The Union of Independent Socialist Youth
In 1917, a split in an organization of progressive and pro-independence youth called Filarecja led to the emergence of the Union of Independent Socialist Youth in Warsaw. It advocated expanding cooperation with all workers' movements. The Union quickly began its activities in Warsaw's educational institutions and later gained supporters in the university environments throughout the country.
In Lviv, the Union cooperated with the Union of Polish Academic Socialist Youth Life (pol. Życie), founded in 1921 and approved by the Senate of the Jan Kazimierz University in 1922-1923. In the 1930s, the latter was recognized as illegal, and its members entered the Union of Independent Socialist Youth. According to Józef Zieliński, an organization emerged which consisted of 100 members and united people of Belarusian, Polish, Ukrainian and Jewish nationalities. The premises of the Union of Independent Socialist Youth in Lviv were located on Sykstuska (now Doroshenka) street 21.
In the propaganda leaflets, the Union repeatedly drew attention to the poverty of student youth. Among the students’ major problems were high tuition fees and lack of places in dormitories and sanatoria. The blame for the poor situation of young people was put primarily on the state, which, according to the organization members, did not provide the poor young people with sufficient material assistance (the "bourgeois" state was contrasted with the "socialist" one, namely the USSR; it was emphasized that the "socialist" state provided studying young people with assistance). The organization protested not only against material oppression (high tuition fees and payments for exams or medical examinations), but also against national oppression, which was manifested in practice, for example, in the numerus clausus principle in higher educational institutions. The society advanced slogans requiring general education for children of working and peasant families, as well as scholarships for rural and working youth. Speaking against capitalism, they cautioned:
"In the capitalist system, youth — the blossom of people — has nothing to look for: when we finish our studies, we start, with crowds of the unemployed, on a long, usually unproductive journey for labour and bread. Therefore, we have one need: if we want to live, if we want to work — it’s the socialist system that we must strive for."
Among the leading figures of the University's left wing associated with the Union, Józef Zieliński, a student, mentioned Tadeusz Bojczuk, Przemysław Ogrodzieński, Maria Fiderer, and Józef Fell. Among other figures of the left wing in Lviv, Zieliński also drew attention to Longin Chmielewski, whom he considered "a fantast and utopian socialist," and Adam Schaff, who adhered to communist views and was to become one of the most important Marxist philosophers in the future. Among the Lviv figures associated with the Union, there also was Henryk Kuroń, the father of Jacek Kuroń.
For new members, "ideological courses" were organized, where issues related to Marxism were discussed, as well as the political situation in Poland, the situation of Ukrainians in Poland or the history of the Union of Independent Socialist Youth. In addition, the organization took an active part in the preparation and celebration of the May 1 holiday.
At the university, the Union maintained friendly relations with the left, popular and democratic youth and avoided all nationalist factions and parties. The organization opposed all forms of nationalism (Polish, Ukrainian, and Jewish). Speaking for freedom of conscience, it struggled with clericalism in public life. Maria Federer, a member of the Union, considered the activities of people associated with the National Radical Camp (pol. Obóz Narodowo-Radykalny) cynical, emphasizing that the Catholicism of Polish nationalists was superficial.The Union opposed all the anti-Semitic excesses in higher educational institutions and the slogans supporting the "bench ghetto", advanced by nationalist youth. Its members asked the rectors of universities to take all measures to restore peace and to punish those responsible for incidents and to pay attention to them.
1. Zakład Narodowy im. Ossolińskich we Wrocławiu, sygn. 13509/III:
Ulotki Uniwersytetu Jana Kazimierza i Politechniki Lwowskiej oraz papiery różne
z lat 1931-1939, k. 293, 295, 297, 301, 309, 311
2. Zakład Narodowy im. Ossolińskich we Wrocławiu, sygn. 15590/II: Józef Zieliński, Z dziejów lwowskiej lewicy akademickiej w latach 1933-1938: wspomnienia, 8, 17, 18, 19, 21.
3. Związek Niezależnej Młodzieży Socjalistycznej Akad. (Środowisko Lwów), Do niezamożnej młodzieży akademickiej i do wszystkich nieprzyjętych na wyższe uczelnie! (ulotka, Biblioteka Narodowa w Warszawie, Lwów 1930 r.)
4. Jan Draus, Uniwersytet Jana Kazimierza we Lwowie 1918-1946. Portret kresowej uczelni, (Kraków: Księgarnia Akademicka, 2007), 55
5. M. Fiderer, "Antyklerykalizm czy wolność sumienia", Polska Lewica Społeczna wobec oświaty w latach 1919-1939 (wybór materiałów), (Warszawa: Państwowe Zakłady Wydawnictw Szkolnych, 1960), 462-465.
6. Andrzej Pilch, "Rzeczpospolita akademicka". Studenci i polityka 1918-1933, (Kraków: Księgarnia Akademicka, 1997), 61.
Written by Ewa Bukowska-Marczak
Scientific editing by Vasyl Rasevych
Translated from Polish by Myroslava Kit
Translated from Ukrainian by Andriy Maslyukh