Bolesław Drobner with (left to right) daughter Irena, wife Luba, and sister-in-law Ida Hirszowicz, Kraków, ca. 1914. Photograph by Adela. (YIVO)

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Drobner, Bolesław

(1883–1968), Polish socialist politician. Bolesław Drobner (who used the pseudonym Jan Okoński) was born in Kraków to a well-known assimilated family. His grandfather had participated in the uprising of 1830 and his parents in that of 1863. In 1898, Drobner joined the Polish Social Democratic Party of Galicia and Silesia and between 1902 and 1906 was a member of the reformed Proletariat organization that took up the terrorist tradition of its predecessors and also organized strikes in the Kingdom of Poland during the Revolution of 1905–1907. Drobner himself took part in its activities in Warsaw, Łódź, and Sosnowiec.

During World War I, Drobner fought in Marshal Józef Piłsudski’s legions. When Poland declared its independence, Drobner was dissatisfied with the “reformism” of the Polska Partia Socjalistycna (Polish Socialist Party; PPS) and helped found the more radical Niezależna Socjalistyczna Partia Pracy w Polsce (Independent Socialist Labor Party in Poland) in 1922. In 1928, the new party agreed to join the PPS, and Drobner was appointed to the supreme council of the united party. He continued to uphold his left-wing principles and advocated cooperation with the Communists.

Drobner was frequently arrested for his activities. He described his conflicts with the Polish authorities in his book Moje cztery procesy (My Four Trials; 1962). After the outbreak of World War II, he sought refuge in the USSR. He returned to Poland with the Soviet-sponsored Polish Committee of National Liberation, which was created in Chełm in July 1944, and which was, in effect, a provisional government. In this body, he held the posts of minister of labor and of health and social welfare. He was also a member of the provisional parliament, the National Council for the Homeland, and, after 1947, of the Sejm, and also of the Polish delegation at the Russo–Polish frontier negotiations of August 1945.

When the Polish Socialist Party was reestablished in 1944, Drobner rose to the position of party chair, although in 1945 he was demoted to vice chair. He originally opposed the union of the PPS with the Polska Partia Robotnicza (Communist Polish Workers Party; PPR) and in September 1948 was expelled from the PPS for “nationalism, antisovietism, and bourgeois sympathies.” Nevertheless, he was subsequently allowed to join the party created by the union of the PPS and PPR—the Polska Zjenoczona Partia Robotnicza (Polish United Workers Party; PZPR)—although he was now politically marginalized.

In 1956–1957, Drobner was first secretary of the Provincial Committee of the PZPR in Kraków and was active in preserving the historic buildings of his native city, including the fifteenth-century Jewish synagogue on Szeroka Street in the Kazimierz district.

Suggested Reading

Michał Śliwa, Bolesław Drobner: Szkic o działalności politycznej (Kraków, 1985).