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Ignacy Daszyński (1866–1936), a Polish socialist politician
in Galicia, a long-time member of the Austrian Reichsrat
(parliament) from the Polish Social Democratic Party
of Galicia and Cieszyn Silesia (PPSD), Prime Minister
of the government formed in Lublin in November 1918,
a Polish Socialist Party (PPS) deputy to the Polish Sejm
of successive terms (from 1919), Speaker of the Sejm
Daszyński came from a large noble family from Galicia. In his youth he was arrested on multiple occasions and deprived of the right to continue education; he remained under the strong influence of his older brother, Feliks, who was a socialist. After his brother’s death, from the 1890s he started his own socialist career as a columnist for Praca (Labour), author of political brochures and editor-in-chief of the socialist daily newspaper Naprzód (Forward). Above all, he was an activist of the legally operating Educational and Poverty-Relief Association Siła (Strength) and the Social Democratic Workers’ Party of Austria. In 1891, he led a delegation of Polish socialists to the Congress of the Second International and in 1892 co-founded the Polish Social Democratic Party of Galicia and Cieszyn Silesia within the party of the Austrian socialists. As one of the PPSD leaders, he wanted it to be a party based on nationality and not country. From 1897 to 1911 he represented Polish socialists in the Austrian Reichsrat, gaining substantial authority as an excellent orator, and was actively involved in legislative work promoting, among others, democratisation of the electoral system of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and opposing censorship.
After the 1905 revolution, Daszyński moved closer to the camp surrounding Józef Piłsudski. In 1912, PPSD – together with Piłsudski’s Polish Socialist Party-Revolutionary Faction – joined the Provisional Commission of Confederated Independence Parties. After the outbreak of World War I, as a member of the Executive Department of the Supreme National Committee he came out in favour of forming the Polish Legions, predicting that the Polish cause could be solved with the support of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In 1917, he voted in the Austrian parliament in favour of the motion of the Polish People’s Party “Piast” (PSL-Piast), stating that “the only desire of the Polish nation is to regain an independent and united Poland”. On 7 November 1918, Daszyński, who was politically associated with the emerging camp of Piłsudski, headed the government formed in Lublin and then, acting upon the Chief of State’s motion, tried unsuccessfully to form a central government in Warsaw. Since he was one of the leaders of the Polish socialists, he contributed to the unification of socialist parties from the three partitions. From 1919, after being elected as MP and leader of PPS in the Legislative Sejm of the Second Polish Republic, he remained an MP almost till the end of his life (to 1931, when his health deteriorated). He served as Deputy Prime Minister in the coalition government of Wincenty Witos (1920–1921) during the Polish-Soviet War.
Before the May Coup in 1926, PPS was unable to form any permanent parliamentary majority, therefore Daszyński became more critical of the centre-right cabinets formed under an agreement between the Popular National Union with PSL-Piast. The fact that he was a doctrinaire did not help to strike an alliance with the Polish People’s Party.
He supported workers’ strikes and in his programme he spoke in favour of the development of the cooperative movement. However, at the same time he could not back the peasants’ demands to strengthen land ownership by the Polish peasantry who were not interested in socialist experiments. In 1926, he lent his support to the coup, hoping that Piłsudski’s camp would carry out the reforms compliant with the socialist programme. He was swiftly disappointed with the Sanacja (Sanation government) after the military allowed the conservatives to rise to power. As a Speaker of the Sejm in 1928–1930 he became one of the leaders of the anti-Sanation opposition and one of the founders of the centre-left (Centrolew), who defended the parliamentary system. He was president of the General Council of PPS and from 1923 headed the Board of Directors of the Society of the Workers’ University.
He remained in conflict with Piłsudski’s followers till the end of his life. Like many others from the rebellious generation, he did not make a personal fortune, serving his homeland all his life.
Prof. Jan Żaryn