Born in Niepołomice, near Kraków, on the 22nd of October, 1891, as a son of Jan and Emilia and younger brother of General Walerian Czuma, the legendary defender of Warsaw against the German invasion in September 1939. Ignacy completed his legal studies at the Jagiellonian University – which he had commenced before the First World War – only after the end of hostilities in 1918. Then he received the doctoral title at the same academy in 1922, and qualified himself as assistant professor in 1924. One year later he became a professor of financial matters at the Faculty of Law and Socio-Economical Sciences of the Catholic University of Lublin (KUL), casting his lot with that institution. In 1926-1928 he was the dean of its Faculty of Law; on the eve of the Second World War, in 1938-1939, he was KUL’s rector. He was active in the social life of the city, too. In 1927 he was elected its alderman, but resigned after not even half a year in protest against the unthrifty policies of the municipal authorities. He was the founder and chairman of the Polish Economic Society in Lublin, and an active member of the Catholic Action and Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge, as well as the chairman of the sections of the Polish Western Association in Lublin and Volhynia, and of the Anti-Communist Committee in Lublin. In the period before the outbreak of the Second World War the scope of Ignacy Czuma’s scientific interests was extremely wide indeed. He published works on financial matters, for instance Równowaga budżetu na tle prawa budżetowego innych państw (1924), or Sprawiedliwość w dziedzinie skarbowej (1929); on the form of government - Problemat Głowy Państwa w Polsce (1930), Absolutyzm ustrojowy (1930), Sprawiedliwość i miłość jako zasada chrześcijańskiego ustroju państwowego (1937), and Ustrojowe podstawy skarbowości na tle konstytucji kwietniowej (1937). His special attention was drawn to the portentous process of formation of totalitarian systems beyond Poland’s western and eastern border; particularly to the Soviet regime. Works such as Konstytucja Sowieckiej Rosji (1923), Filozoficzne punkty styczne zachodu i bolszewizmu (1930), Dzisiejsza filozofia sowieckiego prawa a romantyzm prawniczy (1930), or Polityka ludnościowa III Rzeszy (1939) are, even today, counted among the best analyses and critiques of totalitarism. Czuma collaborated with various magazines such as “Droga”, “Prąd”, “Przegląd Filozoficzny”, or “Ruch Katolicki”.
Ideologically and politically, Ignacy Czuma was associated with the Conservative trend of thought. As part of the Conservatives’ collaboration with the Sanation camp, as a member of the Polish Conservative People’s Party he even stood for the election to the Sejm on behalf of the Nonpartisan Bloc for Cooperation with the Government (BBWR). Then, as the deputy to the lower House of the Parliament, he was a co-author of the Act on Higher Education of 1933 and, together with, for instance, Stanisław Mackiewicz and Eustachy Sapieha, represented the Conservative option on the Constitutional Committee. He participated in the drafting of the first ten articles of the April Constitution of 1935; moreover, it has been indicated that Czuma was the originator of the crucial phrase regarding the responsibility of the President of the Republic of Poland ‘before God and history’. Such a wording was strictly consistent with the ideas of law and form of government that Czuma had previously put forward. Evoking, on the one hand, a Thomist perspective and referring, on the other hand, to the conclusions of, among others, the Kraków jurist Władysław Leopold Jaworski, Czuma declared against the modern democratic and parliamentary trend which, in his opinion, was a result of the decomposition of our civilization. In his opinion, such a course, as a result of overstrain and crises, led towards revolution and formation of total regimes. Following the typically Conservative patterns, Czuma pointed to the necessity of strengthening the institution of power – in the case of the April Constitution, impersonated by the President of Poland – and consolidating the guarantees of the rule of law. Analyzing the concept of absolutism, he wrote the following words regarding the Polish Constitution: ‘Poland’s form of government after the adoption of the Constitution of the 23rd of April, 1935, is not absolutist, but limited philosophically and morally; for the Polish State, although it extended, through this document, its legitimate authority in numerous domains, had also marked the limits of its rights and attainability, recognizing a higher moral order (that of the President’s responsibility before God), and emphasizing the right to freedom and development of the individual’ (Absolutyzm [in:] Encyklopedia nauk politycznych, 1936).
Surveying various contemporary forms of absolutist power, Czuma would highlight, first of all, the lack of any moral restraints on the part of the authorities which turned the Soviet, or Nazi, state into nothing more than just an instrument of mastery and control for the depraved will. For him, the Soviet state was a typical example of a system of multi-plane voluntarism in the field of government and economy; voluntarism that had broken away from the strongest moral restraint – the one rooted in religion and God. In 1938 Czuma wrote in the spirit of Marian Zdziechowski’s thought: ‘The 19th century deprived the State of God. Thus it took away the proper measure to evaluate man, since without God man is just an insignificant and transient animal […]. Bolshevism readily picked up that idea of diminishing man, which had been prepared for it in the West by other trends of thought (such as materialism, Darwinism, or positivism), and expressed it in its cruel way’ (Państwo sowieckie, 1938). Czuma also assessed Hitler’s regime in Germany from a similar perspective.
Professor Czuma was to experience personally the workings of both the totalitarian systems. In November 1939, as part of the German campaign aimed at exterminating Polish intellectuals, he was arrested by the Gestapo and his name was entered on the death list. He only survived thanks to an intervention from the International Red Cross. Finally he was released in March 1940. He lived in Niepołomice until 1945, where he was involved in the underground education.
In 1946 he still managed to publish his lecture delivered in November 1945 and entitled Moralny koszt współczesnej wojny, in which he urged Europe to return to the Christian faith. After the year 1945, he became actively involved into the operations of anti-Communist underground organizations. He collaborated with the Armed Forces Delegation for Poland, then with the Freedom and Independence (WiN). Arrested in 1950, he was sentenced to ten years in prison. Released in 1953, he resumed his duties at the university, but retired soon afterwards. He died on the 18th of April 1963.
This website is a part of the project entitled ‘Polish Political Thought and Independence: A Program for the Promotion of Polish Intellectual Heritage Abroad’, generously funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland as A part of ‘Public Diplomacy 2017’ programme, component ‘Collaboration in the field of Public Diplomacy 2017’.