Adam J Chmielewski cached version 08/02/2019 23:21:31 en Unsympathetic people: the overwhelming success of Poland's exclusionary agenda <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Three elements seem to have played a decisive role in this: voluntary servitude,&nbsp;the Polish brand of inferiority complex, and&nbsp;a deep-seated Polish anti-Semitism and more general exclusivism.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Jaroslaw Kaczynski, Chairman of the Law and Justice political party, during The Patriotic Meeting of Independence Day, November 11, 2017, Kracow, Poland. NurPhoto/Press Association. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>According to a recent poll, the attitude of the Polish people towards other nationals changed dramatically over the period of just one year. Compared with 2017, Polish approval rates of many nations took a deep plunge. Sympathy towards Jews and Arabs, already low, dropped in 2018 by 13 and 6 percent, respectively. Given the persistent anti-Jewish and anti-Islamic propaganda in the Polish media, this is rather unsurprising. Approval of the Germans dropped by 16 percent, as if the difficult and protracted process of the reconciliation between Poland and its “eternal enemy” had never happened.</p> <p>What is really puzzling is that Polish approval of their southern neighbours, the Czechs, took a nosedive by 15 percent; Italians, Russians, Vietnamese and Japanese by 13 percent, and the British by 8 percent. Even the Hungarians and Americans are liked less among Poles by 14 and 11 percent, respectively. </p> <p>To complete the picture one should also mention that the Poles never liked each other very much. According to a recently published book, they were particularly disliked by their own political and intellectual leaders<a href="#_ftn1">[1]</a>. <span class="mag-quote-center">This abrupt change in Polish sentiment requires some explanation. </span></p> <p>This abrupt change in Polish sentiment requires some explanation. Taking a longer perspective, one may say that in the past, when the Poles were cordoned off by the Iron Curtain and unable to travel, they viewed all western, nay, all other countries as lands of happiness and extended their hospitality to all rarely-seen foreigners. Nowadays, thanks to the European Union and its Schengen Treaty, the Poles move freely a lot in great numbers to all destinations. And they emigrate: according to official statistics (real numbers are likely to be higher) in 2016 there were more than 2.5 million Poles living abroad, the majority of them (2.1 million) in European Union countries. Nearly 790 thousand of them took up residence in Great Britain, almost 700 thousand in Germany, while in the Netherlands and Ireland, about 115 thousand. </p> <p>No conclusive explanation can be inferred from these facts and numbers, though. First-hand acquaintance with foreigners might have helped to dispel any fears and thus potential animosities towards them. But in that case Polish sympathies towards them should be rising rather than dropping. </p> <p>On the other hand, a direct acquaintance with other peoples may have dispelled the last vestiges of the past allure felt by Poles to everything foreign, with the exception of foreign currencies, that is. This would explain the sudden souring of their attitudes. Nevertheless, even if true, this still does not account for the fact that Polish approval of other nationals has swayed so dramatically within just one year. The explanation must be sought elsewhere. </p> <h2><strong>The company of strangers</strong></h2> <p>Before attempting to provide one, we should note that while the rapid change in the attitude of Poles towards other nationalities is puzzling, we – the Polish people – are not alone in this. The public attitude towards other nationals nowadays is noticeably swinging in Hungary, Austria, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Italy, as well as in the USA and Great Britain. <span class="mag-quote-center">We – the Polish people – are not alone in this. </span></p> <p>Abrupt changes in public mood are not confined to our post-national and multicultural condition. According to a well-researched historical example, in 1933 nearly 30 per cent of the Jewish population in Germany, 503 thousand strong, which accounted for only 0.76 percent of the German population, were in marital ties with native Germans. Niall Ferguson writes that the cities of Hamburg and Munich saw the highest rates of Jewish-German intermarriage, and that the figures were well above average in Berlin, Cologne, Dresden, Leipzig, and even Breslau, the present Wrocław<a href="#_ftn2">[2]</a>, my home town. Bearing in mind the principle that it takes two to tango, these numbers cannot but reflect at least some level of mutual Jewish-German sympathy, not just one-sided sentiment. And yet soon thereafter, with the rise of the Nazi party to power, these sentiments were <a href="">rapidly reversed</a>.</p> <h2><strong>Mood swings</strong><strong></strong></h2> <p>Here is another vivid example. Bertrand Russell remembered the outbreak of the First World War in the following way: “At the end of July [1914], I was at Cambridge, discussing the situation with all and sundry. I found it impossible to believe that Europe would be so mad as to plunge into war, but I was persuaded that, if there was war, England would be involved. I collected signatures of a large number of professors and Fellows to a statement in favour of neutrality which appeared in the Manchester Guardian. The day war was declared, almost all of them changed their minds. Looking back, it seems extraordinary that one did not realize more clearly what was coming. I spent the evening of August 4 walking round the streets, especially in the neighbourhood of Trafalgar Square, noticing cheering crowds, and making myself sensitive to the emotions of passers-by. During this and the following days I discovered to my amazement that average men and women were delighted at the prospect of war. I had fondly imagined, what most Pacifists contended, that wars were forced upon a reluctant population by despotic and Machiavellian governments.”<a href="#_ftn3">[3]</a></p> <p>Four years later he made the following observation: “The end of the war was so swift and dramatic that no one had time to adjust feelings to changed circumstances. I learned on the morning of November 11 [1918], a few hours in advance of the general public, that the armistice was coming. I went out into the street, and told a Belgian soldier, who said: ‘<em>Tiens, c’est chic!</em>’ I went into a tobacconist’s and told the lady who served me. ‘I am glad of that,’ she said, ‘because now we shall be able to get rid of the interned Germans.’ At eleven o'clock, when the armistice was announced, I was in Tottenham Court Road. Within two minutes, everybody in all the shops and offices had come into the street. They commandeered the buses, and made them go where they liked. I saw a man and woman, complete strangers to each other, meet in the middle of the road and kiss as they passed. The crowd rejoiced and I also rejoiced”<a href="#_ftn4">[4]</a>.</p> <p>These and numerous other examples, both historical and contemporaneous, testify to the essential volatility of public sentiment among all nations. Whatever their ethnicity and culture, people are not always kind-hearted to each other. These examples also suggest that an explanation of these phenomena will have something to do with the political mechanics. </p> <h2><strong>Neo-nationalism and neo-authoritarianism</strong></h2> <p>Since 1989, Poland has been presented as a role-model of transition from communism to liberal democracy. However, following the decisive electoral victory of the party Law and Justice in 2015, Poland has experienced not only the above-described volatility of the attitudes towards foreigners, but has also become a seedbed of more serious xenophobic phenomena. </p> <p>As far as the reversal in the Polish attitudes towards their neighbours is concerned, I would like to suggest that its explanation is to be sought in the fact that, ever since the peaceful “Solidarity” revolution in 1989, Polish politics has been fuelled by the struggle over who truly takes credit for the successful overthrow of Communism. Driven by this, Polish politics became the arena for a struggle of personalities between its main actors, with ideology and political agendas playing an important, but ultimately secondary and instrumental role. <span class="mag-quote-center">Ever since the peaceful “Solidarity” revolution in 1989, Polish politics has been fuelled by the struggle over who truly takes credit for the successful overthrow of Communism. </span></p> <p>This struggle has been going on, and continues to do so, between the champions of the idea of the open society and the advocates of a more tight, self-enclosed community. The former, among which I include centrist and liberal parties, as well as those calling themselves social democratic, successfully worked for the transformation of the Polish economy, the accession of Poland to NATO and the European Union, and, with two interruptions, have managed the country from 1989 until 2015. Donald Tusk, former Polish PM and present President of the EU, has been a leader of these liberal forces for more than a decade. </p> <p>Amongst the latter are the right-wing, conservative and nationalist parties. The central figure in this nationalist part of the political spectrum is Jarosław Kaczyński, chairman of Law and Justice and the surviving twin brother of the former president who died in the airplane crash in Smolensk in 2010. For decades Kaczyński has led his party unchallenged, despite a number of consecutive electoral defeats. </p> <h2><strong>Liberal arrogance</strong></h2> <p>The tables were turned when in 2015 the candidate supported by Kaczyński won the presidential elections, his party soon thereafter securing for itself an overwhelming parliamentary majority. Several factors contributed to this.</p> <p>On the part of the liberals, three factors played a crucial role. First of all, there was the liberal disregard for the significant social costs of the transformation. According to Eurostat, in 2008 out of 23.5 million Europeans with an income smaller than 10 euro per day, 10.5 million were Polish citizens. 44 per cent of Europeans with incomes below €5 a day, lived in Poland. No less significant was the arrogance demonstrated by members of the liberal parties. Thirdly, their past successes lulled the liberals into excessive confidence. They had come to believe that their rule would be secured indefinitely. Two examples will serve. Shortly before the presidential elections in 2015 Adam Michnik, editor-in-chief of the liberal newspaper <em>Gazeta Wyborcza</em>, said that the liberal incumbent, Bronisław Komorowski, could only be defeated if he ran over a pregnant nun on the zebra while drunk-driving. In the run-up to the general elections in 2015, Donald Tusk quipped that there was no one he could lose the elections to. It turned out that both were hopelessly wrong – a text-book example of Arnold Toynbee’s “resting upon one’s oars”<a href="#_ftn5">[5]</a>.</p> <h2><strong>Politics as extermination</strong></h2> <p>On the nationalist side of the spectrum, scarred by numerous past defeats, which only propelled his political ambitions, Kaczyński resorted to the populist redistributive agenda on the one hand, and on the other, to nationalist propaganda. The political efficacy of redistributionist promises in the electoral process does not need much by way of explanation. What calls for an explanation is the overwhelming success of his exclusionary agenda. </p> <p>Three elements seem to have played a decisive role in this. The first may be encapsulated in the concept of voluntary servitude; the second refers to the Polish brand of inferiority complex, while the third has to do with a deep-seated Polish anti-Semitism, and more generally, exclusivism. </p> <p>As for the first factor, one should say that Kaczynski has managed to secure for himself the position of an unquestioned authority by surrounding himself with faithful acolytes, mostly amateurs-turned-politicians, whose behaviour may be perfectly summed up by the ‘voluntary servitude’ diagnosed by Etienne de la Boetie<a href="#_ftn6">[6]</a>. They have returned his favours by a staunch and blind obedience towards him, and a ferocious, contemptuous and indeed exterminating attitude towards the political opposition. Personal subservience towards Kaczyński pushed his acolytes into scenes of mutual rivalry that have erupted into all sorts of exclusionary ideas, policies and bills which they hoped would please their party chief, prompting him in return, to reward them with more favours and stronger positionings within his neo-authoritarian party. Another way to describe the internal dynamics of the party might be found in Friedrich von Hayek’s reply to the question “why the worst get on top” in totalitarian regimes. As he wrote, an aspiring dictator will be able to obtain the support:</p> <blockquote><p>“of all the docile and gullible, who have no strong convictions of their own but are prepared to accept a ready-made system of values if it is only drummed into their ears sufficiently loudly and frequently. It will be those whose vague and imperfectly formed ideas are easily swayed and whose passions and emotions are readily aroused who will thus swell the ranks of the totalitarian party”<a href="#_ftn7">[7]</a>. </p></blockquote> <h2><strong>Playthings of history</strong></h2> <p>As for the Polish inferiority complex; for more than two centuries, Poland has been a plaything of history, not its agent. Ever since the first partition of Poland in 1772, and especially the third one in 1795, when it ceased to exist as an independent state, the fate of the Polish territory and population was decided by its powerful neighbours, Germany, Austria and Russia. </p> <p>During that period, Polish culture and language was preserved by the thin layer of intelligentsia and by the Roman Catholic Church. Re-established as a state in 1918, after barely 21 years Poland fell victim to the invasion of the Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. In the period of 1945-1989 it existed as a crippled and inefficient state within the orbit of the Soviet Union. The Poles as a nation fully realised the efficacy of their regained collective agency only in 1980, when the “Solidarity” movement was born in the Gdańsk Shipyard, and again in 1989 when a revived “Solidarity” led the successful opposition to communist rule. <span class="mag-quote-center">Polish culture and language was preserved by the thin layer of intelligentsia and by the Roman Catholic Church. </span></p> <p>Due to these all too rare opportunities for collectively exercised agency, there is among Poles a powerful longing for dignity, recognition and respect, both internally and internationally, coupled with an acute collective inferiority complex. </p> <p>Kaczyński has found a way to satisfy this deep-felt need for recognition. He did so by breathing new life into the concept of sovereignty, and by reviving and fostering those exclusionary sentiments.</p> <h2><strong>Games of altar and throne</strong><strong></strong></h2> <p>As far as Polish anti-Semitism is concerned, over the centuries the Roman Catholic Church in Poland has worked on and consistently upheld an exclusionary stereotype of a “Pole-the-catholic”. This stereotype was also useful to the Church during Communist rule. The stereotype was especially directed, and recurrently used, against Jews living in the Polish territories, infrequently leading to violent bouts of rabid anti-Semitism. </p> <p>Nowadays, the stereotype continues to function in the public consciousness. During the long pontificate of John Paul II, the bishops of the Church displayed self-assuredness and arrogance as they capitalized, personally and institutionally, on the “Polish Pope”, while neglecting and violating his teachings, most especially those regarding the Jews, “older brothers in faith”. </p> <p>Nowadays a majority of the bishops are influenced by the radical nationalist ideology propagated by an enterprising Redemptorist friar, Tadeusz Rydzyk, who has built a powerful media-and-business empire, becoming a mentor to and sponsor of various of his chosen right-wing parties. Ever since the inception of his business career, he has been the main supporter of Law and Justice. It was not the bishops, but this friar, who engineered the present alliance between the Altar and the Throne in Poland. </p> <h2><strong>Contagious examples</strong></h2> <p>All the above, though important, still does not explain the exclusionary drive in Poland under the present regime. Searching for clues, I would like to invoke one of the maxims of Francois de la Rochefoucauld, who wrote: “Nothing is so contagious as example, and we never do very good deeds or very evil ones without producing imitations. We copy the good deeds in a spirit of emulation, and the bad ones because of the malignity of our nature – which shame used to hold under lock and key, but an example sets free”<a href="#_ftn8">[8]</a>. </p> <p>To put it concisely: shame inhibits human wickedness, while a wicked example encourages it. The example is especially powerful, both in its beneficial as well as its evil impact, when given by a figure of authority. There cannot be any doubt that the bishops of the Roman Catholic Church, by virtue of their very status, are perceived in Polish society as persons of great authority. Kaczyński likewise, has been fashioned into a person of supreme political authority by his devotees and their insistent propaganda. It cannot be denied that the new wave of exclusionary attitudes in Poland, working on the <a href="">old anti-Semitism</a> and a <a href="">new anti-Islamism</a>, has been activated by the example given personally by Kaczyński as a public authority, assisted, as he was, by the authorities of the Catholic Church. </p> <h2><strong>Rewriting history</strong></h2> <p>Learning from past mistakes and capitalizing on liberal blunders, Kaczyński has barefacedly resorted to xenophobic rhetoric, encouraging exclusionary attitudes on a number of occasions. For example, he has legitimized the activities of football hooligan groupings by calling them genuine patriots<a href="#_ftn9">[9]</a>. Upon receiving such a political umbrella, they have instantly adopted the nationalist ideology of Kaczyński’s party, especially the myth of the “cursed soldiers”, and proceeded to propagate this ideology in public places, churches and even public schools, with impunity. They have been key organizers of the infamous Marches of Independence during which neo-Nazi symbols are openly displayed. </p> <p>Since 2015 he has sought to strengthen his rule by exciting fears of an alien invasion and otherwise dividing Polish society by selecting various groups as objects of public hatred. Deploying the slogan “ulica i zagranica” (“the street and abroad”, ironically first uttered by a 1960’s anti-Semitic communist leader), his party faithful relentlessly try to shame and silence those who venture any public criticism of his policies.</p> <p>His comprehensive rewriting of history assumes the form of renaming streets named after various figures of the communist past and pulling down monuments symbolizing people and events related to that period. He has also proposed a number of policies to deprive some citizens, especially “the communists”, of some of their public rights, and drastically reduced their pensions. </p> <p>Finally, he objected to the EU programme offering shelter to refugees coming to the EU by infamously claiming: “There are already symptoms of very dangerous diseases, long unseen in Europe. Cholera on the Greek Islands, dysentery in Vienna. Different types of parasites, protozoa that are not dangerous in the bodies of these people but may be dangerous here. This does not mean we should discriminate against anyone, but we need to check it”. </p> <h2><strong>Politics as personal</strong></h2> <p>Ever since his liberal arch-enemy Donald Tusk became the President of the European Union, Kaczynski, never an enthusiast of the European Union, has spread and encouraged mendacious propaganda about the evils of “Brussels”, viewed with particular suspicion. He has demanded reparations from Germany, and instigated fear of an imminent Russian aggression. His anti-Russian propaganda was chiefly based upon unfounded allegations of conspiracy between Vladimir Putin and Donald Tusk in bringing down the plane with his twin brother, the Polish president, and 95 other officials, headed for Katyń for a celebration of the memory of the Polish citizens murdered by Soviets in 1940<a href="#_ftn10">[10]</a>. <span class="mag-quote-center">Kaczynski, never an enthusiast of the European Union, has spread and encouraged mendacious propaganda about the evils of “Brussels”, viewed with particular suspicion.</span></p> <p>His latest initiatives include the “anti-defamation” amendment of the Institute of National Remembrance law, apparently aimed at protecting the Polish nation from being accused of perpetrating crimes against the Jews<a href="#_ftn11">[11]</a>, though allegedly aimed at silencing Jan Tomasz Gross, the Polish historian of the Holocaust who was the first to publish an account of the massacre of the Jews by the Poles in Jedwabne on July 10, 1941<a href="#_ftn12">[12]</a>. Another initiative was the “demotion bill” allowing the current administration to deprive generals responsible for declaring martial law in 1981, especially Wojciech Jaruzelski, of their ranks. Allegedly the bill, vetoed by the president, was motivated by the fact that the generals to be demoted did not arrest Kaczyński during martial law in 1981, in the stark contrast to the treatment of Adam Michnik, Karol Modzelewski, Jacek Kuroń and other figures of the anti-communist opposition who were immediately arrested and spent long years in prison.</p> <h2><strong>Swaying the crowd</strong></h2> <p>Kaczyński has won his position of authority by brazenly resorting to radical exclusionary ideas which very few dared to invoke in the past three decades. By doing so, he has awakened spectres which seemed to have been buried forever. This has brought immediate fruits in the shape of a steep rise in xenophobic incidents across Poland. According to the independent Monitoring Center on Racist and Xenophobic Behavior, since 2010 the number of racist attacks has risen in Poland six times over. <span class="mag-quote-center">The example he has set was the call to his party faithful to follow suit. </span></p> <p>The example he has set was the call to his party faithful to follow suit. According to the bulletin published by the Never Again Association, whose aim is to fight xenophobia in Poland,<a href="#_ftn13">[13]</a>after the harsh criticism of the anti-defamation bill by the state of Israel and the Jewish communities across the world, "the deputy Speaker of the Parliament and spokesperson of the ruling party tweeted: ‘From now on it will be difficult to look at Jews with sympathy and friendship’”. Also, a deputy chairman of the Law and Justice faction in the Parliament has claimed that “if Poles are held responsible for the 1941 Jedwabne pogrom ‘then one might as well conclude that if Jewish police were responsible for leading Jews to the gas chambers, Jews themselves created their own Holocaust.’” A Law and Justice MP has proposed a revisionary interpretation of the Holocaust: “‘Do you know who chased the Jews away to the Warsaw Ghetto?The Germans, you think? No. The Jews themselves went because they were told that there would be an enclave, that they would not have to deal with those nasty Poles.’”<a href="#_ftn14">[14]</a> Rafał Pankowski, a professor of sociology in Warsaw and activist of the <a href="">“Never Again</a>”, was smeared by government officials after his speech at the Global Forum Global Forum for Combatting Antisemitism held on 19-21 March 2018 in Jerusalem. </p> <h2><strong>Enthusiasm, fear and loathing </strong></h2> <p>All this generates a variety of reactions in society: enthusiasm and satisfaction on the one hand, and public agoraphobia and fear, on the other. Beneficiaries of the new social policies support the new regime enthusiastically; the xenophobes rejoice in the exclusionary rhetoric. This is duly reflected in the polls: despite understandable aesthetic reservations and a number of blunders, Law and Justice still enjoys the greatest popularity among the electorate. </p> <p>Those, however, who do not take active part in public life anyway, are withdrawing into their seclusion even more, giving vent to their disgust and anger in private and in social media. Fear is the common condition of those occupying middle-rank public positions, and, as always in the case of fear, it has a paralyzing effect: they act in such a way as to avoid attracting excessive attention, and steer away from any decisions which they think may be seen as controversial by the eager supporters of the new regime. Once again social mimicry assumes the form of mediocrity and cowardice.</p> <p>Having engineered xenophobic practices and attitudes in order to secure his victory, Kaczyński and his party have become prisoners of their own exclusionary rhetoric. In order to uphold their now weakening position, he and his successors will have to continue to resort to the same rhetoric in the future. What is most worrying is that the awoken spectres of exclusivism turn out to be very much alive in Polish society and, in any foreseeable future, will not be readily dispelled. </p><p> <strong>Notes and references</strong></p> <p><a href="#_ftnref1">[1]</a> Adam Leszczyński, <em>No dno po prostu jest Polska.</em> <em>Dlaczego Polacy tak bardzo nie lubią swojego kraju i innych Polaków</em>, Wydawnictwo WAB, Warszawa 2017; the title of the book may be roughly translated as:<em> “</em>But it is just a hopeless pit, Poland. Why the Poles dislike so much their own country and themselves”.)</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref2">[2]</a> Niall Ferguson, <em>The War of the World. Twentieth-Century Conflict and the Descent of the West</em>, Penguin, London 2006, p. 249-250.</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref3">[3]</a> Bertrand Russell, <em>Portraits from Memory and other Essays</em>, Simon and Schuster, New York 1951, p. 27.</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref4">[4]</a> Ibid., p. 31. More recently the attitudes of the British public have been engineered into volatility again. This time it has led to a decision to part company with the European Union, and in view of its uncertain consequences, has generated even more instability across the globe.</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref5">[5]</a> Arnold J. Toynbee, <em>A Study of History</em>, Vol. IV, Fifth Impression, Oxford University Press, Oxford 1951, p. 265.</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref6">[6]</a> Etienne de la Boetie, <em>The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude</em>, trans. Harry Kurz, The Mises Institute, Auburn, Alabama, 1975.</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref7">[7]</a> Friedrich August von Hayek, <em>The Road to Serfdom</em>, Routledge and Kegan Paul, London 1944 (2006), p.143.</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref8">[8]</a> François de la Rochefoucauld, <em>Collected Maxims and Other Reflections</em>, transl. by E. H and A. M. Blackmore and Francine Giguère, Oxford University Press, Oxford 2007, 230.</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref9">[9]</a> I have dealt with this issue in <a href="">the paper </a><em>Academies of Hatred.</em></p> <p><a href="#_ftnref10">[10]</a> Adam Chmielewski and Denis Dutton,<em> <a href=" 80%99s-tragedy-sorrow-and-anger">Poland’s tragedy: sorrow, and anger</a></em><a href=" 80%99s-tragedy-sorrow-and-anger">:</a></p> <p><a href="#_ftnref11">[11]</a> Adam Chmielewski, <em><a href="">The guilt, dignity and pedagogy of shamelessness.</a></em></p> <p><a href="#_ftnref12">[12]</a> Jan T. Gross, <em>Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland</em>, Princeton University Press, Princeton 2001.</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref13">[13]</a> <a href=""></a>. </p> <p><a href="#_ftnref14">[14]</a> &nbsp;<em>“Never Again” Targeted for Speaking against Antisemitism <a href="">here</a></em><a href="">.</a>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/adam-j-chmielewski/guilt-dignity-and-pedagogy-of-shamelessness">The guilt, dignity and pedagogy of shamelessness </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/adam-j-chmielewski-denis-dutton/poland%E2%80%99s-tragedy-sorrow-and-anger">Poland’s tragedy: sorrow, and anger </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/adam-j-chmielewski/academies-of-hatred">Academies of hatred</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Poland </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item even"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? Poland Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Economics Ideas International politics Adam J Chmielewski Mon, 23 Apr 2018 07:35:35 +0000 Adam J Chmielewski 117433 at The guilt, dignity and pedagogy of shamelessness <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>For centuries, Europe’s Christians have shut Jews behind ghetto walls. Now, Polish Christians intend to shut the voice of Jewish suffering into a ghetto of silence behind a legal wall.<em></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="lead lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Inscription at the gate of the Bełżec Holocaust Memorial. The Nazi extermination camp in Bełżec (pronounced [ˈbɛu̯ʐɛt͡s], in German: Belzec) in the Eastern Poland, operated from 17 March 1942 to the end of December. It is estimated that between 430,000 and 500,000 Jews were murdered at Bełżec. Photos by Adam Chmielewski. The author was born in the city of Łaszczów some 30 kilometres from the site.</span></span></span>The Polish Parliament, the Senate and the President all supported an amendment to the Act on the Institute of National Remembrance which bans references to the Polish nation’s participation in the Holocaust. </p> <p>This law has aroused controversy throughout the world and caused antagonism between Poland and its rapidly diminishing number of allies. The main objection to this law, as formulated in particular by Jewish communities around the world, is that it will prevent Holocaust survivors and the descendants of Holocaust victims from speaking out about the suffering inflicted upon them by persons of Polish nationality. </p> <p>The Jews perceive this law as an attempt to put a gag on their testimony to the truth. To their suffering, this law will add the pain of enforced silence. For centuries throughout Europe the Christians have been shutting Jews behind ghetto walls. Now, Polish Christians intend to shut out the voice of Jewish suffering behind the legal wall of this ghetto of silence.</p> <p>It is hard to imagine a more painful blow to the sensitivity of Jewish people. The book of Job (16, 18) says: “O earth, cover not my blood, and let my cry find no resting place!” These words are carved upon more than one monument commemorating the Holocaust victims. The Polish legislator wishes to suppress this cry. How could Jewish people agree with this law, tantamount to renouncing their holy book, the book that is also holy for Christians?</p> <h2><strong>Resurrected facts</strong></h2> <p>The amendment as adopted was erected on a structure comprising the terms “nation”, its “innocence” and “dignity”. The ideological rationale for the legal protection of the moral innocence of the Polish nation is made up of slogans about doing away with the “pedagogy of shame” and the restitution of national dignity. </p> <p>This construction is flawed. The ideological errors floating around this law include a questionable concept of “the nation”, a misunderstanding of the moral role of shame, and the misconception of dignity. The new law also deploys the term “facts” in a particularly controversial way.</p> <p>The Polish ghetto for Jewish words of suffering is to be built out of facts. The legislator has acted on the assumption that there is a closed set of facts that cannot be expanded any more. This assumption also conceals a value judgment according to which facts unquestionably speak on behalf of the heroism of the Polish nation.</p> <p>First of all, the whole notion of “facts” rests on a very risky concept. The basic commandment of the methodology of history is that what facts a historian is able to fish from the ocean of history will depend on the net that he uses. In this respect, the science of history does not differ from the study of nature: it is doomed to theoretical conjectures and empirical refutations. Moreover, theories are inspired by experience while the refutations are guided by theory. This self-reference, especially in the area of history, cannot be overcome, and cannot be abolished by any law.</p> <p>Secondly, the ocean of facts is immeasurable. There is no closed set of facts available to human cognition able to express the complete truth about past events. The prehistoric Homeric legend of Troy ceased to be a legend and became a collection of facts only in the nineteenth century. This example, along with countless others, indicates that the historian's work is never done. This is true regarding any past event.</p> <p>Furthermore, this is a truth that is particularly applicable in the context of the Holocaust. To reach back to the book of Job again. There have been numerous facts about the Holocaust which for a long time remained covered with earth, enclosed in milk cans, incinerated, imprisoned in the ghettos of archives. Recently they have been made to speak to us again. Thanks to the work of Holocaust researchers, including the Polish ones, they have been unearthed, discovered, opened and reconstructed. And they speak to us about what we did not know before.</p><p>Thirdly, the truth about Jewish and other Holocaust suffering is enriched with new facts and will continue to grow, mainly because many people, especially its main perpetrators, were very much keen on concealing the facts. The crematoria served this purpose. However, even burned, they left legible traces. The “facts” are therefore risky not only because of their indelible methodological ambivalence, but also due to their ability to rise from the ashes.</p><p>The three arguments above indicate that the set of facts about the Holocaust is not a closed set; the legislator cannot, therefore, build law on the assumption that it is.</p><h2><strong>Nation as a collectivity</strong></h2><p>Journalistic attempts to justify this legal-moral construct are dominated by an individualistic understanding of the nation which defines it as a “collectivity of individuals”. This usage is roughly consistent with the Constitution of the Republic of Poland which opens with a definitional statement: “We, the Polish Nation – all citizens of the Republic.” This is an inclusive understanding of the nation, based on the concept of citizenship. Defenders of the adopted law, adopting such an understanding of the nation, may admit that some members of the individualistically understood Polish nation did wicked things to Jews: they took away their lives, sometimes in an indescribably brutal manner. However, the individualistic concept of the nation allows them to claim that even if some members of the Polish nation committed crimes, this fact does not affect in any negative way the moral integrity of the other members of the nation.</p><p>Such a legal defense is counter-effective. However, even though the individualistic concept of a nation enables one to proclaim the innocence of the majority of Poles towards Jews during the Holocaust, it suffers from one irreparable fault. It invalidates the “quantitative” moral argument according to which the Poles are most numerous among the “Righteous Among the Nations”. Defenders of the controversial law interpret this statement as if the remaining part of the nation was entitled to a special moral satisfaction from the attitude of some of its members. In some interpretations one can even sense a suggestion that the number of the heroic Polish Righteous counterbalances, or even cancels out, the vile acts of some other Poles towards Jews, including 60,000 Polish Gestapo collaborators. The strength of this argument is further weakened by the fact that there have been 600 Righteous Among the Nations of the German nationality. If this fact cannot be taken as an acquittal of the remaining Germans, the Poles who committed crimes against Jewish neighbors cannot hope for a similar exemption.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="// 215.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// 215.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>If the individualistic-aggregative understanding of the nation has the advantage of not allowing the transfer of blame of some members of the nation onto others, it also has the disadvantage that it does not allow the transfer of moral merit onto some members of the nation. From the point of view of the individualistic understanding of the nation, only individuals can be the carriers of merit, dignity and guilt. The concept of nation understood in this way is reduced to a propaganda stunt or, at best, a metaphorical abbreviation.</p><h2><strong>The nation as a whole</strong></h2><p>The defense of the adopted law would have more sense if it were based upon an essentialist-holistic understanding of the nation. In this sense, the Polish nation would refer to some unique supra-individual substance in which every Pole would somehow participate, and his or her Polishness would result from his partaking in this national substance. However, any such essentialist understanding of the nation as justification for the controversial law would not only be counter-effective but also dangerous.</p><p>It would be counter-effective because if the supporters of this law admit that there were Poles who committed crimes against Jews, they must also admit that their actions did affect this supra-individual national substance. In other words, they would have to admit that the vile acts of individual Poles morally poisoned this national substance: the entire nation and all its constituent parts. Moreover, the very fact that some Poles turned out to be capable of extreme human vileness could be read as a proof of the evil residing in that supraindividual national substance itself. If the legislator employed the essentialist notion of the nation, and not an individualistic one, then his intention would be better served by the adoption of a law ordering the disclosure and prosecution of those parts of the Polish nation which, by virtue of the crimes committed by them, have poisoned its moral substance. This would be necessary for its moral purification.</p><p>The justification for the law based on a substantive concept of the nation would also be dangerous. This danger comes from the fact that it would sound disturbingly analogous to the concept of “Deutsches Volk” used by Nazi German ideologists, the true instigators and perpetrators of the Holocaust which aimed at “Vernichtung des jüdischen Volkes” and the enslavement of the Polish nation. </p><p>The essentialist understanding of the Polish nation would be similar to the Nazi ideology in the (rather circular) conviction that no one else but the Poles can participate in this supra-individual substance of Polishness. In contrast to the individualistic perspective, the essentialist understanding of the nation is racist and exclusive because it denies others, especially Jews, membership of the Polish nation, even if they were citizens of the Polish state. The denial is the first step towards denying them other rights. </p><p>However, even if the current defenders of this amendment would certainly like to avoid any such association, in the heated debates taking place, the racist distinction between Poles and Jews surfaces unabashedly and uncritically even in the words of representatives of the Polish state, supposedly erected on an inclusive Constitution.</p><h2><strong>Shame and morality</strong></h2><p>Many educators claim that arousing feelings of shame is detrimental to individual development. Indeed, shame suppresses self-esteem and weakens the creative abilities. A woman who is ashamed of herself and for herself, of who she is, of her appearance, her thoughts, her goals, would not dare to say what she thinks, do what she wants, protest when she thinks that it is right. Shame leads to conformity, imitation, mediocrity and meekness. It deprives the human being of her sense of agency and her ability to act independently.</p><p>Criticism of the concept of shame, however, ignores its key role in the moral development of man. When I feel ashamed, it means that I am aware that I neglected my obligation, that I did not fulfill what was my duty, that I did not stand up to expectations, that I should try harder than I did. To be ashamed is to be aware that one deserves to be reprimanded or punished. The purpose of shaming is not to punish individuals with the punishment for wrongs committed but to instill in them the conviction that evil should not be committed. Shame therefore has educational and motivating power. Above all, shame has a moral force: shame inhibits human wickedness, because wickedness is disapproved by others.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>Undeniably, an excessive shame thwarts human development. But the inability to feel shame leads to an excessive self-satisfaction and is no less thwarting: a person unable to feel shame regarding his own shortcomings and wrongdoings falls into no less destructive complacency and has no motivation to improve.</p><h2><strong>Guilt and dignity</strong></h2><p>The amendment to the Act on the Institute of National Remembrance should also be considered in the light of an important development that occurred in the course of Polish discussion on this subject. It is the unequivocal acknowledgement of German guilt for the Holocaust by the German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel and Chancellor Angela Merkel.</p><p>The publication of the statement of official representatives of Germany, which publicly recognized German guilt, does not solve, however, the problem of the Polish emotional economy created by the proposed law. In the opinion of defenders of this problematic law, this statement did not make this legislation pointless. But also, it did very little to improve the intellectual credibility of those who want to prohibit the possibility of a conversation about the guilt of any Pole. This is because the reasserted admission of German guilt for the Holocaust by the high representatives of the German state, including their Nazi precursors, may be seen as an act that protects the dignity of the perpetrator of evil.</p><p>Confession is not the only way the perpetrator is able to protect his or her dignity. However, it is the most important one he or she has at their disposal. When a perpetrator denies his indisputable guilt, he denigrates himself. In doing so, while being condemned for the evil he has done, he condemns himself to two additional penalties: humiliation in the eyes of others, and in his own eyes. By denying his guilt, he demonstrates his own depravity and demoralization.</p><p>This leads to the conclusion that an integral part of human subjectivity is the ability to admit to one’s moral failures, to one’s guilt. Human dignity is about sincerity towards others and oneself. That is why dignity and responsibility are constitutive of human agency.</p><h2><strong>Polish non-agency</strong></h2><p>The Polish people were not the agents of the Second World War. They were its subjects. No more did they demonstrate their agency later on, when they did not want to admit to that part of the guilt which could truthfully be attributed to some of Poland’s members. </p><p>But the current legal attempt to prevent anybody from speaking about the possibility of Polish guilt is not a good way to defend the dignity of the Polish people. It is rather about avoiding the opportunity to regain dignity through entering a conversation, even if painful, about the possible guilt and responsibility of some of our ancestors. </p><p>Through supporting this amendment, some Poles demonstrate that they wish to continue to shun all talk of their agency. Undeniably, the repeated recognition of German guilt by the present Germans has been a dignified act. By defending the dignity of the Polish people by means of a misguided law, they are missing an opportunity to regain it. The attitude of the German dignitaries has shown us that they, descendants of the perpetrators of evil, have a greater capacity for dignity than some Poles engaged in a misguided attempt to defend it.</p><h2><strong>Encouraging wickedness</strong></h2><p>German guilt for the Holocaust cannot be questioned. Defenders of the controversial amendment to the law on the Institute of National Remembrance do not think that German recognition of their guilt makes the amendment unnecessary. None of them, however, took advantage of this opportunity to indicate that not only Germans bear the blame for the Holocaust. For there is one more guilt that rests upon their conscience. The key to understanding this second guilt is the moral truth that shame inhibits human wickedness, and a wicked example emboldens and encourages human wickedness.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>Despite the wickedness of the general anti-Semitism of the Poles before World War II, widespread dislike and hatred of Jews, various anti-Jewish incidents, the situation of the pre-War Poland cannot be compared with the murderous behavior of some Poles against Jews which erupted with the German aggression against Poland. Before the German aggression, the Poles had had sufficient shame, most of the time, though not always, for it to inhibit their display of wickedness towards Jews. The guilt of the Germans who invaded the Polish state is that they also set an example that emboldened human wickedness in some Poles and encouraged it.</p><h2><strong>Pedagogy of shamelessness</strong></h2><p>The moral task of a human being is to root out the wickedness of his or her own soul, or at least take command of it and not reveal it. One should be ashamed of one’s wickedness, not show it off. The law currently proposed is not only poorly constructed. It is also morally wrong because, for some Poles, it has become an example which, once again, releasing the brake of shame, emboldens anti-Semitism and encourages a renewed hatred towards Jews.</p><p>The defense of dignity cannot be reconciled with wickedness. By defending the dignity of the nation in a misguided way, representatives of the Polish state cultivate a shameless pedagogy.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Poland </div> <div class="field-item even"> Germany </div> <div class="field-item odd"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? EU Germany Poland Conflict Culture Democracy and government International politics Adam J Chmielewski Tue, 13 Feb 2018 17:30:25 +0000 Adam J Chmielewski 116107 at Saving Christianity through the Benedict Option <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The idea of the select few isolating themselves from what they perceive as an enfeebled, morally weakened or ailing community, seems like a disappointingly minimalist social programme.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="304" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Totila e San Benedetto, by Spinello Aretino, San Miniato al Monte, Firenze. Wkicommons. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Alasdair MacIntyre is one of the most influential contemporary philosophers. His publications invariably attract an intense interest and the scrutiny of professional philosophers. He is known especially for his books <em>After Virtue</em> (1981), <em>Whose Justice? Which Rationality?</em> (1988), <em>Three Rival Version of Moral Inquiry</em> (1999), <em>Dependent Rational Animals</em> (1999), as well as multiple provocative and inspiring papers. His latest work, <a href=""><em>Ethics in the Conflicts of Modernity</em> (2016)</a> is already stirring lively debates. </p> <p>The lengthy series of books he published, known among admirers and foes alike as the “Interminably Long History of Ethics” (a pun on his earlier <em>Short History of Ethics</em>, 1966), is strongly informed by two major influences, Karl Marx’s philosophy and Thomist Aristotelianism. Judged by scholarly standards in the western academic world, any allegiance between Thomism and Marxism is something rather out of the ordinary. This is fully recognized by MacIntyre himself who commented that the only thing Marxists and Thomists have in common is their shared belief that Thomism and Marxism have nothing in common. Nonetheless, he continues to pursue a perspective that, as he claims, would be capable of accommodating both of these traditions within one <em>Weltanschauung</em>.</p> <h2><strong>The Benedict Option</strong></h2> <p>Recently MacIntyre’s name has reverberated outside his profession. This is owing not to his latest book <em>Ethics in the Conflicts of Modernity</em>, but to something that has become known as “The Benedict Option”. The idea is being propagated by American writer Rod Dreher, a radical conservative and relatively recent convert to Catholicism. His book <a href=""><em>The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation</em></a><a href="#_ftn1"> [1]</a>, published in the wake of the presidential election which brought conservative Christian politicians into the US Government, has become an American bestseller overnight. </p> <p>The concept, popularised by Dreher takes its name from St. Benedict, the sixth century monk of the Italian city of Nursia, today Norcia, who, discouraged by the worldly and corrupt life in Rome, gave up his studies there and lived as a hermit. Gradually, having acquired a considerable following, he built a number of monasteries, including Montecassino, where he drew up the famous Benedictine Rule and where he resided until his death. His example was widely followed by Christians who managed in this way to salvage their faith through the age of paganism, and bring it later into world dominance.</p> <p>MacIntyre’s role in the promulgation of the religious and political project of the Benedict option, though significant, is wholly unintended. It all started from the concluding lines of his powerful work <em>After Virtue</em>, where he wrote: </p> <p>“What matters at this stage is the construction of local forms of community within which civility and the intellectual and moral life can be sustained through the new dark ages which are already upon us. And if the tradition of the virtues was able to survive the horrors of the last dark ages, we are not entirely without grounds for hope. This time however the barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers; they have already been governing us for quite some time. And it is our lack of consciousness of this that constitutes part of our predicament. We are waiting not for a Godot, but for another – doubtless very different – St. Benedict.”&nbsp;<a href="#_ftn2">[2]</a></p> <p>Even though MacIntyre later admitted that this is the line he most regrets ever having written<a href="#_ftn3">[3]</a>,&nbsp; his call for a new form of community capable of sustaining virtues, civility and moral life has become the most popular of all his contentions. This paragraph has been quite frequently interpreted as a sign of MacIntyre’s nostalgic defence of small-scale, local forms of self-rule<a href="#_ftn4">[4]</a>. Irrespective of the meaning intended by the author, and of the adequacy of its most notorious interpretation, there are several important problems with this assertion which are directly related to the conception of human moral agency in MacIntyre’a moral philosophy. A reflection on the possible meanings of the Benedict Option therefore enables us to reveal several important internal tensions in MacIntyre’s moral philosophy.</p> <h2><strong>The withdrawal option</strong></h2> <p>To begin with, faced by the overpowering barbarism of modern culture, the MacIntyrean idea of taking St. Benedict as the model for the continued cultivation of a civilised life might lead us to expect no more than a programme for safeguarding such values in small secluded communities, deliberately shielding themselves from the harmful influences of the external world. </p> <p>In view of the sweeping and harsh critique of the whole contemporary emotivist culture provided by MacIntyre throughout the works which followed <em>After Virtue</em>, the Benedict Option is quite understandable. According to Dreher, seeking shelter through forming small communities has become unavoidable and inevitable for contemporary Catholics for whom a fruitful debate with the dominant culture has become impossible<a href="#_ftn5">[5]</a>. Interestingly, similar views may also be attributed to some extent to MacIntyre, who persuasively exposed the mutual incomprehension of arguments formulated in contemporary moral debate, and the impossibility of finding a common language for them through, and within, post-Enlightenment moral philosophy.</p> <p>At the same time the withdrawal option suggested by this ominous assertion does not square well with the MacIntyrean idea of the agonistic nature of the transformation of communities. His view of the transformative processes going on within each community in confrontation and rivalry with other communities, strongly implies the need for the robust attitude of its members towards the future of their community. Any withdrawal from the commotion of real life directly clashes with the idea of individuals who, in so far as they do care about their own community and traditions, are actively seeking ways to remedy those weaknesses of their community revealed through confrontation with rivals <a href="#_ftn6">[6]</a>. From this point of view the idea of the select few isolating themselves from what they perceive as an enfeebled, morally weakened or ailing community, does seem like a disappointingly minimalist social programme.</p> <h2><strong>Ivory towers</strong></h2> <p>More than this: the Benedict Option seems to enjoin one to desert one’s community through taking shelter in an ivory tower or otherwise hiding from degenerate humanity in order to cultivate endangered virtues. </p> <p>It would effectively mean defecting from the internal debate about what is to become of their community, and shunning one’s responsibility for getting involved instead in a struggle through which a new way of communal life might emerge. </p> <p>The Benedict Option is thus tantamount to a not very virtuous or heroic escapism. For this reason also, despite frequent references to Karl Marx, it would be difficult to call this programme revolutionary. The aim of the practical call at stake here is not so much about saving humanity through a select minority, but rather the reverse: it is about saving the greatest moral, spiritual and intellectual human achievements from a humanity which has slid into barbarism. </p> <h2><strong>Dangers for Christianity </strong></h2> <p>Two points have to be stressed at this juncture. First, that the above approach is in stark contrast with MacIntyre’s interest in the agonism of communities, which prompts him to stress the need for internal debate and self-questioning on the part of any community faced by external challenges. Second, that the idea of a rescue strategy in the form of the Benedict Option now begins to make sense, since Christianity, which not long ago successfully sought and formed alliances between its own altars and the throne of public power, is nowadays, with the exception of a very few countries, weakened to the extent that it is no longer perceived by the political powers as a sufficiently attractive partner. </p> <p>According to Dreher, there are several dangers which Christianity has to face today: militant secularism that wishes to eliminate religion entirely, together with the accompanying sexual revolution which undermines traditional forms of family, and a fanatical form of Islam that seeks a barbaric theocracy<a href="#_ftn7">[7]</a>. In other words, he blames the external world for the enfeebled condition of Christianity. What strikes one in Dreher’s advocacy of the Benedict Option is that he does not apply himself to diagnosing internal reasons for the current weaknesses of Christianity. Instead he supports his arguments by invoking the authority of Pope Benedict who in his public statements repeatedly referred to Arnold Toynbee’s conception of “creative minorities”<a href="#_ftn8">[8]</a>. </p> <p>The concept of creative minorities has indeed played an important role in the design, and in the message, of the pontificate of Benedict XVI. Shortly before his ascent to the papal throne, cardinal Ratzinger represented the Roman Catholic Church as an embattled ship on the stormy seas. As Pope, he claimed for example that “normally it is the creative minorities that determine the future, and in this sense the Catholic Church must understand itself as a creative minority that has a heritage of values that are not things of the past, but a very living and relevant reality”<a href="#_ftn9">[9]</a>. </p> <p>Invoking papal authority may serve well as a way of canonising the Benedict Option. There are, however, significant doubts as to whether the concept of creative minorities will bring with it the requisite support for the Benedict Option. The idea of creative minorities played a key role in Toynbee’s explanation of the dynamics of civilisations<a href="#_ftn10">[10]</a>. He deployed it most especially in his explanation of the causes behind the breakdown of civilisations. By focusing his attention on “nonmaterial” reasons for the demise of civilisations, Toynbee stressed the “loss of creative power in the souls of the creative individuals, or the creative minorities, who have been the leaders of any given civilization at any given stage in the history of its growth; and we have seen that this failure of vitality on the leaders’ side divests them of their magic power to influence and attract the uncreative masses. Where there is no creation, there is also no mimesis”<a href="#_ftn11">[11]</a>. </p> <p>He subsequently illustrated his diagnosis by examples assembled under the title of “Nemesis of Creativity”<a href="#_ftn12">[12]</a>. In explaining the fall of civilisations Toynbee discussed the role of an elite leadership and stressed the perils of the creative minority “'resting on one’s oars’”, lulled into inactivity by the pernicious self-satisfaction arising from their former successes<a href="#_ftn13">[13]</a>. As a result of a number of social and psychological mechanisms, Toynbee demonstrated that a <em>creative</em> minority may turn into a merely <em>dominant</em> minority, stifling one’s own development, but also imposing a “sergeant drill” on the subdued majority, which, supressed, eventually rises against it and initiates the fall of this degenerate civilisation. </p> <h2><strong>The dynamics of social and political forms</strong></h2> <p>Paradoxically, then, Toynbee’s idea of creative minorities degenerating into dominant minorities should be read as an incentive to seek not so much for external reasons for the weakening of Christianity, but on the contrary for internal ones. Toynbee’s idea should thus serve as a support not for the escapist and nostalgic Benedict Option but rather as a call for a thorough internal reform. This is something, it must be stressed, not achieved by Pope Benedict. Precisely in line with the now popularised Benedict Option, by abdicating the papal throne he chose to withdraw himself from the internal challenges of the Church he briefly led, rather than to face them.</p> <p>Finally, what has become known as the Benedict Option, despite its novel and intriguing name, is not something completely novel or unknown to western culture. On the contrary, one can argue that, as a matter of historical fact, the small communities postulated by MacIntyre, or Dreher, or Pope Benedict, have always been formed by intellectuals, artistss – people of culture and spirituality who in their narrow circles strove to cultivate both moral virtues and the virtues of intellectual refinement. </p> <p>Their robustness and creativity, having attracted a popular following, sometimes activated a robust though emulated creativity on the part of larger communities, thus becoming germs for new forms of cultures and even civilisations, only to be discarded and deserted later on in view of their inadequacy as demonstrated by internal or external challenges. Toynbee suggests also that the new ideas which supplanted and replaced former ones were usually met by a similar fate, and so on and on. </p> <p>To sum up, in view of Toynbee’s view of the dynamics of social and political forms and the role he attributed to creative minorities, an insistence on salvaging Christianity by following – once again – in the footsteps of St. Benedict should be deeply reconsidered. History may indeed repeat itself. But maybe it would not have to if we paid closer attention to what it has been saying to us all along.</p> <hr size="1" /> <p><a href="#_ftnref1">[1]</a> Rod Dreher, <em>The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation</em>, Sentinel, New York 2017.</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref2">[2]</a> MacIntyre, <em>After Virtue</em>, 263.</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref3">[3]</a> Stanley Hauerwas, “<a href="">Why Community is Dangerous</a>”; An Interview with Peter Mommsen, in: <em>The Plough</em>, March 4, 2016. One has to stress, however, that he did not erase it from subsequent editions of his book.</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref4">[4]</a> Cf. e.g. Jason Blakeley, review of <em>What Happened in and to Moral Philosophy in the Twentieth Century? Philosophical Essays in Honor of Alasdair MacIntyre</em>. Fran O’Rourke (ed.), University of Notre Dame Press 2013, in: <em>Philosophy in Review</em> XXXIV (2014), no. 6, p. 329.</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref5">[5]</a> “Rather than wasting energy and resources fighting unwinnable political battles, we should instead work on building communities, institutions, and networks of resistance that can outwit, outlast, and eventually overcome the occupation”, see: Emma Green, “<a href="">The Christian Retreat From Public Life</a>”, <em>The Atlantic</em>, February 22, 2017.</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref6">[6]</a> MacIntyre, “Relativism, Power, and Philosophy”, in: <em>After Philosophy. End or Transformation?</em>. pp. 385-411.</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref7">[7]</a> Rod Dreher, “<a href="">The Benedict option. Believers must find new, more radical ways to practise their faith</a>”, in: <em>The Spectator</em>, April 15, 2017.</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref8">[8]</a> Rod Dreher, “The Benedict option”, <em>The Spectator</em>, April 15, 2017; quite similar idea has been mentioned by Samuel Gregg, “<a href="">Benedict’s creative minority</a>”, Sept. 22, 2010. </p> <p><a href="#_ftnref9">[9]</a> “<a href="">De-Christianized Europe. Church as a 'Creative Minority’</a>”; Interview with Pope Benedict by Sandro Magister, <em>Catholic Online</em>, 10/2/2009. </p> <p><a href="#_ftnref10">[10]</a> Cf. Arnold J. Toynbee, <em>A Study of History</em>, Vol. IV, Fifth Impression, Oxford University Press, Oxford 1951.</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref11">[11]</a> Ibid., p. 5.</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref12">[12]</a> Ibid., p. 245ff.</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref13">[13]</a> Ibid., p. 261.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> EU </div> <div class="field-item even"> United States </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? United States EU Civil society Culture Ideas Adam J Chmielewski Thu, 11 May 2017 21:46:49 +0000 Adam J Chmielewski 110822 at Two halves: Poland copes with freedom <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>On the 35th anniversary of Poland’s modernising transformation, the question arises, how was the emancipatory potential of the ‘Solidarity’ movement squandered?&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="335" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Supporters of Lech Walesa, Feb. 28, 2016. PAimages/Czarek Sokolowski. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>Toward the end of his adventurous, unhappy and brief life, an émigré Polish writer Marek Hłasko wrote that at the moment of his defection from post-Stalinist Poland in 1958 he did not yet realise that the world is divided into two halves, the life in one of them being unbearable, while that in the other was – intolerable<a href="///C:/Users/Alex/Desktop/Chmielewski%20Adam,%20Poland&#039;s%20Coping%20with%20Freedom.doc#_ftn1">[1]</a>. </p> <p>The Polish ‘Solidarity’ movement, which sprang to life in 1981 to shake the whole of Europe and precipitate the fall of really existing socialism, was animated by an idea that through abolishing an oppressive regime the life of the people in Poland, as well as in the other Central European countries, would become if not altogether happy, then at least bearable and tolerable. It may be appropriate to ask, thirty-five years after the birth of ‘Solidarity’ in August 1981, whether it succeeded in achieving its goals.</p> <h2><strong>‘Solidarity’ from Edward Abramowski to Carl Schmitt</strong></h2> <p>How should we assess the results of the peaceful transformation of Poland initiated by the emergence of the ‘Solidarity’ movement in 1981 and the first semi-democratic elections held in 1989, which brought victory to that movement? </p> <p>The first ideological vision of the future Poland, adopted by the first Assembly of the ‘Solidarity’ Trade Union on October 7, 1981<a href="///C:/Users/Alex/Desktop/Chmielewski%20Adam,%20Poland&#039;s%20Coping%20with%20Freedom.doc#_ftn2">[2]</a>, was based on the idea of “the self-governing Republic”, inspired to some extent by the ideas of the Polish political philosopher Edward Abramowski, champion of anarcho-syndicalism. The “self-governance” advocated in this programme did not go so far as to demand the complete sovereignty of the Polish state. Having timorously assumed that Poland would have to remain within the sphere of influence of the still powerful Soviet Union, it proposed, in accordance with Abramowski’s idea of “state-rejecting socialism”, the construction of a socialist civil society which would be able to take care of itself without help from the state. </p> <p>However, as soon as the activists of the Solidarity Trade Union found themselves swept to power in 1989, this idealist programme was tacitly abandoned. Despite Adam Michnik’s personal admiration for Hannah Arendt’s political philosophy, which proposed a form of a non-liberal and non-representative “direct democracy”, her political ideas did not become the basis for the design of the future Poland, nor did Isaiah Berlin’s relativistic and agonistic liberalism. </p> <p>An ideological framework for the political programme of the new sovereign Polish state was provided rather by Karl Popper’s idea of an open, civil and liberal society. At that time every Polish student knew the name of Karl Popper. His ideas, however, were soon reinterpreted in a conservative manner, just as Popper himself had gradually replaced his initial object of political admiration, the German socialist democrat Helmut Schmidt, with the conservative Christian democrat Helmut Kohl<a href="///C:/Users/Alex/Desktop/Chmielewski%20Adam,%20Poland&#039;s%20Coping%20with%20Freedom.doc#_ftn3">[3]</a>. Large sections of the Polish political and intellectual elite found Popperian liberal ideas all the more attractive as they were easily combined with the neoliberal ones of Milton Friedman and Friedrich August von Hayek. Fortified by Fukuyama-style propaganda regarding the finality and incontestability of liberal democracy, they set the political agenda for the social and economic transformation of Poland over the following decades. </p> <p>Such an agenda was pursued not only by conservative liberals and other groupings emerging from the original mass movement of ‘Solidarity’, but also by the post-communist, nominally leftist social-democratic parties. Eager to free themselves from the burden of their inglorious past, they disregarded the egalitarian policies of the traditional left. In doing so, they gradually became alienated not only from their own nostalgic post-communist electorate, but also from what remained of the working classes. As a result, they have found themselves in a predicament in which their attempts to recover their old vigour and popular support seemed futile and misbegotten. </p> <p>A striking example of the failure of an attempt to revive the Polish political left, initiated in the run-up to the general elections in 2007, may be attributed to the fact that a coalition of several leftist parties ignored the potential for political discontent of the Polish workers, organised, if only to a limited extent, by disunited trade union associations. It should come as no surprise that after the general elections of 2015 the once popular post-communist party Democratic Left Alliance found itself on the brink of total demise. To employ a term from Michel Houellebecq’s early novel<a href="///C:/Users/Alex/Desktop/Chmielewski%20Adam,%20Poland&#039;s%20Coping%20with%20Freedom.doc#_ftn4">[4]</a>, their disregard of the interests of the working classes boiled down to a failure to expand the political battlefield beyond the one delineated by the liberal agenda, to one that might stand for a more egalitarian political agenda.</p> <p>I would argue that the chief reason for the current crisis of liberal democracy in Poland may be sought in a general tendency toward self-limitation of the Polish liberal and social democratic parties’ agendas. From the very beginning of the socio-political transformation of the country, Polish liberals deliberately confined their political interests to the economic sphere and worked to create an entrepreneurial class from scratch. Having created it, they subsequently exerted themselves to enhance its social and political role. At the same time, no less deliberately, they neglected egalitarian demands for the emancipation of wide social strata within the social, cultural and political spheres. It is fair to say that this specific brand of liberalism, which played a hegemonic role in the Gramscian sense within Polish political discourse, both in its practical as well as doctrinal dimensions, is responsible for squandering the emancipatory potential of the ‘Solidarity’ movement, for generating a variety of political problems which stand in the way of the badly needed and much delayed modernisation of the country, and for contributing to the rise of authoritarian populism in Poland. </p> <p>For the policies pursued by both the neoliberal section of the post-Solidarity elites, and the equally neoliberal post-communist elites, came at a price. As a result of this deliberate self-limitation of the political agenda, some important issues of the public life, abandoned both by liberals and post-communist social democrats, were picked up by radical, nationalist and fundamentalist political parties. In the general elections in 2005 these parties won significant popular support, claiming their first significant victory, and marginalising both liberal and social-democratic parties. </p> <h2><strong>Psychopathologies of Polish politics</strong></h2> <p>Emotions unavoidably play a crucial and indispensable role in the functioning of human societies. The dynamics of human subjectivity is of a fundamental importance in the sphere of knowledge, in moral conduct, artistic creation, as well as in the matters of politics. It is only natural that one of the chief tasks of a science of politics should be seen as an intelligent understanding of them, their adequate interpretation, and an innovative search for effective methods of their regulation and control. Conceptions of political philosophy which disregard the sphere of human emotions cannot be adequate.</p> <p>The psychological aspects of political life have constituted a subject of keen philosophical interest ever since ancient times. Insightful observations of the psychological phenomena which filled the political space established by the Athens’s democratic experiment were the basis for the political theories of the greatest Greek philosophers, Plato and Aristotle. </p><p>A deep appreciation of the political significance of human social emotions has played an equally fundamental role in the political works of Niccolò Machiavelli, Thomas Hobbes, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Adam Smith and John Locke. They were of the greatest import for David Hume, the leading thinker of the Enlightenment who in this, as well as in other matters, adopted a deeply sceptical attitude toward the Enlightenment belief in reason as capable of exerting its regulatory and controlling power over emotions. Hume famously argued that reason is and ought only to be a slave of the passions.</p> <p>Athenian democracy opened the space for a more egalitarian expression of the political agency of human individuals for the first time in human history. The development of contemporary democracies, together with their accompanying technological and social advances, has resulted in opening up the public space for human individuality more widely than ever before. Since the sphere of human subjectivity is capable of more dynamic transformation than other aspects of social life, and since, within liberal democracies, human subjectivity and emotionality reveal themselves both to an unprecedented degree and in a diversity of novel forms, some of which tend to undermine social stability, they often come to be perceived as pathological. For this reason, an inquiry into political phenomena considered pathological has now become an independent and well-defined subject of scholarly interest.</p> <p>It is often claimed that the presently dominant forms of Polish politics, and new developments within it, are a result of psychopathologies responsible for a gradual decline and degradation of the Polish politics as a whole. The degradation in question, it is argued, stems to a large extent from a failure of the Polish political elites adequately to understand and manage the emotions of Polish society. The failure has been a cumulative effect of various modes of political disregard, misuse and abuse of social emotions. </p><p>More specifically, as David Ost argued in his book <em>The Defeat of “Solidarity”</em><a href="///C:/Users/Alex/Desktop/Chmielewski%20Adam,%20Poland&#039;s%20Coping%20with%20Freedom.doc#_ftn5">[5]</a>, this has been a failure resulting from the inability of one part of the Polish political elites to understand the role played by the “political emotional variable”, and, one may add, of the cynical instigation and exploitation of it in political struggles by another part. All these forms of misuse have together resulted in a manifest disregard of a common good.</p> <h2><strong>Authoritarian populism </strong></h2> <p>This degenerative trend in Polish politics may be attributed to pathological modes of employment of social emotions by some figures of the Polish post-‘Solidarity’ right, who through the manipulation of the popular emotions, have successfully dragged politics into the abyss of a new form of authoritarian populism. Jarosław Kaczyński, ambitious leader of the Prawo i Sprawiedliwość (Law and Justice), has been particularly resourceful in this respect. Undeniably talented in orchestrating public emotions, he led his party to an electoral victory in the general elections in 2005. </p> <p>This marked the beginning of a dramatic change in many respects of Polish public life. The atmosphere of the country under the rule of the Law and Justice Party, when one of the twin Kaczyński brothers (Jarosław) became Prime Minister of Poland and the other (Lech) served as President, has been adequately captured by Andrew Nagorski who wrote that the Poland of that time did not in the least resemble the country from 1989 when ‘Solidarity’ triumphed and not only toppled the communist government in Warsaw but set off a chain reaction throughout the region. </p><p>Commenting upon the situation in Poland in 2006 Nagorski wrote that “[d]espite enormous economic gains that have transformed the country from a land of chronic shortages into a bustling consumer society, despite Poland’s membership in NATO and the European Union, despite the banishment of fear and the emergence of a free society, many Poles are in a sour mood. It’s a mood that accounts for the recent emergence of a wobbly coalition government composed of right-wing populists, who are constantly bickering among themselves. What once was the ‘Solidarity’ camp is now split a half-dozen ways, and the air is filled with mutual recriminations about alleged collaboration under the old regime and corruption in the new era. In short, the romance of the revolution is largely forgotten”<a href="///C:/Users/Alex/Desktop/Chmielewski%20Adam,%20Poland&#039;s%20Coping%20with%20Freedom.doc#_ftn6">[6]</a>.</p> <p>The reorientation of Polish politics effected by Jarosław Kaczyński cannot be attributed to his personal political skills alone. It resulted rather from an unabashed rejection of the thus far dominant liberal political rhetoric, entrenched amongst the elites, but not amongst the rest of the people. This involved bringing to the fore social issues, neglected by liberal and social democratic parties. But it also involved references to nationalist and patriotic ideologies. The reversal thus achieved affected the country not only internally, but also had important consequences for Polish foreign policy as a whole; especially the relations with Germany and Russia. </p> <h2><strong>Polish foreign policy</strong></h2> <p>The peaceful transformation of Poland initiated by the roundtable talks in 1989 was not only the symbol of an unprecedented change in the course of Poland’s recent history. It was also a turning point in the traditional Polish attitude to history itself. Roughly the first two decades of the transition from really existing socialism to democracy were dominated by the spirit of peaceful transformation. It seemed that history for the Poles would henceforth be changed not so much by desperate violent uprisings but rather through peaceful processes of negotiations and an effort toward mutual understanding with its neighbours.</p><p> Poland would be eager to learn, like other European countries did, to reconcile its newly regained national sovereignty with those of others within the European framework. During that time Polish foreign policy was almost unanimously understood as a way of promoting national interest through cooperation and agreement, and not through, often futile, even if justified, resistance or violence.</p> <p>Post-war reconciliation between Poland and Germany was bringing its positive effects. For some time, it seemed certain that an old Polish saying which may be roughly translated: “As long as the world is the way it is, a German will never be a Pole’s brother”, would never be revivified to the rank of chief principle governing Poland’s relations with Germany. But this policy was abandoned by the Law and Justice government in the years 2005-2010. </p><p>Within a very brief period of time, Poland has found itself in the midst of a cold war with Germany and Russia, conducted by extreme nationalist and populist parties of the Polish right who profess a specific version of hostile winner-take-all politics. Polish foreign policy once again has become almost completely subsumed to the disastrous pre-war principle of ‘two enemies’, the enemies being Poland’s powerful neighbours, Russia and Germany. At the same time Poland has been searching for friendship, unreasonably and in vain, from a distant and increasingly aloof United States.</p> <p>If one were to point out an ideological framework which would help to understand the politics of these Polish authoritarian tendencies, the most likely candidate would be the ideas of Carl Schmitt, an ideologue for the German Third Reich. The cultural repression of liberal and leftist ideals effected by the regime led by Jarosław and Lech Kaczynski, turned Poland, a country which suffered from the Nazi regime more than any other, into the place of an incomprehensible scandal, when if a crypto-Nazi assumed a prominent public position in Poland, this generated much less controversy than when a post-Communist did. No wonder that Polish young people nowadays have increasing difficulty in understanding why the liberal democracies of Great Britain and the United States formed an alliance against the German Nazi regime, rather than unite themselves with the Nazis against the Soviet empire of evil.</p> <h2><strong>Fear of authoritarianism</strong></h2> <p>But this period in Polish politics came to an abrupt end due to the tragic event which occurred on April 10, 2010, when a Polish governmental plane carrying president Lech Kaczynski with his wife and ninety-four members of the Polish political elite, crashed into a forest near Smolensk airport in Russia, killing everyone on board. The Polish delegation were to attend a ceremony that marked the seventieth anniversary of the massacre of some 22,000 Polish officers and intellectuals in Katyn forest near Smoleńsk by the Soviet secret police in April 1940. This traumatic event, which continues to divide Polish society until today, heralded the end of the radical and internally inconsistent coalition of right wing, nationalist parties, formed by Law and Justice in 2007. </p> <p>Bronisław Komorowski of the Civic Platform, the Speaker of the Polish parliament Sejm, took over the presidential seat of the deceased Lech Kaczyński. As a result of the general elections held the following year, a neoliberal party, Civic Platform, won the majority. For eight years the Poles seemed to enjoy the predictability of this new government and its drive toward the modernisation of the country. Party officials were so far emboldened by the popular support they received for the leader to claim that his party had no one to lose the election to. In 2015, with the presidential elections approaching, Adam Michnik, in much the same arrogant mood, publicly claimed that the Civic Platform presidential candidate, Bronisław Komorowski, would lose the presidential election only if he had run over a pregnant nun on a zebra crossing while drunk driving. </p> <p>He could not have been more wrong. Towards the end of its eight-year term, Civic Platform was in deep trouble due to quite plausible accusations of corruption of some of its ministers. Compromising conversations between Civic Platform’s members and businessmen secretly recorded and made public dealt it a bitter blow. The only remaining and incontestable strength of this neoliberal and conservative party seemed to be fear of the repetition of authoritarianism, consistently promised by the leaders of Law and Justice. </p> <p>Despite these calculations and the self-assuredness of the liberal political elite, Civic Platform rule came to an unexpected end with the presidential and general elections held in 2015. In June little known Andrzej Duda, supported by Jarosław Kaczyński and Law and Justice, won the presidency against the incumbent Bronisław Komorowski. In October the same year Law and Justice swept to power, winning a majority sufficient to form a first post-transformational government without the need to enter any coalitions. The key to this astounding success was an ingeniously engineered campaign built, once again, upon corruption charges against Civic Platform, the appeal to nationalist and patriotic feelings, an ostentatious even if not quite genuine religiosity, and blatantly xenophobic innuendos formulated amidst a growing Syrian refugee problem.</p> <p>The new government formed by the seemingly unelectable Law and Justice did not wait too long to confirm fears of authoritarianism. In no time the Parliament, dominated by the deputies of Law and Justice, had passed a new law concerning the functioning of the Constitutional Tribunal. The true aim of the new regulation was to make it difficult, if not altogether impossible, for the top court to overturn any parliamentary legislation. </p> <p>This has been interpreted as a violation of the separation of powers and as opening the door for the authoritarian and unchecked rule of the party or rather its leader. Subsequently the government refused to recognize the court’s decision which deemed the new law unconstitutional. This has created an impasse for both sides of the disagreement, and generated both internal and international concern. Institutions of the European Union, as well as the US President Barack Obama, have rebuked Poland’s new government for violation of the rule of law, with little impact, however, on the ruling party officials.</p> <h2><strong>A great vacuum</strong></h2> <p>Despite the gravity of the situation, the largest opposition party Civic Platform has lost its steam and demonstrates an inability to present any persuasive alternative, while its leaders have become engaged in mutual recrimination. This has left a great vacuum on the opposite side of the profoundly refurbished Polish political spectrum. Some of the former Civic Platform electorate is now represented by a new party (, led by a former pupil of Leszek Balcerowicz. The concern about the rule of law has been exploited more successfully, with the help of social media, by a Committee for the Defense of Democracy (Komitet Obrony Demokracji, KOD; it’s name deliberately refers to Komitet Obrony Robotników, KOR, the key Polish opposition movement against communism). Even though KOD has managed to stage several great demonstrations against the new regime in major Polish cities, it has not yet turned itself into a political party. </p> <p>The vacuum on the left side of the political scene is now being gradually filled by a sensible and energetic young party ‘Razem’ (‘Together’) which has secured for itself 3 per cent of the voters. All these political fractions, however, are being systematically undermined in their opposition against the Law and Justice. A reform package undertaken by this party on behalf of the underprivileged segments of the Polish society, is meanwhile being rewarded by growing popular support.</p> <p>The question frequently asked is why the Poles have chosen, again, Law and Justice, a party which does not have any qualms whatsoever in appealing to nationalist and xenophobic ideology, as their political representation. Many commentators, like Nagorski quoted above, point to the enormous gains Poland has achieved thanks to its wholesale transformation. </p><p>The transformation initiated in 1989 has brought to Poles a tremendous change: they now live much more dignified and prosperous lives than they did under a communist regime. One has to add that Poland indeed fared quite well through the post-2008 economic downturn. The country has been consistently presented by political propaganda as a “green island” of growth amid the shrinking economies of the European Union. However, even if all this is largely true, there are several things to be borne in mind. </p> <p>First of all, what has been rarely mentioned during these transformative decades was that the wealth produced by Poles has been unequally distributed among them. This economic growth should rather be seen as an indicator of the level of poverty from which this country was trying to emerge, rather than as a sign of its economic strength. Secondly, this growth has been achieved at the cost of the low wages of Polish workers. </p><p>Moreover, 8.6 per cent of the workforce in Poland are presently out of jobs, with few of them eligible for state support. Poland is among the most unequal societies, with the value of the Gini coefficient of equivalised disposable income at 30.08, rather distant from the prosperous egalitarian countries. Yet another indicator is much more telling: out of 23.5 million Europeans living off an income of less than 10 euros per day, 10.5 million, i.e. nearly a half of them, are Polish citizens. The authors of the statistical European Union survey of 2008 state that “[l]ooking at those with the lowest incomes [i.e. below €5 a day], we find that 44% of them live in Poland”<a href="///C:/Users/Alex/Desktop/Chmielewski%20Adam,%20Poland&#039;s%20Coping%20with%20Freedom.doc#_ftn7">[7]</a>. With subsidies for research and innovation at a consistently low level, the Polish economy continues to be rather outdated and European Union handouts are the only reliable source of cash helping to modernize this backward country.</p> <p>Poles suffer also from a number of other iniquities and exclusions. Women, who are denied equal access to jobs and equal pay, are also the first to be fired from their jobs. Under the pressure of the politically dominant Catholic Church, they are denied a right to abortion; and the allegedly liberal Civic Platform, under the pressure of the Catholic Church, also considered a ban on in vitro fertilization, even if the state (once again because of the unyielding stance of the Church) had not been financing this. </p><p>Civic Platform had also been planning to castrate pedophiles, while appealing, in the same breath, for mercy for Roman Polanski who some time ago was jailed for sexual intercourse with a minor. Sexual minorities are repressed, critical and innovative artists are censored, while the state turns its gaze the other way. Public access to arts and cultural events is marred by economic exclusion and psychological attitudes of self-exclusion: less than ten per cent of Poles take part in cultural events on a regular basis<a href="///C:/Users/Alex/Desktop/Chmielewski%20Adam,%20Poland&#039;s%20Coping%20with%20Freedom.doc#_ftn8">[8]</a>. </p> <p>Polish society is also coping with the grave consequences of four structural reforms which were intended as a Polish version of the Great Leap Forward. The four reforms, effected by the liberal conservative government in the years 1997-2001, turned out to be disappointing four steps backwards. After a decade, the pension system, reformed along the lines of neoliberal principles, has crumbled, leaving a large hole in the state budget and the future if pensioners deeply impoverished. </p><p>A decade after the reform of the health system, medical services were diagnosed as very inadequate and are steadily deteriorating<a href="///C:/Users/Alex/Desktop/Chmielewski%20Adam,%20Poland&#039;s%20Coping%20with%20Freedom.doc#_ftn9">[9]</a>. The administrative reform – an attempt to introduce the idea of self-governing Poland in practice – has only multiplied the army of bureaucrats at all levels. A reform of the educational system produces now hordes of semiliterate philistines, as do the higher education institutions. Cultural institutions, courts of justice, the police and other public services, are inadequate due to their underfunding. </p><p>This, ironically, may be read as a proof of the statement once made by a leading member of the Civic Platform government who has been recorded as saying that the Polish state exists only theoretically. </p> <h2><strong>One world, vanquished hope</strong></h2> <p>Some two million Poles took the opportunity afforded to them by the accession to the European Union to improve their lives by emigrating to other European countries, especially Great Britain and Ireland, but also Germany; a majority of them do menial jobs. This is the largest emigration in the Polish history. </p> <p>Unsurprisingly, it generates a strong backlash among host societies. This has been so especially in Great Britain, where the overwhelming Polish presence was a strong card in the successful Brexit campaign. The number of Polish emigres itself should be interpreted as an another telling indicator of the quality of life in present-day Poland. In view of the great number of Poles who found themselves in a situation desperate enough to emigrate, one may be permitted to speculate that a much larger army of them might be ready to follow suit. Indeed: the 2016 survey suggested that another 4 million Poles are willing to leave their country, while 1.5 million are ready to do so. </p> <p>It is for such reasons that the year of celebrations of the 35th anniversary of the commencement of the liberal and democratic transformation of Poland is not universally felt as a moment of contentment or as an occasion for self-congratulation.</p> <hr size="1" /> <p><a href="///C:/Users/Alex/Desktop/Chmielewski%20Adam,%20Poland&#039;s%20Coping%20with%20Freedom.doc#_ftnref1">[1]</a> Marek Hłasko, <em>Piękni, dwudziestoletni</em> (first edition Paris 1966) Warszawa, Czytelnik, 1989, p. 182.</p> <p><a href="///C:/Users/Alex/Desktop/Chmielewski%20Adam,%20Poland&#039;s%20Coping%20with%20Freedom.doc#_ftnref2">[2]</a> Cf. <a href=""></a>.</p> <p><a href="///C:/Users/Alex/Desktop/Chmielewski%20Adam,%20Poland&#039;s%20Coping%20with%20Freedom.doc#_ftnref3">[3]</a> Karl R Popper, <em>Unended Quest. An Intellectual Autobiography</em>, Routledge, 1992; Polish edition: <em>Nieustanne poszukiwania, Autobiografia intelektualna</em>, transl. by Adam Chmielewski, Kraków: Znak, 1997, p. 5.</p> <p><a href="///C:/Users/Alex/Desktop/Chmielewski%20Adam,%20Poland&#039;s%20Coping%20with%20Freedom.doc#_ftnref4">[4]</a> Michel Houllebecq, <em>Extension du domaine de la lutte</em>, Paris 1994; Polish edition: <em>Poszerzenie pola walki</em>, transl. by Ewa Wieleżyńska, Wydawnictwo WAB, Poznań 2005;</p> <p><a href="///C:/Users/Alex/Desktop/Chmielewski%20Adam,%20Poland&#039;s%20Coping%20with%20Freedom.doc#_ftnref5">[5]</a> David Ost, <em>The Defeat of “Solidarity”. Anger and Politics in Postcommunist Europe</em>, Cornell University, 2005; Polish edition: <em>Klęska “Solidarności”. </em><em>Gniew i polityka w postkomunistycznej Europie</em>, transl. by Hanna Jankowska Warszawa: Warszawskie Wydawnictwo Literackie MUZA SA, 2005;</p> <p><a href="///C:/Users/Alex/Desktop/Chmielewski%20Adam,%20Poland&#039;s%20Coping%20with%20Freedom.doc#_ftnref6">[6]</a> Andrew Nagorski, “Poland’s Imperfect Revolution”, <em>Foreign Policy</em>, July/August 2006.</p> <p><a href="///C:/Users/Alex/Desktop/Chmielewski%20Adam,%20Poland&#039;s%20Coping%20with%20Freedom.doc#_ftnref7">[7]</a> <em>The Social Situation in the European Union 2007. Social Cohesion through Equal Opportunities</em>, European Commission, Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities – Unit E.1, Eurostat – Unit F.3, Brussels 2008, section 1.3.</p> <p><a href="///C:/Users/Alex/Desktop/Chmielewski%20Adam,%20Poland&#039;s%20Coping%20with%20Freedom.doc#_ftnref8">[8]</a> Cf. Adam Chmielewski, “Uses of art in the urban space”, in: <em>International Journal of Social Economics</em>, Vol. 42 Issue 9, pp. 841-851.</p> <p><a href="///C:/Users/Alex/Desktop/Chmielewski%20Adam,%20Poland&#039;s%20Coping%20with%20Freedom.doc#_ftnref9">[9]</a>“Polish health care system one of the worst in Europe”; cf.: Radio Poland, <a href=",Polish-health-care-system-one-of-the-worst-in-Europe">,Polish-health-care-system-one-of-the-worst-in-Europe</a>, accessed July 21, 2016.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/alex-sakalis-rosemary-bechler-adrian-zandberg/interview-with-adrian-zandberg-part"> Interview with Adrian Zandberg, Partia Razem</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/tom-junes/rise-of-youth-nationalism-in-poland">The rise of &#039;youth nationalism&#039; in Poland</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Poland </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? Poland Adam J Chmielewski Tue, 30 Aug 2016 23:16:35 +0000 Adam J Chmielewski 105022 at Stealing the spectacle <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A new Polish xenophobia cannot be explained only by political economy, but also needs to be understood in terms of political aesthetics.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Polish nationalists burn flares to mark Independence Day in Warsaw, Nov., 2015. Far-right organisations march under anti-migrant slogan,'Poland for Poles,Poles for Poland.'Alik Keplicz /Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>For some time now Polish public space has been systematically filled with numerous xenophobic incidents. They are staged, with increasing frequency, by radical nationalist, racist or outright neo-Nazi groupings who jointly call themselves patriots. The membership in these groupings is rapidly growing. Gradually, they are turning into a sizeable volunteer army resembling the Hungarian Jobbik. As a result of the general elections in 2015, they have parliamentary representation as well.</p> <h2><strong>Revenge of the oppressed?</strong></h2> <p>In various formulations, the disturbing frequency of racist incidents in Poland is usually explained away. Most generally, the growing popularity of xenophobic and neo-Nazi ideologies amongst Polish youth is rationalized by pointing to the economic conditions responsible for their many forms of social exclusion: the adoption of xenophobic attitudes by a considerable part of the Polish youth is allegedly a consequence of their exclusion from the labour and consumer market, while membership in these extremist groups is supposed to work for them as psychological compensation for this economic denigration. Racist ideology is supposed to provide them with a vicarious repayment, achieved by means of denigration of others whom they perceive as aliens or outright enemies. In other words, xenophobia in Poland is to be understood as yet another example of the revenge of the oppressed. </p> <p>This explanation seems plausible, but it suffers from two errors. One has to do with its economism, the other with its literalism. The error of economist reductionism in explaining recent xenophobic events in Poland is that it perceives their authors and actors only as disappointed consumers. Although it may be adequate in individual cases, overall it is misguided and misleading.</p> <p>For human beings are not only the products of the circumstances of their social environment: they contribute to the circumstances too. To paraphrase a well-known thinker, this economistic doctrine that people are the products of circumstances and upbringing, and that, therefore, changed men are products of other circumstances and changed upbringing, forgets that it is people who change circumstances. People are products of conditions which are partly produced by themselves. That is one thing. </p> <p>The second is that the world created by people is not composed only of material goods, access to which is open to them in unequal measure. The human world consists also of symbolic goods which are also subject to various policies of distribution, far from egalitarian. A new quality in Polish xenophobia is that it is indeed adopted and propagated by disappointed consumers; but the source of their disappointment is not the limited access to material, so much as to symbolic goods. They are hungry not only for new sneakers and stuff (or, like in the past, for Jewish houses, shoes and pillows), but for public recognition. For this reason, the new Polish xenophobia cannot be explained only by political economy, but also needs to be understood in terms of political aesthetics.</p> <h2><strong>Public recognition</strong></h2> <p>The contemporary culture of visibility imposes two demands upon its participants: in order to be in contemporary society, one does not only have to have the means of subsistence; no less important is to be perceived as someone who can afford them. Contemporary culture is a culture of appearance in which the objects of rivalry and consumption are not only material goods but, increasingly, images and symbols. Images and symbols are a precondition for a successful social existence, that is, an existence recognised and acknowledged by others. The predominance of the culture of visibility is responsible for the fact that images, or spectacle of various kinds, have now become goods no less sought after than material ones. Ours is thus a culture of demonstration and ostentation; it is a culture of spectacle. </p> <p>Functioning in the regimes of contemporary societies involves a continuous rivalry for goods both material and symbolic. In this culture, the dominant mode of production is about the creation of images, the construction of spaces for their functioning, as well as the distribution of those goods in those spaces. Naturally, not everyone takes part in these processes to the same extent. Rivalry over goods, material and symbolic alike, is shaped by patterns of conduct propagated by the media. Despite the popularity of social media, these processes are overwhelmingly influenced by the official public media. They dictate, in the last instance, the contents and nature of the dominant message, as well as the pattern of a proper, i.e. socially acceptable form of participation in the public sphere and consumption of its symbolic goods. </p> <h2><strong>Two pictures of xenophobia</strong></h2> <p>For several post-war decades, Nazi ideology and symbols have been effectively banned from Polish public space. With the liberal-democratic transformation of the country, and freedom of speech associated with it, racist and xenophobic ideologies gradually revived and grew in the recesses of society. Over the past few years, however, Poland’s xenophobic groupings have found a way to use the official public media to propagate their racist ideology nationwide, without incurring the heavy costs formerly associated with it, and with impunity. They have learned how to highjack symbols and spectacles produced and distributed by the official regime, and to turn them to the service of their own cause. In other words, they fight the established regime of visuality by deploying its own weapons: they are having a free ride, and making the best of it. &nbsp;</p> <p>For, in a relatively brief period of time, a significant reversal has taken place in Poland. The change may be illustrated by means of two contrasting pictures of the same xenophobic groupings which have been propagated by the Polish public media at different times. Around 2010, after one of the brawls staged by soccer hooligans following a match in Warsaw, Polish TV repeatedly showed swathes of neo-Nazi youngsters, having been contained by the police, cuffed and lying face down on a sidewalk. Several years later, however, the same media are not showing this humiliating picture of the buttocks and shaven heads of neo-Nazis felled on the sidewalk, but, literally, quite the reverse: their angry faces shouting patriotic slogans. A second aspect of the reversal is a natural follow-up of the first: the media do not focus any more on the coarse physicality of the members of the neo-Nazi groups, but on the contents of the message they propagate. In this way the official media find themselves serving, willy-nilly, as a megaphone for their racist ideology. Neo-Nazis upset the present political governance of Polish public space, by turning the ideology upon which it rests against the regime itself.</p> <p>The nature of the transgressive acts committed by xenophobic groupings in Poland has also undergone a significant transformation. They cannot any more be likened to or equated with mundane banditry, quotidian racism, or typical stadium violence. Currently, their actions are &nbsp;aimed not at physically assaulting people of different colour or religion; nor do they serve just to release their youthful frustrations. But there is a new quality in the transgressive events that they stage, that may be illustrated in the following way. If one paints a swastika on a wall, one does it under the cover of night. If one physically attacks a person, one does it with a face covered by a low hood or a mask. This is because such actions are violations of the existing law. But when one defends the innocence of Polish children or the chastity of women, or the memory of Polish patriots, one does it walking tall and proud. For the defence of these values, even if done in a way which violates accepted norms, is seen as a commendable thing. The praiseworthy nature of those actions is inscribed in the ideology of the existing regime of political correctness. </p> <h2><strong>How it’s done</strong></h2> <p>The following examples illustrate how they do it. Some time ago xenophobic groupings prevented a Member of the European Parliament, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, from speaking in Poland. They argued that Cohn-Bendit had once acknowledged being aroused by adolescents with whom he had been working decades ago. His confession, made in an excessively frank interview, has been construed as acknowledgment of paedophile inclinations. So they argued that a paedophile does not deserve respect or public recognition as an authority. In view of the fact that shortly before the incident the state authorities had announced a stringent anti-paedophile policy, while the official media went on a rampage of paedophile-bashing, it has become impossible to deny the xenophobes the right to protest against the appearance of this politician, unless one is willing to risk the accusation of excessive leniency towards paedophilia. Few would accept such a risk. </p> <p>Polish neo-Nazis openly express their negative opinions about Muslims and refugees currently striving for safety in Europe. Politicians, media moguls and Roman Catholic Church leaders are unabashedly talking about the refugees “flooding” Poland as a result of the European Union’s decision to allocate them amongst the member states. State authorities openly warn of the danger of unknown microbes which might be brought to Poland by the refugees. And racist incidents and pronouncements are becoming perceived as a legitimate preventive action aimed at preserving the purity of the national substance and faith. In view of all this, it is virtually impossible to counter these racist messages: official pronouncements of the state and the church representatives are being employed by racists as a demonstration of their righteousness, and at the same time used as a shield from prosecution.</p> <p>It does not happen too often to a sociologist, whose business is to investigate social problems, to become a social problem himself. However, this precisely is what happened to Zygmunt Bauman, a sociologist of international renown. Some time ago he was vilified by a group of neo-Nazis at a public lecture in Poland for his collaboration with the secret services of the Soviet Union during the Second World War. No one, Bauman himself included, denied that, as an officer of the Polish army established in the Soviet Union at the time of war, he worked for an institution controlled by the KGB. Ever since the beginnings of Poland’s political transformation, the official media consistently denounce any pro-communist leanings as criminal in nature; nowadays this includes also any pro-Russian inclinations. In such circumstances it would take tremendous courage to defend Bauman, and to oppose the neo-Nazis who posture as genuine defenders of Polish patriots murdered in a distant past by the communist regime, once supported by Bauman himself.</p> <h2><strong>Normalisation and situationism</strong></h2> <p>These examples demonstrate the extent to which the political regime in Poland has created, perhaps inadvertently, the ideological conditions which allow what was until recently unacceptable and shameful, to be perceived as acceptable, normal and praiseworthy. Xenophobic groups make skilful use of selected items of the dominant ideology, and take advantage of a regime which, somewhat taken aback, realizes that it no longer has any means to condemn or prosecute their racist ideology. </p> <p>Racist groups profess ideas not much different from those of the Polish political class. The difference lies basically in emphasis and employment of novel techniques in making their views public. The above examples also demonstrate that the proper aim of racist actions is not, for example, to defend the innocence of children, or the chastity of women, or the dignity of patriots. Their true aim is a hostile takeover of the public space produced by public institutions and media, along with their messages, so that they may put them to the service of their own political purposes. In this way the overall interest of these groups is being achieved: they are winning public recognition and are being treated seriously by a system which until recently did not even deign to acknowledge their existence. </p> <p>In other words, Polish xenophobic groupings are successful thieves of the spectacle staged by the establishment. By taking over and instrumentally deploying the ideological and symbolic messages of the official regime, they have managed to focus public attention on themselves, thus enabling themselves to appear in the very media which, not long ago, did not bother to notice them. It is as if the Polish radical right had been diligent readers of Guy Debord and the radical leftist situationist movement of the 1960’s.</p> <h2><strong>Against literalism</strong></h2> <p>As for the error of literalism in interpreting the new wave of xenophobia in Poland – it seems that xenophobic motivation is being treated by these groups mainly as a means and an instrument for achieving public recognition rather than as an aim in itself. I shall try to explain this by means of yet another example. </p> <p>According to a well-known folktale, the first wish the fisherman addressed to the golden flounder was to turn the waters in the lake into vodka. In the second wish, he demanded waters in the sea to be turned into vodka. When the golden flounder asked about his third wish, the fisherman, already whoozy, blurts out: “Oh, give me a bottle of vodka and bugger off”. This anecdote conveys an important truth about Polish customs: the private organization of leisure in Poland is barely possible without alcohol. (Inevitably, forms of entertainment which grew up around the Polish mode of alcohol consumption have been reflected in popular culture, especially fiction and film, past and present. It is worth noticing an important shift in this terrain, though: during really existing socialism heroes of the Polish cinema were usually workers and guzzled vodka, while during really existing capitalism they are, as a rule, employees of advertising agencies who permanently sip wine.)</p> <p>The mode of organization of public events in Poland displays an analogous addiction problem. It is impossible to stage them without an appeal to patriotic and religious ideas and symbols. Just as the fisherman cannot think of anything more desirable than an abundance of vodka, the engineers of public life, similarly, cannot imagine public events without a reference to patriotic, nationalist and religious symbols. No wonder, then, that leaders of xenophobic groups, similarly, realize that for their purposes an appeal to selected bits and pieces of the dominant ideology is most effective. This is so for two reasons. Firstly, as in the case of an alcoholic, nothing else comes to their minds. Secondly, no other ideology could be equally effective. This shows to what extent we are all ensnared in the very same ideological trap.&nbsp; </p> <p>It is likely that the majority of the rank-and-file of Polish xenophobic groups actually do believe in the exclusionary ideas they propagate. It is also likely, at least at the moment, that a significant part of them, especially their leaders who engineer new forms of political action, treat these ideas more as slogans to be shouted rather than injunctions to be implemented. Xenophobic slogans are ideally suited for this purpose: until recently a suppression of xenophobic ideology has been one of the pillars of the official ideological regime which simultaneously suppressed its own repressive nature. The cynical game of the neo-Nazis, who are currently winning recognition for the transgressions they perpetrate, enables them to remind the established regime that it has been repressive and oppressive, and demonstrates what it had been repressing and suppressing. With both parties locking themselves into a deadly feedback, the stability of the regime is undermined, and the more it is shaken, the more attention it devotes to the source of its instability. </p> <p>The peril in this deadlock is that it resembles playing with fire in a munition storage. For it is easy to predict that the next stage in the racist game will be testing how far they can go. In view of the weakening of national and international institutions, it is highly likely that they will go a long way.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Poland </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? Poland Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Ideas International politics Adam J Chmielewski Thu, 04 Aug 2016 19:51:30 +0000 Adam J Chmielewski 104550 at Polish prospects in the May 2014 elections <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The European elections in Poland will be treated as a test of political parties' national popularity, rather than any belief in Poland's role in Europe. <em>Euro elections landscape, 2014.</em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="image-caption"><img src="//" alt="" width="460" height="307" />The right wing Law and Justice party is expected to do well in the coming EU elections. Demotix/Michal Fludra. Some rights reserved.</p><h2><strong>Facts</strong></h2> <p>With less than a hundred days to the elections to European Parliament, preparations to select candidates for the next term 2014-2019 are underway in Poland. As one of the few member states, Poland is selecting their Members of the European Parliament not from a national list but within 13 constituencies. The selection of candidates is effectively being made by political parties. Naturally, this fact determines to a large extent the not only the selection of candidates, but also the nature and possible outcome of the elections. </p> <p>In the European Parliament Poland is currently represented by 50 MEPs, which will rise to 51 in these coming elections. In the present legislature twenty five of them have been elected from the nominees of the ruling Platforma Obywatelska (the Civic Platform). Its successful candidates now belong to the political parliamentary group European People&rsquo;s Party-European Democrats (EPP). The nominees of the Law and Justice won 15 seats; most of them are now members of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group (ECRG). The remaining ten seats were divided between nominees of the now non-existent leftist coalition of Sojusz Lewicy Demokratycznej-Unia Pracy (Democratic Left Alliance-Labour Union), which won 7 seats; they have become members of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats. Three seats have been secured by members of the Polskie Stronnictwo Ludowe (Polish Peasants&rsquo; Party); like their Civic Platform colleagues, they joined the EPP group. It is worth remarking that their party is a part of the now ruling coalition at home. </p> <p>It needs to be said that the success of the Civic Platform in the 2009 European elections reflected its unequivocal commitment on behalf of a united Europe. The success of its nominees has been a consequence of this party&rsquo;s consistent support for the strengthening of the European Union, perceived as a civilisational opportunity by citizens eager to improve the standing of their country and their material status. The national support this party enjoyed has been significantly enhanced by the then widely shared, and largely justified, fears of the possibility of a return of an irrational, chaotic and xenophobic domestic rule of the Law and Justice, more than amply demonstrated in the years 2005-2007. Yet it has had another major cause. For most of the Civic Platform candidates to the European Parliament in 2009 were selected with their competences in view, and the choice has been largely adequate. As a result MEPs who owe their seats to the Civic Platform&rsquo;s nomination are amongst the most hard working parliamentarians, and their activities are both appreciated by their international colleagues and recognized at home. </p> <p>Undoubtedly the most respected among them is the former prime minister Jerzy Buzek who held the seat of the president of the European Parliament during the first part of the present term. As a professor of chemistry, he focuses his parliamentary activities on the energy market, strongly advocating a low-carbon economy and emphasising the efficient use of non-renewable energy sources rather than abandoning them, which is crucial from the point of view of Polish economy. After all, he hails from the Upper Silesian region in south of Poland, a region famous for its heavy industry and the pollution it generates.</p> <p>The second most influential Polish MEP is Danuta H&uuml;bner, chair of the Committee on the Regional Development. She has been the main architect of the new regional development policy which is to be implemented in the years 2014-2020. The outcome of her activities is vital for Poland and other countries which are beneficiaries of the EU cohesion policy. </p> <p>Third to be mentioned is Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, former secretary in the Polish government responsible for the accession negotiations before 2004. This experienced diplomat is now focusing on the cooperation with Eastern Partnership countries and playing an important role in the resolution of the recent political crisis in Ukraine. </p> <p>Among other influential Polish MEPs nominated by the Civic Platform are Jan Olbrycht, working in the Committee on the Regional Development; R&oacute;&#380;a Thun, involved in efforts toward the harmonization of the internal market of the EU, and Sidonia J&#281;drzejewska, safeguarding a sufficient level of financing of the EU activities in the Committee on Budgets. </p> <p>The overall positive image of the MEPs nominated by the Civic Platform does not apply to the MEPs who won their seats following the recommendation of the Law and Justice. A notable exception to this rule, Konrad Szyma&#324;ski, is now serving his second term in the European Parliament; he has been actively involved in the decision making in the fields of the EU energy policy and the cooperation with the Eastern Partnership countries.</p> <p>As for the remaining members of the Law and Justice, even though they mostly belong to the same group of European Conservatives and Reformists, they cannot be said to form a consistent grouping. This is due to the fact that their nomination to the European Parliament has been more of an act of exile by the despotic chairman of the party Jaros&#322;aw Kaczy&#324;ski, rather than an act of delegation to pursue the party&rsquo;s agenda on this most important European forum. The ample remuneration they receive as MEPs is being treated as a compensation for their side-tracking from the Polish political stage. </p><p>In several cases, soon after their electoral success, they dissented from the hard line imposed by Kaczy&#324;ski, and joined a new party Solidarna Polska which, so far, has failed to attract any significant national support. On the European level they also split from the Conservatives and Reformists political group and joined the eurosceptic, right-wing, Europe of Freedom and Democracy. With little interest and understanding of the European matters, and even smaller competences, they concentrate their attention on Polish politics and are to be seen more frequently in the Polish media than in the parliamentary chambers; in their case the European mandates they hold have been irretrievably wasted.</p> <p>Undoubtedly the most active MEP among the representation of the Polish left in the European Parliament is Lidia Geringer de Oedenberg. A member of the College of Quaestors of the European Parliament, she is a deputy-chairman of the Committee on Legal Affairs, a member of the Committee on Petitions and of the delegation for relations with South Asia; she is also working on women&rsquo;s rights and gender equality. Adam Gierek, an another MEP of this group, is said to have won his seat due to his being a son of the former communist party leader Edward Gierek who symbolises a period in the most recent history of Poland which a great number of older citizens remember with nostalgia. Wojciech Olejniczak, former leader of the Democratic Left Alliance, has found his place in the European Parliament as a result of the internal struggle for power which he lost to Grzegorz Napieralski.</p> <p>The MEPs representing the Polish Peasant&rsquo;s Party failed to distinguish themselves in the workings of the European parliament in any significant way.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <h2><strong>Forecasts</strong></h2> <p>According to the poll published on February 12, 2014, the results of the elections this year may substantially change the composition of the Polish contingent to the European parliament. The poll shows a surprisingly high willingness to take part in the vote; 59 per cent of the voters declare that they will cast their vote on May 25. </p> <p>More interestingly, according to the poll, the Law and Justice party is supported by 25 per cent of the prospective voters, while only 20 per cent of them wish to support candidates of the Civic Platform. Even more interesting, traditional domination of the Democratic Left Alliance among the social democratic voters may be overcome by a coalition of leftist parties led by two political engines, hastily brought together with the European election in mind. One of these formations is Europa Plus, with Aleksander Kwa&#347;niewski, former President of the Republic of Poland as its head, and Tw&oacute;j Ruch (which may be translated as Your Move(ment), led by Janusz Palikot, a maverick businessman and a former member of the Civic Platform who assembled around himself disenchanted voters of the leftist inclination. The diverse coalition led by Kwa&#347;niewski and Palikot has been supported by 11 per cent in the poll, while Democratic Left Alliance by 10 per cent of the prospective voters. </p> <p>The Polish Peasants&rsquo; Party may expect to gather about 6 per cent of the vote. The remaining political parties and groupings are supported by less than 5 per cent of the voters. The extreme right xenophobic groupings did not register any support on their behalf. </p> <p>The numbers cited above call for some comment. </p> <p>First of all, the willingness to take part in the elections, declared in the quoted poll, is <em>prima facie</em> incompatible with more realistic expectations for the turnout for the European elections. The expected turnout in Poland is disenchantingly low and significantly lower than the European average of 43 per cent. In 2009 it reached barely 24,53 per cent, which was still 4 per cent higher than in the first European elections in 2004, the first elections after Poland&rsquo;s accession to the EU. </p><p>Even though 106 billion euros to be received by Poland within the period of 2014-2020 from the EU budget may be interpreted as an incentive for more Poles to be involved in the European matters, this cannot be seen as a sufficient reason for most of voters to exert themselves on the election day. First of all, most of them believe, even if mistakenly, that they personally did not benefit from the European handouts; secondly, they tend to perceive huge masses of money as an act of the historical justice Poland deserves anyway, thirdly, most of the Poles believe that the European funding is misused and misappropriated by the political and administrative establishment instead of being put to the common good. It seems fair to predict that the actual turnout will reach no more than 30 per cent of 30 million of eligible voters.</p> <p>Secondly, the poll unavoidably reflects the present support for political parties in Poland rather than a considered popular view as to the role of the country within the European Union. Indeed, the actual electoral support in the European elections will be seen as a measure of popularity of the parties in the run-up to the general national elections in 2015. Accordingly, for this very reason, the European elections are being treated by most of the Polish political parties as a test of their national popular support. That is why the Polish parties tend to treat the elections to the European Parliament more as a sign of their national popularity rather than an opportunity to implement their own European agenda. In other words, the national perception of the electoral outcome will remain for them more important that the outcome itself. </p> <p>That is why some parties are now selecting candidates who are likely to gain more votes rather than those who would be more fit for the posts of the future MEPs. The Polish public, for example, has been recently dumbfounded by the information that some parties contemplate to nominate former or still active stars of the national show business or, worse, celebrities. There are reasons to believe that these tactics, as in the case of Democratic Left Alliance, will not bring the expected results, for the voting public is not likely to buy this cheap trick. However, good news is that the number of celebrities on voting lists seems to be lower than in the former general elections in 2011.&nbsp; </p> <p>Thirdly, there is no denying that the ruling Civic Platform increasingly resembles a lame duck. It has heavily suffered from irreversible political fatigue, quite understandable in view of the fact that the party has ruled the country for nearly two terms. It has also suffered damages to its image due to widely publicised scandals; one of them involved minister S&#322;awomir Nowak who unashamedly displayed a disgustingly expensive watch on his hand, and failed to account for the way it came into his possession. As a result of his inconsistent lies he lost the position of the minister of transport and is now under investigation. </p> <p>The party also suffered from the internecine wars for power. Such internal struggle for power has been recently fought in the region of Lower Silesia between the present MEP Jacek Protasiewicz and Grzegorz Schetyna, former secretary general of the Civic Platform. Protasiewicz&rsquo;s victory, widely publicised by the media, brought about an actual weakening of the party both in the region and nationwide. To make the matters worse for themselves, the party declared, rather astonishingly, that it will not nominate any candidates in the constituencies in which their victory is improbable, which evidently is a sign of fear of an electoral loss. </p> <p>All this gives some probability to the prediction that the Law and Justice nominees will enjoy a greater backing than they did in 2009. This does not mean that the Civic Platform, in its contest for votes with the Law and Justice, should be written off as a definite loser. One has to bear in mind that this party is the only one which treats the European matters with all seriousness they deserve, and will select candidates who would be more likely to win voters&rsquo; approval than possible candidates of the Law and Justice which persists in its anti-European, and especially anti-German rhetoric. </p><p>Kaczy&#324;ski&rsquo;s recently announced criteria for the choice of the candidates, those of &ldquo;competence and loyalty&rdquo;, seem mutually exclusive since his party is composed according to the rule of loyalty rather than those of competence. It thus seems that the Law and Justice will be unlikely fully to capitalise on the presently declared and probably ephemeral support. If anything, the Civic Platform may lose some votes to the new party established by its former member and minister Jaros&#322;aw Gowin.</p> <p>Finally, one has to address the often raised question as to whether the Polish extreme right wing groupings, which mushroomed in Poland in the past few years, might <a href="">steal some of the votes from the dominant parties</a>. The quoted poll shows that their recent ominous ubiquity in the public sphere and the media failed to translate itself into any electoral supports. This is explicable by the evident incongruousness, widely felt by the voters, between their radical anti-European agenda and their eagerness to win well-paid seats in the European Parliament in order to overthrow it.</p> <p>This justifies an overall forecast that the outcome of the Polish elections to the European Parliament will hover somewhere between the rather surprising results of the first pre-electoral polls, and the outcome of the 2009 elections, with the actual support for the Law and Justice nominees exceeding only slightly the level achieved by them in the 2009 elections.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/adam-j-chmielewski/academies-of-hatred">Academies of hatred</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/anna-grodzka/whats-left-in-poland">What&#039;s Left in Poland?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Poland </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? Poland Michał Szczurek Adam J Chmielewski Euro elections 2014 Wed, 19 Feb 2014 18:26:24 +0000 Adam J Chmielewski and Michał Szczurek 79504 at Academies of hatred <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A series of public events in Wrocław, Poland’s European Capital of Culture in 2016, have been disrupted by radicals. Those responsible are not only supported by the main right-wing opposition party. They have also received strong material support from the present Polish government.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="" alt="National Rebirth of Poland supporters. Fickr/Michal Porebiak. Some rights reserved." width="460" /><span class="image-caption">National Rebirth of Poland supporters. Fickr/Michal Porebiak. Some rights reserved.</span></p><p>The disruption of Zygmunt Bauman’s lecture at the University of Wrocław on June 22, 2013 by the far-right <em>Narodowe Odrodzenie Polski</em> (NOP, National Rebirth of Poland), is one of many similar events to have recently taken place across Poland. </p> <p><img src="" alt="National Rebirth of Poland supporters. Fickr/Michal Porebiak. Some rights reserved." width="460" /><span class="image-caption">National Rebirth of Poland supporters. Fickr/Michal Porebiak. Some rights reserved.</span></p><p>The disruption of Zygmunt Bauman’s lecture at the University of Wrocław on June 22, 2013 by the far-right <em>Narodowe Odrodzenie Polski</em> (NOP, National Rebirth of Poland), is one of many similar events to have recently taken place across Poland. </p> <p>The lecture was organised by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, an intellectual branch of the German Social Democratic Party; an independent Ferdinand Lasalle Centre of Social Thought; and the Department of Social and Political Philosophy of the University of Wrocław which I chair. Zygmunt Bauman, the most renowned Polish scholar in the world, was the main speaker. Another hero of the event was Ferdinand Lassalle, a Breslauer and a student of the university in Wrocław in its German times, Karl Marx’s collaborator and the founder of the German social democratic party, whose remains rest in the Jewish Cemetery in Wrocław. The occasion was to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the first social democratic party in the world, established by Lassalle. The topic of the meeting was the ideals of the Left, old and new, and the contemporary challenge leftists face, in this new stage of capitalism and its crisis.</p> <p>I got involved in organizing Bauman’s lecture at the University of Wrocław hoping for a scholarly and critical debate about the future of Poland and the world - scholarly, because inspired by an eminent thinker and critical, because the opportunity for a renewal of egalitarian thinking about economy and politics, now eagerly taken up in many parts of the world, is met in Poland with disdain from political parties which duplicitously present themselves as leftist, and with ridicule or repression from the others.</p> <p>This was the second visit by Bauman to the Polish city of Wrocław that I had organised. The first took place in 1996. On that earlier occasion, no one expected any disturbances to occur during a series of academic and public appearances by the author of <em>Postmodern Ethics</em>. There were also no incidents when Bauman spoke in Wrocław to the European Congress of Culture in September 2011, soon after our city was awarded the title of European Capital of Culture 2016. </p> <p>What sort of change has occurred in the meantime, in the public space of both Wroclaw and Poland, which has made possible this series of disturbances? These incidents cast a sinister, dark brown shadow upon the image of Poland. But there is one advantage to be drawn from them. It is that this question can no longer be shunned.</p> <h2>A punch-up</h2> <p>This academic meeting was seen by some as a fusion of Jewishness, Germanness and Leftishness. Since it was also open to the public, it was perceived by local xenophobes as an invitation to a punch-up<strong>&nbsp;</strong>[1]. For Bauman is not only a Polish scholar of great stature and an author quoted in many disciplines. He was also, during the Stalinist period, a military officer of the Polish army. He is also a Jew, just as Ferdinand Lassalle was. And for the past two decades the ideals of the Left have been construed as the ideological foundation of a violent communist regime which murdered Polish patriots, the source of an evil aimed at enslaving the country.</p> <p>Just before the meeting began, quite unexpectedly, the mayor of Wrocław turned up. The organizers of the event invited him to welcome our guest as the city’s host. He only managed to say: “I am Rafał Dutkiewicz. For those not already aware of it, I would like to say that I am the mayor of this city”. In response, about a hundred members of NOP rose as one from their seats, unfolded a huge banner saying “NOP/Śląsk Wrocław”, and began howling, yelling, chanting and vilifying the guest speaker, organizers, and mayor alike. </p> <p>It should be noted that under this mayor, the soccer club of Śląsk Wrocław, current champion of the Polish soccer league, is being generously supported by the local municipality. Among the chants thrown in the mayor’s face by these extremist soccer hooligans was one about the memory of “the excommunicated soldiers”. Those soldiers were the members of the Polish underground who were never reconciled to the communist take-over of post-war Poland, were persecuted by that regime and banned from collective memory until 1989. They symbolize a moral and political attitude which is rather close to the mayor’s political views: the municipality he has presided over for eleven years has recently erected a monument to one of them, a cavalry officer, Witold Pilecki. This material expression of the aesthetic politics of the city aligns well with the political aesthetics dominant in the whole country. Despite the official rhetoric of pluralism, the canons of this aesthetics dictate political tastes in Poland in a way which it is rather impossible, and unwise, to ignore.&nbsp;</p> <h2>Canonisation and escalation </h2> <p>The development of such radicalism in Wrocław has been carefully documented for some time now. It has been the subject of a disturbing report by the local Nomada Foundation; everyday xenophobic attitudes have been uncomfortably exposed by an experiment conducted by the pupils of one of the high schools in the city. There is no doubt that radical groupings in the city are acting ever more boldly and brazenly. About two months earlier they achieved a significant success in preventing Daniel Cohn-Bendit, a member of the European Parliament, from lecturing at the University of Wrocław on April 24, 2013. Their way of applying pressure on the organizers of that event and Cohn-Bendit himself, was to call upon everyone to protect their children from ‘<a href="">the paedophile</a>’. At the last moment Cohn-Bendit cancelled his journey to Wrocław. </p> <p>The so-called nationalists in Wrocław and in Poland have been especially encouraged since the moment their activities were canonised by Jarosław Kaczyński, the leader of the main opposition party in Poland, <em>Prawo i Sprawiedliwość</em> (Law and Justice). After a group of soccer supporters staged a violent brawl following a soccer match in Warsaw and were prosecuted by the police as well as criticised by various government officials, Kaczyński chose to extend to them his ideological and political protection by calling them 'genuine patriots'. Ever since, untouched by the law, they pick fights at soccer stadiums, disrupt lectures and political meetings, light fires under the doors of people whom they consider alien, and have been known to attack people with machetes. Thanks to Kaczyński, moreover, they have usurped for themselves both the roles of judges of history, and executioners, the sentences being carried out summarily. The leader of Law and Justice has strengthened them in their convictions, while according them a type of political protection which cannot be matched by any other political strand in present-day Poland.</p> <p>But interestingly, the nationalists are not only supported by Law and Justice. They have also received very strong material support from the present government of <em>Platforma Obywatelska</em> (Civic Platform).</p> <h2>Political soccer</h2> <p>The rules of ancient democracy are said to have been modelled upon the principles of the Olympic Games. Just as warring Greek tribes temporarily suspended their mutual animosities at the time of the Olympic Games and sent their representatives to Olympic arenas in order to continue their wars in a vicarious form in various sport disciplines, so in democratic Athens each local community sent their representatives to the Assembly to haggle for local interests on their behalf. </p> <p>In present-day Poland the ties between sports and politics are much more intimate than that. Peel away all the empty rhetoric and political imagery, and it becomes rather difficult to dispel the notion that the Civic Platform’s project for the modernization of Poland, and the promotion of its interests, exhausted itself in the organization of the European soccer championship in 2012. Setting subjective impressions aside, no one can deny that the Civic Platform, which has been ruling the country for the past seven years, displayed the greatest political energy as long as it was preparing the whole country for this spectacle, and lost it, immediately and totally, once the show was over.</p> <p>Accordingly, Poland owes to this party more than two thousand (!) small sports playgrounds, located in almost every local community. They are known as 'Little Eagles' and cost 1,233,477 Polish zloty each [253,000 GBP]. The aim is to train young soccer talents, but also to fill up the leisuretime of the young who now have the opportunity to enjoy it more than enough as 30 per cent of them have no jobs. We owe to this party also four large, cutting-edge stadiums in Gdańsk, Poznań, Warsaw and Wrocław, as well as barely passable roads built in order for us to be able to drive to them, even though, as yet, two years after their near-completion, there is really no good reason to do so.</p> <p>It is difficult to dispel the impression that Civic Platform never intended to govern the country in a democratic manner, through any kind of covenant with society. It just wanted to manage and administer society by means of sports. Conceiving politics as a spectacle, the party fused politics with sports in an unprecedented way. Apparently the leadership of the party assumed that the Little Eagles and the stadiums would become centres of sporting rivalry, entertainment and cultural events, venues to excite positive passions, and to discharge them. They seem to have assumed also, apparently judging from their own experience (t<span>he leadership of the Civic Platform, most especially the prime minister Donald Tusk, are well-known and devout soccer players themselves)</span><span>, that holding EURO 2012 in Poland would endow them with a powerful means of promoting the country in Europe and in the world. They seem to have thought, too, that at the same time they would acquire a powerful instrument to manage the popular masses, their leisure, emotions, and thoughts.</span></p> <p>On all these counts the Civic Platform suffered a major defeat because their assumptions turned out to be erroneous. It was, moreover, rather surprising to see a conservative party operate upon assumptions that reeked with an optimism untypical of the conservative attitude which is an important strand within its own ideology. The soccer infrastructure, by far the most important contribution of this party to Poland’s progress, has now become a symbol of the failure of its modernization project.</p> <p>Managing human masses by means of stadiums, a political technique employed prominently in ancient Rome, has its obvious limitations. Sport creates strong divisions between “us” and “them”. The divisions thus fashioned focus upon sports rivalries and are symbolised by differing colours marking the armies of such substitute wars. Sport as a vicarious war enables us to discharge the passions aroused by rivalry in a controlled manner. This, however, only works well in civilised countries in which the populations, as well as their authorities, are still capable of grasping the difference between sports and politics. Even the Brazilian authorities, in a country of the so-called Third World that is a perennial soccer world champion, are now receiving a painful lesson in the difference between these from its own people. </p> <p>The leaders of Civic Platform have apparently been referring to outdated textbooks for their political marketing. Despite the perfection of the instruments designed to manipulate these public passions, they remain unpredictable. Civic Platform seems to have forgotten this crucial fact. They have also it seems forgotten the unparalleled wisdom of the great Polish philosopher and most successful Polish soccer coach ever, Kazimierz Górski, who once famously said that the only certainty in the game of soccer is that “the ball is round and there are two goals in it”. </p> <p>As a result of these astounding oversights on the part of Civic Platform, the passions of the soccer supporters, for whom this party has laboriously built stadiums, have been effortlessly hijacked by Law and Justice and are now being inculcated with a xenophobic ideology rather than the conservative-liberal one. In other words, the political soccer match arranged by Civic Platform for the whole nation has been won easily by opposition leader Jarosław Kaczyński. An unequalled champion of political acrobatics, Kaczyński has shot a penalty goal against Tusk without even going onto the pitch. It is a wholly different matter, though, if he will be able to benefit from his victory.</p> <p>By undertaking modernization by means of soccer, Civic Platform has transformed a huge stream of taxpayers’ money into an expensive concrete infrastructure, instead of devoting themselves to working out how to build instruments of inclusion for the human masses who for the past two decades have suffered economic and social exclusion. This project has certainly enriched the bosses, though not the workers, of the Polish construction industry - in fact one of the main reasons for Civic Platform to undertake it in the first place. But when Civic Platform loses the upcoming elections, the same bosses, always hungry for more, will no doubt support Law and Justice without any qualms. </p> <p>As a result, the stadiums have become venues for the concentration and recruitment of new members of extreme right-wing groupings, to be trained in the skills of soccer hooliganism. Instead of becoming centres of family entertainment and the popularisation of culture, Polish stadiums are now functioning as academies of hatred for those who are just beginning their adult lives but have already lost all hope of a decent place for themselves in their own country. </p> <p>The xenophobic radicals, fed from both political hands, are gradually ceasing to be a marginal eccentricity of Polish political aesthetics, and a minor symptom of the psychopathology of Polish political life; they are now becoming an independent and vigorous political power. We do not yet have 'Budapest in Warsaw' (<span>the term used by Jarosław Kaczyński to express his admiration for Victor Orban and his authoritarian transformation of Hungary)</span><span>&nbsp;but we will not have to wait too long for it. This incident at the University of Wrocław and many similar ones demonstrate that Poland is pockmarked by various local infections of virulent nationalism not dissimilar to the Hungarian Jobbik.</span></p> <p>That the promotion of Poland through soccer did not work was due not only to the desperate weakness of the Polish national team. It is difficult to resist the conclusion that even though in antiquity sport marked the beginning of Greek democracy, in post-modernity sport has become the beginning of the end for Polish democracy.&nbsp;</p> <h2>A systemic incapacity</h2> <p>In the run-up to the event planned to commemorate the 150th&nbsp;anniversary of German Social Democracy, members of the National Rebirth of Poland were summoning each other via Facebook to stage its disruption and in the process, formulating negative judgments concerning Zygmunt Bauman’s past. Informed of this imminent danger Leszek Miller, former prime minister and the chairman of the Polish Social Democratic Party, sent a letter to the Minister of Interior Affairs, Bartłomiej Sienkiewicz, requesting that he protect the event. An analogous intervention was undertaken by the German ambassador to Poland who canvassed support from the Foreign Ministry. Eventually the event was secured by the police, while Bauman and his companion were assigned personal bodyguards, at the University’s expense.</p> <p>Shortly before the meeting began the police officer in charge of the action at the University of Wrocław announced that he was obliged to stay within the limits of law and that, accordingly, he could not intervene unless there were an immediate danger to life, health and property. To the argument that people who came to the lecture with an evident and announced intention to disrupt it are about to violate academic customs and rules of scholarly debate, he responded that the law does not protect these values. </p> <p>One of the main sources of the audacity of these Polish xenophobic groupings is the helplessness of law and of its execution. It is enough to say that the Polish law protects all sorts of irrational beliefs and religious feelings, which incidentally are in Poland extremely easily wounded, but it does not protect the principles of scholarly debate.&nbsp;</p> <h2>Radicalism at the academy</h2> <p>After the disruption of Bauman’s lecture some commentators remarked that xenophobic graduates of the academies of hatred had now decided to enter the universities. The disruption of the lectures of the philosophy professor Magdalena Środa and editor Adam Michnik have been invoked in support of such opinions. Attempting to restore some symmetry into the debate, Ryszard Legutko, a professor of philosophy and a current member of the European Parliament, recalled an event at the University of Warsaw in which he took part together with Norman Podhoretz that was disrupted by a leftist group; the police intervened there as well. One may also add that several years back the philosopher Peter Singer from Princeton University was prevented by catholic activists from speaking at an ethical congress in Warsaw because of his stance on euthanasia. Desiderio Navarro, a Cuban intellectual, publisher and translator of Polish literature into Spanish, recently fell victim to a racist attack in Kraków; nothing similar having happened to him during his frequent visits to Poland over the past 35 years.</p> <p>The opinion that nationalist xenophobia is only now beginning to enter the universities is however misleading. If any ideology is nowadays prominent at the otherwise de-politicised academies, it is more frequently xenophobic than anything else. In fact, it has been present in Polish universities for a very long time now, and feels quite at home there.</p> <p>Shortly after the disruption of the event in question, a professor of the University of Wrocław and a representative of this ideological strand, who spoke, symbolically, under the monument of the king of Poland, Bolesław Chrobry&nbsp;[2], described the organizers of Bauman’s lecture as ‘neo-Stalinists’ and accordingly called for ‘the de-Stalinisation of the University’. Two weeks afterwards this call, eagerly seized on by the NOP, became the pretext and the slogan for yet another demonstration in a public space in Wrocław. The NOP, by now granted considerable momentum by its repeated “successes”, staged it, once again, with impunity.</p> <p>The call to ‘de-Stalinise the University of Wrocław’, as formulated by this particular professor, was somewhat hilarious. Firstly because it has been enunciated by a former member of the Polish communist party who has now switched allegiance to the “nationalist” one and is now apparently seeking a place on an electoral list of the Law and Justice party. Secondly because there are no Stalinists at the universities any more, for they have died out, while those who somehow managed to survive, like this particular professor, changed their views radically some time ago when Stalinism ceased to be profitable. They have adopted the xenophobic outlook, instead, as nowadays<em> it</em> has become profitable.</p> <p>Professors, like priests, are only human. No wonder, then, that some of them are only doing and thinking about what is profitable for them. Some members of the Polish professoriate, frustrated by humiliating salaries, are seeking substitute satisfactions in the sphere of politics as expertly served up to them by Law and Justice. Unable to enjoy any recognition for their work, they are finding a vicarious yet unfailing satisfaction in lodging public extermination games against those academic comrades who happen to hold different political views.</p> <h2>The image problem </h2> <p>Immediately after this incident, the Rector of the University of Wrocław was asked whether he intended to take any action leading to (i) bringing to justice the perpetrators of the disruption which so violated scholarly discourse and academic customs; (ii) investigation of the behaviour of academics at the University who were abusive about the invited guest and the organizers of the lecture; (iii) protection of freedom of scholarly investigations and openness of academic discourse through prevention of similar disruptions taking place in the future; (iv) salvaging the image of the University of Wrocław as a place of scientific work, open towards different views; (v) protection of academic workers undertaking to organize extra-curricular scholarly events. For it is now to be expected that as a result of such incidents scholars and public figures, as well as any student of colour, may in the future decline invitations to take part in events organised by the University of Wrocław, or to enrol in it. </p> <p>The Rector’s response has been a display of helplessness because he has no legal means at his disposal to do any of those things. Shortly after this exchange an assembly of rectors of the higher education institutions in Wrocław adopted a resolution against xenophobia, which was equally an expression of their determination and of their powerlessness. </p> <p>On the day of the incident at the University of Wrocław, the Minister of Higher Education, Mrs. Barbara Kudrycka, called the organizers asking for the private address of Bauman in order to send him a letter of apology. Sending such a letter is certainly a proper thing to do. The question remains whether Minister Kudrycka, before she leaves office, will take any other action regarding the problem at hand. And if so, what kind of action? Will she bestir herself to respond to the same questions which were addressed to the Rector of the University of Wrocław? </p> <p>The present and the future minister of higher education will have to respond to a more general question as well. Suppose anyone within academia attempts to invite an eminent scholar who, apart from being a recognised professional, happens also to be a Jew, Arab, German, Russian, feminist, gay, lesbian, Muslim, protestant, Pentecostal, atheist, of a different colour, a social democrat, or a cosmopolite. Will such a person have to take into account the possible threat from local xenophobes who may happen to perceive the invited guest as <em>persona non grata</em>? Will it be necessary, forever after, to ask for police protection for any academic event which local racists might happen to disapprove of? Will the Minister of the Interior place his troops at the rectors’ disposal? Given the present circumstances, will the Ministry be ready to pick up the tab of the significantly increased costs of deliberation in the humanities and social sciences?</p> <p>The politics of the present regime towards higher education, which has generated an attitude of extreme asceticism while imposing a demand for innovation, in this context a rather absurd one, suggests that it will not be willing to cover the amplified costs of scholarly research and higher education. This means that the space for free academic discourse, much reduced already by inadequate funding of research and academies, will rapidly shrink even further. </p> <p>One may be justified in suspecting that the present regime will be more willing to cover the cost of police protection in the universities than that of their adequate funding. Yet if the regime does decide to protect its academies by deploying its police force, it will soon have to acknowledge that scientific deliberations conducted in the shadow of police batons and their smoothbore rifles may not yield particularly bold or innovative results.&nbsp;</p> <h2>The venue</h2><h2><img src="" alt="" width="460" height="332" /></h2><p class="image-caption">The European Capital of Culture 2016. Photo by Adam J Chmielewski. Some rights reserved.</p> <p>This widely discussed incident took place in the city of Wrocław which in 2011 won the title of the European Capital of Culture 2016. Wrocław’s bid stressed the multicultural nature of the city and its openness to ethnic, cultural and religious diversity: “The fate of migrants is particularly close to the hearts of the inhabitants of Wrocław, descendants of people who, having lost the right to live in their native lands, made a foreign city and region their new home. (...) Polish Wrocław is a place of constant fusion of diverse cultural horizons. Many visitors stop here for a longer time or remain here for good. New arrivals feel good in Wrocław as everybody in this city is a recent arrival from elsewhere: the present Polish inhabitants arrived from other parts of Europe themselves. The<em> homo wratislaviensis</em> is a multicultural creature, open to otherness, tolerant and cosmopolitan, like his habitat”. </p> <p>According to this document, various nationalities “live in Polish Wrocław in peace and mutual respect. This spiritual harmony is evidenced by the District of Mutual Respect, where followers of all religions pray side by side. Another example of peaceful coexistence of religions in Wrocław is provided by the good neighbourly relations between the local Catholics and the Muslim minority, whose prayer room is next door to a Franciscan parish church. Ethnic and religious exclusivism is much weaker in Wrocław than in other parts of Poland, or Europe for that matter. The various social groups’ ability to live in harmony and mutual respect is the only possible attitude in the face of a historical experience which has been particularly cruel to the urban fabric of Wrocław and to its residents. This is undoubtedly a lesson that the present-day people of Wrocław know how to learn from the painful history of their city”. </p> <p>The outcome of the event that I helped to stage and participated in may be interpreted as belying everything that the citizens of Wrocław thought of themselves, what has been thought about the city by people such as Norman Davis, Roger Moorhouse and Gregor Thum, or what I myself thought while I was writing the successful bid. That vision of the gangsters hurling confused and violent slogans in a university lecture room should have immediately prompted me to revoke these beautiful but untrue words.</p> <p>It did not. Firstly, because these words remain true of the vast majority of the citizens. Secondly, because the bid contains frank, even painful, references to the social problems with which a significant portion of the population of the city, which is the second richest in Poland after Warsaw, has been coping with for a long time. It also points to clearly-defined groups who, as a result of the consistently unequal distribution of goods for the past two decades have been suffering from social exclusion. Wroclaw’s bid won the contest for the European Capital of Culture because it contains a diagnosis of the problem of exclusion from our culture, as well as the outline of a programme to overcome it.&nbsp;</p> <h2>Pouring concrete in Poland and in Wroclaw</h2> <p>Like every other city in Poland, Wrocław spends huge amounts of money building new public facilities. However, it is not true that its mayor is busy only with “pouring concrete”. The index of the city's expenditure on “soft” cultural programmes is one of the highest in Poland, as is its cultural budget. Besides, there is essentially no harm in pouring concrete in a city which is still scarred by the war instigated by German Nazism and which was consistently overlooked by communist authorities who were not quite sure whether the city would remain within Polish borders after the demise of the real-socialist regime in 1989.</p> <p>The problem is that even though the city has a well-developed cultural infrastructure, it is hard to induce its inhabitants to take advantage of its offer. The diagnosis contained in the city's bid for the title of European Capital of Culture formulates this problem bluntly: barely 5-7 per cent of the Wroclaw's citizens systematically take (passive, i.e. spectatorial) part in cultural events. The bid elaborates categories of the public agoraphobia, interpassivity, and the commodification of the sphere of culture, and argues that these phenomena are commonplace across the whole of Poland.</p> <p>Will the offer of the future cultural infrastructure, now under construction, attract greater attention? At the moment there are no reasons to believe that it will. The point is that cultural education in Poland, as a task of cultural institutions, has been completely neglected. Cultural institutions have been subjected to the rules of the market, and of clientelism: they have to balance their books. At the same time the present reduction in the number of pupils in schools, where cultural education should begin, instead of becoming a unique opportunity to raise the level of education, has been seized on as an opportunity for the laying-off of teachers and closing down of schools.</p> <p>I trust that the European Capital of Culture in Wrocław will be a spectacular success. One also hopes that the presently designed programme will include not only spectacular yet fleeting events, which will attract for a brief moment the attention of Wrocław’s inhabitants, xenophobic ones among them, but that it will also consist of projects which will help to include the presently excluded social groups, xenophobic ones among them, into the process of a common restoration of a positive image of Wrocław.</p> <h2>German responsibility </h2> <p>During the deafening protestations of the nationalists against Zygmunt Bauman, some demonstrators raised their hands in a Nazi salute. For the Germans present in the audience this unashamed emulation of Nazi symbolics by Polish nationalists openly in a public space came as a shock; the Consul General sat in the first row of the audience, his face ashen. </p> <p>The spirit of Nazism has not been irrevocably buried in Germany. Symbols of the political culture concocted by Hitler’s spin-doctors turn out to be more virulent than anyone expected. But this Nazi package is now also being received by descendants of the nation which suffered greatly from the Nazis’ particular cruelties. In this way Polish-German reconciliation, usually perceived through the gestures of political correctness, turns out to possess another surprising dimension, one that is “incorrect”, and as a rule hidden from public view. </p> <p>Bauman is a severe critic of the present economic and social order. He believes that the present social and economic regime in Poland and in the world is deeply unjust, leads to exclusions, and grows within itself the seeds of its own demise. In the lecture he said that political parties which now pretend to represent the ideals of the Left, like the German SPD and the Polish SLD, should be held accountable for the emergence of this order for they have betrayed leftist values and instead entered into mutual admiration societies with the business bosses. He meant especially what Gerhard Schröder, known as <em>Genosse der Bosse </em><em>(</em>Comrade of the Bosses), had done with the SPD of which he was a leader. Bauman expressed this judgement in the same University room in which, ten years earlier to the day, Chancellor Schröder represented Germany during a meeting of the so-called Weimar Triangle, a consultation forum for the political leaders of France, Germany and Poland. </p> <p>Poles are entitled to expect that Germans, especially from the present SPD, should take a clear stance concerning what is going on in their own country. They should also be aware that the Polish brand of Nazism is not only an internal problem of Poland; it is also a problem for contemporary Germany as well as of Europe as a whole.</p> <h2>The party of order and the <em>status quo</em></h2> <p>While I was insisting that the authorities of the University of Wrocław summon the police in order to protect an academic event, and then that the commander of the police troops remove the troublemakers, I suddenly remembered Arthur Schopenhauer, who pointed out to the police the most convenient place for them to shoot at the revolutionary masses during the Spring of Peoples in 1848. I also remembered Karl Marx’s ironic remarks from his <em>18th Brumaire</em>: yes, I too was acting as a representative of the Party of Order who called the police to protect the <em>status quo</em>. </p> <p>The point is, however, that I am not really convinced that the present political and economic order in Poland deserves to be protected. It might seem that extremist groupings in Poland also demand a change in the social order, just as Bauman does; and that the difference between them lies only in the methods advocated. But this is not so. Polish radicalism today is nationalist, patriotic, xenophobic, homophobic, anti-feminist, anti-communist, anti-Semitic, anti-German, anti-European, anti-intellectual, etc. In a word, it stands for everything that is officially suppressed by liberal and tolerant elites striving to impose upon society their own version of decent constraints. In this sense Polish radicalism, in its exhibitionism and pornographic obscenity, may be perceived as a symptom of social revolt. </p> <p>The question of a more just distribution of wealth is not, however, addressed by its members. In this sense Polish radicalism is thoroughly conservative. It does not strive towards a change of the political system because it draws from it all its strength, and moves within it unperturbed. The whole <em>raison d’être</em> of these Polish radical movements is to excite disorder during which their members can demonstrate their own strength, that can subsequently be used as a bargaining tool, and a political commodity. This is the whole point of politics understood as a spectacle within which <em>to be</em> is <em>to</em> <em>be perceived</em>. </p> <p>The present system is needed by them as a venue or a platform upon which to perform their rituals of brutality and hatred. They will not find any better one. For this reason precisely they need the cosmopolites, Jews, Arabs, Blacks, agents, communist, Stalinists, Germans, Russians, Europeans and egg-heads in order to stage their rituals of hate. They are employing this inconsistent ideological conglomerate precisely because it guarantees them an inexhaustible supply of objects for their hatred. Should the objects, <em>per impossible</em>, ever be in short supply, they could create them without much effort. For the time being their strength is basically the strength of spectacle; for this reason it is only an <em>appearance</em> of strength. They will become really dangerous when they understand this. And they are just one step from it. One has only to wait and see whether they will summon the courage to take this one step. </p> <p>It has nowadays become a commonplace of political criticism that the contemporary political system has been transformed into a pathetic caricature of democracy. The slogan of democratic participation is only a smokescreen for the growing oligarchisation of societies and politics at all levels. In the economic sphere, Civic Platform excels in cultivating this art and elevating it to new levels of sophistication through managing the assets of the country in such a way as to create further inequalities, without bothering about their social costs. The resulting deep imbalance in the social structure cannot be rectified overnight; it has gone way too far. For this reason the Finance Minister Vincent Rostowski will now have to find a place for a new rubric on the expenditure side of his budget: “the costs of social peace”. The longer he delays this, the more hefty sums he will have to place under this rubric in the future. The same applies to the Minister of Finance in any Law and Justice government.</p> <h2>Thin crust</h2> <p>The six post-war decades in Poland have brought disenchantment with the leftist utopia. The past two decades of the transformation have brought disenchantment with conservative liberalism. Radicalism in Poland destroys politics and dispels the hope for social peace. It overwhelms the churches and universities, the last enclaves of relative decency. </p> <p>What does, then, the future have in store for us? Bertrand Russell compared civilised life to a dangerous walk on a thin crust of barely cooled lava which at any moment may break and let the unwary sink into its fiery depths. John Gray has argued that the best that flawed and potentially wicked human creatures can hope for is a commitment to civilised constraints that will prevent the very worst from happening: a politics of the least worst&nbsp;[3]. </p> <p>The problem is that in Poland the decent crust of constraints has turned out to be very thin, and has just cracked again. The lava flowing from below refuses to cool down by itself. Nor will it be cooled any time soon, or easily.</p><p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>[1] This seems to be the closest possible translation of the Polish soccer hooligans’ term “ustawka” which refers to a collective fight taking place in an agreed place and time between two antagonized groups of supporters of different soccer teams, resulting usually in many injuries on both sides, and quite often in fatalities.</p> <p><span>[2] Bolesław Chrobry (967-1025), known as Bolesław the Great, was the first crowned king of Poland. He waged successful wars against Germany and Russia.</span></p> <p>[3] The wording comes from Simon Critchley’s review of John Gray’s <em>The Silence of Animals</em>, <em>Los Angeles Review of Books</em>, June 2nd, 2013.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Poland </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? Poland Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government International politics Education for democracy Football Politics Society Adam J Chmielewski Mon, 12 Aug 2013 07:57:58 +0000 Adam J Chmielewski 74672 at Poland and the US elections: respect for an ally <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href=""><img style="margin-left: 5px;" src="" alt="" width="140" align="right" /></a>Poland is less engaged with this American election than on previous occasions. But its people and elites are still viewing the contest and its candidates with a wary eye that reflects their domestic political concerns, says Adam J Chmielewski.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Poland is watching the 2012 presidential elections in the United States with markedly lower excitement than former editions of this spectacle. Since Poland enjoys the reputation of being the most pro-American country on the European continent, this change deserves some attention and calls for an explanation. </p> <p>The change is due to several reversals which have occurred&nbsp;both in Poland's domestic politics and in its geopolitical situation. In the past, even without enjoying the benefits of a special relationship with the US, the Poles believed that the result of the American election will affect their lives in some significant way, though few knew how. That does not seem to be the case anymore. </p> <p>The reversal relevant here may be expressed as follows. During the reign of the quasi-communist regime, the Polish government, following the line dictated by the no less quasi-communist regime in Moscow, was staunchly anti-American. At the same time the majority of Poles, precisely because of that, were enthusiastically pro-American, to the point of foolishness. Presently, however, the Polish political class is pro-American to the point of imprudence, whereas the majority of the population has obviously stopped <a href="">caring</a> about America altogether. </p> <p>The Polish media are now full of a certain specialist in American matters who, claiming for himself an academic status, manages nevertheless to display a remarkable lack of impartiality in his opinions. One of the latter is that Barack Obama’s presidency has been catastrophic for Poland because he did not take any interest in our country. Another is that Mitt Romney will be better in this regard because he will take an active interest in our country. These opinions do not seem to be shared widely: nowadays the <a href="">majority</a> of Poles are more for Obama and his complete lack of interest, and against Romney and his declared interest in Poland. </p> <p>There are several factors underlying this stance. One is that during the past two decades or so, the American interest in Poland turned out to be way too expensive for our country. Another and related reason why the Poles have come to see that very little in their lives depends on the tenant of the White House is their realisation that the US dollar has now become dependent on Chinese support. So now they care about more Europe (where for some time the euro has become more easily available to them than the dollar), even though the latter is printed in far greater volumes that the former. </p> <p>There are, though, other reasons for the diminishing Polish interest in the US elections. They have to do with the character of the two candidates and their political record. </p> <p><strong>A president's bungles</strong></p> <p>Barack Obama has failed to ingratiate himself with politically minded people in Poland, largely because he scrapped the project of the anti-missile shield which (as planned by the predecessor administration) was to be partly located in Poland. This led to disappointment among the political class, which continues to embrace an anti-Russian attitude incurred during the struggle for the independence of Poland from Soviet influence. The fear and hatred of Russia, together with veneration for Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, remain an indispensable part of this class's ideological identity.</p> <p>Obama’s blunders when dealing with Polish matters also do not help his reputation among many Poles. For example, the date chosen to announce the abandonment of the anti-imissile shield was 17 September 2009, the seventieth anniversary of the Russian invasion of eastern Poland. Also, when he awarded the presidential Order of Merit to Jan Karski, who brought to America news of the Nazi concentration-camps situated in occupied Poland, Obama used the inappropriate expression "Polish extermination camps". (For both of these gaffes I criticised him: see "<a href="">Warsaw and Washington: after illusion</a>" [17 September 2009] and "<a href="">Barack Obama and Poland: injurious ignorance</a>" [31 May 2012]).</p> <p>For other Poles, Obama has further evident drawbacks. One is the fact of his colour. On the news of the election of the first black US president in 2008, a Polish MP wrote that this heralded the end of Christian civilisation. Even though the unfortunate MP remained isolated in his pronouncement (as well as, subsequently, in virtue of it), the racist sentiment among Poles is rather rampant, so Obama will not fare well with this segment of the Polish nation.</p> <p><strong>A rival's balance-sheet</strong></p> <p>There might, then, be an expectation that Mitt Romney should be closer to the Polish heart than Barack Obama. Three factors could count in his favour. First, Romney actually visited Poland in late July 2012; it does not happen too often that a US presidential candidate pays a visit to our country. Second, during the third electoral <a href="">debate</a> on 22 October, it was Romney, not Obama, who mentioned Poland as an ally of America. Again, this served well to feed the insatiable vanity of the Polish political class. Third, Romney is, well, a Republican. </p> <p>This party identification already wins him the support of a sizeable number of Poles, notably those who have fallen victim of the pro-American false consciousness inculcated by the politically correct Polish media (In Poland, a country of perennial paradoxes, political correctness means the&nbsp;opposite of the same term when it is used in Britain or in the US.) This segment of Polish society is xenophobic, blindly pro-American, as well as rabidly anti-Russian and anti-German. (They call it patriotism.) They owe their political sustenance to Jaroslaw Kaczyński, twin brother of the former Polish president, Lech Kaczyński, who died in the <a href="">plane crash</a> on 10 April 2010 in Smolensk. </p> <p>Against these factors, however, three blemishes on Romney’s candidacy also capture the Poles' sensitive attention. First, during the above-mentioned debate Romney said: "We have to also stand by our allies. I think the tension that existed between Israel and the United States was very unfortunate. I think also that pulling our missile defence program out of Poland in the way we [did] was also unfortunate in terms of, if you will, disrupting the relationship in some ways that existed between us" (see "<a href="">Transcript of the Third Presidential Debate</a>",&nbsp;<em>New York Times</em>, 22 October 2012). The Polish media dwelt on this cursory mention to the point of tedium, if only for a day or two; and it was widely noted that Romney referred to Poland not as a genuine partner and ally but rather as a vassal to be used instrumentally when expedient.</p> <p>Second, during his Polish trip, Romney followed stiffly an official and obsolete stereotype of Poland, which included patronisingly <a href="">pushing</a> free-market rhetoric as if believing that Poles have never heard of the global crisis caused by the free market. This approach was accepted well only by Lech Wałęsa, who <a href=";_PageID=34&amp;s=infopakiet&amp;dz=en_kraj&amp;idNewsComp=&amp;filename=&amp;idnews=66973&amp;data=infopakiet&amp;_CheckSum=2099932037">said</a> that his reasons for liking Romney very much included the number of Romney’s children ( five; Wałesa, also a family man, has eight) and the "the values which emanate from him". </p> <p>Third, this rather moderate public-relations success was moderated even further by an odd incident involving Romney's staff. While the candidate was about to lay a wreath at a war memorial in Warsaw, the journalists flocking around him caused a row when their access to him was thwarted. In order to contain the unwieldy bunch, Rick Gorka, Romney’s campaign spokesman, first demanded that the journalists should kiss his ass. The demand was <a href="">followed</a> by an another: "This is a holy site for the Polish people. Show some respect".</p> <p>If I were Maureen Dowd, I would conclude this part of the <a href="">story</a> by her simple: "Indeed". Not being her, however, I would like to dwell a while on this incident, for which, interestingly, Mr Gorka has not been fired. The question that arises is: for whom was respect demanded in this unusual way - the fallen Polish soldiers, or Mr Romney? It was obvious that it was demanded for Romney for he evidently has not managed to command respect by his own virtues, and had to secure it in a vicarious way via association with the dead Polish heroes.</p> <p><strong>Going with the wind</strong></p> <p>Jaroslaw Kaczyński, the leader of Poland's largest <a href="">opposition</a> party, Law &amp; Justice, has capitalised on his&nbsp;<a href="">brother’s</a> death in April 2010 by inventing all sorts of conspiracies about the tragedy. He also tirelessly (though futilely) calls upon the US authorities to take over the investigation of the crash from the <a href="">hands</a> of the Polish government, which he distrusts in the extreme. Recently, on the basis of a bogus interpretation of some vague <a href="">evidence</a> collected from the wreckage of the presidential plane, he more or less accused prime minister Donald Tusk of conspiring to plant explosives (TNT and nitroglycerine) on the plane and then, apparently in collusion with the Russians, of tampering with the evidence to that effect.</p> <p>Law &amp; Justice can still command a greater percentage of followers among Polish émigrés in America than in Poland itself; the latter are also Republican voters. At the same time, the number of Polish supporters of the GOP has been diminishing. On 3 November 2012,<a href=""> <em>Nowy Dziennik</em></a>, a Polish-language newspaper published in New York City, brought news which may reduce Polish-American <a href="">support</a> for Republicans even further.</p> <p>Polish émigré organisations had sent a letter to Romney asking "what he would do in order to explain the Smolensk tragedy"; disappointingly to them, Romney has responded by saying he was impressed by Poland's ability to cope with the crisis that ensued and to ensure the continuation of democratically elected power. Romney added that the Polish government has conducted the investigation into the causes of the plane crash and it would be improper for him to comment upon an investigation carried out by a longstanding ally of the United States. </p> <p>This reply, worthy of a statesman, has been received as a painful setback to the sentiments of the Polish extreme right. It also puts the unreasonable Polish hopes that had been attached to a future US Republican president (as to so many past ones) in their proper place. </p> <p>Insofar as Romney here expresses a lack of interest in Polish matters that is not dissimilar from Obama’s, this exchange should teach Polish elites an important lesson: that America does not care about Poland in the way and to the extent they would like. The sooner Polish elites grasp this truth, the quicker they will find themselves in tune with the rest of Polish society. </p> <p>They should also understand that they cannot "play the American card" among themselves anymore, nor they can play it as a trump in their dealings with European Union partners. Most of all, that they should not allow themselves to be used by the American ally in its global games at the expense of the Polish taxpayer. And that if they show greater respect to their voters and themselves, they will be more likely to win respect from the American ally as well. </p> <p>This should be the chief lesson for Poland from the imminent US presidential elections, irrespective of their result.</p><p><em>This article is part of the 'How it looks from here' openDemocracy feature on the 2012 US elections. For more worldwide perspectives on the presidential race, click&nbsp;<a href="">here</a>.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Adam J Chmielewski is <a href=""><span><span><span><span>professor</span></span></span></span></a> of philosophy in the <a href=""><span><span><span><span>Institute of Philosophy, University of Wrocław</span></span></span></span></a>, Poland. His books include <em>Popper's Philosophy: A Critical Analysis</em> (1995); <em>Open Society or Community?</em> (2001); and <em>Psychopathology of Political Life</em> (2009). He is also the author of the successful bid of the city of Wroclaw for the title of the <a href=""><span><span><span><span>European Capital of Culture 2016</span></span></span></span></a> </p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/krzysztof-bobinski/polands-election-european-lesson">Poland&#039;s election, European lesson </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/krzysztof-bobinski/poland-and-climate-change">Poland and climate change</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/poland-the-future-s-past">Poland: the politics of history </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/adam-szostkiewicz/poland-1920-and-all-that">Poland: 1920 and all that</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/poland-end-of-illusion">Warsaw and Washington: after illusion</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/adam-j-chmielewski-denis-dutton/poland%E2%80%99s-tragedy-sorrow-and-anger">Poland’s tragedy: sorrow, and anger </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/democracy-europe_constitution/europe_2778.jsp">Europe&#039;s missing link</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Poland </div> <div class="field-item even"> United States </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? United States Poland Democracy and government International politics american power & the world democracy & power europe American election 2012 How it looks from here Adam J Chmielewski Mon, 05 Nov 2012 09:45:22 +0000 Adam J Chmielewski 69168 at Barack Obama and Poland: injurious ignorance <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <P> </p><P>The American president's award to the wartime Polish hero Jan Karski was tarnished by a historical blunder that reveals all too much, says Adam J Chmielewski. </p> <P></p> </div> </div> </div> <P>The occasion had been long awaited. Jan Karski, the legendary Polish hero who risked his <A href="">life</a> to gather firsthand knowledge of the degradation and extermination of Jews in Nazi-occupied Poland, and who as a special <A href="">envoy</a> travelled to the capital cities of Poland's Allies to share this knowledge, was at last to be formally honoured at a <A href="">ceremony</a> in the White House on 29 May 2012. The current president of the United States was to award Karski the highest national honour: the presidential <A href="">medal</a> of freedom. </p> <P>This overdue act of recognition had, on the part of the United States (and Britain) an element of restitution about it. For when Karski <A href="">reached</a> their shores in 1942-43, virtually none of the great politicians in the two countries was willing to listen to his message. Thus, the Allies did nothing to save the lives of Jews being annihilated on the territory of Poland - then a nation without a state, after the invasions and partition of the country by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union in September 1939. </p> <P>Among the most drastic examples of indifference to Karski’s desperate appeal is that President Franklin D Roosevelt was more interested in the Nazis' treatment of horses than Jews, and that the supreme-court judge&nbsp;<A href="">Felix Frankfurter</a> responded to the materials presented by Karski by saying: "‘Mr Karski, A man like me talking to a man like you must be totally frank. So I must say: I am unable to believe in what I have just heard, in all the things that you have just told me."</p> <P>It is very unfortunate, then, that during the award ceremony, President Obama <A href="">used</a> the expression "Polish death camps". The implication these words carry is that it was Poles themselves who had invented and operated the Nazis' <A href="">mass-extermination</a> machine. It is difficult to imagine words more insulting and offensive, or that more deeply <A href="">convey</a> disregard for the cause Jan Karski risked his life to pursue.</p> <P>Jan Karski, after all, is <A href="">recognised</a> at Yad Vashem, the memorial museum of the Holocaust in Israel, as belonging to the "righteous among the nations". Yet on the very occasion that he is being honoured in Washington, with these words his memory is defiled. It is as if the <A href="">campaign</a> for Karski's recognition undertaken by the Polish government and intellectuals, led in the United States by Alex Storozynski - the chairman of the <A href="">Kosciuszko Foundation</a> - had never been understood in the White House. </p> <P>The outrage in Poland is enormous, even after a weak <A href=",White-House-apologises-after-Obama-%E2%80%98Polish-death-camp-blunder">admission</a> that the president "misspoke". Polish media across the world are full of protests against this serious <EM>faux pas</em>. <EM><A href="">Nowy Dziennik</a></em>, the best Polish-language newspaper, which happens to be published in New York, calls for a joint resolution of the US congress and senate concerning a ban on this <A href="">expression</a>, which is mindlessly propagated by many English-language newspapers. The blunder has also provoked wild speculation among extreme right-wing Polish parties to the effect that Obama's use of these words was deliberate, on the grounds that the largest ethnic minority in America is supposedly German. </p> <P>This has not been Obama's first great <A href="">error</a> in relation to Poland. In 2009 the American administration chose 17 September to <A href="">announce</a> that it was abandoning its planned "anti-missile shield" over Poland and the Czech Republic, which had been designed with the putative threat from Iran in mind. It is worth stressing that <A href="">Poles</a>, great enthusiasts of this misbegotten programme, always thought that its true purpose was to defend them from potential Russian aggression. </p> <P>The gravity of this earlier misjudgment<EM> </em>is that every 17 September in Poland is solemnly <A href="">remembered</a> as the anniversary of the launch of the Soviet invasion of Poland in 1939 - two weeks after the invasion by Nazi Germany from the west. The American president seemingly did not know or care that his <A href="">decision</a> would be connected with a Soviet attack that has long been ingrained into Polish consciousness as a "knife in the back". Many Poles saw the coincidence as a knife in the chests of a later generation of Poles, descendants of those who had fought bravely against two <A href="">overwhelming</a> enemies. </p> <P><STRONG>Mind and heart</strong></p> <P>On an apparently different note, for months the Polish press has been debating the deplorable condition of Polish universities. In the discussion, Harvard University is often cited as the best example to follow and learn from. </p> <P>It seems appropriate to recall that President Obama graduated from Columbia University and Harvard Law School. I do not know in detail what was taught at these two prestigious institutions at the time, but I can state with confidence that at the law faculties of Poland's much criticised <A href="">universities</a> the students do study history. Moreover, Polish high-school pupils in general know much more about the United States than do their American peers about Europe as a whole or any of its constituent nations. </p> <P>Obama’s repeated <A href="">blunders</a> suggest that the Polish enthusiasts of the American educational system, who are also harsh critics of the Polish one, would do well to rethink their position. Everyone else, especially active politicians, would do well to take into consideration people’s feelings. For in political action few things are more important than the hard facts of human sentiment.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <P><A href="">Presidential Medal of Freedom, United States</a></p> <P><A href="">Jan Karski</a></p> <P><A href="">Polish embassy, United States</a></p> <P><A href="">Against Polish Death / Concentration Camps -&nbsp;a how-to guide</a></p> <P><A href="">Yad Vashem, Jan Karski</a></p> <P><A href="">Kosciuszko Foundation</a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <P>Adam J Chmielewski is <A href="">professor</a> of philosophy in the <A href="" target="_blank">Institute of Philosophy, University of Wrocław</a><A id="link3" title="archive de Institute of Philosophy, University of Wrocław" href=";title=Institute%20of%20Philosophy%2C%20University%20of%20Wroc%C5%82aw" rel="nofollow">↑</a> , Poland. His books include <EM>Popper's Philosophy: A Critical Analysis</em> (1995); <EM>Open Society or Community?</em> (2001); and <EM>Psychopathology of Political Life</em> (2009). He is also the author of the successful bid of the city of Wroclaw&nbsp;for the title of the <A href="">European Capital of Culture 2016</a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/krzysztof-bobinski/polands-election-european-lesson">Poland&#039;s election, European lesson </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/poland-end-of-illusion">Warsaw and Washington: after illusion</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/poland_after_pis_handle_with_care">Poland after PiS: handle with care</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/sleepless_in_sczeczin_what_s_the_matter_with_poland">Sleepless in Szczecin: what’s the matter with Poland? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/democracy-protest/poland_2858.jsp">The Polish lifeboat</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/adam-j-chmielewski-denis-dutton/poland%E2%80%99s-tragedy-sorrow-and-anger">Poland’s tragedy: sorrow, and anger </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/democracy-protest/ironic_2963.jsp">The Polish autumn</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/poland-the-future-s-past">Poland: the politics of history </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/adam-szostkiewicz/poland-1920-and-all-that">Poland: 1920 and all that</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Poland </div> <div class="field-item even"> United States </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> United States Poland Democracy and government International politics american power & the world democracy & power europe Adam J Chmielewski Thu, 31 May 2012 03:39:16 +0000 Adam J Chmielewski 66143 at Poland’s tragedy: sorrow, and anger <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <P>The air-crash which decapitated Poland’s state elite may owe something to reckless behaviour, official negligence - and the flaws of modern democracy itself, say Adam J Chmielewski &amp; Denis Dutton.</p> <P>(This article was first published on 13 April 2010)</p> </div> </div> </div> <P>It is a particular kind of tragedy for a nation to lose a leader in a singular event, as in the assassination of John F Kennedy; another to lose thousands of citizens in acts of war, as in the attacks of 11 September 2001. But the plane-crash on 10 April 2010 that led to the <A href=",105742.html">death</a> of ninety-four members of the Polish political elite in a forest near Smolensk airport in Russia belongs to a yet different order.</p> <P>This is an event whose prologue took place in April 1940, months after the double-invasion of Poland by the Nazi and the Soviet armies. The Soviet secret-police’s <A href=",76842,6911515,Katyn_Victims_Near_Kharkov_Covered_with_Lime.html">execution</a> of some 22,000 Polish officers and intellectuals in Katyn forest - outside Smolensk - was for years covered in evasion and blamed on the Nazis. For five decades, until Mikhail Gorbachev’s <A href=",the,Katyn,Committee&amp;8217;s,appeal,to,Mikhail,Gorbachev,373.html">admission</a> in 1990 of the NKVD’s responsibility, Poles had to live with a double-pain: knowledge of a historic <A href="">atrocity</a> that had decapitated its educated elite, compounded by the enduring official denial of the real perpetrators (a denial in which western states were shamefully complicit). Even after Gorbachev’s statement, many questions of accountability and justice remained.</p> <P>The Polish contingent flying to Katyn - including Poland’s president, <A href="">Lech Kaczynski</a>, and his wife Maria - were due to attend a ceremony that marked the seventieth anniversary of the massacre. This would have been an act of commemoration and healing, part of a gradual but perceptible process leading towards final resolution. Instead, the anniversary has brought Poland to this almost unthinkable tragedy.&nbsp;</p> <P>All of Poland is staggered by the <A href="">gravity</a> of the catastrophe. Everyone, irrespective of the political divides which have been tearing apart the society for the past two democratic decades, is united by a deep grief.</p> <P><STRONG>Smolensk’s fog</strong></p> <P>Yet after the initial shock has been registered, behind the scenes everyone is asking an unavoidable question: what were the causes of a crash which has &nbsp;beheaded the Polish state?</p> <P>It seems clear that there was no particular problem with the plane. True, this Russian-made <A href="">TU-154</a> was older than comparable Boeing or Airbus craft, and had flown in the service of the Polish government since 1990; but it was carefully serviced and in good condition.</p> <P>Moreover, the military airport at Smolensk - which is opened only for special occasions - had safely organised the arrival of Poland’s prime minister Donald Tusk on 7 April 2010 to attend a ceremony with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, in what became a moving and symbolic step towards Polish-Russian <A href="">reconciliation</a>. At the same time, the airport was not <A href="">equipped</a> with the ILS system that allows planes to land in the kind of fog that blanketed the ground around Smolensk at the time of the flight.</p> <P>These technical and weather conditions may have contributed to the catastrophe; but were not themselves sufficient to cause it. Here the considerations turn to the possible more human ingredients of the disaster, such as the speculation that Lech Kaczynski’s urgent desire to attend the Katyn ceremony - and awareness that his political arch-rival <A href="">Donald Tusk</a> had already &nbsp;in a high-profile event at Katyn three days earlier - might have led him to underplay considerations of safety during the trip.</p> <P>It is relevant here that President Kaczynski’s trip was not an official presidential visit to Russia, but a purely Polish event marking a national <A href="">anniversary</a> on Russian soil. The agreement over its form was reached only after months of his prolonged insistence, which included the presence of a substantial, respectable entourage: members of the <EM>Sejm </em>(parliament), the military chiefs-of-staff, ministers, diplomats, and prominent public figures.&nbsp;</p> <P>There is a possible <A href="">precedent</a>, in the events of 12 August 2008 - the sixth (and it transpired final) day of the short, nasty <A href="">Russia-Georgia</a> war. Along with the presidents of Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, and Ukraine, Lech Kaczynski - whose foreign-policy outlook was characterised by suspicion of and hostility towards Russia - flew to Tbilisi in order to express his support for the <A href="">stance</a> of <A href=";m=1&amp;sm=3">Mikheil Saakashvili</a>. On that occasion, he demanded that the pilot ignore the threat of ground-fire from Russian forces and land directly in Tbilisi; the pilot refused, and chose to land in Azerbaijan. A row ensued, but the pilot did not yield. &nbsp;</p> <P>In the foggy conditions of 10 April 2010, a diversion of the Polish plane to Moscow or Minsk (Belarus) would have been reasonable - though such a decision would have meant an arrival at Katyn very late for the scheduled ceremony. At present, however, any speculation that in this case there was pressure on the pilot to disregard advice not to land in Smolensk remains just that; it must be hoped that the plane’s <A href="">black-boxes</a> tell the whole story.</p> <P><STRONG>Poland’s flight-path</strong></p> <P>The poignancy of this moment in Polish history is accentuated by both the reputation of its flyers and the precedence of tragedy. The Polish pilots of Britain’s famous Royal Air Force <A href="">Division 303</a> won great renown for their extraordinary role in combating the Luftwaffe’s air-raids during the pivotal <A href="">battle of Britain</a> in 1940. The experience is the source of a popular saying that Polish pilots are so good they could fly onto a barn-door. The image seemed borne out by an incident in December 2003 in which a brave and experienced pilot’s expert handling of a <A href="">helicopter-crash</a> saved the life of the former prime minister Leszek Miller.</p> <P>But on 23 January 2008, the <A href="">crash</a> of a reliable Spanish-made military plane (CASA C-295M) while approaching an airfield in the northwest Polish town of Miroslawiec did result in the Polish state suffering a terrible loss of life. All twenty people on board died: four crew and sixteen high-ranking officers of the Polish air force (who were returning from a conference devoted to air-traffic security).</p> <P>The judgment must be that Polish officialdom has not learned the lesson of this recent tragedy. Indeed, there is a suggestion of grave irresponsibility surrounding this ill-fated trip. The fact that so many people of senior rank were loaded onto a single plane created evident risks and ignored the procedural rule that the president should not travel with others who occupy high state positions.</p> <P><STRONG>Democracy’s cost</strong></p> <P>There is something else. Polish politicians, as do those in most democratic countries, live in mortal fear of the media and the opposition. For years some of them have mumbled about the necessity of upgrading the government’s air-fleet; but no decision was made, for fear of the response that state officials wish to enjoy the luxuries of new planes at the expense of impoverished taxpayers. Yet leading figures across the political spectrum had no qualms about spending over $1 billion to <A href=";view=article&amp;id=265&amp;Itemid=33&amp;lang=en">buy</a> forty-eight F-16 fighter-planes on the grounds that this purchase would be seen as a proof of their concern for Polish security - planes which, for all their sophistication, are mostly grounded in Poland and largely useless. They did not dare to spend a fraction of this sum to secure the safe transport of the government itself.&nbsp;</p> <P>One thing that has become strikingly clear in the aftermath of this disaster is the extent to which the Russian people themselves feel sorrow for this Polish <A href=",75539,7752588,Polska_po_katastrofie.html">tragedy</a>. That has not stopped a few Polish commentators on websites pulling out the predictable suggestions that the event was engineered by the Kremlin. Conspiracy theories seem by now to be a permanent feature of the human discourse, and they can do nothing to help in the <A href=",1518,687934,00.html">improvement</a> of Polish-Russian relations. &nbsp;</p> <P>We share the grief of this terrible event. But we also feel angry that a democratic state might have done such damage to itself through the irresponsibility or recklessness of its own officials.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <P><STRONG>openDemocracy</strong> writers track Polish politics and governance:</p> <P>Neal Ascherson, "<A href="../../2806">The victory and defeat of Solidarity</a>" (6 September 2005)</p> <P>Adam Szostkiewicz, "<A href="../../democracy-protest/poland_2858.jsp">The Polish lifeboat</a>" (22 September 2005)</p> <P>Karolina Gniewowska, "<A href="../../democracy-protest/minefield_2863.jsp">The Polish minefield</a>" (23 September 2005)</p> <P>Marek Kohn, "<A href="../../globalization-institutions_government/election_poland_2957.jsp">Poland's beacon for Europe</a>" (25 October 2005)</p> <P>Neal Ascherson, "<A href="../../democracy-protest/poland_church_4237.jsp">Catholic Poland's anguish</a>" (11 January 2007)</p> <P>Neal Ascherson, "<A href="../../4286">Ryszard Kapuscinski: from Poland to the world</a>" (25 January 2007)</p> <P>Zygmunt Dzieciolowski, "<A href="../../article/globalisation/institutions_government/poland_dictionary">The Polish dictionary</a>" (22 August 2007)</p> <P>Ivan Krastev, "<A href="../../article/globalisation/institutions_government/populist_poland">Sleepless in Sczeczin: what's the matter with Poland?</a>" (19 October 2007)</p> <P>Neal Ascherson, "<A href="../../article/democracy_power/politics_protest/poland_election">Poland after PiS: handle with care</a>" (26 October 2007)</p> <P>Neal Ascherson, "<A href="../../article/globalisation/the_polish_march_students_workers_and_1968">The Polish March: students, workers, and 1968</a>" (1 February 2008)</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <P>Adam J Chmielewski is a professor of political philosophy at the University of Wroclaw, Poland. His books include<EM> The Psychopathology of the Political Life </em>(2009, in Polish)</p> <P>Also by Adam J Chmielewski in <STRONG>openDemocracy</strong>:</p> <P>"<A href="">Europe's missing link</a>" (24 August 2005)</p> <P>Denis Dutton was <A href="">professor</a> of philosophy at Canterbury University, New Zealand. Among his books is <A href=""><EM>The Art Instinct</em> </a>(Bloomsbury/Oxford University Press, 2009). His website is <A href="">here</a></p> <P>Denis Dutton died on 28 December 2010</p> <P>----</p> <DIV class="content"> <DIV class="odtab-content"> <DIV class="content"> <DIV class="odtab-content"> <P>Neal Ascherson, <A href=""><EM>The Struggles for Poland </em></a></p> <P>Jerzy Lukowski &amp; Hubert Zawadzki, <A href=""><EM>A Concise History of Poland</em></a> (Cambridge University Press, 2006)</p> <P><A href="">Polish Cultural Institute</a>, London</p> <P><A href=",82049.html?adw=1&amp;gclid=CKrCtp7IiY4CFQdRMAodzEOyOA"><EM>Gazeta Wyborcza </em></a></p> <P><A href=""> - news from Poland</a></p> <P><A href="">Andrzej Wajda, <EM>Katyn</em></a></p></div></div></div></div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/poland-the-future-s-past">Poland: the politics of history </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/the-polish-summer-1989-a-farewell-salute">The Polish summer, 1989: a farewell salute</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/poland_s_generational_shift">Poland’s generational shift </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/poland_after_pis_handle_with_care">Poland after PiS: handle with care</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/leszek-kolakowski-1927-2009-a-life-of-courage">Leszek Kolakowski, 1927-2009: a master figure</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Poland </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Poland Democracy and government International politics institutions & government Globalisation democracy & power europe Adam J Chmielewski Denis Dutton Tue, 28 Dec 2010 23:56:32 +0000 Adam J Chmielewski and Denis Dutton 53664 at Adam J Chmielewski <div class="field field-au-term"> <div class="field-label">Author:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Adam J Chmielewski </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-au-firstname"> <div class="field-label">First name(s):&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Adam J </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-au-surname"> <div class="field-label">Surname:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Chmielewski </div> </div> </div> <p>Adam J Chmielewski is <a href="">professor</a> of philosophy in the <a href="">Institute of Philosophy, University of Wrocław</a>, Poland. His books include <em>Popper's Philosophy: A Critical Analysis</em> (1995); <em>Open Society or Community?</em> (2001); and <em>Psychopathology of Political Life</em> (2009). He is also the author of the successful bid of the city of Wroclaw for the title of the <a href="">European Capital of Culture 2016</a> </p><div class="field field-au-shortbio"> <div class="field-label">One-Line Biography:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Adam J Chmielewski is &lt;a href=;professor&lt;/a&gt; of philosophy in the &lt;a href=;Institute of Philosophy, University of WrocÅ‚aw↑ &lt;/a&gt;, Poland. His books include &lt;em&gt;Popper&#039;s Philosophy: A Critical Analysis&lt;/em&gt; (1995); &lt;em&gt;Open Society or Community?&lt;/em&gt; (2001); and &lt;em&gt;Psychopathology of Political Life&lt;/em&gt; (2009). He is also the author of the successful bid of the city of Wroclaw for the title of the &lt;a href=;European Capital of Culture 2016&lt;/a&gt; </div> </div> </div> Adam J Chmielewski Fri, 26 Mar 2010 13:14:25 +0000 Adam J Chmielewski 52028 at Warsaw and Washington: after illusion <p> The American administration has chosen 17 September 2009, the day of the anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland in 1939, to <a href="">announce</a> that it is giving up on the (in any case stillborn) <a href="">anti-missile shield</a> over Poland and the Czech Republic, which had been designed with the putative threat from Iran in mind. </p> <p> <span class="pullquote_new">Adam J Chmielewski is <a href="">professor</a> of philosophy in the Institute of Philosophy, University of Wrocław, Poland. His books <em>Open Society or Community?</em> (2001) <br /> <br /> Also by Adam J Chmielewski in <strong>openDemocracy</strong>:<br /> <br /> &quot;<a href="/democracy-europe_constitution/europe_2778.jsp">Europe&#39;s missing link</a>&quot; (25 August 2005)</span>In response to this it is worth recalling that when the United States sought it fit and <a href="">noble</a> to invade Philippines in 1898-99, President <a href="">William McKinley</a> justified this eventually homicidal step by saying that the Filipinos have to be &quot;Christianised&quot;. When someone remarked that they are Catholics, McKinley is said to have responded: &quot;That is why we have to Christianise them!&quot; </p> <p> In the view of the average level of historical knowledge of American presidents, I am not inclined to regard Barack Obama&#39;s abandonment of the missile-defence plans on this potent <a href="">anniversary</a> as anything more than a coincidence, nor to hold it <a href=",86871,6969565,Poland_Without_Missile_Defence.html">against</a> the US president or his administration. After all, no American government has ever paid much attention to the easily <a href="">wounded</a> feelings of people in Poland. George W Bush&#39;s leadership did not; there is no reason that anyone should expect such an attitude from Barack Obama&#39;s. </p> <p> But this decision will be an excellent lesson in <a href="">geopolitics</a> for the broadly (and often blindly) pro-American Polish population. The Soviet attack on 17 September 1939 - two weeks after the invasion by Nazi Germany from the west - has long been <a href=";dzial=23&amp;id=211&amp;search=4309">ingrained</a> into Polish consciousness as a &quot;knife in the back&quot;. Perhaps the US decision of 17 September 2009 will ever after be called a &quot;knife in the chest&quot;. Moreover, this will be for better rather than for worse; for it may only help Poles to understand that they have no other geopolitical choice but to make friends with Germans and <a href="/article/openrussia/russia-poland-and-the-history-wars">Russians</a> alike, and to abandon their own foolish policy of &quot;two enemies&quot;. </p> democracy & power russia & eurasia american power & the world Adam J Chmielewski Creative Commons normal email Thu, 17 Sep 2009 14:34:57 +0000 Adam J Chmielewski 48667 at Europe's missing link <p>2005 has proved a bad year for supporters of the integration and expansion of the European Union. The majority of voters in the referenda in France (<a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=2557">29 May</a>) and in the Netherlands (<a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=2567">1 June</a>) rejected the EU&#146;s constitutional treaty; the subsequent summit in Brussels (16-17 June) failed to agree the union&#146;s budget for 2007-2013. </p> <p>The prevailing opinion in European and world media is that these events have inflicted a severe blow on EU institutions, as well as revealing sharp, troubling divisions over the union&#146;s very identity and direction. Some commentators (like <a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=2576">Gwyn Prins</a> in <b>openDemocracy</b>) suggest that monetary union and the euro are doomed; others declare that enlargement is at an end. Few note that the Europessimists&#146; referendum victories were no landslides, or that the EU&#146;s <a href=,1518,361374,00.html target=_blank>budget debates</a> have always been fractious. <div><div class="pull_quote_article"><p><b>Also in <b>openDemocracy</b> on the mid-2005 European Union <a href="/democracy-europe_constitution/debate.jsp">meltdown</a>:</b></p> <p><b><a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=2532">Krzysztof Bobinski</a>, &#147;Poland&#146;s letter to France: please say <em>oui</em>!&#148;</b></p> <p><b><a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=2556">John Palmer</a>, &#147;After France: Europe&#146;s route from wreckage&#148;</b></p> <p><b><a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=2566">Aurore Wanlin</a>, &#147;European democracy: where now?&#148;</b></p> <p><b><a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=2567">Theo Veenkamp</a>, &#147;Dutch sign on Europe&#146;s wall&#148;</b></p> <p><b><a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=2623">Simon Berlaymont</a>, &#147;What the European Union is&#148;</b></p> <p><b><a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=2704">Krzysztof Bobinski</a>, &#147;Democracy in the European union, more or less&#148; </b></p> </div><p>More seriously, European political leaders (possibly excepting <a href= target=_blank>Tony Blair</a>) have displayed remarkable lack of leadership in response to these events. In face of challenges that should inspire, they seem ready to give up on the best idea Europe has ever had: the project of European unification by democratic consent. </p> <p>A misfortune can also bring benefit, however. The crisis of 2005 has opened a public space to restart the debate on the future of the European Union and of democracy in Europe. This discussion, taking place among citizens across the continent, in a wide variety of forums &#150; including <b>openDemocracy</b>&#146;s <a href="/democracy-europe_constitution/debate.jsp">debate</a> &#150; will be decisive in helping us to choose whether we Europeans are to save this project, or abandon it altogether. But if we are to save it, what must we do? </p> <p><b>An avoidance</b></p> <p>The European Union has until now functioned in two dimensions, the <a href= target=_blank>historical-political</a> and the economic-pragmatic. Each has involved a major, often burdensome responsibility: preserving the continent&#146;s peace and ensuring its people&#146;s prosperity. In order to continue discharging these responsibilities, I believe the European Union must enter a third, geopolitical-strategic dimension &#150; and embrace a responsibility for human security and wellbeing far beyond Europe. </p> <p>The European Union has had one good reason for refusing this third dimension: historical guilt. Europe showed its ugliest face to the world in the first half of the 20th century, mostly through disastrous efforts to influence the shape of the world. Why try to do so again? </p> <p>But this justification for Europe&#146;s avoidance of strategic engagement has also acted as a convenient dual pretext. It left the task of securing the global order to the United States, while allowing Europe to continue developing its elaborate and popular social programmes. </p> <p>Europe has now entered a different moment in its history, one where its own interests and those of the rest of the world combine in new ways. An active European strategic role has become necessary for world security, and it may also contribute to its own peace and prosperity. </p> <p><b>A blockage</b></p> <p>In recent decades, the economic-pragmatic dimension of the European Union has become more prominent than the historical-political. Both &#147;old&#148; and &#147;new&#148; <a href= target=_blank>members of the union</a> have seen it primarily in economic terms. This view has been reinforced by popular expectations and claims which the union has sought both to raise and to satisfy. The result has been to make the EU as a whole a mechanism of social democracy. </p> <p>The downside is evident: ever-growing economic demands, a lack of dynamism, low productivity, ossification of the labour market. But opposition to the Agenda 2010 plan produced by the government of the EU&#146;s powerhouse, <a href=,1564,1684909,00.html target=_blank>Germany</a>, shows how difficult it is to persuade old, lazy Europeans to forsake the privileges they won. </p> <p>Under these pressures, it is very difficult for the economic-pragmatic dimension of the European Union to continue to do its work. The regional and social inequalities that result create further tensions and fears. At this point, the historical-political dimension is called into question too. As dissatisfaction with the economic and social policies spreads, spectres from the European past are reawakened, making the achievement of European peace seem less plausible than a return to its fractious, even nightmarish past. </p> <p><b>A discrepancy</b></p> <p>Aspirations offer a true picture of deficiencies. The Lisbon agenda outlined in <a href= target=_blank>March 2000</a> commits the European Union to becoming &#147;the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-driven economy by 2010&#148; &#150; based on knowledge, capable of sustainable development, offering more jobs and more social cohesiveness. The Lisbon strategy to realise these aims comprises seven &#147;dimensions of competitiveness&#148; &#150; headed by &#147;the creation of the information society for all&#148; and &#147;the European area of research and innovation&#148;. </p> <p>Similar ideas are found in the manifesto of &#147;new social democracy&#148; agreed between Tony Blair and Gerhard Schröder, and again in <a href=,11608/Agenda-2010-an-overview.htm target=_blank>Agenda 2010</a>. Such reform plans stem from a conviction that the most efficient way to boost the union is to develop scientific, cutting-edge research as a source of innovation and economic competitiveness. </p> <p>These ideas are very far from fulfilment; even the authors of the Lisbon strategy acknowledge the &#147;serious danger&#148; of failure. The Americans with whom Europe tries in vain to compete are laughing, and no wonder: about 40% of the European Union budget is still spent on agricultural subsidies, outstripping by far spending on scientific research. </p> <p>The discrepancy between European aspirations and European realities suggests that the European Union has entered the 21st century as a victim of traditional, largely French, agrarianism. The EU will put its modernising ambitions into practice only when it musters the courage to reformulate its priorities. </p> <p>The dimensions on which the EU currently operates also generate new, transnational antagonisms. These include a range of quarrels between advocates of different visions of Europe: </p> <ul> <li>Europe as federal superstate vs Europe as community of nation-states</li> <li>Europe of solidarity vs Europe of national egoisms</li> <li>Europe of spirit vs Europe of accountants</li> <li>Europe&#146;s core vs Europe&#146;s peripheries</li> <li>Europe&#146;s deepening vs Europe&#146;s expansion</li> </ul> </div></p> <p>To acknowledge the geopolitical-strategic role of the European Union would be the starting-point of overcoming these disputes. If the EU entered this third dimension, it could seize the opportunity to redefine itself in terms of the responsibility for the world it avoided in the postwar decades. The European quarrel between spirituality and accountancy &#150; like so many other quarrels &#150; has its solution in responsibility. </p> <p><b>A questioning</b></p> <p>The last sixteen years have witnessed several spectacular signals of global transformation: </p> <ul> <li>the liberating wave of 1989 that unseated communism &#150; rather unjustly symbolised by November&#146;s fall of the Berlin wall rather than by June&#146;s breakthrough victory of Poland&#146;s <a href= target=_blank>Solidarity</a> movement</li> <li>the terrorist assaults on the United States of 11 September 2001</li> <li>the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and the wider &#147;war on terror&#148; </li> <li>the enlargement of the European Union by <a href= target=_blank>ten new countries in 2004</a>. </li> </ul> <p>Among this unique sequence of events, the policy and practice of the United States administration since 9/11 is crucially important for the new dimension that Europe needs to acquire. The landmarks of this US approach are its tendency to pre-emptive and unilateral action, its aggressive missionary rhetoric, its belief in the efficacy of military solutions, its lack of respect for international institutions, (including the United Nations and the <a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=2604">International Criminal Court</a>), and &#150; especially &#150; its maltreatment of prisoners in <a href="/media-abu_ghraib/debate.jsp">Abu Ghraib</a> and <a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=2110">Guantánamo</a>. </p> <p>These attitudes extend to a patronising or contemptuous approach to Europe. A high official of the US administration summarised US policy toward European integration in a word: &#147;disintegration!&#148; John Hulsman on <b>openDemocracy</b> offers another: &#147;<a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=997">cherry-picking</a>&#148;. </p> <p>In response, Europe has found in America a negative point of reference. Some Europeans have even begun to question the moral difference between regimes equally prepared to denigrate, <a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=2749">torture</a> and even murder prisoners &#150; and in the very same prison, Abu Ghraib. They ask whether the moral rectitude that underpins United States policy has given its agents a sense of impunity. The logical conclusion of such questioning is for Europeans to establish a new, positive understanding of themselves and their position in the world. </p> <p><b>A vision</b></p> <p>There is growing evidence that just such a mental transformation is underway. It may even be that the reaction in Europe to the scorn and hubris of the United States reflects not the dissolution of the &#147;<a href= target=_blank>west</a>&#148; (it is doubtful in any case if the &#147;west&#148; was ever such a unified reality), but the exposure of ever-present underlying differences that have long lain unnoticed. </p> <p>Since the cold war polarisation between (good) west and (evil) east ended, there have been strong ideological efforts to replace it by a new global antagonism between occident and (Muslim) orient. This attempt has not been completely successful, for the internal schism within the west/occident is sharpening: between (in only slight <a href= target=_blank>caricature</a>) a post-Christian Europe from Venus with <a href="/debates/debate-6-107.jsp">Immanuel Kant</a> as its guidelight, and an America-reborn-in-Christ from Mars with Thomas Hobbes as its inspiration. </p> <p>The &#147;innocent&#148; America, it might be said, is intensifying its outdated <a href= target=_blank>occidentalism</a>, a mindset that reinforces its post-9/11 manichean vision and global ambitions; &#147;guilty&#148; Europe, forced by history to forsake its own Eurocentrism, is gradually regaining it, albeit in another (&#147;post-postmodern&#148;) form. </p> <p>The emerging alternative visions are becoming starkly apparent. The US offers a missionary, military, unilateral route to imposing unity on the world, one infused with occidentalist dogma. The European Union, in its very existence as an independent agent with rich experience in peacefully overcoming historical conflicts and enmities, could offer a far stronger promise: world unity built on negotiated, political, multilateral compromise. </p> <p><b>A future</b></p> <p>A key part of this third dimension of European Union activity is the inclusion of Turkey. The accession of Turkey to the European Union could help stabilise the middle east and enhance security in the wider region. The <a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=1231">refusal of Turkey</a> to support the US over Iraq reflects a rethinking of its own that makes it a more suitable partner of the EU than ever. </p> <p><a href= target=_blank>Turkish membership</a> would open new economic perspectives for the union. True, its poverty and the problems of its Kurdish minority would present major challenges in the early years, but this is more than compensated by the opportunities of building relationships with a dynamic, youthful market. There is also a vital oil factor: important pipelines from Iraq to the west pass through Turkey, carrying an increasingly expensive commodity whose high price owes much to American foreign-policy failures. Europe needs to support Turkey&#146;s potential to contribute to its own, to Europe&#146;s and to the world&#146;s stability, and all this can best be done if the European Union offers Turkey a place at its heart. <div><div class="pull_quote_article"><p><b>Adam J Chmielewski is professor of philosophy in the <a href= target=_blank>Institute of Philosophy, University of Wroc&#322;aw</a>, Poland. His books include <em>Popper's Philosophy: A Critical Analysis</em> (1995), <em>Incommensurability, Untranslatability, Conflict</em> (1997), and <em>Open Society or Community?</em> (2001). </b></p> <p><b>This article is adapted from a paper he delivered at the third <a href= target=_blank>Wroc&#322;aw University International Summer School</a> in July 2005</b></p> <p><b>The theme of the <a href= target=_blank>gathering</a> was &#147;Dimensions and Responsibilities of the European Union&#148; </b></p> </div><p>That other giant on the EU&#146;s fringes, Ukraine, is in a different position, despite the hopes raised by its &#147;<a href="">orange revolution</a>&#148; of 2004-05. It is unlikely to become a European Union member for the foreseeable future, mainly because Europe&#146;s dependence on Russia&#146;s energy resources require it to preserve good relationships with Russia and respect Russian strategic interests.</p> <p>In this respect, Poland&#146;s advocacy of early Ukrainian membership of the union visibly lacks credibility and altruism, and is as misplaced as its more recent bout of <a href= target=_blank>anti-Russian</a> (or anti-Putin) hysteria; these may be more of an obstacle than an aid to the Ukrainians&#146; hopes. In any case, the EU&#146;s geopolitical-strategic turn should avoid a new enmity with Russia. </p> <p>A fresh internal policy on investment, science and the market; a coherent alternative to United States policy and attitudes; new thinking on Turkey, Ukraine and Russia; an understanding of world polarities that rejects west/east simplifications &#150; these are components of the necessary third dimension of EU thinking. After the setbacks of 2005, they can be the foundations of a <a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=2566">democratic correction</a> to the stifled, bureaucratised, defensive outlook that has characterised the European Union&#146;s operations for too long. </p> </div></p> europe: after the constitution democracy & power europe Adam J Chmielewski Original Copyright Wed, 24 Aug 2005 23:00:00 +0000 Adam J Chmielewski 2778 at