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Independence DayMyth, Symbol, and the Creation of Modern Poland$
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M. B. B. Biskupski

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199658817

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199658817.001.0001

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Independence Day as Symbol of Protest

Independence Day as Symbol of Protest

(p.120) 7 Independence Day as Symbol of Protest
Independence Day

M. B. B. Biskupski

Oxford University Press

In the initial post-war years the regime suppressed November 11th as part of a project to denigrate the Second Republic (1918–39), and cast Piłsudski in a very negative light — this to make the post-1944 communist regime appear the better. This era was ended in 1956 when a relaxation of restrictions on free speech accompanied the regime change with the rise of Gomułka. On the 40th anniversary the Party made an effort to commemorate the day but remove its Piłsudskiite aspects, something the Sikorski regime did during the war. By 1968 the Party essayed a major re-conceptualization of the date. Party historian Henryk Jabłoński tried to mark the 11th while claiming it was a victory, but an incomplete one. The Party press still offered the Bolshevik Revolution and the brief socialist government of Ignacy Daszyński in Lublin in 1918 as preferred anniversaries.However, an alternative discourse was emerging beyond Party control. This featured demonstrations in large cities on the 11th, and references to Independence Day in the underground press. This phenomenon became much more evident on the 60th anniversary in 1978. The Party's traditional view of November 11th visibly began to crumble. The Party was in ideological crisis as to how to react. Positive articles about both Piłsudski and the 11th appeared in the press. Independence Day was referred to as ‘momentous’. The Party jettisoned its traditional position of silence or excoriation.Mass demonstrations appeared in the country, many began on the 10th — an interwar tradition. Some of these were broken up by police. On the other hand, some governmental bodies actually participated in the celebrations. The Party was obviously in an ideological quandary.The underground press began to muse over whether one could be a Piłsudskiite in this era and concluded, for the most part, that Piłsudski was the symbol of the opposition. Piłsudski became the patron saint of Solidarity; even Lech Walesa's mustache provided a link to Piłsudski. The Party tried to appropriate Piłsudski in its film Polonia Restituta which combined a positive portrait of the Marshal with the editing out of November 11th. It was part of the Party's fitful efforts to embrace either the date or the man, but not together as part of a genealogy of independence.By the mid-1980s the Party had decided to appropriate both Independence Day and Piłsudski, much to the anger of the opposition. This effort culminated in 1988 when the sejm declared that November 11th was Independence Day and the Warsaw city council urged its rapid re-institutionalization lest its meaning be forgotten. Books celebrating Piłsudski and the Legions appeared everywhere as did stamps and coins — some official, others not—with Legionnary or Piłsudski symbolism. A large display in Wrocław linked November 11th to the genealogy associated with the 1918–39 Piłsudskiite explanation of Polish independence, appropriating the insurrectionary tradition and its assorted symbolic paraphernalia

Keywords:   Second Republic, Piłsudski, PRL, Gomułka, 1956, underground, solidarity, Zbowid, FJN

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