For a number of years now there has been a growing trend within right-wing Polish politics which is particularly perplexing. Right-wing politics is often equated with patriotic and nationalist sentiments, glorifying past (and present) achievements as well as demonstrating the greatness of one’s nation. However, attitudes within right-wing (and liberal) circles in Poland seem to be advocating a different approach. This approach reached its apex when Law and Justice (PiS) came to power in 2005.
Together with the far-right League of Polish Families (LPR) and populist Self-Defence (Samoobrona), this approach became entrenched and particularly visible in Polish foreign policy during the PiS years. Polish politics (heavily influenced by the Catholic church at the time) embraced an almost ‘Christic’ and/or ‘martyrological’ approach to their own history. Poland was seen by these politicians to be both the saviour and martyr of Europe, the ‘Christ’ of European nations.
When arguing for Poland’s God-given right to have more votes in the EU’s then new system of voting, one of the Kaczyński brothers said that had it not been for World War II, Poland’s population would be greater and so they deserve more votes in the EU. This attitude continued throughout their term in office and continues today. Certain politicians feel Poland ‘deserves’ more because it suffered so much. This attitude of Poland being the ‘eternal victim’ is extremely dangerous for a number of reasons.
Firstly, with it comes a large whiff of misplaced arrogance which, to the outside world, is particularly irritating when the only arguments that can be heard coming from the Polish camp are that Poland deserves more because it had to live though both Nazism and Communism. Secondly, when such a victim complex becomes entrenched its proponents begin to genuinely believe it. So much so that extolling the virtues of being a victim turns into a form of flagellation or even historical and political self-mutilation.
Recently, there has been much talk about historical revisionism. Russia particularly has been found guilty of practising the re-writing of history. However, is Poland’s victim status also a form of revisionism? Believing that Poland is forever Europe’s martyr is useful as it absolves the nation of crimes previously committed, such as Jedwabne or Operation Wisła. How can the victim have ever been the tormentor?