almost deprived me of my personal honor. […] I do not know how long will I live, but as long as I live, I will slash (as Żeromski put it) at election fraudsters and rapists, careerists, parasites, «jacks» who put their hands on state money, power, influence in the service of one man.

I never said to the assembled that they themselves had to do the violent deed that their leaders cannot make on their own. I never deceived people with the “impulsiveness” of their despair, but always tried to take responsibility for my word. One of the heaviest allegations I have ever charged was aimed at a young lawyer, accusing him that his inflammatory speech led to bloody riots. I did not get lifted on either bad or sympathetic cheers flowing toward me from those gathered and I did not hesitate make an opposition, even if against the majority.

In a vibrant and working society that strives for great goals lie sufficient paths to heal any democratic parliament. Only where society itself is in a state of decomposition and decay, no institution will be able to rescue and moralize. Democratic parliamentarism gives even more ways for improvement in a healthy society. The first of these ways is to create a strong and honorable government, ready to respect the laws and their own honor.

He remained a classical tribune of the people, and a steadfast champion of democracy and parliamentarism until the very end. And he passed away on his job, and the last act of his public life was the memorable defense of the independence of national representation. He lost his fight in the most tragic way, because no longer during struggle with the age-old reaction, but with those with whom he had faithfully marched shoulder to shoulder towards a better future of Poland.

October 26, 1866 – Born in Zbarazh, in a small county town in Volyn Podolia

1888 – He passed an extramural maturity exam in Kraków; Enrolled for the university.

1889 – Stay in the Kingdom of Poland (arrest and expulsion).

1890 – Stay in France and Switzerland.

28-30 VI 1891 – Participation in the Congress of Austrian social democracy in Vienna.

VIII 1891 – Head the Polish delegation at the International Socialist Congress in Brussels.

11 III 1897 / 13 XII 1900 / 16 XII 1907 / 13 VI 1911 – Elected to the Austrian parliament.

V 1902 – Elected to the Kraków City Council.

28 X 1918 – Appointed as the Vice President of Polish Liquidation Committee in Kraków.

36. 7 XI 1918 – Appointed as the Prime Minister of the Provisional People’s Government of the Republic of Poland in Lublin.

26 I 1919 – In Kraków, he obtained the mandate of a Member of the Legislative Sejm.

24 VII 1920 – Appointed as the Deputy Prime Minister in the coalition government of Wincenty Witos.

4 I 1921 – Upon instructions of the PPS authorities, in December 1920 he resigned from the government of W. Witos.

5 XI 1922 / 4 III 1928 / 16 XI 1930 – Obtained a seat in Parliament.

20 XI 1925 – Appointed as the Deputy Marshal of the Sejm.

27 III 1928 – Appointed as the Marshal of the Sejm (until 1930).

31 X 1929 – Refused to open the Sejm debate “under threat of use of bayonets, revolvers and sabers”.

II 1934 – 23th PPS Congress in Warsaw appointed him as the honorary chairman.

31 X 1936 – Passed away in Bystra.

3 XI 1936 – An ostentatious funeral held for Ignacy Daszyński in Rakowicki Cemetery in Kraków. The texts of the exhibition were compiled from the diaries, journalistic works, speeches and letters of Ignacy Daszyński.