FROM THE HISTORY OF POLISH SYNDICALISM: THE ORIGIN AND ACTIVITY OF THE GENERAL LABOUR FEDERATION (1928-1931)
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The General Labour Federation (Generalna Federacja Pracy - GFP), active in 1928-1931, was the first significant Polish organisation which unambiguously described itself as syndicalist. Despite clear references to the conceptions announced by Georges Sorel and ideological affinity with Conféderation Générale du Travail (CGT) it is impossible to examine the Federation's history in the categories of a mechanical emulation of models borrowed from France. The initiative of establishing a syndicalist trade union in Poland was devised by a milieu associated with 'Zet', a radical social movement boasting a national liberation tradition dating back to the late nineteenth century. The young members of 'Zet', fascinated with Sorel and CGT and headed by Stefan Szwedowski, Jerzy Szurig, Kazimierz Zakrzewski and Gustaw Zielinski, remained under the strong influence of Józef Pilsudski and sought additional inspiration in the writings of Stefan Zeromski and Stanislaw Brzozowski. The key to understanding the strategy followed by GFP was its characteristic interpretation of the May 1926 coup d'état. Szurig, Zakrzewski and their adherents regarded the events of 1926 as Pilsudski's heroic deed inspired by purely patriotic motives. The triumph of the 'May Revolution' was considered to have been obvious proof of the bankruptcy of the liberal–democratic model, an ultimate end of the degenerate 'party state', and a legible signal that capitalism in Poland was nearing its end. With such premises as their point of departure the syndicalists argued that a logical consequence of the events of May 1926 should assume the form of a realisation of a vision of a classless Labour Poland based on trade unions. Despite essential controversies stemming from a critical assessment of processes transpiring within the 'May camp', in the spring of 1931 GPF leaders decided to join the Trade Unions Association together with other pro–government unions. In this case, a decisive role was certainly played by loyalty towards the Marshal. At the same time, the syndicalists believed that as an organisation which was ideologically the most cohesive among all the unions, they would be capable of delineating the direction of further trade union undertakings and thus not squander the Federation's achievements.
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