Dziennik Chicagoski -- June 08, 1892Why Don't We Establish Associations?
The question, "Why don't we establish associations?" should be asked by every Pole. Let us omit the other Polish communities and pause to consider the Chicago group. There are more than one hundred thousand Poles in this city. Many Polish citizens have lived in Chicago for over twenty years. Despite this fact, it is disappointing to find so few of the larger establishments and factories remaining in the exclusive possession of our people. True, there are several manufacturers and a few businessmen in our groups, but their transactions are conducted on a small scale. The gigantic German enterprises and even those of our "Jewish Poles" who have willingly settled in our communities, are beyond a comparison with the Polish businessmen.
These good-natured and credulous people are easier to swindle than are the American "Yankees". Saloons are the one thing we have in abundance. These, in reality, are too numerous. Were some one to present a comparative chart 2drawn from the various national groups, the greatest percentage of saloons would fall within our group. It is doubtful whether this could be considered a benefit. In the first place, were one to judge by such statistics, the Poles would be considered as the greatest sots and drunkards, which, thank God, is not true. Secondly, the great number of saloons in the Polish sections have a very meager business. The saloonkeepers (especially the newer ones) have little business, and their future is not bright. This proves that our people are not such drunkards.
One frequently hears statements and reads voluminous advertisements in the newspapers [to the effect] that the Poles should buy only from their own people. There is some truth in this. But do all the Polish businessmen exert their efforts toward giving as good quality at low prices as do the large stores and even the Jewish establishments in the city? This question remains unanswered. Attention is called to the fact that many of our people have been seen making purchases at the establishments of our most bitter enemies--the 3Germans--as well as at the places of those leeches--the Jews--who, it seems, would be willing to wander in search of Polish patronage even as far as Brazil. These Poles have often been requested to explain their failure to patronize their own people. The answer always was that the price was higher at the Polish stores and the selection not as great as in the city proper. Others, again, claim that all their purchases are made in the Polish stores exclusively--in reality, however, they do the same as the group just mentioned.
Whose fault is this? The manufacturers and businessmen will answer: "not ours". The consumers also disclaim any responsibility, basing their contention [on the fact] that they prefer to do business where the quality is better and the price lower. It is not surprising, after all, that such an attitude prevails. An old maxim has it that "the undershirt is closer to the skin than the dress". It is surprising to discover that many of our people will immediately render an unfavorable opinion about a Polish store or manufacturer, even if their 4arguments for doing so are unfounded. The Polish manufacturers and businessmen, on the other hand, claim to be patronized mainly by other nationalities. They assert that it is impossible to rely upon Polish support alone. We concede that point. A shoe-store proprietor, for example, if his place of business is established in a cosmopolitan city, should endeavor to sell his merchandise to all and not limit his trade to his own people. A Pole cannot be accused of any lack of patriotism if he finds it necessary to patronize the German or Jewish establishments, however far away they may be. Despite the purchaser's good intentions, he is unable to secure the goods he needs in Polish stores. The fact that many Poles fill important posts in America, be it in the administrative or business spheres, will verify the statement that they are capable of conducting extensive enterprises. We must admit, however, that very few of the larger businesses are under Polish control. Small stores can exist in small settlements or towns, but in cities such as Chicago--if the [large and] prosperous firms do not engulf them--they will exist only from day to day, with no future. Some one 5might reply that requisite capital is necessary to conduct a larger business. It must be remembered, however, that the Irish, Germans, and Jews did not arrive here with the millions they now possess. They were as poor as we; but the difference at present is enormous. They own railroads, streetcars, gigantic factories and large stores; and what have we?....Smoke-filled saloons and....small grocery stores.
Did we reach our simple and meager fortunes by an easier method than did the others their millions? Not in the least. Our ownership of homes, vacant lots or some type of business or factory--they are the result of our hard labor. The Poles have often denied themselves even the immediate necessities of life in order to save for their old age when they would be deprived of the strength to work. Our people have only on occasions allowed themselves simple pleasures, recreations that are due every laboring man. Despite this, the results of the efforts of our people are far smaller than those of the Jews, for example, who have seldom earned an honest dollar.6
Where does the cause of this evil lie? The national misunderstandings, lack of mutual confidence and the insane jealousies among our people might serve as an answer to this question. The Poles should organize into associations and conduct large enterprises. Only then will our people be in a position to withstand competition. When such a time arrives, the Poles will not search for strange gods--they will find them among themselves. The working people of Polish extraction will not be abused in the Irish or German factories because they will find employment among their own nationality. The Poles are not lacking in capable men. What they need is a little more confidence in their own people. They should not be of the opinion that everything made by Germans is good. There are plenty of German products of inferior quality.
Let us consider, for example, the so-called real-estate enterprises. Who conducts this type of business and how is it managed? An association is formed of Irish or German capitalists. Millions of acres of land are purchased 7by this syndicate at a very low price. This property is then divided into farms or lots which are then sold at a higher rate to our people through Polish agents. Who, in this instance, realizes a greater profit, the agents or the syndicate? Naturally, the latter and the agents aid them in this. Were the Poles but to understand the enormous sums they have spent thus far to enrich the Germans in this manner--they certainly would organize similar associations themselves. All the lots in Hammond, Cragin, and other localities could be purchased by our people at a lower rate and would thus enrich our own group and not the strangers. The Poles would then become co-owners and not mere agents.
It is possible to obtain the necessary funds for an enterprise of that nature. If some two hundred Poles combined and each of them set aside an average of five dollars per month, within one year a sum of twelve thousand dollars would be accumulated. A large tract of land could be purchased for thirty-six thousand dollars, using the twelve thousand dollars as a down payment. Monthly 8payments of one thousand dollars could then be made by this Polish association. The property thus obtained could be divided into lots or farms, independent of the debt, and then sold on easy payments in the same manner as the other nationalities are doing at present.
This would show that a great deal more could be realized through such operations than from the type of businesses so common among our people. Yet, if the Poles even anticipated taking steps in this direction, they would receive nothing more than discouragement from their compatriots. Why? If the Poles sell farms as agents at a profit, why could they not sell Polish lots and farms at an equal remuneration?
At one time, an organization consisting of lovers of the hunt was formed among the local Poles. This association wished to give a more practical purpose to their organization, based upon the American method. One of the provisions of their constitution required of every member that he acquire at 9least two shares of stock in a building bank. The money thus obtained was to have been used for the purchase of larger tracts of land which would then be divided into lots and farms. Originally, some forty members, with one hundred and four shares in all, enrolled into this association. It seemed at first that this idea would find general support and that every Pole who wished to save several dollars each month would subscribe to this organization. Unfortunately, several malicious individuals, who felt some personal indifference, began to make secret charges as to the sincerity of the association's purpose and its administration. Actions of this type only helped to disrupt the association to such an extent that at present, after an existence of a year and a half, many discontented members have withdrawn while others are obliged to wait indefinitely for the realization of their plans. If the Poles were not so eager to pass judgment, especially against their own brethren, they would pay no heed to the false tales of malicious people. They would attend one of the regular monthly meetings, examine the constitution and become convinced that the aims of this 10organization, as a whole, are honorable. The best proof of this is that the association had members who enjoyed a reputation for honesty not only among the Poles, but also among all the other nationalities residing in Chicago. Today, after an existence of a year and a half none of the former members of this association can charge that the Huntsmen's Organization acted unjustly toward him. No one can say that he was exploited and yet, despite this, the growth of the organization does not measure up to expectation.
Surely no one considers the founder of some newly organized American association as the most important factor, but they do give serious thought to the organization's purpose and to the possibilities of its development. In this way, the association either grows or fails. In this respect the Polish point of view is reserved. A proposal to form an association brings forward many people antagonistic to it. They do not search for the reason for its organization, nor do they consider what beneficial prospects it may have. Their 11primary interest is in who is the originator of the movement, and then they become members for personal reasons; or, on the other hand, they obstruct its growth by malicious and unfounded gossip. Should such be the attitude? Is this patriotic behavior? No! A continuation of such views will only result in keeping Poles on a low level, while the Germans and Jews will continue to draw profits from our people.
Relative to the Huntsmen's Organization, it is surprising to note the attitude of total disinterest among its members in matters of vital importance to the organization. Despite the acknowledged benefits derived from this association, the members neglect to attend meetings and refuse to participate in affairs. This attitude is detrimental and harmful to the possible passage of motions. True, there are those who actually have no time to attend, but there also are many who attempt to justify their indifference by placing the blame on a lack of time.12
The main purpose of this article is not so much to encourage the readers to enroll in any particular organization. Our foremost aim is to call this situation to the attention of all Poles, and prove to them that large capital can be created from small sums, from which vast estates can be purchased. The Poles have all the means necessary to organize such associations. These organizations would not be limited only to purchase of land but would extend to manufacturing and business ventures as well. Faith in the strength of the Polish people and a greater confidence in our brethren are all that is necessary. We admit that other nationalities are wealthier than our people, but none of us wish to search for the reason for this. We condemn every potential project ever undertaken by the Poles as being impossible for our people to achieve.
A great deal more could be written on this question. Perhaps a more capable writer would wish to indicate the benefits of business associations. The sole purpose of this article was to point out the indolence of the Polish 13people in this respect.
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