Poland, 1918-1945: An Interpretive and Documentary History of the Second Republic

By Peter D. Stachura | Go to book overview

4

POLITICS

The Second Polish Republic was created as a parliamentary democracy with a broad range of political parties able to compete in elections, a parliament (Sejm), an upper house (Senate), and a head of state with the title in due course of President. Of equal importance to, if not more importance than, these overt manifestations of a political system, was the need for generally inexperienced politicians and an inchoate electorate to quickly accept and understand how a parliamentary democracy could and should operate. As in other spheres, Poland faced the challenge of devising a coherent and sustainable political life from the disparate remnants of the partitionist legacy and from the variegated character of her population. A sense of proportion and responsibility, maturity and a willingness to compromise and reach agreement - the essence of any properly functioning democracy - would have to be displayed, particularly by those representing and supporting the most prominent political organisations. This meant, for instance, that the factionalism and exaggerated individualism for which the Poles had become notorious throughout Europe since the eighteenth century - the 'Republic of Anarchy' - would have to be abandoned and replaced by a consensus about what constituted the 'national interest'.

It was inevitable that the principal political movements of the pre-independence era, the nationalists (Endecja), socialists (in the Polish Socialist Party, or PPS, and smaller, splinter groups), and the populists (initially in five parties), representing the peasantry, should exercise a dominant influence on political developments. To these are to be added smaller but by no means obscure parties drawing support from ethnic Poles, such as the Christian Democrats (Chadecja), National Workers' Party, Party of Labour and Democratic Party, and others representing the non-Polish minorities, especially the Ukrainians, Germans and Jews. In addition, radical left-wing parties, above all, the Communists (KPP from

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