Can the Real Poland Step Forward?

May 24, 2013
Social Schizophrenia?

Social Schizophrenia?

There are two events in Poland’s very recent history which in a fashion demonstrate the schizophrenia Polish democracy is suffering from. On the one hand, Poland is this burgeoning new dynamo, bustling with economic energy, pulling up trees and surprising everyone (including itself) with respect to how well it has done in the transmogrification move from a centrally-planned to capitalist economy. But on the other hand, society may have moved forward on but there are still pockets of pig-headedness and idiocy that defy reason. This blind faith in conservatism might be called the “Smolensk Syndrome” but that would be simplistic and not entirely true. This attitude is not the result of the Smolensk air crash. Instead, ‘patriotic’ post-Smolensk sentiments are symptomatic of a very peculiarly Polish state of affairs and at their very core lies the demon of intolerance. On deconstructing this attitude we find an even greater demon, that of ignorance.

Living in the Past?

Living in the Past?

The two events that we are talking about both concern Law and Justice (PiS) – Poland’s chief opposition party that also suffers from a form of schizophrenia. On the one hand, PiS views are right-wing, family-oriented, Catholic, conservative and nationalist. But on the other, the party espouses not to economic liberalism but more to greater centralisation and, if anything, economic values that are socialist. And at the heart of everything PiS-like is its chief rabble-rouser Jarosław Kaczyński, the evil twin of the late Smolenskified Lech Kaczyński. The first of the two events, that are symptomatic of Poland’s current intolerance/ignorance and the ever-widening cleft on Poland’s political landscape, dates back to 2010 when the wonderfully named Solidarity activist Henryka Krzywonos (Henrietta Bentnose) decided to openly criticise Solidarity trade union members and Jarosław Kaczyński for their lack of culture, solidarity and tolerance. Her attack on the vitriol of these individuals against former fellow Solidarity workers and activists (now members of the liberal classes) was both pertinent and perfectly timed.

It brought home to many how divided Polish society had really become, between the conservatives and the liberals. The demarcation line may run skew-whiff, but can  be loosly drawn along patriotic-religious lines. That is, if you are a follower of the Polish version of the Catholic church, a listener of Radio Maryja then you are on the right side of the barricade (to paraphrase Kaczyński), but if you do not, if you believe in Europe, a secular society and freedom (of speech) for all, then woe betide you.

The second event took place several days ago. Krystyna Pawłowicz, a PiS MP and academic, let loose a litany of ultra-conservative abuse. It was directed at the people attending the Marsz Szmat (pol. Slut March) whose plan it was to protest against sexism and the objectifying of women. Not only was the content of Pawłowicz’s diatribe tasteless (“they should put their disgusting breasts away”… “the streets are public property not a place for deviants and whores”), but it was downright rude.

Try as they might, PiS politicians and spokesmen (not women) were hard pressed to find an excuse for Pawłowicz’s antics. The problem, however, is that Pawłowicz and similar cronies are continually tolerated (and this is not the first time she has let rip). Put Pawłowicz in the mix together with Antoni Macierewicz and Jarosław Kaczyński and you get a truly dangerous, intolerant, concoction. The question is whether this intolerance is down to ignorance or sheer bloodymindedness (or whether this is the same).

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Polish Personality 2008

January 3, 2009

2009 is upon us and it’s perhaps time to take stock of 2008 and consider who were the biggest players on Poland’s political scene, who people took most notice of and who was the most influential Polish politician. Several names spring to mind but we can safely whittle the number down to five politicians:

Lech Kaczyński, President of Poland
Janusz Palikot, Civic Platform politician
Radosław Sikorski, Minister of Foreign Affairs
Donald Tusk, Prime Minister of Poland
Lech Wałęsa, former President of Poland and leader of Solidarity

Law and Justice for All

Justice (and Law) for All

Battling Everyone
Poland’s President has been on the front pages for the majority of 2008. However, for most of that time, the former head of Law and Justice (PiS) has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. Lech Kaczyński hit the headlines for his ongoing war with two other Polish political heavyweights – Lech Wałęsa (his former employer) and Donald Tusk (a one-time friend).

Civic Mascot

Waging War

Battle-ready
Palikot has become Civic Platform’s (PO) aggressive little mascot, a renegade that the governing party is able to let loose every now and again to take a swipe at the President and the opposition, Law and Justice. Palikot hit the headlines in 2008 by claiming the President had alcohol problems and should have regular health checks to see if he is ‘fit’ enough to govern.

Riding High

Rising Statesman

Battling High
Radosław Sikorski’s comebackability, first from senator to Defence Minister (when PiS was in power), sacking (by PiS) and then appointment as Foreign Minister  (by PO) has solidified his position as an expert in foreign policy and high government advisor. Rumours that he could become NATO’s new leader, though far-fetched, could be a sign of great things to come.

Prime Problems

Shaky Platform

Battle-worn
The PM has by no means had an easy ride this year. Constant bickering and petty squabbling with the President have not gone down well with the Polish public denting his popularity. Tusk seems to be a man always ready for the race but never  managing to get to the finish line. 2008 has been a year of near successes and Poland’s much-needed reforms still seem a long way off.

World Class

Prized Leader

Battle-hardened
Wałęsa spent much of 2008 trying to clear his name after a book was published claiming he had collaborated with the communists. Lech Kaczyński publicly slurred Wałęsa and spurned him during Independence Day celebrations by not inviting him to the official do. However, Wałęsa’s year finished on a high note with his own Nobel Peace Prize Anniversary celebrations attended by the world’s greatest politicians, famous personalities and finest dignitaries.