Monday, March 14, 2016

In Poland, Turning Against 1989

In Poland, democracy is under assault by the winners of the most recent elections, Jaroslaw Kaczynski's Law and Justice Party. These elected authoritarians, much like Vladimir Putin, are defining themselves by rejecting the revolution of 1989. But whereas Putin acts like the fall of Communism was a bad thing, since it led to the collapse of Soviet power, the Polish government believes that the revolution did not go far enough. The government is trumpeting new evidence that Lech Walensa spied for the communist secret police in the 1970s to show that the revolution was nothing but a sham. Ivan Krastev explains:
Antoni Macierewicz, the current Polish defense minister, claimed bluntly that Mr. Walesa’s police file proved that “post-Communist Poland was a product of the secret police and not of democratically elected institutions.”

It is one thing to have to defend the 1989 revolution in “defeated” Russia. But why is it suddenly so hard to do so in victorious Poland, where people are freer and more prosperous than ever before and where Solidarity is a national icon?

The irony of the current wave of revisionism is that 1989 is rejected for the same reasons that it has long been acclaimed, namely its absence of radicalism. The fact that it chose to integrate the old elites instead of persecuting them has turned out to be, at once, the revolution’s lasting achievement and its ultimate Achilles’ heel.

The populist insurgency feverishly advancing in Poland, Hungary and other parts of Eastern Europe is a rebellion against moderates and moderation. The events of 1989 are condemned as little more than an ingenious plot to transform the elites’ political power into economic power (“meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”)

In this narrative, 1989 marks the liberation not of the people, but of the Communist elites. They were liberated from fear (of party purges and anti-Communist uprisings), guilt, ideology, the chains of community and even national loyalty — before they had the privilege to travel; now they have the right to be part of the West. Before they ran the country, but now they own it. The shadow power of the old elites has become the ultimate explanation for everything that went wrong after 1989 — rising inequality, betrayed expectations.
I find this quite disturbing. Poland was for a while such a success story, where the longing to live in a "normal country" led to a remarkable flowering of democracy, a free press, and so on. But that was not enough for some Poles, who wanted more than to become an economic and political satellite of Germany and France. They are expressing their frustration through attacks on the compromises that brought their democracy into being.

The problems that brought us Donald Trump are not just American, and in fact many other countries have them much worse than we do.

1 comment:

szopen said...

After many years after fall of communism, it was calculated that 80% or so of medium sized and big companies was in the posession of the former nomenclatura. The media for years were boasting about inevitable tryumph of modernity and liberalism, while scolding right-wingers and generally expressing the attitude which could be summarised in the sentence "we do not have to discuss with you, you are not worthy and besides you will die out in no time". In 90s special services carried several actions aimed at the legal opposition (right wing) causing its fragmentation. In a result and because of the 5% entry barrier, the most underrepresentative Sejm was elected, which then passed in 1996 a constitution, which then barely passed in a referendum with barely enough turnout.

No one ever was punished for special services illegal actions. While court confirmed that the actions were illegal, it also stated that it was so long ago that the punishments cannot be executed.

Special services also illegally investigated dozens of right-wing journalists, and used their illegally kept records even in private cases against said journalists. Special service raided a location of right-wing newspaper to get their laptop, in order to get the names of their informers.

In the other news, common citizens who had bad luck to get on nerves on local bonzos were illegally kept for dozen of years inside psychiatric hospital. Others were arrested and put to jail, when they awaited trials for months.

The wife of my friend could not find any work in a small city until she got political protection. She got a minor position in railway - she needed a effing political protection to get a minor job with poor salary. The wife of my wife's brother had the bad luck of being in the way of wife of local bonzo, her car was hit by the car of bonzo's wife. Despite witnesses being shown to be lying (e.g. a policeman claimed he saw the bonzo's wife for the first time in his life, despite being related to her), guess who had to pay for the accident?

When rightwingers organised huge marches (e.g. independence day march), it was pretty much proven that there were police provocateurs which were there to incite violence (one can find youtube videos showing people without uniforms within police ranks and then the same people in the crowd behaving violently; you can also find youtube videos when police and non-uniformed people attacked passser-byes, kicking them with no provocation at all).

At the same time, public media and most of the newspapers were saying everything is all right, we have perfectly functioning democracy. No one in the west was complaining about all this thing. No one was complaining when previous government broke constitution and elected two more constitutional judges than it could, just to ensure it would have majority in next few years - and three another judges were barely constitutional.

It was not revolt against democracy. It was a revolt against corrupted system and shortcomings of democracy.