Roman Dmowski (1864–1939) was a Polish statesman & co-founder of the right-wing National Democracy party. Famously, he was the arch rival of Jozef Piłsudski, for while the two are both considered great patriots & leaders, their worldviews differed radically. Dmowski opposed revolutionary means of fighting, preferring political struggle, and aimed to restore Polish independence through increased autonomy. In 1904 he even met with a Japanese colonel, Akashi Motojiro, to negotiate a potential defection by Polish soldiers in Manchuria to the Japanese Army against Russia. Over time, Dmowski formed the idea that Poland & Russia should be united through their common Slavic heritage against Germany. He viewed Russia as culturally backwards and for this reason, less of a threat – whereas ‘Russification’ of Poland was unlikely to succeed in his view, Prussia’s intense Germanisation policies could. This view was the opposite to Piłsudski’s, who regarded Russia as the greater menace.
During WW1, while Piłsudski was raising his legions, Dmowski pushed for Poland by diplomatic means, utilising his combination of passion, intelligence & political astuteness to great success. His ‘National Committee’ was recognised by the French, and then the British & Americans, as Poland’s govt-in-waiting – but numerous individuals, including US President Woodrow Wilson, disliked him personally. “He was a clever man,” wrote one British diplomat, “and clever men are distrusted. He was logical in his political theories & we hate logic; and he was persistent with a tenacity which was calculated to drive everybody mad.” Dmowski also subscribed to an anti-Semitic Catholicism which some Western leaders found offensive, and which incited influential Jews to lobby against him. Nevertheless, he was extremely persuasive in the negotiations at Versailles, and although he was ultimately underwhelmed by the territory granted to Poland – and annoyed by the Minority Rights Treaty imposed upon it, which he saw as undermining the new state’s social & cultural cohesion – Dmowski achieved his goal of orchestrating international support for the return of a substantially sized Poland to the European map. (TBC)