(libcom.org) Social and political situation in Lodz at the beginning of XX century: At the beginning of XX century Lodz was a dynamically developing centre of the cotton and woollen industry. The favourable location of the city and its developing industrial infrastructure caused a rapid migration of the workers in search of the employment in its factories. At the same time, very low salaries and the lack of social security institutions caused the numerous unrests, until the year of 1906 and the general strike with so called “Lodz’s lockout” that follow.
The troubles begun in November 1906, when the management of Poznanski’s cotton factory decided to fire 96 workers, that they believed to be the leaders of the conflict and unrest within the factory. Learning the list of workers to be sacked, the rest of the factory crew protest against it and Ignacy Poznanski decided to locked out the factory from 17 of December 1906 until the workers accept his decision. In an act of solidarity with Poznanski, owners of six further factories decided to close their gates as well. So, from the beginning of the new year, the biggest city’s factories got closed, leaving 25000 workers and 75000 of their family members without job and the means to survive. Workers got support from the Polish society and the international workers movement, so in the first phase of the conflict they kept on demanding the reemployment of 96 sacked leaders. On January 31, 1907 delegation of the workers meet Poznanski in his palace to achieve an agreement including employing the sacked again, but he rejected this demand saying “all of you will die of starvation anyhow”. When the rest of protesting workers got to know his stance during the mass rally that followed, they promised a vengeance on him, that couldn’t be fulfilled as he escaped to Berlin. After three months of strike and lock out the situation of most families became so difficult that the workers decided to accept the sacking and end the dispute. So the production resumed on 6th of April 1907. The defeat caused a lot of frustration among the working class, and the working conditions after lockout become much worse, as the employers tried to cover the losses caused by lockout by intensifying the pace of production, and generally were taking advantage over defeated workers. This led to the further conflicts between the workers organizations, accusing each other of contributing to the defeat. The conflict soon turn into armed struggle between workers militias of NZR (National Union of Workers – nationalists ), SDKPiL (Social Democracy of Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania – the communists), PPS (Polish Socialist Party) and PPS FR (Revolutionary Fraction of PPS – a split leftist group of main PPS), leaving 130 dead. After the assassination of the officers from Russian infantry units based in Lodz on the city main street, Piotrkowska, armed patrols of Russian soldiers were sent to the streets. In April 1907, interparty conference was held in Lodz to stop the wave of terror. During the conference, it was agreed to establish the factory commissions to oversee the observing the truce between the fractions.
Growth of the popularity of workers parties and the lack of reading skills among workers created a need for constant agitation. Workers parties started do employ the agitators from intelligentsia to recruit new members and organize the workers. This duties were carried out semi-legally, so the agitators were heavily invigilated by a secret police and in case of cover-up either fee the city or gave the names of workers that had joined the party to the Tzarist police. This was the cause of distrust towards the intelligentsia, and the open hostility once the members of this class became a leaders of the workers parties. On the other hand, joining the illegal party made it impossible to continue the legal way of life. Party members were facing the choice: either to stay in the party, pay the contributions and follow the instructions of the leaders, risking the arrest and prison, or to leave the party, or even create an own clandestine group of “economical terror” against the intelligentsia. The leaders of the parties, especially PPS-FR defrauded the party funds. All this led, after the lockout, to the massive withdrawal from the parties, with some workers even tearing their party membership cards. Out of the workers disappointment the first anarchist groups have emerged. When the level of living of the working class had fallen dramatically after the lost strike, the anarchist militant groups, committed to both economical terror and the attacks on the management and factory owners, started to gain popularity among the workers. Their actions soon led to 20 casualties among the higher ranks of society. Read More