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Cultural conservative but no extremist: Jaroslaw Kaczynski (Katarzyna Czerwińska / Kancelaria Senatu CC BY-SA 2.0)

By all accounts, things are rotten in the state of Poland. A fascist dictatorship has been installed — a bit like the one in Hungary, apparently, but worse. Ostensibly, democratic elections were held. But that is just a smokescreen. There has been a coup. By or against whom is unclear, but democracy, freedom of the press and civil liberties are definitely threatened. Poland is on the road to ruin, and liable to take the whole of the EU down with it. The European Commission is worried.

One might be forgiven for thinking that this alarming news appeared in headlines eight years ago, when the bunch that has just been ousted — Civic Platform (PO) — came to power and purged the media, sacking anyone not to their liking and replacing them with their own cronies. Or when those cronies proceeded to use the public media as a vehicle for virulent and relentless propaganda against the current bunch, Law and Justice (PiS). Or at just about any time during those eight years, which saw a long string of scandals including — besides fraud, embezzlement and misuse of funds on a massive scale — the illegal wiretapping of journalists and police raids on editorial offices. Or when it emerged that newspapers loyal to PO were subsidised under the table through government advertising. Or just before the elections, when PO, in a manoeuvre of dubious legality, forced through five of its people onto the Constitutional Tribunal.

Not a peep out of the European Commission then. But then that was a (supposedly) left-wing government, so that was all right. And this is (allegedly) a right-wing government. Hence the current hysteria.

Except that PiS is actually about as right-wing as Bernie Sanders. Well, perhaps I exaggerate slightly. But it’s certainly not right-wing fiscally or economically. This is not small-government and low-taxes conservatism; rolling back the State is not on the agenda. The conservatism is social, cultural and moral, and comes with a strong emphasis on national sovereignty. In the Polish context this means upholding tradition and family values, a tiny smidgeon of Euroscepticism, the refusal to submit to bullying by the EU and Germany in particular, an acknowledgement of our Judaeo-Christian heritage and the conviction that Christianity must be restored to its proper place in the public sphere, where the Church must play a role. You might call them culturally conservative old-style socialists. But whatever label you stick on them, none of this warrants investigation by the European Commission, let alone cries to topple the governent.

The Left’s denunciation of anything with a whiff of conservatism about it as “extreme Right” and therefore evil by definition is not surprising. But the hysteria about PiS is more than just a temper tantrum on the part of the bien-pensant Left. The “hate speech” (a favourite accusation to fling at their opponents as they shower them with abuse) is breathtaking; some of it should be classed as incitement to criminal violence. Well-known journalists from that organ of the Polish left-wing chattering classes, Gazeta Wyborcza, have turned up at demonstrations to enourage revolt and assure people that their newspaper would continue the fight this government. A prominent journalist on that paper also incited soldiers to defy orders coming from the current minister of defence. So much for journalistic impartiality. But it’s worth observing that it’s a curious sort of fascist dictatorship that allows demonstrations and public vilification. It’s also noteworthy that the propaganda machine lumbered into gear well before PiS had had a chance to do anything; indeed, the shrieks of indignation began well before the elections.

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September 2nd, 2016
10:09 AM
For those people like Victico, give us rly a brake. I'm Polish so if u want to know something here it is: the government was elected in legal contest and nothing bad happens here, well expect of KOD making the situation here so cruellllll which isnt the truth + cheers.

April 29th, 2016
9:04 AM
Noone or very few who live outside of Poland has a solid idea what happens here. In fact, the current Polish government drifts steadily toward the darkest communist regime in Poland or if you like it better, natoional socialism in Germany of 1933-45. Disabling the Constitutional Tribunal, disregarding rulings by the High Court of Poland and ridiculing HC are clear stabs against what civilized nations name democracy. This will not end well, people will stand up for their rights when they will realize that their direct interests are in danger, ex. property ownership, freedom of speech, their livelihood. It seems that a lesson learned from 1945-89, evaporated from memory of the Polish people. Too bad, I am lucky to have a valid US passport, and things become unbearable, I will simply hop on a plane and come to my adopted fatherland, the USA.

March 13th, 2016
5:03 PM
The new government changed the balance of power in Constitution Court from 14 PO judges out of 15 places... into 9 PO judges out of 15 places.Both sides have legal arguments for their positions as the law is complicated and not exactly clear at times. Opposition keeps their majority in the Court, so the whole mess is not worth discussing. Opposition doesn't want any compromise going in the direction of balance. They are trying (by illegal means and foreign pressure)to remove legally elected government, which threatens their illegal privileges. Nothing at all fascist about this conflict. Poland deserves real democracy, not a fake one.

cg 1955
March 13th, 2016
4:03 AM
Ms Kolakowska has her own simplifications in her analysis but gets it just about right, at least to the extent that I'm aware of it. Once Poles became a democratic state the political class picked up a couple of its worst traits very quickly: the spoils system and gridlock. And since it takes two to tango - both side are largely to blame. Clowns to the left... jokers to the right...

Hieronymous bosch
March 12th, 2016
10:03 PM
Always worrying when cultural "conservatism" is mixed with socialist economics. At best it gives us ruinous economics and popular anger. At worst it gives us National Socialism. But then I repeat myself...

March 12th, 2016
4:03 PM
One thing is sure: all demagogic statements notwithstanding, Poland will not leave EU: Poland is one of the greatest recipients of EU funds and Polish contributions to EU's treasury are one of the smallest. Furthermore, Polish workers in Western Europe have mastered various ways of getting EU money: of example, they go on unemployment, get substantial dole sent to their families in Poland and either stay in the West working illegally or go home and get another job. I saw it myself in Ireland and heard it from Polish workers there. As to USA, Polish tourists routinely overstayed their visas, get jobs and as undocumented at that point pay no taxes. I met lots of such entrepreneurs here.

March 12th, 2016
11:03 AM
If someone thinks it's about the law then he's wrong. Former gov from Civil Platform is supporting the protesters so it means they have their own interests in making this chaos. Simple as that.

March 10th, 2016
10:03 AM
What utter rubbish. We have our own brains and can see what is going on in Poland, without being lectured on how we must interpret it. A PiS Kolakowska a PiS apologist? PiS is right-wing on moral issues, but socialist on economic issues.. ie they are being populist and trying to bribe the whole population, while keeping in with the influential Polish bishops.

March 10th, 2016
6:03 AM
amfortas; that is exactly what the PiS is doing. They removed 5 political cronies that PO tried to stuff onto the Constitutional Tribunal (breaking the spirit of impartiality if not the law), but are constitutionally prevented from doing more at this time. And they respect the law, even if it stops them from doing what you suggest. It was the PO that was creating illiberal democracy (albeit a leftist one, so Germans, French and Brits were OK with it), and PiS that is trying to restore the democratic spirit and practice to Poland. The choice Poles made at the election last year was to restore democracy to Poland, and since PiS keeps polling in mid to high 30s, with another 10 percent for similarly minded Kukiz'15, it seems the half of Poles that voted for the changes is satisfied with the process so far. That's real democracy, unlike the crazed mobs of demonstrators whipped into frenzy by PO leftovers.

Christopher Chambers
March 9th, 2016
4:03 PM
Great read. Poland/PiS is going through the same struggle Front National (FN) is going through in France. Any whiff of Nationalism or Conservatism and the left goes crazy declaring all conservative speech "hate speech" and all policies "extremist ideology". Funny how a recent article called Donald Trump, US presidential candidate and front runner for the Republican nomination the "Marine Le Pen of the US, when that really applies to Ted Cruz instead. Stay strong PiS! National sovereignty and conservative values are still supported by many citizens of the world!

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