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Horwitz, Maksymilian

(1877–1937), theoretician, Polish socialist activist, writer, and editor. Maksymilian Horwitz, known also by the pseudonym Henryk Walecki, was born in Warsaw to a middle-class Jewish family in which both Polish and Yiddish were spoken. After completing gymnasium in that city, Horwitz studied at the university in Ghent, Belgium, where he was active in the Union of Polish Socialists Abroad and wrote for the Polish Socialist Party (PPS) organs, Robotnik and Przedświt.


Horwitz returned to Warsaw in 1898 after completing his doctorate in mathematics. He joined the city’s division of the PPS, actively recruiting Jewish workers and intellectuals. He edited the party’s first Yiddish organ, Der arbayter, which was published in London in 1898. In 1903, he participated in conferences of the party’s Jewish Section.


In the wake of the 1905 Revolution in Russia, Horwitz was elected into the central committee of the PPS; in December of that year, he coedited Kurjer Codzienny, the party’s Warsaw-based legal daily. After the Polish Socialist Party split into two factions in 1906, Horwitz was one of the authors of the PPS–Left’s program, created at its founding convention in 1907. In its platform, the new party temporarily suspended its demand for independence and called for cooperation with the Russian revolutionary movement. Horwitz remained on the PPS–Left’s central committee until the party dissolved in 1918.


Horwitz was the prime mover in revising the party’s assimilationist stand on Jewish affairs. In contrast to other Jewish intellectuals who remained committed assimilationists, he called for the incorporation of Jewish national rights into the party program. His success in revising the party’s stand was evident in the program of the PPS–Left, which incorporated the specific demand for extraterritorial Jewish national rights into its founding program in January 1908.


In 1907, Horwitz published a lengthy study, W kwestyi żydowskiej (On the Jewish Problem), condemning the assimilationist current in social democratic thought represented by Feliks Perl, Rosa Luxemburg, and Otto Bauer. Horwitz argued instead that East European Jews constituted a distinct nationality and were entitled to legally guaranteed collective rights. Horwitz opposed the Bund’s program, arguing that any proposal for solving the Jewish question in Imperial Russia had simultaneously to address the issue of Polish statelessness.


With the onset of World War I and the Russian Revolution, Horwitz became increasingly radicalized, helping to found the Polish Communist Workers Party (later the Polish Communist Party; KPP) in 1918. A pro-Bolshevik, Horwitz was arrested by Polish authorities in 1919, along with other Communists, for antistate activity. Escaping from prison in December 1920, Horwitz fled abroad, remaining in exile for the rest of his life. In 1927, Horwitz moved from Berlin to Moscow, where he sat on the executive committee of the Communist International (Comintern). At the time, Horwitz belonged to a section of the KPP that opposed blind allegiance to Stalin, thus putting him in increasing disfavor with the Soviet leader. In June 1937, the Soviet secret police (NKVD) arrested Horwitz in Moscow along with the entire Polish Communist leadership. He was tried and convicted for “anti-Soviet Trotskyite” activities and executed in the same year.

Suggested Reading

Joanna Olczak-Ronikier, W ogrodzie pamięci (Kraków, 2001); Henryk Walecki (Maksymilian Horwitz), Wybór pism, 2 vols., edited by Jan Kancewicz (Warsaw, 1967); Joshua D. Zimmerman, Poles, Jews and the Politics of Nationality: The Bund and the Polish Socialist Party in Late Tsarist Russia, 1892–1914 (Madison, Wis., 2004).

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