The Rydzykisation of Poland?

July 29, 2010

The Good Father Rydzyk

Rydzyk - the Good Father

Jan Wróbel in a recent article in Wirtualna Polska talks about the ‘rydzykisation’ (pol. rydzykizacja) of not only Poland but surprisingly also of Civic Platform (PO). He is, of course, referring to Tadeusz Rydzyk the de facto head of catholic Radio Maryja and catholic TV station TV Trwam. He claims that although ‘rydze’ (pol. red pine mushrooms – a pun on the word Rydzyk) have been growing in the fields of Law and Justice (PiS) for quite some time, PO has now become infested. Wróbel believes the tide is turning. Many people were overjoyed when PiS was defeated in the parliamentary elections and the three-headed PiS-Samoobrona-LPR monster was resoundingly vanquished. However, the Smoleńsk tragedy changed all that and Law and Justice, like a phoenix from the flames, has returned and is ready to do battle.

Kaczyński - King of Conservatives

Kaczyński - King of Conservatives

Civic Platform could have never expected the support with which millions of people endowed Lech Kaczyński following his death in Smolensk. In many ways, he is a martyr… a political martyr. His death has in many ways helped turn around the fortunes of both PiS and his brother Jarosław Kaczyński. Before his death, all polls were showing a landslide victory for Bronisław Komorowski against Lech Kaczyński. Following the tragedy, Jarosław Kaczyński was only several percentage points away from defeating Komorowski in the presidential campaign. Radio Maryja and TV Trwam helped in this campaign but the truth of the matter is that many people were simply fed up with PO’s promises, PR and politicking. They wanted more substance and Jarosław Kaczyński was the man to give it to them.

Palikot - the Real Demon

Palikot - the Real Demon

Even though Komorowski won, Civic Platform wants revenge. It wants revenge for all those weeks of post-Smolensk emotional turmoil, Kaczyński adulation and Kaczyński hero worship. It too needs its Rydzyk, a hate-filled character that can move mountains. Civic Platform has unleashed its biggest monster. PO has unleashed Janusz Palikot. Compared to him, Tadeusz Rydzyk is a cherub. When we talk about a rydzykisation of Polish politics, we are actually talking about a politics of negation, of antipathy and of hate. Rydzyk has perfected this to an art (to the benefit of PiS). Now PO, with all their talk of a politics of love, of positivity and cooperation, are doing the same with Palikot. Is he, as so many supporters of PiS believe, a  harbinger of moral decay, or is he a sobering force in Poland’s emotional-driven political battleground?


Victims of Their Own Making

September 29, 2009

The Victim Complex

The Victim Complex

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.

Christ Nation

The Christ Nation

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.

The German Invasion

The German Invasion

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.

The Destruction of Self

The Destruction of Self

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.

The New History

The New History

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?

The End is Nigh

July 31, 2007

Self-DefenceIt’s been fun watching Poland’s politicians make complete idiots of themselves. This running saga of PiS attacks Self-Defence, Self-Defence counterattacks, PiS strikes LPR and LPR counter-strikes has become ridiculous.

The so-called coalition has hit an impasse and it’s difficult seeing a way out for either PiS or it’s baby brother LiS. To be honest, this farce has been going on for nigh on one and half years when the cracks first began to appear. For all their ridiculous ideas and policies, PiS is nowhere near as populist and anti-intellectual as they appear to be or as dictatorial as Self-Defence and LPR (LiS). The coalition was therefore always at risk with such a clash of cultures.

The art of politicking must surely rely on the skill politicians have in discussion and negotiation. This fact is most clearly lacking in the entire Polish parliament. Even Civic Platform (PO) was unable to reach an agreement with PiS two years ago and we have to remember that it takes two to tango…

So what will happen now? The invectives will probably continue for another week or two, perhaps longer until PiS decides all is lost and their standing in the polls starts plummeting. The problem (or not) is the fact that PiS’ standing in the polls isn’t dropping whereas LiS’ standing is. What is certain is that earlier elections depend entirely on PiS. Only when PiS is completely convinced that it can gain the maximum possible result will the PM declare the next elections.

Outfoxing Us All

July 17, 2007

When it comes to political consolidation and party alliances, this has got to be one of the classics. The League of Polish Families (LPR) and Self-Defence (Samoobrona) announced that they will be joining forces to create a super-party, what they call a grand alternative to Law and Justice (PiS).

Viable Alternative?
What makes the whole situation comical is the fact that both these parties – LPR and Self-Defence – are members of the ruling coalition and the fact they feel the need to create an opposition to PiS speaks volumes for the state of current Polish politics – bickering, squabbling and incessant in-fighting.

Ironic Attack
What is particularly amusing is the name of this newly-forming party – Liga i Samoobrona or LiS – which is most clearly a ironic jibe at PiS. In one way the choice of name obviously pokes fun at PiS, but it also shows the future direction of LPR and Self-Defence. They wish to create an alternative to PiS and clearly want to break free of the PiS shackles before they are consumed by their big brother and converted into the rank and file of PiS.

Opposites Attract
LiS (Polish ‘fox’) wants to outwit and outsmart PiS and are ready to polarise the political scene once again. As PiS moved further to the right, LPR were worried that their electorate was gradually been swallowed up. Following the Lepper/CBA scandal (see previous post), Self-Defence realised that it was facing an outright attack on its leadership. The result is an odd union. LPR is an ultra-catholic, right-wing party whereas Self-Defence is a left-wing, peasant-backed party. No analogies intended – this brings to mind two European tyrants – one was a left-wing communist, the other a right-wing nationalist…

Poland Comes First
What do the two have in common? Extremist, populist policies; dogmatic, authoritarian leaders. The first announcement by the two LiS leaders (Giertych and Lepper have to share power, of course) is that they will oppose any future ratification of an EU Constitution. What’s more LiS will be focused on the creation of a powerful nation. The Foxes (!) have made it clear that their priority is ideology over the economy and finances. Well, what a surprise…

Booking Hell

July 7, 2007

Roman GiertychRoman Giertcyh, Minister of Education has done it again. He’s got himself into yet another pickle thanks to the ridiculousness of his ideas. Well done, Roman!

Deputy Roman
Giertych is of course Deputy PM and leader of the League of Polish Families (LPR), an extremist catholic party intent on slapping their right-wing ideas on the whole nation regardless of whether the nation agrees with these ideas or not. The LPR currently has around 4% in the opinion polls which means the party will, in all likelihood, not get into parliament at the next election.

Roman the Educator
Wanting to flex a bit of political muscle and show the world he really is a big, powerful man, Roman Giertych has decided to change the obligatory reading list for school kids and do away with some of the biggest names in Polish literature in an effort to impose his idea of ‘canon’ on Poland’s youngest readers.

Roman the Wise
For the first time ever, a Minister of Education has made this decision single-handedly without consulting it with any school teachers, head teachers, literary experts or specialists in education. Roman has decided that the poets Jan Lechoń and Kazimierz Wierzyński are not good enough for Poland’s school children and has also forced out Maria Konopnicka, Bruno Schulz, Witold Gombrowicz and Stanisław Lem – all literary pillars, veritable heavyweights of the Polish literary canon.

Roman the Bold
Like a school boy ready to prove a point and ready to show he’s in control, Giertych has been quick to elbow his way into the nation’s collective consciousness eagerly sticking his hand up with slogans like, “Miss, Miss, there’s too much violence in our schools”. Or, “Miss, Miss, we need to re-think our moral values”. Oh yes, when it comes to conservative, right-wing slogans, Roman’s yer man.

Roman the Cunning
However, when it comes to the reading list, commentators are a little worried. They’ve put two and two together and realised there’s more to this controversy than Giertych simply finding Gombrowicz too difficult or Lem a little over his head. It seems that each and every one of the authors of these Index-ed books is of Jewish descent or, in the case of Konopicka, fought ardently for the Jewish cause.


Foot in Mouth Disease

May 29, 2007

I have a theory that the level of a country’s cultural development and civilisation can be gauged by the standard of its public toilets. Obviously, everything is relative but take a look at service station bogs in Sweden, Holland or Germany and take a look at the holes in the ground you find in Northern Africa, for example. Everything else comes somewhere in the middle and in this way we can establish where a county can be found on the cultural continuum.
Well, I think it’s a good theory…

My other theory is that you can gauge the state of a country’s political culture/development/class by the amount of absurdity contained in the country’s legislation or by the amount of surreal decisions announced by its politicians. Which brings me to Ewa Sowińska, Poland’s controversial Children’s Rights Ombudsman.

Sowińska recently made the news by writing a letter to the Pope claiming that the forces of darkness (in the guise of certain independent media) were closing in on Poland and Poland’s church hierarchs and were attempting to bring down Holy Mother Church through defamation, criticism and a consolidated attack on Archbishop Wielgus who was set to become Archbishop of Warsaw but had to step down after it was found that he had collaborated with the communist Secret Police (see previous blog entry). When asked why on earth the Children’s Rights Ombudsman was writing an official letter to the Pope on government headed paper she replied that the good Archbishop spent many hours teaching children and this was, therefore, a matter for the Ombudsman. Hmm…

TeletubbiesAnyway, this time Sowińska – of the far-right League of Polish Families – has excelled even herself. She has expressed concerns about the sexuality of Tinky Winky of the Teletubbies who, she believes, is quite obviously gay. She came to this conclusion upon noticing that dear old Tinky has a penchant for carrying handbags. Sowińska is so intent on pursuing her anti-gay crusade that she is currently in consultation with psychologists about this matter. If convicted, charged and found to be gay, Tinky Winky will be banned from Polish TV as this is a blatant case of the promotion of a gay lifestyle which is abhorrent to all God-fearing League of Polish Family members.

I wonder if she’s ever seen Little Britain…

Five reasons to worry (Part I)

April 27, 2007

Should Polish people start panicking? Law and Justice (PiS) together with Samoobrona (Self-Defence) and the League of Polish Families (LPR) created the euphemistically-termed ‘rich and varied’ coalition whose aim it was to re-build Poland, or rather build Poland anew. It seems their plans haven’t quite gone the way they wanted them to go.

Re-building Poland?

I’m not one for doom and gloom but following the political turmoil here in Poland, it’s hard to keep a positive outlook on life. Several days ago Poland (together with Ukraine) won the right to host the 2012 European Championships. The mood has changed somewhat…

Political commentators and observers have been quick to point out that things seem to be going awry for Poland’s ruling elite. PiS, headed by the Kaczyński twins, has been dead set on creating a ‘new’ Poland, a kind of utopia in which only the pious and God-fearing reside. Some say they’re building castles in the sand, others believe the ideas are worthy but their methods are questionable. Others still maintain that the PiS government is simply a grandiose house of cards which may look sturdy on the outside but has begun to creak and is ready to fall.

I’ve isolated five reasons why it may be time for Poles to start worrying and strangely enough all five points seem to have come to the fore this week.

Firstly (political zeal), the much-maligned Vetting Act which aimed at weeding out all ex-communists and Secret Police (SB) collaborators has been found to be a spectacularly bungled legislative experiment. So much so that a whole host of journalists and former Solidarity activists have decided to ignore the legal necessity of submitting so-called vetting declarations. The two most controversial cases being that of Bronisław Geremek, former advisor to Lech Wałęsa and Tadeusz Mazowiecki, Poland’s first non-communist Prime Minister since World War II. According to the Kaczyński twins, both Geremek and Mazowiecki have lost their respective posts in the European Parliament and in the Order of the White Eagle. The BBC makes reference to the Geremek case, while briefly discusses Mazowiecki‘s predicament. What is worrying is the government’s complete lack of elasticity in creating legislation which not only seeks to eliminate the ‘wrong-doers’ but also inadvertently targets eminent and distinguished activists such as Geremek and Mazowiecki.

Secondly (intolerance), Poland the Polish government seems to be increasingly in the firing line with regards to homophobia. The Guardian notes how the European Parliament has decided enough is enough and will be investigating claims that the Polish government is openly using anti-gay propaganda. The BBC also discusses this controversial issue. In fact, PM Kaczyński only recently talked about the obvious benefits of lowering the number of gay people in society.

Thirdly (lack of integrity), the suicide (reported in USA Today) of Barbara Blida, former Left Democratic Alliance (SLD) member and Construction Minister, has cast a dark shadow on the Internal Security Agency (ABW) and the methods employed by Messieurs Zbigniew Ziobro and Zbigniew Wasserman, respectively Ministers of Justice and the Secret Services. Blida shot herself after members of the ABW raided her house. It was thought Blida was going to be arrested on charges of corruption. Rather than express remorse and sorrow through a public show of sympathy, Wasserman was quick to wash his hands of the whole affair and in effect laid the blame on the head of the ABW who did the honourable thing and handed in his resignation. In a parliamentary address that shocked many commentators, Wasserman indicated that no innocent person would have shot themselves in such a situation and he suggested that Blida must have been guilty to have done so. What is troubling is Wasserman’s lack of integrity and honour in such a tragic situation.

Part II to follow…