Radicalism. In its most general sense radicalism (from the Latin radix ‘root’) is the striving for fundamental change. Usually the term has a narrower meaning in politics. Although there can be right-wing or nationalist radicalism, the term is more often used in connection with movements on the left of the political spectrum. In the context of Ukrainian history radicalism refers to a brand of agrarian socialism that emerged in Galicia in the late 19th century and survived there until the Second World War.

The ideological inspiration for radicalism came from the political thinker Mykhailo Drahomanov and was embodied in the Ukrainian Radical party (est 1890) in Galicia. Before the party was founded, ‘radicals’ generally had referred to themselves as ‘socialists’ or ‘progressives.’ Viacheslav Budzynovsky claimed that he originally proposed the name for the party because the founders of the party were called ‘radicals’ by representatives of the traditional Ukrainian movement in Galicia. Soon, however, the term ‘radicalism’ began to take on a new and more specific meaning. Immediately after the party announced its existence, Polish and Austrian social democrats urged it to change its name to ‘socialist’ or ‘social democratic,’ adopt a Marxist program, and join the Second Socialist International. Marxist ideas were soon adopted by a number of the younger members of the Radical party. The party leadership, particularly Mykhailo Pavlyk and Ivan Franko, however, wanted to distinguish their party, its program, and its name from those of the social democrats. They argued that Marxism was suitable for Western European socialists, whose countries had an industrial proletariat. The Ukrainians, however, were a predominantly peasant people, and Drahomanov's political theories suited them much more than K. Marx's. Franko and Pavlyk elaborated the theory of radicalism as an agrarian, peasant-oriented form of socialism and claimed kinship with the Serbian Radical party, which was also an agrarian socialist party in a largely peasant society. Their view ultimately prevailed in the party, and the discontented minority left the Radicals in 1899 to form the Ukrainian Social Democratic party. Anticlericalism was one of the distinctive characteristics of radicalism. Ukrainian radicalism also had a pronounced anticlericalism.

Radicalism was pre-eminently a Galician phenomenon, but it had resonances elsewhere in Ukraine. A radical party of the Galician type was founded in Bukovyna in 1906. A more distant relation was the Ukrainian Radical party (Kyiv), formed in Kyiv late in 1904, which soon dissolved and in 1908 was replaced by the Society of Ukrainian Progressives. Ideologically the Kyivan radicals had little in common with their Galician counterparts. In 1926 the Galician Radical party united with the Ukrainian Party of Socialist Revolutionaries in Volhynia and Polisia to form the Ukrainian Socialist Radical party. In practice, however, the Galician branch of the party carried on the traditions of radicalism, and the Volhynian-Polisian branch continued as a socialist revolutionary organization. After the Second World War there was little room for radicalism in Ukraine. Aside from the Communist monopoly in political life, the traditional Ukrainian peasantry, in whose interests the radicals had claimed to work, had been transformed into collective-farm workers, and the Ukrainian Catholic church, which had been the target of radical criticism, was abolished in 1946.

Franko, I. Radykaly i radykalizm (Lviv 1896)
Himka, J.-P. Socialism in Galicia: The Emergence of Polish Socialism and Ukrainian Radicalism (1860–1890) (Cambridge 1983)

John-Paul Himka

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 4 (1993).]

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