Behind the Scenes of the Greater Poland Uprising

The shaping and activities of the Polish state authorities during the Greater Poland Uprising

Andrzej Gulczyński

Select Pages

Regained independence was the result of years of Polish endeavours, advantages taken of favourable circumstances and the organisation of appropriate measures. All these factors were considered when creating the concept of the Partition Sejm of Poznań and the system of people’s councils. The ending war, the different revolutionary strands, the experience of the possibility of effective cooperation and the conviction of the necessity to make use of those opportunities created by the legal system led to the decision on the disclosure of secret inter-party agreements, their transformation into overtly operating councils and the convening of parliament. 

The architect of the concept of the structure of the Polish representation ready to take over power was Priest Stanisław Adamski, the patron of the Union of Earning Associations from the year 1911, previously a close collaborator of Priest Piotr Wawrzyniak, and also, later on, in free Poland, an honorary professor of the law department of Poznań University, a member of parliament and a senator, and also the Bishop of Katowice. His idea originated, above all, from the concept of cooperatives and the Catholic social doctrine and referred to a successfully applied form of expression within Polish society: educational and economic regional assemblies – a model accepted by Poles and allowed by the occupier.

The structure proposed by Adamski resembled that of an association: all Poles living in the territory of the German Reich were its members, the Partition Sejm of Poznań was an assembly of delegates, the Supreme People's Council functioned as the supervisory council, and the Commissariat was the board of the association. The poviat, municipal and communal people’s councils were also a part of this structure.

When the revolution developed in Germany, Poles effectively became part of the system of worker and soldier councils, Polish authorities were established in Polish centres such as Warsaw, Lviv, Cracow or Cieszyn and the decision was taken in Poznań on 12 November 1918 to disclose the Central Citizens’ Committee. Members of the Reich parliament and the Prussian parliament (sejm) as well as representatives of Polish political and social organisations were all a part of it. This institution was considered the representative of the Polish population in the Prussian partition - it secretly maintained contacts with the Polish National Committee in Paris and later also the Regency Council. On the initiative of the Executive Division of the Central Citizens’ Committee, local citizens’ committees were also established. 

Immediately after the disclosure of the Central Citizens’ Committee (CCC), a team which consisted of 3 people was appointed: Priest Stanisław Adamski, member of parliament Wojciech Korfanty and editor Adam Poszwiński. It was called the Temporary Commissariat of the Supreme People's Council. Its most important task was to represent the matters of all Poles who lived within the territories of the German state and to bring about the establishment of the Supreme People’s Council.

On 14 November 1918, the decision was taken to convene the parliament (sejm). In an appeal made on that day, the Temporary Commissariat of the Supreme People’s Council announced the necessity to wait with confidence for the decision of the peace congress and remember the right of Poles to determine their own future. Furthermore, it stated the fact that everyone who was 20 years old or more was entitled to vote in elections. It must be particularly emphasised that this was the first time in the history of Poland that women gained passive and active electoral rights. Decrees of the Polish authorities in Warsaw, which acknowledged the equality of electoral rights, were issued as late as on 28 November, and the elections to the Legislative Parliament (Sejm) were held on 26 January.

By order of the Temporary Commissariat of the Supreme People’s Council, the local citizens’ committees started to be more open about their activities and organise electoral rallies. The details were determined by the Provincial Electoral Committee for the Grand Duchy of Poznań, which sent a short instruction to the presidents of poviat electoral committees, ordering the organisation of electoral rallies at which members of people’s councils and delegates for the Partition Sejm of Poznań were to be elected. 

During those electoral rallies, about 1400 delegates were elected, including those from Greater Poland - 526, Royal Prussia (Eastern Pomerania) 262, Ducal Prussia (Masuria and Warmia) 47, Silesia about 430 and Polonia centres - 133. Among the delegates, there were also members of the Reich’s parliament and the Prussian parliament; some of them were subjected to elections in their existing electoral districts. A few of these parliament members included: Stanisław Łaszewski from Grudziądz, Priest Józef Kłos from Szamotuły and Wojciech Sosiński from Siemianowice. Among the delegates, there were at least 140 women and 90 priests. 

Select Pages