Even Mountain Dew has its Mellow Yellow

[summoned from the far regions of the deep bench by Lynn C. Rees]

Jozef Pilsudski was a minor Polish noble born in the Lithuanian countryside in Poland’s historic periphery. Roman Dmowski was an impoverished commoner born in the city of Warsaw, deep in Poland’s historic core.

Pilsudski was a revolutionary, dedicated to a policy of violent confrontation. Dmowski was a politician, dedicated to creating change from within the system.

Pilsudski became a soldier. Dmowski became a diplomat.

They both wanted an independent Poland. Their strategies for achieving that independence and their vision of what an independent Poland would be were wildly divergent.

Josef Pilsudski

Josef Pilsudski

Pilsudski saw Russia as the true enemy of Polish independence. He was subjected to “Russification” as a student, leading him to observe later that, “With the Germans, we lose our land. With the Russians, we lose our soul”. In this spirit, Pilsudski soon involved himself in pro-independence agitation. This bought him the usual one-way ticket to a Siberian prison.

After his release, Pilsudski became a revolutionary. He became notorious for leading the only Polish party willing to use violence to win independence. To pursue his policy of violent resistance, from the safety of Austrian Poland, with a few nods and winks from Austro-Hungarian officials, Pilsudski created a Polish army complete with professional officer, NCO, and military training under the cover of setting up a network of Polish “sporting” and rifleman clubs.

Dmowski saw Germany as the true enemy of Polish independence. Russian backwardness was repellent to civilized Poles, he argued. They’d naturally resist Russification. Germany’s advanced culture was more dangerous: it could seduce wavering Poles into voluntarily Germanizing so they could hitch a ride on Germany’s meteoric ascent. Dmowski’s fear of Germanization led him to turn to Russia as a counterweight against German influence. Working with Russia, he believed,  offered the best path to eventual Polish autonomy.

Roman Dmowski

Roman Dmowski

Pilsudski was a romantic. He harked back to the glory days of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The Old Republic ruled over diverse ethnic minorities while tolerating may different religions. Pilsudski wanted to create a similar ethnically and culturally diverse citizenry, unified by a stronger republic within the Old Republic’s ancient borders.

While Polish culture in its heartlands would be protected from foreign suppression, it wouldn’t be imposed on Poland’s minorities. They could become “Polish” just by being loyal to the Polish state.

Pilsudski’s policy was described as “state-assimilation”.

Dmowski was anything but romantic. A prominent biologist, he  was cold and rational. Dmowski looked back on four Polish uprisings against Russian rule in the nineteenth century and saw nothing but romantic foolishness. All they’d accomplished was bringing down Russian wrath on Poland. Like his slightly older contemporary Booker T. Washington, Dmowski argued that Poland should concentrate on peaceful modernization. Instead of romantic and doomed rebels, Poles should become scientists and businessmen.

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