.Modern Polish Political Polarization

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As Law and Justice (PiS) keeps coming back as a bad dream for the second and (maybe even) the third time, why should we bother to make an effort? Let me be frank: there’s no point in trying if Law and Justice is to come back for the third time. However, it will not be the case.

A the end of November, Polish public life has enetered a new stage, to say the least. We have currently no idea what’s in store for the Polish political system and most importantly, for the society. It seems certain that Law and Justice will not stop doing what it has started. They will keep pursuing their vision of a state as long as their term of office comes to an end – until they have no longer the majority in the parliament. And from this perspective, it’s vital to know “what then”?

On the other side of the political scene, until recently, the party had not have any sensible opponent. Not in the electoral sense – in this manner, for the past eight years Civic Platform has managed to force Law and Justice to the existence as an opposition with no influence over the course of action in Poland. Nevertheless, Civic Platform never has been and will never become – in my humble opinion – a counterweight to Law and Justice ideaologically. Although Civic Plaform had managed to stop Law and Justice from taking over the power, it failed to offer a sound, deeply rooted in uncompromised ideas vision of the state and the society that would be in direct opposition to what Law and Justice stands for.

In this manner, the last eight years have been wasted – Law and Justice has taken over a state in which since 2007 not a single event has occurred which would now prevent the party from introducing the deconstruction of the existing system. It’s almost as if it has not been eight years, but merely three days. Civic Platform did not lead the country, it did nothing to bring it closer to liberalism. It merely administred it as if it was a fortress besieged by Law and Justice, boasting that the hostile hordes did not push through its walls despite many attempts. However, as expected, even this spring has dried up – Law and Justice has got inside without any difficulties at all.

Let me be frank: the time of Civic Platform has come to an end. It has no longer any purpose to serve. As some time ago in the case of the Freedom Union (UW) – a transformation party, a pro-state agency of creating a state that could match the expectations of Europe of the end of the 20th century, the driving force of the economic changes, European integration and the accession to NATO. When its goals had been overall reached in 2001, the need for the Freedom Union was over. Now the same thing is happening to Civic Platform – a party of the first years of the EU membership, of technocratic utilisation of the billions of euros from the European resources, of modernising the infrastructure, a constructor of new buildings. The dull and lifeless party in the form of the venerable “people’s parties” of the West.

The second reappearance of Law and Justice poses a question: what was the use? What for had the schools been reformed, if after the elections the current government plans a return to the model from the times of the Polish People’s Republic? Why risk raising retirement age while after the elections it will be brought back to its initial level what will in turn cause an enormous crisis of the public finances within the next 15 years? Why fight for pre-schools and nurseries if right after the elections people who intend to return to the idea of handing out money to stay-at-home mothers who spend many years in front of the stove step in? Why introduce in vitro program and give people hope for becoming parents if after the elections someone calmly takes the hope away because he believes in God in this and not other way? What’s the use?

If Law and Justice has come back for the second time, why shouldn’t it come back for the third? Why should we bother in the meantime? Yet again, let me be frank: there’s no point in doing all that if Law and Justice is to come back for the third time. However, there’s no way it will. If this is to be the party’s “last rodeo”, two things have to happen.

First, it needs to blow off some steam. The party didn’t get a chance to do so previously – such a short period of their rule between the years 2005-2007 did not make a strong enough impression on Poles. Now it has to be different. This government is to last four years (let’s hope that not eight!) in order to go down in history as an extremely painful lesson on the consequences of the lack of political responsibility of voters. This shall be a lesson to be remembered for the next fifty or maybe even one hundred years.

Secondly, the team that comes after the Law and Justice government shall not only administer but also implement a model of Polish reality contrary to the one by Law and Justice. That would truly transform the country to such an extent that the changes introduced are to leave a positive mark on the minds of the next few generations. Only then will the society not be inclined to give the power back to the likes of Law and Justice in the foreseeable future. This task can be carried out by a political force with views totally opposite to the views of Law and Justice in the three ideologically vital areas – and Civic Platform has never had been such a force.

It is .Nowoczesna (.Modern) that througout the first few weeks of the new parliament has marked a new, uncompromised polarisation on the Polish political scene. It is the Ryszard Petru’s faction that constitutes a total opposition in the sense of a complete rejection of the Law and Justice’s stance. It is the most outspoken defender of the Constitutional Tribunal, separation of powers and rule of law thus a guarantee of our civil liberties amidst the feud on the form of the political system of Poland. This is an absoluely fundamental resistance. In this regard, although Civic Platform is somewhat ideologically close to the .Nowoczesna’s views, instead of putting up a fight, it only leaves the sessions chamber. Moreover, it doesn’t have a clean slate as it also appointed two judges to the Constitutional Tribunal in an illegal manner. It is also known to have been limiting the freedom of demonstration and freedom of public information in the past.

The ideological dispute will find .Nowoczesna fighting against the clerical vision of a state of Law and Justice – the former will defend in vitro, support registered partnerships, advocate legalising medical cannabis. Civic Platform has always had its “conservative” faction with views aligned with Law and Justice’s attitude which had made Civic Platform unable to act in any way on the abovementioned matters almost to the end of its eight-year rule.

Third, the dispute on economy finds Law and Justice entrenched in the socialist approach. It has no problem promising anything (at any cost) that would secure them popularity among the voters. It will keep on supporting unprofitable enterprises in the name of its alliance with trade unions. It will not back down even in the face of a huge financial budgetary crisis. It will torment companies with costly inspections to finance its social gifts. .Nowoczesna is a party of the responsibility for the public finances, of the sensible management of the resources – a party that promotes entrepreneurial spirit, creativity, innovativeness and free market. It is a clear antithesis of the vision of Law and Justice – which Civic Platform (a party which in the past few years has turned to the left and thus left the state indebted, with a dismantled pension system and that was unable to draft any reforms for the past eight years) clearly is not.

It becomes apparent thatin the in light of the recent disputes it is Law and Justice and .Nowoczesna that constitute two opposite poles. Civic Platform oscillates somewhere between them – changing only the distance from one to the other. A clear choice between the two alternatives with completely different possible routes for Poland emerges between the parties of Ryszard Petru and Jarosław Kaczyński. The final ruling in this case will determine whether Poland will remain a European country with liberal democracy – a country that advocates freedom having at the same time strong economy; or a state on the verge of systems excercised by Orbán or Mečiar, with a soft version of an authoritarian regime and unlimited power of a single party – a state oppressively paternalistic in which the economy takes the form of a bureaucratic management of the burdensome budgetary deficit. That’s the choices we have.

The article has been originally published in Polish at liberte.pl

Translated by: Olga Łabendowicz