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“A Colony of Alien Capital”: French Investments, Polish Identity, and a Story of Murder in 1930s Warsaw

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  25 July 2022

Abstract

This article explores public reactions to a murder of a foreign managing director running a French-owned textile factory in interwar Poland. The 1932 killing provoked an intense discussion in the press, which sheds light on Polish identity and narrative strategies used by the elites to rationalize the consequences of Poland's peripheral economic status. The study is based on discourse analysis of over 200 press articles. I argue that commentators saw the killing as the result of French policies in the factory, and interpreted these in turn as the result of either the Polish government's negligence, influenced by Paris's diplomats, or of global capitalism. The most dramatic arguments framed French policies in Żyrardów as a form of colonialism or slavery. This framing was based on the journalists’ perception of French actions as transgressions of two imagined hierarchies: a geo-racial division of the world, and the local hierarchy of labor.

Type
Articles
Copyright
Copyright © The Author(s) 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies

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Footnotes

Many thanks to Anna Bąk, Maciej Jaworski, Jacek Luszniewicz, Piotr Puchalski, Adam Rogoda, and the two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments, and to Antoni Grześczyk for his kind research assistance. This work was supported by the National Science Centre, Poland grant no. 2018/31/D/HS3/00405. The title has been redacted.

References

1. ABC, April 27, 1932, 2. All quotations translated by the author. To avoid bulking out the footnotes, only newspaper titles and dates are provided. Over three quarters of analyzed articles were anonymous. Important authors are mentioned in the main text.

2. Ostatnie Wiadomości, April 27, 1932, 2; Dobry Wieczór! Kurjer Czerwony, April 27, 1932, 2.

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13. The radio became a more important medium by the late 1930s, with c. 6 million listeners, but it did not yet play such a significant role when the murder took place; Janusz Żarnowski, Polska 1918– 1939: Praca, technika, społeczeństwo, 2nd ed. (Warsaw, 1999), 295–96; Andrzej Paczkowski, Prasa polska w latach 19181939 (Warsaw, 1980), 23.

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17. The most prominent publications, such as Przegląd Gospodarczy (The Economic Review) or Polska Gospodarcza (The Economic Poland), remained silent about the events of 1932, and only took a stance in later phases of the Żyrardów conflict. See Jan Kofman, “Koła wielkoprzemysłowe a kwestia kapitałów obcych w okresie 1920–1939,” Kwartalnik Historyczny 82, no. 2 (1975): 303–20.

18. Grażyna Wrona, Nadzór nad prasą w Krakowie (1918–1939) (Cracow, 2017).

19. Robotnik, April 28, 3; and October 29, 1932, 3.

20. Laforest, “Stratégie française,” 395.

21. Archives Diplomatiques in La Courneuve, Correspondance politique et commercial, 1918–1940—Pologne, 398 (Correspondence on Polish industry, 1930–1935), Jules Laroche to Édouard Herriot, November 7, 1932, 53v.

22. Jules Laroche, La Pologne de Pilsudski: Souvenirs d’une ambassade 1926–1935 (Paris, 1953), 175; Laforest, “Stratégie française,” 395; Romuald Karaś, Ostatni odruch (Warsaw, 1986), 241–42.

23. Słowo, October 28, 1932, 1.

24. Dobry Wieczór! Kurjer Czerwony, April 30, 1932, 1; Robotnik, April 28, 1932, 3; Gazeta Poranna, April 28, 1932, 9.

25. Kurjer Codzienny, April 27, 1932, 2; and May 10, 1932, 1.

26. Robotnik, April 28, 1932, 3; Dobry Wieczór! Kurjer Czerwony, April 27, 1932, 1. Quotations from Kurjer Codzienny, April 27, 1932, 2; and May 10, 1932, 1.

27. Ilustrowana Republika, April 28, 1932, 5; Kurjer Warszawski, April 28, 1932 (morning edition), 5.

28. Ostatnie Wiadomości, April 30, 1932, 5; Robotnik, April 28, 1932, 3.

29. Robotnik, April 28, 1932, 3.

30. Gazeta Polska, May 1, 1932, 3.

31. Tajny Detektyw, May 8, 1932, 1.

32. Ilustrowany Kuryer Codzienny, April 27, 1932, 12; April 28, 1932, 10; and May 2, 1932, 2.

33. Słowo, April 30, 1932, 1.

34. Gazeta Polska, October 26, 1932, 5; and November 1, 1932, 4.

35. Kurjer Codzienny, October 24, 1932, 1.

36. Wiadomości Literackie, November 13, 1932, 3.

37. Laforest, “Stratégie française,” 393–95.

38. Gazeta Polska, April 27, 1932, 8.

39. Dobry Wieczór! Kurjer Czerwony, April 27, 1932, 3; Gazeta Polska, April 28, 1932, 8; and 29, 1932, 8.

40. E.g. Ilustrowana Republika, May 5, 1932, 5.

41. Ostatnie Wiadomości, April 27, 1932, 2.

42. Naprzód, April 29, 1932, 3; Kurjer Codzienny, May 1, 1932, 6.

43. Gazeta Polska, November 1, 1932, 4.

44. Gazeta Polska, February 10, 1932, 3.

45. Juliusz Kaden-Bandrowski, Czarne skrzydła (Cracow, 1975).

46. Gazeta Polska, May 1, 1932, 3.

47. Ostatnie Wiadomości, May 7, 1932, 2.

48. Wiadomości Literackie, June 5, 1932, 1.

49. Gazeta Polska, May 1, 1932, 3.

50. Robotnik, April 28, 1932, 3.

51. Paul Brykczyński, Primed for Violence: Murder, Antisemitism, and Democratic Politics in Interwar Poland (Madison, 2016).

52. Piotr Cichoracki, Joanna Dufrat, and Janusz Mierzwa, Oblicza buntu społecznego w II Rzeczypospolitej doby wielkiego kryzysu (1930–1935): Uwarunkowania, skala, konsekwencje(Cracow, 2019); Izabela Mrzygłód, “Uniwersytety w cieniu kryzysu: Radykalizacja polityczna studentów Uniwersytetów Warszawskiego i Wiedeńskiego w okresie międzywojennym” (PhD diss., University of Warsaw, 2021).

53. George L. Mosse, Fallen Soldiers: Reshaping the Memory of the World Wars (Oxford, 1990), 159–81; Dirk Schumann, Political Violence in the Weimar Republic, 1918–1933: Fight for the Streets and Fear of Civil War (New York, 2009); Béla Bodó, White Terror: Antisemitic and Political Violence in Hungary, 1919–1921 (London, 2019).

54. Jochen Böhler, Civil War in Central Europe, 1918–1921: Reconstruction of Poland (Oxford, 2018); William Hagen, Anti-Jewish Violence in Poland, 1914–1920 (Cambridge, Eng., 2018).

55. Marcin Zaremba, Wielka trwoga. Polska 1944–1947: Ludowa reakcja na kryzys (Cracow, 2012).

56. Andrzej Garlicki, Józef Piłsudski: 1867–1935 (Warsaw, 1988), 125–30.

57. Wiktor Marzec, Rebelia i reakcja: Rewolucja 1905 roku i plebejskie doświadczenie polityczne (Łódź, 2016). See also Andrzej Friszke, Państwo czy rewolucja: Polscy komuniści a odbudowanie państwa polskiego 1892–1920 (Warsaw, 2020).

58. ABC, April 29, 1932, 1; Robotnik, April 30, 1932, 2.

59. ABC, April 29, 1932, 1; Naprzód, November 3, 1932, 7. “Anonymous” was a reference to the French term for a publicly traded company, société anonyme.

60. ABC, May 6, 1932, 3; and October 31, 1932, 1.

61. Robotnik, April 29, 1932, 2.

62. Ibid.

63. See Ciancia, Civilization’s Edge, 53–57.

64. Robotnik, April 29, 1932, 2; and April 30, 1932, 2.

65. Robotnik, April 29, 1932, 2.

66. Robotnik, April 30, 1932, 2; and May 3, 1932, 3.

67. Gazeta Poranna, April 28, 1932, 9; Ostatnie Wiadomości, May 4, 1932, 1.

68. Edward Szymański, “Żyrardów,” in Łukasz Szymański ed., Wiersze Wybrane (Cracow, 1959), 98–99.

69. Soutou, “L’impérialisme du pauvre.”

70. Kalervo Hovi, Cordon Sanitaire or Barrière de l’est?: The Emergence of the New French Eastern European Alliance Policy, 1917–1919 (Turku, Finland, 1975).

71. Georges-Henri Soutou, “L΄Alliance franco-polonaise (1925–1933): Ou comment s’en débarrasser,” Revue d’histoire diplomatique 95, no. 2–4 (1981): 295–348; Piotr Stefan Wandycz, The Twilight of French Eastern Alliances, 1926–1936: French-Czechoslovak-Polish Relations from Locarno to the Remilitarization of the Rhineland (Princeton, 1988).

72. Gazeta Polska, April 29, 1932, 8.

73. Gazeta Polska, April 27, 1932, 8; and April 28, 1932, 8.

74. Ilustrowany Kuryer Codzienny, May 2, 1932, 2; and October 31, 1932, 3.

75. Kofman, “Koła wielkoprzemysłowe.”

76. Robotnik, May 3, 1932, 3.

77. ABC, May 6, 1932, 3.

78. Tadeusz Włudyka, “Trzecia drogaw myśli gospodarczej II Rzeczpospolitej: Koncepcje Adama Doboszyńskiego a program obozu narodowego (Cracow, 1994); Howard J. Wiarda, Corporatism and Comparative Politics: The Other Great “Ism,” (Armonk, NY, 1997).

79. Gazeta Polska, February 10, 1932, 3; Wiadomości Literackie, June 5, 1932, 1.

80. Thomas David, Nationalisme économique et industrialisation: L’expérience des pays d’Europe de l’Est, 1789–1939 (Geneva, 2009); Henryk Szlajfer, Economic Nationalism and Globalization: Lessons from Latin America and Central Europe (Leiden, Netherlands, 2012); Adam Leszczyński, Leap into Modernity: Political Economy of Growth on the Periphery, 1943–1980, (Frankfurt, 2017).

81. Ilustrowany Kuryer Codzienny, May 2, 1932, 2.

82. Gazeta Polska, November 1, 1932, 4.

83. Maria Pasztor, Polska w oczach francuskich kół rządowych w latach 1924–1939 (Warsaw, 1999), 262.

84. Maria Pasztor, “Główne elementy obrazu Polaka w oczach francuskich elit politycznych w okresie międzywojennym,” Dzieje Najnowsze 31, no. 3 (1999): 118.

85. Ibid., 119.

86. Larry Wolff, Inventing Eastern Europe: The Map of Civilization on the Mind of the Enlightenment (Stanford, 1994).

87. Jerzy Jedlicki, A Suburb of Europe: Nineteenth-Century Polish Approaches to Western Civilization (Budapest, 1999), 13.

88. Ibid., xiii. See also Catherine Horel, “La notion de civilisation européenne en Europe centrale (1848–1919),” Revue d’histoire diplomatique 122, no. 4 (2008): 327–41.

89. Tomasz Zarycki, Ideologies of Eastness in Central and Eastern Europe (London, 2014), 1.

90. Błażej Brzostek, Paryże Innej Europy: Warszawa i Bukareszt, XIX i XX wiek (Warsaw, 2015).

91. Andrzej W. Nowak, “Tajemnicze zniknięcie Drugiego Świata. O trudnym losie półperyferii,” in Tomasz Zarycki ed., Polska jako peryferie (Warsaw, 2018), 86–104; Michał Buchowski, “The Specter of Orientalism in Europe: From Exotic Other to Stigmatized Brother,” Anthropological Quarterly 79, no. 3 (2006): 463–82, doi:10.1353/anq.2006.0032 (accessed February 9, 2022).

92. Robotnik, April 30, 1932, 2; and May 7, 1932, 3. Quotations from April 30, 1932, 2.

93. Robotnik, October 29, 1932, 1.

94. Express Poranny, May 18, 1932, 3.

95. Dobry Wieczór! Kurjer Czerwony, April 28, 1932, 3.

96. Ostatnie Wiadomości, May 7, 1932, 2; May 17, 1932, 2; and May 22, 1932, 2.

97. Adam Leszczyński, Ludowa historia Polski: Historia wyzysku i oporu. Mitologia panowania (Warsaw, 2020), 378.

98. Ureña Valerio, “Colonial Fantasies,” 117.

99. Puchalski, Poland in the Colonial World Order, 262.

100. Ureña Valerio, “Colonial Fantasies,” 6; Piotr Puchalski, “The Polish Mission to Liberia, 1934–1938: Constructing Poland’s Colonial Identity,” The Historical Journal 60, no. 4 (2017): 1071–96. doi:10.1017/S0018246X16000534 (accessed February 20, 2022).

101. Kowalski, Dyskurs kolonialny, 17.

102. Ciancia, Civilization’s Edge, 16, 4.

103. Ureña Valerio, “Colonial Fantasies,” 137–8; Poland in the Colonial World Order, 91–93; MartaGrzechnik, “‘Ad Maiorem Poloniae Gloriam!’: Polish Inter-Colonial Encounters in Africa in the Interwar Period,” The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 48, no. 5 (2020): 826–45, doi:10.1080/03086534.2020.1816619 (accessed February 10, 2020).

104. Quotation from: Ciancia, Civilization’s Edge, 17. See also Kwiecińska, “Civilizing Relay,” 201, 220, 245; Vera Tolz, “Constructing Race, Ethnicity, and Nationhood in Imperial Russia: Issues and Misconceptions,” in David Rainbow ed., Ideologies of Race: Imperial Russia and the Soviet Union in Global Context (Montreal, 2019), 29–58, 42–43. See also Marius Turda and Maria Sophia Quine, Historicizing Race (London, 2018); Catherine Baker, Race and the Yugoslav Region: Postsocialist, Post-Conflict, Postcolonial? (Manchester, 2018); Magdalena Gawin, Race and Modernity: A History of the Polish Eugenics Movement (Warsaw, 2018); Bolaji Balogun, “Race and Racism in Poland: Theorising and Contextualising ‘Polish-Centrism,’” The Sociological Review 68, no. 6 (2020): 1198–1200, doi:10.1177/0038026120928883 (accessed February 10, 2022); Kristín Loftsdóttir and Lars Jensen, “Introduction: Nordic Exceptionalism and the Nordic ‘Others,’” in Kristín Loftsdóttir and Lars Jensen, eds., Whiteness and Postcolonialism in the Nordic Region: Exceptionalism, Migrant Others and National Identities (Farnham, Eng., 2012), 1–12.

105. Miłosz, “Przeciwko nim.”

106. Czesław Miłosz, Native Realm: A Search for Self-Definition, trans. Catherine S. Leach (Berkeley, 1981), 121.

107. Waldemar Michowicz, “Afera żyrardowska z 1934 r.: Przyczynek do działalności kapitału francuskiego w Polsce,” Zeszyty Naukowe Uniwersytetu Łódzkiego: Nauki Humanistyczno-Społeczne 7, no. 21 (1961): 160.

108. Puchalski, Poland in a Colonial World Order, 67.

109. Kofman, “Koła wielkoprzemysłowe.”

110. Ilustrowana Republika, October 28, 1932, 4.

111. See Jedlicki, Suburb of Europe, xiii.

112. Świat, November 5, 1932, 10.

113. Wiadomości Literackie, June 5, 1932, 1.

114. Paweł Hulka-Laskowski, Z dziejów polskiego miasta i z dziejów pisarza (Warsaw, 1934); Irena Pietrzak-Pawłowska ed., Żyrardów 1829–1945 (Warsaw, 1980).

115. Naprzód, November 3, 1932, 7.

116. Elizabeth C. Dunn, Privatizing Poland: Baby Food, Big Business, and the Remaking of Labor (Ithaca, 2004), 69; Aleksandra Leyk and Joanna Wawrzyniak, Cięcia: Mówiona historia transformacji (Warsaw, 2020).

117. Rudolf Nötel, “International Credit and Finance,” in Michael Charles Kaser and E.A. Radice, eds., The Economic History of Eastern-Europe 1919–1975, vol. 2, Interwar Policy, The War, and Reconstruction (Oxford, 1986), 287.

118. ABC, May 6, 1932, 3.

119. Gazeta Polska, February 10, 1932, 3; Naprzód, April 29, 1932, 3; Dobry Wieczór! Kurjer Czerwony, April 30, 1932, 1; Ilustrowana Republika, May 5, 1932, 5; quotation from Kurjer Warszawski, October 26 (morning edition), 1932, 5.

120. The aforementioned novel Czarne Skrzydła, which takes place in a French-controlled mining town, explores the consequences of two such transgressions. The protagonist, an inventor from the intelligentsia, challenges social norms by starting a job as a miner, and entering into a relationship with one of the women from the mine.

121. The position of workers in comparison with clerks is documented thoroughly in Janusz Żarnowski, Społeczeństwo Drugiej Rzeczpospolitej: 1918–1939 (Warsaw, 1973), 48–113, 189–227. See also Zbigniew Landau and Jerzy Tomaszewski, Robotnicy przemysłowi w Polsce: Materialne warunki bytu, 1918–1939, (Warsaw, 1971); Łukasz Baszak, “Regulacje prawne umowy o pracę robotników w latach 1928–1939,” Folia Iuridica Universitatis Wratislaviensis 6, no. 2 (2017): 9–30; Leszczyński, Ludowa historia, 466–74.

122. Władysław Mierzecki, “Praca zarobkowa kobiet w środowisku robotniczym w Polsce międzywojennej,” in Anna Żarnowska and Andrzej Szwarc, eds., Równe prawa i nierówne szanse: Kobiety w Polsce międzywojennej (Warsaw, 2000), 109–33; Paweł Grata, “Polityka społeczna wobec kobiet w Polsce w latach 1918–1939,” in Paweł Grata, ed., Od kwestii robotniczej do nowoczesnej kwestii socjalnej: Studia z polskiej polityki społecznej XX i XXI wieku, vol. 2 (Rzeszów, 2014), 13; Kateřina Lišková and Stanislav Holubec, “Women between the Public and Private Spheres,” in Stanislav Holubec, Władysław Borodziej, and Joachim von Puttkamer, eds., The Routledge History Handbook of Central and Eastern Europe in the Twentieth Century. Volume 1: Challenges of Modernity (London, 2020), 190–91.

123. Ostatnie Wiadomości, April 29, 1932, 4.

124. Wiadomości Literackie, June 5, 1932, 1.

125. Józef Łobodowski, “Piłsudski,” in Czesław Miłosz and Zbigniew Folejewski, eds., Antologia poezji społecznej 1924–1933 (Wilno, 1933), 39.

126. Ciancia, Civilization’s Edge, 3. See Puchalski, Poland in a Colonial World Order, 264.