Global Independent Analytics
Bojan Stanislawski
Bojan Stanislawski

Location: Poland

Specialization: Eastern Europe, Labor movement

Comical aspects of sad reality - Poland’s political deadlock

The recent clash between the two wings of the Polish establishment to many appears pathetic and inexplicable.

The conflict, however, in terms of values and interests, is largely artificial. It is not even invented, it is just poorly scripted.

The Polish ruling class, beginning in 1989, has always modeled itself after the American. The United States was not only an exemplary but a formula for success, modernity, prosperity and all the oh so desired phenomena in a time of what most thought was a radical change for the better. Leszek Balcerowicz, the main executor of Soros’ plan for the restoration of capitalism in Poland, used the motto “Get rich!” to appeal to the masses. Well, not many followed the advice.

What really happened in the early 90s was nothing short of the complete devastation of the Polish economy to a point no return; it was brought on by a state which made it virtually impossible to get things back on track. It was all, quite rightly, named at the time “shock therapy”.

The shock was so hard that it effectively tore apart all fundamental social structures and links and destroyed all collectivist sentiments of elementary solidarity in the society. In many respects this process did bring about certain resemblances between the Poles and the Americans, but rather as a side effect. The new powers that be stylized themselves intentionally. The problematic element is that they had neither the capacity nor the tradition unless for the latter we take the notorious desire of the Polish elite to imitate the powerful. “You have been the peacock and parrot of nations,” wrote Juliusz Słowacki, a great Polish writer of the XIX century, which was a stunning critique of the Polish political leaders of that time. Today history repeats itself, of course, as a farce.

Since the last general elections, Poland has made it to the international media. Mainly with drastic measures of the new ruling party Law & Justice to secure its power and the hysteria of those removed from powers who are gladly helped by top EU functionaries in spreading the madness.  But not just by those means. Dozens of funny and pathetic anecdotes were quoted by some media observing the situation a little more closely. Some are truly comic, others provoke facepalms, but some can leave one speechless. Such for example was one of the recent weird statements of the Polish foreign affairs minister, Witold Waszczykowski, who, together with the defense and environmental ministers constitute the trio most detached from reality in the current government of Beata Szydło.

In an interview for “Das Bild” he explained the following:

-- We just want to heal our country of certain diseases. The previous government applied a leftist concept that the world, according to the Marxist model, must move in only one direction, towards a mixture of cultures and races and a place convenient for cyclists and vegetarians, which stands only for renewable energy, and all forms of religion are combated. This has nothing in common with the traditional Polish set of values.

Let us for a moment ignore the thick racism of the Polish number one diplomat and not even ask the question of how  Mr. Waszczykowski technically imagines the prevention of interracial and intercultural processes in a globalized world. Instead, let’s just move quickly to analyze the reasons that prompted him to state such nonsense. And it is nonsense not just because it is offensive, but also because such kind of “critique” has no material basis in Poland.

Mr. Waszczykowski is obviously erecting a strawman and discussing completely imaginary enemies and threats to Poland and its government with the German journalists. The Poles are a heavily pauperized nation with predominantly conservative and ultra-conservative, Catholic-fundamentalist views. More than 2 m people have emigrated to other EU countries the moment the borders fell, 60 per cent of those who stayed can only satisfy their very basic needs -- food and shelter. Clothing and such “extras” have to be bought on credit. The Catholic Church is a powerful corporation which controls most social-cultural processes and manages them. The liberal agenda: LGBT rights, abortion, multimeric relationships, animal rights and hipsterization of esthetics and outfits is in vogue mostly in big urban centers. Same goes for consumer choice of using a bike or switching to a plant-based diet.

Powerful movements with a liberal agenda do not exist in Poland. All the above-mentioned issues are dealt with by hobby circles in the form of NGOs. No matter how interesting, progressive, necessary and potentially promising their ideas are -- there is no massive sentiment throughout the country, neither for such ideas nor the activism. There are some centers which attempt political lobbying and sometimes even organize spectacular happenings, but they do not affect the general pattern and flow of social and cultural interactions in Poland. No matter how big Warsaw Prides are-- aggressive homophobia prevails, and the so-called Marches of Independence are larger by dozens of times. And if we look at the appeal of cycling or vegetarianism/veganism, we end up somewhere on the complete margin of reality. Yes, people do cycle more and eat more healthily in general, but there is only a tiny group doing such things for clearly political reasons, let alone for ‘undermining Polishness’.

All these groups taken together pose a threat to the conservative, Catholic, meat consuming and alcohol drinking Poland, comparable to a unit of, say, Swiss scouts about to invade and occupy the country.

And the strange specter of a “mixture of races,” defined by Waszczykowski as a haunting threat, can only be qualified as complete cognitive disaster. The ethnic profile of Polish society has been decided by the actions of two people -- Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin: the Holocaust and the mass resettlements named “Action Vistula” respectively. Since the late 40s Poland has become a very peculiar place on the map of Europe where there were almost no national, ethnic or cultural minorities.

It was and still is a white, 100 percent Polish monolith. There are very few Germans, Belarusians or Ukrainians living near the respective borders, and there is a tiny group of Tatars in the North-East. Apart from that, in the last two decades, some Vietnamese and Arabs have arrived and opened a significant number of catering premises. By the way, it is worth noting on the side, that these two groups are a point of major dispute among the Polish nationalists. Some say they should all be hanged or deported, and others claim that they should stay, and only the newcomers should not be allowed in; all in all, there is nothing like a kebab after a hard day protesting immigration.

Just one look at the official statistics makes the entire picture clear. The largest group defining itself as a minority are the Silesians, which are heavily colonized and do not have schools or any major cultural centers using their language. In the biggest national research focusing on minorities in 2002, there were 173,153 declared Silesians. The report’s top five were 152,897 Germans, 48,737 Belarusians, 30,957 Ukrainians and 12,855 Roma. Even if we consider these numbers could have doubled or tripled since then -- it is all like a drop in the ocean of nearly 40 m Poles.

It is beyond any doubt that Poland is a moon national and monoethnic society and speaking of any “racial mixture” threat -- no matter how disgusting per se -- is clearly mental.

The logical question is what exactly prompts the Polish foreign minister to come up with such comical statements. And the answer is simple -- it is the Americans. Of course, it is not that he is being told or ordered by anyone to fool around the western media talking nonsense. Waszczykowski simply copies the attitude and the general profile of the part of the American establishment he likes better. This is his archetype, he does not have any other identity.

In this, he is pretty much like the entire Polish right, which can only base itself on such artificial add-ons. The more, the better. If we strip Law & Justice of Catholic fundamentalism or their US-oriented servilism there will be nothing left in their ideology -- only predatory violence and behavior typical of a herd of wild animals with one Alpha male on top and no social complexity.

Waszczykowski did not do it intentionally; he was not trying to make a fool of himself. Most likely, he does not even perceive it that way. In his mind the face palm he produced is something positive because it reassures him; the more intense the reactions are (he, of course, considers them hostile, though people are laughing), the more secure and stable his identity is. This is the only way he can test it out. Facts do not matter much. What Waszczykowski is fighting is a phantasmagoric battle with concepts and movements from American liberal centers which he projects onto Polish territory. And, no, he does not understand that -- he just repeats things.

The saddest thing however is that those who pass as an alternative to Waszczykowski and his comrades from Law & Justice are nothing more, but a mere copy of the American establishment as well, only of the less-hard-core Republicans. They have pretty much the same views on the pressing national issues and most post-material values, except that they are not so concerned about it, focusing on economic liberalism instead.

The biggest media, the banksters, the employers’ organizations and so on, have been beating another drum, the one of “liquidating socialism”.  Over 25 years after the fall of the Berlin wall, these individuals are still chasing the specter Marx, and Engels wrote about in the “Communist Manifesto,” which they consider dangerously haunting. Again, facts are not important. Poland can be on the forefront of the world’s neoliberal vanguard, and the society can be hyper-conservative, but they will still detect the hammer and sickle in, say, a blind person receiving PLN 600 (150 euros) monthly “benefit,” which is around a third of the minimum wage in Poland.

What matters are phantasms like entrepreneurship, which have very little practical application to Polish society. They want low taxes, eliminating any welfare and generally what they care about is erecting the ethos of a modern bourgeois who considers the reality he lives in to be the best of all worlds, despite some minor disadvantages such as poverty.

Again, this is copied from the other side of the pond and is hardly compatible with popular sentiments. Where is the mass of prosperous Polish businesses? Where is the middle class? Where are the wealthy burghers? Nowhere. In a heavily pauperized society, there is no natural room for the existence and operation of classical right-wing mass-based parties, which Law & Justice is, or such as their opponents -- the Civic Platform. The whole Polish elite is like this, and therefore Polish politics are a pathetic festival of poor copies.

The major things that allow this paradox to steadily continue, apart from many complex socio-cultural issues, are the lack of a strong labor movement and the prevailing feudal attitude towards politics where the masters are obeyed and never called to account. Most importantly, the state, just as the feudal latifundia in the past, is none of “my business”. The role of the citizen, just as the groom’s or the carter’s, is to do or work as little as possible and to potentially steal something from someone else’s magnate. The ultimate goal of his life is to survive. And that is not an easy task in Poland today.

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