Delegates to the first convention of the Żydowska Partia Socjalno-Demokratyczna, Lemberg, Austria-Hungary (now L’viv, Ukr.), 9–10 June 1905. (YIVO)

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Żydowska Partia Socjalno-Demokratyczna

(Jewish Social Democratic Party; ŻPS) was a political party that operated in Galicia from 1905 until 1920. Often called the “Galician Bund,” its foundation capped more than a dozen years of Jewish socialist activity in the province. Activists had formed the first Jewish Workers Party in Galicia in 1892, which though short-lived was followed by other local Jewish workers’ organizations throughout the decade, most calling themselves Brotherhood. By the time the Galician socialist party was renamed the Polish Social Democratic Party of Galicia and Silesia (PPSD) in 1897, the group (especially its assimilationist Jewish members such as Herman Diamand) had begun to oppose all forms of Jewish “separatism.” Other Jewish voices within the PPSD favoring the establishment of an autonomous Jewish division to meet the particular needs of Jewish workers were persistently defeated.

Efforts to organize Jewish workers had declined in the late 1890s, but were revitalized in the first years of the new century. By 1902, a group of Jewish activists had contacted the Bund for assistance in establishing a similar organization in Galicia, and they soon began importing Yiddish-language propaganda. In response to the growing separatist threat, the PPSD formed a Jewish Agitation Committee in 1903, but with Diamand at its head and no real autonomy it did little to appease separatist sentiment and was disbanded the following year.

Concerned about the growing strength of Zionism and frustrated at the PPSD’s continued unwillingness to address the needs of Jewish workers as they saw them, proponents of a separate Jewish socialist party began meeting secretly in 1904 to consider their secession from the PPSD. Key figures in the scheme included Henryk Grossman (1881–1950) and Jacob Bross (1883–1942) in Kraków, as well as Karol Einaugler (1883–1952) in Lemberg. Finally, on 1 May 1905, Jewish militants at rallies across the province announced the formation of the Jewish Social Democratic Party of Galicia, which formally constituted itself a month later on 9–10 June. Their manifesto argued that Jews, like other nationalities, needed their own workers’ organization, and requested admission (unsuccessfully) into the federated Austrian Social Democratic Party. In April they launched a Yiddish organ called Der yidisher sotsyal-demokrat, renamed Der sotsyal-demokrat in October. The PPSD’s lame attempt in response to revive its Yiddish weekly and, in 1906, to establish a Jewish section of the party failed to prevent most of its Jewish members from defecting.

Despite the important influence of the Bund, the ŻPS acted mostly independently of its Russian counterpart. Their program at first focused more on organizing Jewish workers than on broader national demands. The ŻPS contributed impressively to the number of Jewish trade unions in the cities and shtetls of Galicia, both independent groups as well as branches of the central Austrian trade unions, and led a number of successful strikes. The party also supported a variety of educational associations (usually called Brotherhood or Forward) that sponsored Yiddish-language lectures, reading clubs, and periodic celebrations as well as other cultural institutions such as libraries and Yiddish theater. The group’s greatest strength rested with the organized Jewish industrial proletariat, who joined the party through the unions. By 1910, the ŻPS had grown to include 4,200 members.

The party’s neutral position toward the national question changed during its first year, when the announcement of universal (male) suffrage in Austria, as well as competition from the more overtly nationalist Po‘ale Tsiyon, led the ŻPS to add a demand for national cultural autonomy to its 1906 platform, as the Bund had just done the previous year. Nevertheless, the group refused to ally itself with any of the Zionist parties. During the 1907 parliamentary elections, while Po‘ale Tsiyon endorsed the candidates of the Zionist-run Jewish National Party, the ŻPS agreed in the name of socialist solidarity to back the candidates of the PPSD. The group took a very active role in the campaigns, organizing voter rallies—many of which attracted thousands of participants—throughout the province. The group later cosponsored the 1908 Czernowitz Yiddish Language Conference, and in 1910 led an unsuccessful campaign (joined by the Zionists) for the legal recognition of Yiddish on that year’s census.

In 1911, on the eve of that year’s parliamentary elections, the PPSD agreed to recognize the ŻPS in exchange for the latter’s support of PPSD candidates. In October, the ŻPS merged with the Jewish section of the PPSD and, in exchange for abandoning its demand for Jewish national autonomy, formed a nominally independent affiliate of the larger party. Polish socialists resented the group for being antithetical to Polish nationalist aspirations, however, and the union collapsed in late 1913. The ŻPS almost completely shut down during the war, but reemerged in Kraków as early as 1916 and elsewhere a year later. Following the incorporation of Galicia into the nascent Polish state, the party resolved at its seventh congress in April 1920 to unite with the Polish Bund.

Suggested Reading

Jacob Bross, “The Beginning of the Jewish Labor Movement in Galicia,” YIVO Annual 5 (1950): 55–84, also in Yiddish original as “Der onheyb fun der yidisher arbeter-bavegung in Galitsye,” in Di yidishe sotsyalistishe bavegung biz der grindung fun “Bund,” ed. Elye Tsherikover, Avrom Menes, Frants Kursky, and Avrom Rozin (Ben-Adir), Historishe shriftn 3, pp. 484–511 (Vilna and Paris, 1939); Joseph Kissman, “Di yidishe sotsyal-demokratishe bavegung in Galitsye un Bukovine,” in Di geshikhte fun Bund, ed. G. Aronson et al., vol. 3, pp. 337–482 (New York, 1966); Rick Kuhn, “Organizing Yiddish-Speaking Workers in Pre-World War I Galicia: The Jewish Social Democratic Party,” in Studies in Jewish Civilization 9 (1998): 37–63; Henryk Piasecki, Sekcja Żydowska PPSD i Żydowska Partia Socjalno-Demokratyczna, 1892–1919/20 (Wrocław, Pol., 1983).