The Lithuanian municipal elections have been completed and the results are already known. They are very sad as far as the Jews are concerned, who will enter the new municipal council in even smaller numbers than before when their representation already was very week. Lithuanian Jewry elected only twenty-three Municipal Councillors. Nowhere have Jews gained new positions.
The saddest fact is that it is not the fault of the voters, who this time fulfilled their duty and went to the polling stations in great numbers with the exception of Kaunas. In that city a number of Jewish voters abstained from casting ballots because the voting lists of the left wing parties had been annulled. But in provincial towns the Jews were not to blame for the decrease of Jewish municipal councillors.
The fault lies in altogether different circumstances. Some towns were enlarged by incorporating boroughs with a non-Jewish population. The number of non-Jewish voters has also been increased by the right to vote to a number who were not entitled to participate in the elections three years ago. And the number of voters who have gained this right by virtue of the occupational taxes is calculated to be greater among non-Jews than Jews. The most important point, however, is that, due to the means used by a number of towns to increase their populations, the non-Jewish increase was marked.
NON-JEWISH CIRCLE HEMS IN TOWNS
The elections have proved that the number of Jewish inhabitants in Lithuanian provincial towns is not growing. Therefore their participation in public life diminishes. During the last three years however, since the last municipal elections, the urban Lithuanian element has increased. The towns are hemmed in by an iron ring of Lithuanian circles which penetrate deeper and deeper into municipal organizations.
Jewish public men have seen this coming and said so several years ago. There are not only movements on foot to remove the markets from their old places and from the centers of the towns, in order to take away livelihoods of Jews by such means, but the municipalities are also belabored in an organized manner, in order to convert their bodies more and more into “purely Lithuanian ones.” Jews are witnessing the unavoidable development of a historical proces which in time will bring about a complete “Lithuanization” of the towns, not only in cultural but also in economic respects.
The Jewish municipal councillors will have to fight a hard battle in the new municipal councils for the vital interests of the Jewish population not only because their number is small and they are confronted with a strong non-Jewish majority, but also, because of those groups which intend to conquer the municipalities with anti-Semitic slogans.
‘KAUNAS OR PALESTINE’ ANTI-SEMITE SLOGAN
The “Varslininkes” who are striving to bring about an economic debacle for Jews are well represented in the municipal councils. They have their strongest representations in the provincial towns. In Kaunas their demagogic anti-Semitic slogan, “Kaunas or Palestine,” has brought forward in a manner as though to imply “To be or not to be,” has had no success.
The nearest neighbors of the anti-Semitic “Verslininkes” have had their successes, too. The election propaganda, which was fought with anti-Jewish slogans and which desired to give the impression that the elections were to show the strength in the fight against the “foreign nationals,” has intoxicated many Lithuanians.
The progressive parties can only show small election results. In the provincial towns, they did not come to the forefront at all. Only in Kaunas did the progressive “Liudinkes” show favorable election returns. But this success cannot be explained by motives of idealism; it is solely the result of the popularity of their chief candidate, former State-President Dr. Grinius (who also is a great friend of the Jews). His popularity is not based on his being a “Liudnink, but upon being a man who has proved himself an able, friendly and loyal member of the municipal council and who has come into personal contact with thousands of his voters.
COUNCILLOR’S POSITIONS WILL BE DIFFICULT
For man years Dr. Grinius has been director of the Kaunas municipal sanitary department. His thousands of voters now have expressed their gratitude by voting for him. Therefore, the success of the progressive “Liudninkes” in Kaunas is more or less a personal success of Dr. Grinius. In the provincial towns, however, where the local leaders of the “Liudninkes” cannot command such popularity, the party has suffered a destructive blow.
These results of the elections will make the position of the Jewish municipal councillors still more difficult. Hitherto, the “Liudninkes” have had among themselves municipal councillors who, more or less, have shown understanding for Jewish interests.
Therefore it is necessary to meet the truth with open eyes: the Jewish municipal councillor will have a hard struggle for the rights and the interests of the Jews. Whereas hitherto the majority of the Lithuanians did not pay much attention to the aspirations and opinions of the representatives of the Jews, they will, in future, pay even less at-attention.
Jewish circles are earnestly considering a proposal to call a conference of all Jewish municipal councillors in Lithuania, which shall discuss in detail all questions of municipal life and which shall formulate a common way of action.