Ukrainian Social Democratic Party (USDP)

ID: 112

This political party was formed as a result of a split in the Ruthenian-Ukrainian Radical Party (RURP) in 1899. Social democracy, Austromarxism with its national and cultural differentiation, idea of the unity of the Ukrainian people divided by the borders of empires, were at the heart of its ideology. The party had little influence on the region's political life due to the small number of Ukrainian industrial and agricultural employees as its social base. The party remained a small group of intellectuals without their own organizational structures for a long time.


From the time of its founding until 1918, the USDP acted as an autonomous section of the Social Democratic Labor Party of Austria. After all, both the statute of the Austrian Social Democracy, approved in 1897, and the Heinfeld program of 1889 promoted the autonomy of individual national factions. However, the issue of relations with the Polish Social Democratic Party of Galicia and Silesia (PPSD) was still open. One part of the USDP clearly adhered to Ukrainian national policy, while the other tried to coordinate its actions with the Polish Social Democracy. These misunderstandings continued until the outbreak of the Ukrainian-Polish war, when the national question finally gained the upper hand over class issues.

Another reason for the strained relations with the PPSD was that the trade unions were controlled by the Poles. Therefore, the Ukrainian social democrats constantly had problems with financing, and the party periodicals were not regularly published.

The history of the Ukrainian social democrats began from a secret meeting of Ukrainian workers of Lviv in 1896. It was organized by members of the Ruthenian Ukrainian Radical Party. At this meeting, the "Poklyk do robitnykiw Rusyniw" ("A Call to Ruthenian Workers", 17 September 1896) was approved, in which, in particular, the necessity to create a separate Ukrainian Social Democratic Party was declared. At the same time, the publishing of the Robitnyk (Worker) newspaper was started. This newspaper, like the "Poklyk", was printed in Latin letters but in the Ukrainian language for Lviv workers.

Youth society "Young Ukraine" significantly influenced the party upon becoming part of its structure. They had advocated the opening of a Ukrainian university in Lviv and called for social justice and national unity of Ukrainians. They had held three student congresses (vicha) in 1899-1901, and organized the unsuccessful "secession of the Ukrainian students" from Lviv University. Following these, the society's leaders joined USDP. The former "Young Ukrainians" became the most ardent supporters for a complete rapture from the Polish social democrats, while their older colleagues (Mykola Hankevych, Semen Vityk) continued to be part of the governing bodies of the Polish Social Democratic Party of Galicia and Silesia.

During the rise of the labor movement in 1905-1907, the USDP won two seats in the 1907 elections and one seat in the 1911 elections. They remained poorly organized and virtually powerless. At its Third Congress held in 1909, the party decided to work through satellite organizations, following the example of more successful populists and radicals. "Volia" educational society was founded in this context.

During the events of 1918, Mykola Hankevych, on behalf of the USDP, was the only one who opposed the declaration of independence of the ZUNR and supported the unconditional unity of the Ukrainian state in the wreckage of the Austro-Hungarian and Russian empires (19 October 1918). The social democrats even held a separate conference in the Railway Workers' House to prepare an appeal to the Dnieper Ukrainians. Also at a political demonstration on 20 October 1918 Semen Vityk declared the demand for immediate unification with Ukraine. After the Unification Act, adopted by the UNR and the ZUNR on 22 January 1919, the USDP went over to opposition to the UNR's Western Region government, demanding actual rather than declarative unification, criticizing the "bourgeois" leadership and rapprochement with the Entente. Instead, the party delegated its members to the Directorate Government.

In 1921, the party switched to pro-Soviet positions and was banned by the Polish authorities in 1924, its press liquidated. Some members joined the Communist Party of Western Ukraine, the Sejm deputies joined the Polish Communists. The Party resumed its activities in 1929 and functioned till 1939.

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Mykola Hankevych — the first chairman and founder of the USDP, ideologist of Austromarxism, organizer of the trade union and labour movement, State Council member.
Semen Vityk — founder of the USDP, State Council member, Minister of Galician Affairs of the UNR.



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By Nazar Kis
Edited by Vasyl Rasevych