MINORITY BLOC


MINORITY BLOC (1922–30), political alliance of representatives of the national minorities in Poland created with the aim of obtaining representation in the Sejm corresponding to their numbers in the population – up to 40%. The Bloc was formed in 1922 in reaction to the election regulations issued under the pressure of the extreme nationalist bloc led by the clergymen Lutoslawski, which sought to present to the world an artificial image of a monolithic national state. In the mapping of the constituencies there was blatant discrimination between the Polish ethnographic region and the mixed regions, as well as the intentional addition of rural and urban units to the disadvantage of scattered minorities such as the Jews and the Germans. The common objective of assuring their national rights enabled the parties to overcome the wide differences which prevailed among the various ethnic sections and to establish a countrywide bloc. Its initiator was the German Hasbach, and its executor and organizer was the Zionist leader Yiẓḥak *Gruenbaum. The Ukrainians of Galicia boycotted the elections because in theory they did not yet recognize the Polish government; the Zionists of Galicia therefore presented their own national list. On the other hand, in Congress Poland and in the Belorussian border regions ("Kresy") the overwhelming majority of the Jewish public, with the exception of the *Folkspartei, the *Bund, and the *Po'alei Zion, supported the Bloc. The Poles regarded this union as a hostile act because they suspected its partners of irredentist tendencies and anti-national aims. The elections brought an impressive victory for the Minority Bloc, which won 66 seats, including 17 Jewish ones. The drastic defeat of the Polish lists was most evident in the mixed border regions. In eastern Galicia 15 Jewish representatives were elected as a result of the Ukrainians' abstention and in western Galicia two, so that the "Jewish club" consisted of 34 seats in the Sejm and 12 in the Senate. During the parliamentary term of 1922–27 only loose links were maintained between the minority "clubs," because the policy of all the Polish factions was to achieve the dissolution of the Bloc either by fomenting disunion within its ranks or by promising to fulfill specific demands. In 1923 Premier Sikorski, who headed the Leftist coalition, attempted to win over the Ukrainians and the Belorussians, while in 1925 the *Grabski government endeavored to attract the Jews by means of an "agreement" which became known as the *Ugoda. In 1926 Marshal Pilsudski came to power in the wake of the May coup d'état. The new regime adopted the slogan of "moral improvement" (sanacja) and attempted to form a wide public front for constructive purposes. However, the hopes which had been aroused among the national minorities rapidly melted away when the weakening of parliamentary government became apparent and the promises to fulfill national aspirations in culture and education did not materialize. With the approach of the elections of March 1928 a second Minority Bloc was organized. On this occasion it was joined by the Ukrainians of Galicia, and their representative, Dmitri Levitsky, became the active colleague of Gruenbaum and Hasbach. In the meantime, however, conditions had changed. A split, arising out of social differences, had occurred within the minorities. This prevented the affiliation of the Radicals, and the Bloc thus became an association of political parties instead of whole national groupings. The representation of the Jews was also reduced as a result of the departure of all the Galician Zionists, who formed their own national list, and the pro-government bloc consisting of Agudat Israel, the Folkspartei, and a faction of the organization of merchants and craftsmen. In addition to this there were Orthodox and assimilationist Jewish circles that preferred to vote directly for the government list. These differences were responsible for a sharp decrease in the number of Jewish representatives: seven in the Minority Bloc; and six in the National List of Galicia. The other lists did not obtain a single seat.

After the third Sejm was unexpectedly dissolved by the president before the end of its term, new elections were held in 1930 in an atmosphere of growing political suppression. Internal frictions rendered the establishment of a countrywide Zionist list impossible. Among the Ukrainians radical nationalistic feelings were expressed in the thesis that since they constituted a majority in their regions, it was not in their interest to maintain a union with scattered minority groups. The Zionists of Congress Poland under the leadership of Gruenbaum joined forces in six regions with the German minority of central and western Poland – a substitute for the former comprehensive Minority Bloc. The economic businessmen list of Agudat Israel, the Folkspartei, and the merchants also increased their strength. The government employed harsh measures against the candidates of the reduced Minority Bloc, who did not secure more than two seats. The Zionists of Galicia only succeeded in obtaining four seats. Thus ended the attempt to unite the minorities in a common political campaign, and in the relations between the Jews and the other minority groups there were increasing differences, estrangement, and even hostility as a result of the economic and political suffocation of the masses.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

I. Schiper, Żydzi w Polsce odrodzonej, 2 (1930), 286–311; L. Halpern, Polityka żydowska w Sejmie i Senacie Rzeczypospolitej, 1919–1933 (1933). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: S. Netzer, Ma'avak Yehudei Polin al Zekhuyoteihem ha-Ezraḥiyot ve-ha-Le'ummiyot (1980), 282–314; M. Landau, Gush ha-Mi'utim (1922); "Makhshir Behirot o Etgar Medini," in: Galed, 4–5 (1978), 365–96; P. Korzec, "Der Block der Nationalen Minderheiten im Parlamentarismus Polens des Jahres 1922," in: Zeitschrift fuer Ostforschung, 2 (1975); S. Rudnicki, Zydzi w Parlamencie drugiej Rzecyzpospolitej (2004), 126–74, 249–64, 307–26.

[Moshe Landau]


Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.