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Luty 23, 2018

State Dreaming and State Making. Theodor Herzl and Józef Piłsudski against the background of Jewish and Polish Messianism.

The Jewish dream of a divine nation’s leader greatly contributed to the thriving XIX century original Polish philosophical and literary thought. Similarities and differences stemming from both nations’ historical experiences and traditions are worth sudying not only in the conext of  Hegelian intuition of the “divine idea” manifesting itself on earth in form of a state or the role of great leaders and nations “chosen” by the Zeitgeist. It is as well to track the impact of the idea -“dreaming” – of a state on the actual act of the state making, to examine the “dreamers’” texts, and the writings as well as practical efforts undertaken by the „makers”, like -in modern times – Theodor Herzl and Józef Piłsudski, the two nations’ leaders whose efforts significantly contributed to either gaining (1948) or re-gaining (1918) the statehood for their people in specific conditions associated with the two world wars. The Jews had lived in diaspora for almost two thousand years, having no state of their own, dispersed among other naions. GThe Polish people had been experiencing deprivation of own statehood for 123 years, suffering from imposed rule of others. The Holy Scriptures promised Jews the coming of a Messiah who would deliver them from the house of slavery. The most known of the Polish poets, Adam Mickiewicz, considered his country a Messiah among the nations. Indeed, by the nineteenth century the awarness of national identity and the national pride assumed important role in Europe shaken by wars and conflicts. But probably it had always been like that in all human history. The idealistic vision of the Tower of Babel may shed some light on the root cause of continuous tensions between the groups of people. According to the Book of Genesis, the human community was united at he very beginning, “the whole earth had one language and few words” (Gen. 11.10), but the Lord “scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth and they left off building the city”, and confused the language. The human idea of creating the city – or a state – has not been abandoned, and its transformations may be tracked in the text of subsequent Books of the Bible.“State” as a concept of human community has also been an important subject of philosophical reflection since legendary Tales of Miletus who, as early as VII century B.C., promoted the idea of a state based on a union of cities. In the cradle of Western philosophy, the idea of state was most completely developed by Plato, whose views were changing with time and reflectiom. And so, some authors accusing him of being a precursor of totalitarianism are wrong – they pay attention only to his main treaty on the subject. In Timaios one of the speakers, Kritias says that the past can teach us everything, and history – if supported with written records – shows that the states and powers pass away, smashed by disasters – floods, earthquakes and fires, but the memory of good deeds may survive in subsequent generations. He quotes one of the Seven Sages, Solon, the great law maker and talented poet, who told him the story of the Hellenes’ great and noble ancestors, who successfully fought against the attack of the hostile empire created on the isle of Atlantis, thus saving the whole region. So, the state must be protected. Kritias – and Plato – would never believe in the “end of history” so naively proclaimed by Francis Fukuyama some thirty years ago…

But, is any order possible in defining terms like “state” or “state order”? Concepts and definitions of state and nation have emerged on different groinds, including Max Weber’s idea of “coercive power” presented in opposition to those claiming tha there must be a voluntary agreement between the members of a group of people united by their common values, by their language, tradiion, and, last but not least, their religion (scornfully called „opium” by some false prophets of the nieneteenth centurfy). Axiological background (open and hidden values) of the state theory and practice constitutes the core of the “Utopian” projects.

Continuous “dialogue” of ideas from the ancient Greece to the “second modernity”, post-modernity or “alterglobalism”leads at times to unexpected “alliances” and disputes; and the ideas keep melting in the huge pot of our continent’s philosophy, where Augustine of Hippo’s concept may easily be traced in Hegel’s philosophy of state. The Jewish Messianism is based on the Bible seen as the record of the past and source of the future, while the Messianism of he Polish thinkers sems from he present marked with suffering of the nation oppressed by the neighbouring powerrs. Boh Jews and Poles share the common experience of being a Nation without a state. Religion and tradition of the Jews helped hem retain their identity in diffrent host host countries. Messianism was he main source of hope for the brighter future. The Polish Messianic philosophy originated from the sad circumstances of the present, but revoked the wonderful pas, praised in “pre-messianic “ concepts, in which the Poles were seen as a dignified nation of a very ancient descent, like in Stanisław Orzechowski’s Chimera, Quincunx and in some other writings of the sixteenth  through eigheenh centuries, including Wacław Potocki’s prophetic poetry. Polish Messianism was thriving after the collapse of the November uprising, and was represented mostly by the Polish thinkers in emigration; Hoene Wroński, Trentowski, and he grea “prophetic” poets. Adam Mickiewicz’s famous concept of the suffering Poland seen as “the Christ of nations” in father Piotr’s vision belongs to the Polish literary imagery known (or, raher, once known) to every secondary school graduate. Juliusz Słowacki’s “King-Spirit” was one of the beloved texts of Józef Piłsudski. he man of action was inspired by the visionary… There were Messianic thinkers who never emigrated and tried o do their best to help the compatrios orgaize themselves in the hard times, like August Cieszkowski whose spiritual Messianic teleology and practical abilities manifested in organizing real life Polish institutions that enjoyed  limited autonomy within the “invader” non-Polish Prussian state. 

The state makers are always men of great vision and great courage combined with their practical approach. We find them on extremes; Aristotle’s student Alexander the Great and his army versus Gandhi and his spinning-wheelsshow us the range of mehods serving the same purpose – gaining independence, making a sate for the nation.

Teodor Herzl’s thought and work, his lierary and journalistic career, impact of the Dreyfus affair led him to doscovering his mission – to make a state for his nation. In1896  he wrote The Jewish State, a practical “guidebook” of state-making which contained all the necessary elements essential in the phase of state formation as well as state maintenance. Herzl’s teleology assumed the the idea of “working for the future”; the idea of a “grass root” formation of the state – the power rising from the masses of the poor (similar to the Poles,  Ludwik Gumlowicz’s, concept of state formation based on primarily gathered social groups); Herzl, he leader of he Zionist movement, undertook many pracical  actions (newspapers, congresses), diplomatic efforts, travels and meetings with the ‘the powerful”, including the attempts to buy the land from the Turkish ruler and coninued to pursue his goal until his death in 1904; Herzl’s successors, Ben Gurion and other “state makers”; made a realsuccess of Herzl’s “action for the future”.

Józef Piłsudski understood the Zeitgeist’s chance for Poland in 1918. He was well prepared for practical implementation of his dream of independen Fatherland. He studied and read a lot, organized actions against the Russian officials, was an acive member of the socialist movement; he was a publisher and he key author of “Robotnik” and other illegal publication, he exoerienced life in prison, Then he became a leader of the Polish military forces collected from the three parts of the country’s territory under three different rules; Piłsudski’s diplomacy and co-operation with the Poles living in emigration, led to the victory and regaining independence. But the Polish State had to be made after 123 years of non- existence on maps, or, rathr, existence in the hearts only… The government had to be formed, and there were several subsequent cabinets inspired by Pilsudski, Dmowski and Witos… The Poles werwe coming back from emigraion, ready and willing o help re-create the independent Polish state. The great pianist and composer Ignacy Jan Paderewski became the prime minister. Ignacy Mościski, professor and  eminent scientist, agreed to became a president… My great grand father general Józef Leśniewski – whose daughter Aniela married Stanisław Niemirycz, a rich land owner who defended Poland and Europe fighting against the bolshevicks in 1920 – was the first minister of military issues)…

Józef Piłsudski’s admiration for the poet Juliusz Słowacki manifest in Piłsudski’s writings and deeds. Piłsudski decided on moving Słowacki’s coffin from the Montmartre Cemetary in Paris to the Crypt of Kings in the Royal Cathedral on the Wawel Hill in Cracow. Later, Piłsudski was buried in the Royal Cathedral himself… followed by President Lech Kaczyński in 2010. …. Herzl’s coffin was taken to Jerusalem to his tomb on the Mount Herzl. 

The history has not ended. Neither Jews nor Poles may stop taking good care of their countries’ security. Herzl’s dream was fulfilled only after the most tragic experience his nation was doomed to suffer. If he had lived longer, probably the the millions of Jews murdered by the German Nazis in German death camps would not have perished from the earth? And so many of the Polish people helping their Jewish neighbours would not have been killed for that. Poland was the only country in Europe occupied by Germany where helping the Jews was punished with deah of he righteous and of his or.her whole  family, like in the case of Józef Ulma’s family, including his pregnant wife and all their children, and many others. 

Copyright by Aleksandra Niemirycz


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