Feliks Kon (second from left) and other exiled members of the Polska Partia Socjalistyczna (Polish Socialist Party, PPS), Kara, Russia, ca. 1900. Others (left to right): H. Dulembar, T. Rekhniyevski, Nikolai Luriye, and M. Mankovski. From a postcard printed by the Jewish Section of the PPS in London. (YIVO)

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Kon, Feliks

(1864–1941), revolutionary politician in Poland and the Soviet Union. Feliks Kon (known by many pseudonyms, including Bolesław Janowski, Feliks Bolesławski, and F. C. Stożyński) was born in Warsaw into a wealthy merchant family with strong Polish patriotic traditions. Kon became involved with the socialist movement while still in high school. In 1882, he joined the group Proletariat, the first major socialist movement in the Kingdom of Poland, which called for a struggle of the united working classes against the ruling order and the bourgeoisie in the tsarist empire.

In 1884, Kon was arrested and sentenced to eight years of hard labor in Siberia. After completing the sentence, he remained in Siberia, where he conducted anthropological research and also associated with fellow exiles from the Russian terrorist organization Narodnaya Volya, one of whom, Krystyna Grynberg, he married in 1892. Neither of them had strong Jewish feelings and saw their loyalty only to the international workers’ movement. Kon soon became closely involved with the developing Russian Social Democratic Labor Party (RSDRP) and with Lenin himself.

After his return to Warsaw in 1904, Kon was an active member of the Polska Partia Socjalistyczna (Polish Socialist Party; PPS); he was a prominent member of its left wing while retaining links with the RSDRP. In the summer of 1905 he was elected to the new PPS Central Workers Committee and also took part as its representative in the July 1905 Conference of the Union of Unions in Saint Petersburg, where he called for a boycott of the elections to the Duma. He became one of the leaders of the PPS-Left, which split from the PPS in 1906 because of its members’ belief that the original party’s stress on the goal of Polish independence during the revolutionary crisis that was now engulfing the tsarist empire harmed the cause of revolution. Kon was again arrested in November 1906 and detained in Pawiak. He was released in March 1907 because of ill health and fled to Austrian Poland, where he was active in the local organization of the PPS-Left. He also wrote a monograph on the history of the workers’ movement.

With the outbreak of World War I in 1914, Kon moved to Switzerland, where he continued his revolutionary activity. After the February Revolution of 1917, he returned to Russia with Lenin. He then joined the Executive Committee of the PPS-Left and was, in addition, associated with the left wing of the Menshevik faction of the RSDRP. During the October Revolution, he was a political commissar in the Kharkov region, where he also organized a PPS-Left group among local Poles. He had initial reservations about Bolshevik tactics and it was only from the fall of 1918 that he came to support this group, becoming active in Ukraine. From September 1919, he was a member of Polish bureau attached to the Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party and of the Executive Committee of the Communist Workers Party of Poland, formed by the union of the PPS-Left and the Social Democracy of the Congress Kingdom and Lithuania. In addition, he participated in the first congresses of the Communist International.

During the Polish–Soviet War, Kon was a member of the three-man Provisional Revolutionary Committee for Poland formed in July 1920 in Białystok. After the failure of the Soviets to impose a Communist regime in Poland, he moved back to the emerging Soviet Union, where, in 1921, he served as secretary of the central committee of the Ukrainian Communist Party. He retained links with Poland and attended the congresses of the Communist Party of that country in 1923 and 1930. Between 1922 and 1936 he was also a key figure in the Comintern as well as in the International Organization for Assisting Revolutionaries, which provided support for imprisoned activists. He wrote widely on a range of subjects and was a leading political journalist, editing Krasnaya Zvezda (Red Star; 1925–1928) and Rabochaya Gazeta (The Workers’ Newspaper; 1928–1930). His memoirs, Za pyatdesyat let (After Fifty Years), appeared in four volumes between 1932 and 1934.

Kon lost his political positions in the purges of 1936 and 1937 but was not imprisoned. When the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, he was permitted to take part in Polish broadcasts from Moscow calling for resistance. He died during the evacuation from Moscow in July 1941.

Suggested Reading

M. K. Dziewanowski, The Communist Party of Poland: An Outline of History (Cambridge, Mass., 1976); Alicja Pacholczykowa, “Kon, Feliks,” in Polski Słownik Biograficzny, vol. 13, pp. 439–444 (Warsaw, Wrocław, and Kraków, 1967); Anna Żarnowska, Geneza rozłamu w Polskiej Partii Socjalistycznej 1904–1906 (Warsaw, 1965).