Poland in the 1930’s
After Piłsudski’s death, Polish foreign policy continues to follow the path, marked by the marshal, of rigorous independence and autonomy. It retains its realistic spirit, its opposition to all doctrinalism, its firm pacifism. In relations with Germany, the fundamental act of Minister Beck’s policy remains the declaration of January 26, 1934, reinforced by the assurances given by Hitler in his speech of May 21, 1935, in which he paid homage to the memory of Piłsudski, and by the visit that the Polish Foreign Minister, Beck, made it to Berlin in early July of the same year.
According to directoryaah, Poland retains its adhesion to the League of Nations in general, but does not hide its skepticism as regards collective security and the commitments that should guarantee it; Beck prefers the policy of bilateral agreements and regional approaches to them. Poland therefore unwillingly adhered to the sanctions decreed by Geneva against Italy; and after the end of the Italo-Ethiopian war, without waiting for the deliberations of the League of Nations, it decided, in the exercise of its sovereign right, the immediate abolition of the sanctions (June 27, 1936). Likewise, apart from the interference of the League of Nations, his not rare disagreements with the city of Danzig have been settled for the most part.
While the relations of Poland with Czechoslovakia (main point of friction: the treatment of Polish minorities in Czechoslovakia) and with Russia (continuation of the communist propaganda) have remained, in recent years, stationary, Poland has worked hard to tighten ties with Romania (Beck’s visit to Romania in 1937) and is now taking an ever more lively interest in the fate of the Baltic countries. This is easier for her, after her old dispute with Lithuania, which flared up between 1936 and 1938, reached a settlement (March 19, 1938), followed immediately (March 31) by the beginning of diplomatic relations.
On November 5, 1937, Germany and Poland, regardless of international treaties on the protection of minorities, concluded an agreement by which the two parties undertake to mutually respect the German and Polish peoples: the agreement ensures the use of the two languages, the right of association of the respective minorities, the establishment of schools in two languages and the protection of religious life.
Immediately after Piłsudski’s death, General Rydz-Śmigly was appointed inspector general of the army (May 14, 1935). Subsequently, again in accordance with Pilsudski’s oral testament, he was proclaimed “the first personality of the state after the president of the republic” (15 July) and was solemnly conferred the rank of marshal (11 November). The visit that Rydz-Śmigly made to Paris in 1936 – in return for the visit of gen. Gamelin in Warsaw – had, among other things, the granting of a loan from France to Poland: thus demonstrating how much the figure of the new marshal also affects the political domain.
Relations with Italy are excellent, as demonstrated by Minister Beek’s visit to Italy in the first half of March 1938.
Stability in foreign policy is not matched by equal stability in domestic politics. On 10 July 1935, when the fourth sejm was dissolved, elections were held for the first time under the new constitution. The turnout was rather low. The Sławek cabinet resigned (October 12) and the new ministry, chaired by Kościałkowski, presented itself to the sejm with a program of economic recovery, of rapprochement with the people and an attempt to find an agreement with the opposition. To this end, Kościałkowski had the law on amnesty voted by the sejm and the senate which, however extensive, was not extended to political emigrants. The conformation of the parties was complicated by the dissolution, decided by V. Sławek, of the government bloc that had held power in the previous legislature (October 30, 1935). The Kościałkowski cabinet also had to withdraw shortly after (May 15, 1936). He succeeded him, called by the trust of the president and of the gen. Rydz-Śmigly, General Sławoj-Składkowski who retained several members of the former cabinet. A government of peace, but at the same time of strength, the Slawoj-Składkowski ministry worked hard to stem the strikes and calm the ferment of the working classes. We do not neglect economic issues: to protect the złoty emann̄ (Foreign exchange Commission, April 27, 1936), strict provisions restricting the export of foreign currencies; and at the beginning of 1937, through the work of Minister Kwiatkowski, he conceived the grandiose project of the creation of a new industrial basin, far from the borders, with the center in Sandomierz. The cost of this project, the realization of which will protect Poland from possible war surprises, will be around 3 billion złoty.
On May 24, 1936, Marshal Rydz-Śmigly entrusted Colonel Adamo Koc, commander general of the Union of Polish legionaries, with the task of preparing a concentration of all national forces. On February 21, 1937 the Koc formulated the cornerstones for the formation of a “Camp (Obóz) of national union “: the essential norm of the interior life of Poles is the constitution of 1935; the second positive element of state life is the army; Poland remains faithful to the bonds that unite it to the Catholic religion; it clearly rejects the communist doctrine ; intends to proceed with the development and strengthening of cities and to ensure civic coexistence between Poles and national minorities. which are represented all social classes and main professional groupings of Poland.
The election of V. Sławek as marshal of the sejm, which took place on June 22, 1938, probably marks his return to a more active politics.