Death of Solidarity

August 31, 2010
Spotlight on Poland

Spotlight on Poland

Nobody could have envisaged that the thirtieth anniversary of the birth of Solidarność (in August 1980) would turn into a farce and sound the death knell for Poland’s first trade union. It is fair to say that the anniversary celebrations symbolically, yet unintentionally, brought about the end of the heroic Solidarność of August 1980. The Janusz Śniadek-led politically-distorted Solidarity of 2010 has absolutely nothing in common with the Solidarity of 1980 that brought together people of varying views, opinions and political allegiances. Lech Wałęsa’s refusal to attend the celebrations was a clear cutting of the umbilical cord and demonstration of the fact that the legacy of Solidarity 1980 is to be found elsewhere, not in Solidarity 2010.

Tusk Called For Solidarity But Was Booed

Tusk Called For Solidarity But Was Booed

What was shocking about the celebrations was the reception that Prime Minister Donald Tusk got from the trade union members. Tusk, a former Solidarity member and activist, was hissed and jeered at when he asked the audience what had happened to the old Solidarity which brought together religious people, atheists, opposition activists and communists alike all for the good of the country. There was no room for hate. To this the hall erupted in a chorus of whistles and boos. Likewise, President Komorowski was greeted with hostility. It was only when PiS head Jarosław Kaczyński took the stage that the hecklers finally settled down giving him rapturous round of applause.

Kaczyński Giving Tusk 'The Evils'

Kaczyński Giving Tusk ‘The Evils’

Why was Jarosław Kaczyński giving a speech in the first place? He neither espouses to the ideals of tolerance and solidarity nor was he an integral member of the original movement. His place at the anniversary celebrations was misplaced, misconceived and misguided. He had neither the authority not the right to stand up and talk about ‘solidarity’ with the views he holds. In his speech he talked about manipulation and lies whilst looking straight at PM Tusk. Unsurprisingly, he talked about his patriotic brother Lech Kaczyński who, he alleged, had struggled with Tadeusz Mazowiecki (Poland’s first non-communist post-war Prime Minister) and Bronisław Geremek (Minister of Foreign Affairs) who were ready to give up the fight.

Henryka Krzywonos Strikes Back

Henryka Krzywonos Strikes Back

A hurt and shell-shocked Mazowiecki confronted Kaczyński afterwards telling him that what he had said was a complete pack of lies to which Kaczyński replied that he had a different view of what had happened. Mazowiecki retorted: “This has nothing to do with anyone’s views. It is about the facts and what happened. Gemerek’s no longer with us. How could you?! The facts are completely different”. However, what really rocked the celebrations was Henryka Krzywonos’ impromptu speech.

Henryka Krzywonos Saves The Day

Henryka Krzywonos Saves The Day

The former Solidarity heroine and tram driver hit the headlines when she brought traffic to a standstill and initiated a Solidarity-led strike in August 1980 when she stopped her tram. After hearing Kaczyński and the jeers at Tusk, she ploughed into the audience and Jarosław Kaczyński claiming that the members of Solidarity had worked for the good of everyone and to boo at PM Tusk was simply out of order. As for Kaczyński, she said she did not know what had happened to him but he should stop stirring things up and let people get on with their lives. “It is you,” she said to Jarosław Kaczyński, “who is destroying Lech’s [Kaczyński] dignity”.

Solidarność began life as a movement fighting for the rights of workers. Sadly, this non-violent and tolerant institution, open for all, became embroiled in politics and has since become the lapdog of Kaczyński’s Law and Justice (PiS). As Henryka Krzywonos, one of the original signatories of the Solidarity Gdańsk Agreement (pol. Porozumienie Sierpniowe) said, “The name ‘Solidarity’ binds and obligates us”. It certainly does; solidarity obligates us to work together, in tolerance and openness with one another.

Advertisements

Poland Has a Cross to Bear

August 18, 2010

Shit Hits the Plaque

Shit Hits the Plaque

Things have really reached boiling point and one could colloquially add that the shit really has hit the fan in Poland. A ‘faecal’ assailant soiled the plaque commemorating the death of President Lech Kaczyński and 95 other passengers in the Smolensk air tragedy. A 71-year-old threw a strategically aimed pot of poo at the memorial tablet in central Warsaw. He was arrested by police and taken away. This follows several months of  squabbling over what should happen to the cross that was temporarily erected outside the Presidential Palace by scouts in memory of the victims of the Smolensk tragedy.

José & Jarek - Feel the Love

José Luis Zapatero & Jarek Kaczyński - Feel the Love

It all started when President Bronisław Komorowski announced that the temporary wooden cross should be transferred to a more appropriate place, specifically Saint Anne’s Church, not far from the Presidential Palace. The cross is of course a religious symbol and not a symbol of state and it is inappropriate to leave it outside the Presidential Palace. His comments kicked off a storm with Jarosław Kaczyński claiming Komorowski was anti-catholic and a proponent of the evil of what he termed ‘Zapaterism’.

Crucifixion Anyone?

Crucifixion Anyone?

The odd thing is that no one, apart from Jarosław Kaczyński, seems to know what evil deed it is that Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero has done. With a lack of decent policies, sound ideas and competent opinions, Kaczyński has been using the cross as a political makeweight. In fact, he has said that the policies of Law & Justice (PiS) will now revolve around the Smolensk tragedy. Kaczyński is literally crucifying his own party and followers in pursuit of his own personal mission. His personal loss seems to have clouded his judgement and the cross has begun to symbolise his hurt rather than the mission of Christ and his followers. Those so-called ‘defenders’ of the cross are to Catholics what hooligans are to regular football fans.

Christian or Fascist?

Christian or Fascist?

A fine example of the utter blindness of these so-called Christians was their behaviour when the day came to move the cross. Priests from Saint Anne’s came to lead the cross in procession from the Presidential Palace to Saint Anne’s Church. The reaction of these ‘Catholics’ was to scream and shout at the Catholic priests calling them traitors and, of all things, “Jews”. Odd, to say the least. We have reached an impasse and the only real way to resolve it is for the two main protagonists, President Komorowski and Jarosław Kaczyński, to sit down and reach an adequate compromise. Then again pigs might fly…


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?

rydzykizacja

Piece of Plane Becomes Holy Relic

April 29, 2010

Holy Piece of Tupolev Tu-154

Holy Piece of Tupolev Tu-154

If anyone had previously believed Poland was a secular state there is no doubt now that the opposite is true following the tragic Smolensk air crash. In some ways it was comforting to see the very public outpouring of grief after the disaster but what was striking were the religious overtones that accompanied the grief. Mourners spoke of the “need” to join in grief and the “duty” of every “real Polish, Catholic patriot” to say goodbye to the President. What was even more striking were the mourners who queued for up to eighteen hours to kneel and make the sign of the cross before the coffins of President Lech Kaczyński and Maria Kaczyński. To outsiders looking in, it would appear that tens of thousands of Polish people were saying farewell to a holy man, a saint perhaps.

The Virgin Mary's New Clothes

The Virgin Mary's New Clothes

Now it seems that a piece of the Tupolev Tu-154 has taken on Holy Relic status. Inhabitants of Smolensk found a small piece of the plane and gifted it to Poland. Father Roman Majewski of the Jasna Góra Monastery, Poland’s most famous holy sanctuary, has said that this relic will become “a testament to the tragedy and a symbol of our love for our nation”. The tiny piece of the Tupolev Tu-154 will adorn the new ‘robes and crown’ of the Black Madonna of Częstochowa, Poland’s holiest relic. As well as the piece of the Tupolev, the Virgin Mary’s new robes, designed by Mariusz Drapikowski, will also contain fragments of meteorites found on the Moon, Mars and Mercury.


Interesting Times

July 10, 2007

There is a wonderful Chinese saying: “May you never live in interesting times”. How true…

Happy Family
Uber-priest Rydzyk Before we discuss today’s scandal, let us move back a few days. On Sunday, in an audacious bid to garner more support among the catholic masses, all the high-ranking members of the government including Prime Minister Jarosław Kaczyński, Deputy PM Andrzej Lepper and Deputy PM Roman Giertych decided to take part in the Radio Maryja pilgrimage to the Jasna Góra Monastery. For the first time ever in the history of Jasna Góra pilgrimages, the Prime Minister of Poland was invited to speak from the altar by the uber-chief of Radio Maryja Tadeusz Rydzyk. Kaczyński with Andrzej Lepper sitting close behind sang the praises of Rydzyk and his great work and also told the masses how they are the real Poland (hinting that anyone who is not catholic or part of the ‘Radio Maryja’ family is not).

Media Family
The scandal is in the fact that the government has become embroiled in a poisonous relationship with Rydzyk’s Radio Maryja and his TV station Trwam leading to a situation where many political decisions seem to be taken at the behest of or with the blessing of Rydzyk. TV Trwam was given exclusive rights to broadcast the pilgrimage with all other stations being banned from the gathering. Much to the media’s surprise, Rydzyk hired heavies to stop any other (as he called them “liberalising, foreign-backed and anti-Polish”) cameramen and reporters from appearing at the pilgrimage.

Religious Family
The whole political-religious gathering was watched by (some say) 150,000 pilgrims. At one stage Rydzyk ironically asked the PM whether the PiSSelf-DefenceLPR coalition would survive. The PM retorted that the altar was not a place for politics. Yeah right…

Family Surprise
Kaczyńska called ‘a witch’On Monday, the day after the pilgirmage, the last thing anybody expected was an attack on the Kaczyńskis from… Taduesz Rydzyk. However, out of nowhere, the weekly Wprost published an article giving a verbatim account of Rydzyk speaking to students of the Higher School of Social Culture and Media (a Toruń university set up by Rydzyk himself). In his lecture he charged headlong into an attack on President Kaczyński (the PM’s twin brother) calling him a cheat and weakling. He then added that his wife Maria Kaczyńska is a witch for supporting euthanasia and if she is so keen on euthanasia should be the first to go and kill herself. He also added his usual anti-semitic spiel.

Family Break-up
Andrzej Lepper…the fights overAnd then, this morning, we hear that Andrzej Lepper has been thrown out of the government by PM Kaczyński. The Central Anti-Corruption Bureau (CBA) is said to have found evidence of massive corruption by the head of Self-Defence amounting to millions upon millions of złoty. This follows months of to-ing and fro-ing from both Kaczyński and Lepper in which the coalition has been constantly in doubt because of the excesses of members of the Self-Defence party. Straws and camel backs, straws and camel backs…

Family Issues
It now seems likely that the coalition will come to a final and crashing end. Self-Defence is currently in discussion and are deciding whether or not to continue in government without Lepper. Whatever the decision, the repercussions for Poland will be seismic with political instability damaging both the economy, exacerbating social unrest and destabilising the work that has already been done.