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Poland in the Modern World: Beyond Martyrdom by Brian Porter-Sz̋cs

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3

NATION AND/OR REVOLUTION, 1914–22

In the last chapter we saw how the confusing changes at the dawn of the 20th century were interpreted by politicians, activists, and intellectuals, and how those various worldviews were tested during the social unrest of the 1905 Revolution. Perhaps only one thing was clear after the dust settled: politics would never be the same again, because the elites were stripped of any illusions that they could control the course of events entirely on their own. The millions of workers and peasants who went out on strike or protested were not directed by any centers of authority, be they socialist or nationalist or agrarian. To be sure, plenty of opposition activists claimed to speak on behalf of the masses, provoking or restraining particular demonstrations, but all of them were self-appointed spokespeople with (at best) only partial legitimacy. There just hadn’t been time yet for anyone to build the sorts of political institutions that could issue orders and expect them to be consistently followed. That said, 1905 provided the stimulus to get to work on those institutions, and the coming years would see exponential growth in the size and number of political parties, labor unions, rural cooperative networks, even social and cultural clubs.

All of these new institutions, not to mention the governments of the partitioning powers, faced an existential question: what did the people want – or at least, what would convince the people to stay quiet? Why had ...

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