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Prof. Chodakiewicz presents paper on Polish Right at Polish American Historical Association meeting

On 6 January 2012, Prof. Marek Chodakiewicz presented a paper, entitled “Poland’s National Democracy, an Overview,” at the annual board meeting of the Polish American Historical Association (PAHA) in Chicago.

The topic discussed by Prof. Chodakiewicz constitutes one of the most controversial subjects in modern Polish history. The National Democratic movement – Poland’s conservative nationalist Right – was born during the 1880s. During the time, Poland was partitioned between Germany, Russia, and Austria-Hungary, and the Endeks strove to resurrect her as an independent and powerful state. During the First World War, the nationalists sided with the Entente against Germany, which they considered Poland’s primary enemy, even more so than (non-communist) Russia. They also participated actively in Poland’s war with the Bolsheviks (1919-1921) and the political life of interwar Poland.

While the Endecja promoted a Polish identity intimately tied to Catholicism, non-Catholics were not necessarily barred from Polishness. Although anti-Jewish, the Endeks overwhelmingly rejected racist, exterminationist anti-Semitism of the Nazi variety. Thus, the movement as a whole not only condemned the Nazi extermination of the Jews, but many Endeks actually assisted them during the Holocaust.

During the Second World War, the National Democratic underground fought against both the Nazis and the Communists, viewing both totalitarian occupiers as equally inimical to a strong and free Poland. Thus, after the war, they continued their anti-communist struggle. Thus, the National Democrats suffered the greatest losses of all the Polish political movements at the time.

 Unfortunately, following the Gomułka “thaw” of 1956, some Endeks began to collaborate with the new regime, hoping gradually to turn it a more nationalist and patriotic direction from within. At the same time, many Endeks engaged in the pro-life struggle of the Polish Church and became active in anti-regime opposition groups.

Yet, serious restrictions on research stemming from the communist monopolization of education prevented honest debates and solid scholarship on the Endecja from surfacing in Poland for decades. In addition, the post-modernists have preferred to simply demonize, rather than carefully analyze, this political movement.  

Scholars and friends of the Kościuszko Chair also presented papers at the meeting. Dr. Wojciech Muszyński of Poland’s Institute of National Remembrance (IPN) lectured on “The First Ally: The Polish Guards Companies of the U.S. Army in Germany.” Dr. Tania Mastrapa offered a comparative study: “Cuban Émigré Anticommunism: Yesterday and Today.” Prof. John Radziłowski (University of Alaska Southeast) chaired a panel on “Anticommunism in Transnational Perspective.” Last but not least, Dr. Thaddeus C. Radziłowski (Piast Institute) spoke on the topic of “Polish Americans Today: The Piast Institute 2010 Survey of 1400 Polish Americans.”