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Folkspartei (Poland)


FOLKSPARTEI (Poland ), "Yidishe Folkspartei in Polyn" (popularly known as Folkist Party ), Jewish populist party in Poland organized during World War i and active in the interwar period; followed the ideology of the Russian *Folkspartei. The Folkist Party achieved its first successes among broad sectors of the Jewish electorate during the elections to the Warsaw municipal council of 1916. An agreement on the distribution of seats had then been signed between the united Jewish bloc – which comprised the Zionists, the Orthodox, and the assimilationists – and the Polish parties in order to break the tension existing between Poles and Jews since the proclamation of the anti-Jewish boycott in 1912. In opposition to this agreement a "People's Committee" (Folks Komitet) was formed on the initiative of a group of Yiddish authors and journalists led by the lawyer Noah *Prylucki. This presented a separate list calling for independent Jewish politics, cultural autonomy, and full political equality. As a result of the dissatisfaction among the small tradesmen and artisan class, the list won four seats.

The founding convention of the Folkspartei was held in November 1918. It drew up a program in general similar to that of the Russian Folkspartei but with the exclusive emphasis on Yiddish as the traditional language. In social outlook, the party was Democrat-Radical oriented, opposing the class struggle and aiming at productivization. Culture and education were to be of a secular character. The Folkspartei was headed by intellectuals and communal leaders who had left the Zionist and labor ranks (especially the Bund) like its principal leader, Noah Prylucki, the folklorist and Yiddish philologist, Samuel *Hirschhorn, Hillel *Zeitlin, H.D. *Nomberg, Lazar Cohen (Kahan), S. Stupnicki, and Ẓemaḥ *Shabad. The main centers of the movement were Warsaw, Lodz, and Vilna. Its organizational and ideological framework was not overly rigid, and its leaders achieved popularity through the Yiddish press and their efforts on behalf of individual causes.

In the elections to the Sejm (parliament) of 1919, the Folkists returned two members (Prylucki and Hirschhorn), but in the elections of 1922 were unsuccessful in the campaign against the minorities bloc, which attracted the decisive majority of the Jewish vote. Prylucki, who was elected as the party's sole representative to the Sejm, did not join the circle of other Jewish deputies. After this decline in the party's popularity, a split occurred in 1926 with the separation of the Vilna section, which proclaimed itself an independent faction ("Populist-Democrat") under the leadership of Shabad. In 1928, within the framework of the new political regime established in Poland after Pilsudski's coup, the supporters of Prylucki, in conjunction with Agudat Israel and the Merchants' Organization, joined forces with the list supported by the government against the second minorities bloc led by Yiẓḥak *Gruenbaum. This affiliation with the Polish government camp did not enhance the status of the Folkist Party among the Jewish public. In 1929, an attempt was made to reunite the Folkspartei, and a national convention was held in 1931. During 1932–33 it published a monthly, Folkistishe Heftn, in order to explain the party ideology. All these efforts, however, were unable to compete with the growing Zionist and radical movements, especially the Bund, with which the Folkist Party collaborated in the fields of culture and Yiddish education.


I. Schipper et al. (eds.), Żydzi w Polsce odrodzonej,, 2 (1933), 268–9; A. Levinson, Toledot Yehudei Varshah (1953), 270–1; R. Ben-Shem, in: eg, 6 (1959), 279–83.

[Moshe Landau]

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