Maritime and Colonial League (Polish: Liga Morska i Kolonialna) was a mass Polish social organization, created in 1930 out of Maritime and River League (Liga Morska i Rzeczna). In late 1930s it was directed by general Mariusz Zaruski and its purpose was to educate Polish nation about maritime issues. It also actively supported development of both merchant fleet and navy, as well as creation of Polish colonies and overseas possessions.
Among countries regarded as suitable for Polish overseas settlements, there were such nations as Brazil (Paraná), Peru, Liberia, Portuguese Mozambique and French possessions in Africa, with Madagascar. The organization enjoyed widespread popularity, in 1939 it had around one million members.
The organization, supported by influential politicians, quickly grew, and in May of 1919 it was changed into the League of Polish Navigation (Liga Żeglugi Polskiej). Five years later the name was changed again, into the Maritime and River League (Liga Morska i Rzeczna), then, in late 1925, it published its first monthly magazine, “The Sea” ("Morze") (in 1939 magazine’s name was changed into “The Sea and Colonies”).
The first demands for Polish colonies were issued at the first convention of the League (Katowice, October 1928) Two years later, at the third and last convention in Gdynia, the organization got its most famous name, the Maritime and Colonial League.
Throughout the 1930s, the League organized mass demonstration, collected money and published materials. Among people who participated in demonstrations were clergymen and members of the government, whose party, Camp of National Unity (Oboz Zjednoczenia Narodowego), accepted colonial aspirations.
In the summer of 1937, Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs prepared a document called “Colonial Theses of Poland”, and in September of the same year, Poland officially demanded colonies, during the session of the League of Nations.
Polish demands, however, were ignored by the Western Powers, as neither France, nor Great Britain wanted to relinquish their possessions. Furthermore, Polish government advanced its demands even well into 1939, on the eve of Polish September Campaign. However, Poland never considered possibility of armed capture of overseas lands, counting on a customs union with smaller and less important colonial powers, such as Belgium and Portugal
Some historians argue that the Warsaw government promoted colonialism to solve the problem of chronic overpopulation and unemployment of some areas of the country. Also, the Poles expressed desire for raw materials, especially those found in Liberia.
Apart from colonies, activities of members of the League were concentrated on development of Polish Navy. In early 1930s the League started a special fund, which within 2 years collected 5.000.000 zlotys. The money was handed to the Government of the Polish Republic for the purpose of possibly fast construction of a submarine for the Polish Navy. Thus, the legendary ORP Orzeł was funded.
However, the Poles bought only 7000 hectares and created there a settlement called Morska Wola. Also, they purchased additional 2000 hectares and planned to found another settlement, “Orlicz-Dreszer” (as a gesture to director of the League, general Gustaw Orlicz-Dreszer, who died in Gdynia in a plane crash in 1936). In August of 1935 first Polish settlers left for Brazil, around 350 people.
However, in spite of initial success, Polish activities in Parana were noticed by the Brazilian public opinion. In Curitiba, local daily Correio do Parana alarmed that Poland was planning to conquer a few Brazilian states (Parana, Santa Caterina and Rio Grande do Sul), and establish its own colony, dependent on Warsaw. As a result, anti-Polish demonstrations took place in Curitiba. Polish newspapers described events in faraway Brazil, in April of 1934 Ilustrowany Kurier Codzienny mocked the conflict, writing on main page “We expect arrival of Polish Army headquarters in Parana”.
Soon afterwards, Brazilian government under Getulio Vargas, began limiting Polish immigration, also Poles themselves were no more interested in settling in Brazil and in 1938 the project was cancelled.
On August 28, 1933, Polish government signed a cooperation treaty with the government of Liberia, at the request of Liberian government, represented by Leo Sajous. Next year, Polish specialist went to Monrovia and consulates were established in both capitals. General Gustaw Orlicz-Dreszer, then director of the League was planning to promote large-scale Polish settlement there, with Polish farms in African countryside, but due to lack of funds, this project was abandoned soon afterwards.
In the spring of 2006, Polish artist Janek Simon went to Madagascar, looking back to the ideas of the interbellum period. He wanted to organized there the “Polish Year in Madagascar”, instead, two exhibitions took place.