Germany, Keep Silent

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Following the way of thinking of the Polish ruling party Law and Justice, the Germans shall at all times be portrayed as the enemies of Poland. This is just how it is in the right-wing theater of political illusions. After all, any specific circumstances or particular context simply do not matter that much.

The right-wing Law and Justice party (PiS) does its best to introduce its political program. However, some of the points are somewhat difficult to implement. There is not enough money in the state budget and even the members of the party suffer from the substantial shortages. Fortunately, there are still some actions that may be taken without any additional obstacles. Ruining the Polish-German diplomatic relations being one of those. The party managed to impressively achieve that goal in the years of their previous coalition government (2005-2007) but now it is breaking that record in terms of pace and the extent of the process.

In the past, the Germans were the Nazis, they created the Third Reich, it is because of them that the World War II had started, they inflicted immense amount of suffering on Poland, conducted a substantial part of the Holocaust in Poland (for many supporters of the Polish “national right-wing” it is actually the localization of the camps that they deem a much greater crime than the selection of victims itself – this is, however, a topic for another discussion). As a result of all this, on no account are they allowed to criticise Poland or Polish authorities (especially the right-wing). Their arguments are simply irrelevant. It does not matter that Germans are objecting to the processes of dismantling Polish constitutuional order because they simply fear their consequences. The fact that their own bitter historical experience teaches them that they should protest, persuade and encourage a change in the current politics is also irrelevant and does not give them the right to say anything.

Well, it may come as a surprise to the Polish far-right, but the Germans actually do know how much harm did their ancestors do to other European nations. They know that these henous crimes were possible only due to the triumph of dictatorship in their country. They know that total dictatorship was successful because legal basis for accummulating power in the hands of one individual had been previously dismantled. Because the liberal-democratic constitutional model of the Weimar Republic was being effectively destroyed since 1930.

When Germany sees any similar processes occurring anywhere in the world, it reacts immediately and tries to bring them to a halt. They are, as they have labelled themselves, the “burned child” that already knows better. Of course, the current Polish government says that what they are doing in Poland is not in any way a process of dismantling the rule of law, that the changes in the Constitutional Tribunal, civil service, media, the “anti-terrorist” act or reforms in the education system are just ordinary changes they are entitled to introduce as a new government – all this on the basis of the electoral mandate received in Autumn 2015. The problem is that only the government and a decreasing number of its supporters seem to think so.

The rest of the society, including many of the Polish experts on legal and political issues, share the views of German politicians (along with experts from other European states). It is difficult to support the thesis that foreign critical comments result from “the lack of knowledge and understanding” of a current situation in Poland.

The reality, however, differs significantly from what the regime’s propagandists would wish for. The statements of European (also German) politicians are not “anti-Polish”. The government policy is not the epitome of ‘Polishness’. Depriving the Constitutional Tribunal of the capacity to control constitutionality of laws is not the epitome of ‘Polishness’. As a result, Polish citizens are deprived of a sense of security and basic protection of their constitutional rights and freedom – this is also not the epitome of ‘Polishness’.

The statements of European politics are not “anti-Polish” but “anti-Law and Justice”. As such they are obviously in the interest of citizens. They need the protection of their rights even if it means protection against the government. Polishness is the atribute which belongs to all citizens – those protesting under the banner of Committee for the Defence of Democracy (KOD), as well as the current authorities. Thus one side protesting against the other cannot be deemed “anti-Polish”.

The sphere of entitlement and privileges of authorities and the sphere of rights and freedoms of citizens form a relationship which is characterised by inevitable and perpetual tensions. Every political system – may it be liberalism or democracy – works the same way. People are just people, few of them are angels and among politicians their number is statistically even lower. That is why we confine entitlement to government by law and remove its possibility to take arbitrary actions. The Constitution is an instrument of adjusting the relationship between a government and a citizen. When authorities make this tool ineffective, the relationship collapses. The power is only on one side. When all fuses are gone, the relationship takes the form of a fox in a henhouse.

Germans, just like Belgians, the Dutch and Danes, have the same right to criticize and comment on the situation in Poland. No one can gag the current generation of German politicians or columnists. They are not resonsible for former national socialism and its crimes. What is more, sometimes they know better as a result of those experiences. Therefore the sheer outrage about the foreign criticism of the situation in Poland is just another manifestation of a desire to limit freedom of speech, debate and exchange of ideas by the Polish government. An approach that tries to gag new groups of their opponents, under different, contrived pretexts.

The article was originally published in Polish at liberte.pl

Translated by Barbara Nerga

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