Grave Trouble in Poland

Wednesday, July 19th, 2017

You might have heard recently about big demonstrations going on in Poland, starting this past weekend and continuing. You would have particularly gotten such word if you pay any attention to my own EuroSavant twitter-feed, whose above-average level of Polish developments has lately been caused by an abnormal flood of such news within the feed I myself use to source most of the foreign-language stories that I pass on there.

It’s serious there, it’s true. It’s even chaotic. The government has been dominated since the last election by the PiS party, a nativist, right-wing organization that seemingly has designs to take over the government permanently, using techniques copied from Hungary along with some the party has thought up all on its own. The latest trick is passing a law basically enabling the government to hire and fire judges at will – including Supreme Court justices. (The plot has further thickened within the last twenty-four hours as Polish President Andrzej Duda – also of the PiS – decided he would not sign the new law to control the judges.)

The hidden power behind PiS is Jarosław Kaczyński, nominally nothing more than a delegate to Poland’s lower-house legislature, the Sejm, who usually likes to keep a low profile. Not recently, though:

There he is, up at the podium addressing his fellow members of the Sejm, and this is what he is saying:

I know you are afraid of the truth, but don’t try to wipe away your treacherous murders using my brother’s name. You destroyed him, you murdered him, you are all rogues!

Murder? His brother? Well, that would be his twin brother, Lech Kaczyński, who back when he was serving as Poland’s President in April, 2010 – i.e. more than seven years ago! – was killed along with almost a hundred other high-ranking Poles in the tragic Polish Air Force plane-crash near Smolensk, Russia.

Evidently, then, Jarosław Kaczyński has convinced himself that that tragedy was no mere accident but an assassination; apparently, he also thinks the political opposition, represented within the Sejm, was also somehow responsible. Or at least he wants to make it look like he is convinced of such sensationalist allegations, perhaps to rile the political waters and increase the chance of getting the measures he wants passed in the confusion.

There is a YouTube video of Kaczyński delivering those brief but very inflammatory remarks. Yes, it’s all in Polish, it’s also short, but you can see the outrage on the other side of the chamber in reaction to what he comes up and says. Meanwhile, the guy sitting up front who is supposed to be responsible for the maintenance of order within that legislative body – I have to assume he is the Sejm’s so-called “Marshal,” Marek Kuchciński – keeps ringing his little bell, trying to get people to calm down, until that bell literally breaks (you see that in the video – cheap Eastern European iron-work!) and he has to turn to a back-up.

That particular tweet given above comes to us via Gazeta Wyborcza, and that is significant in itself. The PiS has already managed to enable the government to hire-and-fire personnel for the main state-owned national TV and radio networks, but when it comes to newspapers there still remain a number of independent voices. Gazeta Wyborcza is among the most independent of them, as befits a truly historic newspaper whose genesis lies back in functioning as a hastily put-together news-sheet back in 1989 meant to let the people know who were the Solidarity-approved candidates in Poland’s first post-WWII (partially) free election of early June.

As such, Gazeta today has also tweeted (and Instagrammed) this:

We the female citizens, we the male citizens. Appeal to the Poles: In the face of the threat arising from a series of anti-democratic and non-constitutional decisions of the PiS government, we stand in defense of the basic freedoms belonging to every person and resident of the Polish Republic.

This goes on for a couple more paragraphs; the full (Polish) text is available here. Clearly this is a call to arms from among everyone in Poland to resist what the present government is trying to do.

The statement is then signed up-top (like John Hancock) by Władisław Frasyniuk, a hero back in Solidarity times and one who holds the particular distinction of having been arrested not only by the Communist authorities back then, but also (recently) by the current PiS government. That’s impressive enough, but then look at all the other signatures:

  • Three former Polish (post-1989) presidents, including Lech Wałęsa and Bronisław Komorowski, the latter of which happened to have been the president before the current one (Andrzej Duda);
  • At least one former prime minister I can recognize, in Włodzimierz Cimoszewicz;
  • Leszek Belcerowicz, the famed economist and Central Bank governor responsible for the economic “shock treatment” policy of the early 1990s which laid the basis for the country’s impressive economic growth since then.

Then there are many other names that I don’t recognize, but they are likely to be as impressive within Polish society as well.

In short, these are historic, fraught, vital times for the preservation of Polish democracy. I’ll be keeping an eye on happenings from this, my EuroSavant perch and passing on the most important developments.

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