Prepare a policy agenda for the Poland government shortly after the coup of 1926
Prepare a policy agenda for the Poland government shortly after the coup of 1926. In recent years the acronym “DEI” has become ubiquitous in the United States, particularly in higher education. It stands for “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion,” and it has been subject to a great deal of debate and discussion. I think it is helpful to study the Second Republic in this light, because it allows us to see how these issues play out in contexts very different from our own (though undeniably analogous to our own).
Earlier we talked about the competing visions of the “civic state” and the “nation-state.” Once the boundaries of the Republic were settled, it was clear what the stakes of that abstract debate would be. Either the country could deny full citizenship to about 1/3 of its population (unless people “assimilated” to the majority culture), or it could figure out how to become a civic state. I am hoping that no one in this class would argue that the former path would have been a good one. Generally I don’t like to close down any debates, but the system being advocated by the Endecja would have been similar to the Jim Crow South prior to the 1960s, where a huge segment of the population was legally categorized as second class, and deprived of access to the rights of citizenship. Fringe racist groups in the US might still advocate such a worldview, but I hope we can all agree that it is abhorrent. However, that doesn’t even begin to resolve the problems faced by the Second Republic. Policymakers in Warsaw had to deal with some painful facts:
A lot of people supported a political movement (the Endecja) that was openly endorsing laws that would grant Roman Catholic speakers of Polish a superior legal status to everyone else.
Despite formal equality before the law, many local Polish administrators were taking their own initiatives to make that discriminatory plan a reality.
In the private sphere, discrimination against Jews, Ukrainians, and others was widespread.
A small but nonetheless very active faction of the Ukrainian national movement was calling for independence, and was ready to use violence to get it.
Millions of people wanted to cultivate cultures and languages other than Polish, and convey these to their children. These weren’t immigrants: they had lived in these territories for many, many centuries.
Imagine that you were asked to prepare a policy agenda for the government shortly after the coup of 1926, and that your objective was to maintain as much social peace and harmony as possible, transforming this tinderbox into a more stable country while simultaneously ensuring as much justice and fairness as possible. What policies would you recommend? How would you assess your chances of success? Keep in mind the competing attitudes and worldviews reflected in the documents you read this week.
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