Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Rokita’s line in the sand


The splits in Civic Platform mainly revolve around one crucial question.

As we saw before the local elections recently all is not well on the opposition Civic Platform (PO) – in fact, a few party members seem set to fall off it.

The main Platform dissident is Jan Rokita (right of photo). The last line in an ‘open letter’ sent to head of PO, Donald Tusk (left), he demanded an answer to one simple question:

“Will you, or will you not, rule out completely an alliance with the ex-communist Left?”

For many Poles this is still a crucial issue. Most of my friends are what in the West would be called ‘liberals’ – on social issue many are even ‘center-left’. But none of them would entertain the idea of voting for the ex-communist SLD, or Marek Borowski’s breakaway party.

So any alliance after an election between PO and SLD would be a very difficult one, for obvious and understandable historical reasons. SLD etc are the heirs to a party that locked up Solidarity dissidents, murdered striking miners and so on.

So Rokita’s question is a pertinent one: would you be seen dead in bed with the reds?

At the time of writing, Donald Tusk has failed to give a clear answer – suggesting that he may be tempted to make this historic leap, if an election resulted in a hung parliament with a composition that demanded an alliance between SLD and PO.

And that is a distinct possibility. I get the impression that the Kaczynkis are tempted to go to the electorate again. With scandals rife within the two main junior political parties in the coalition, he may just have to. And as their support declines most of it is going to the Kaczynski’s Law and Justice.

So time for Tusk to give a clear-cut answer to Rokita might just be running out.

13 comments:

Michael Farris said...

"SLD etc are the heirs to a party that locked up Solidarity dissidents, murdered striking miners and so on..."

Blah, blah, blah. That was then, this is now. If you get too caught up in the past, you're gonna lose the future as Jan "Dupek" Rokita is about to find out.
The unpleasant (for some) fact is that SLD is not the communist party anymore and is legal (as it should be). Also, SLD candidates can and have won free elections and if PO implodes SLD is liable to be the ultimate winner (not this minute, but within a couple of years).

PiS has gotten in bed with convicted felons, neo-nazi groupies and been caught on tape involved in sleazy horsetrading cum backstabbing. It's awfully late in the game for anyone to take their 'integrity' stand seriously. They've burnt so many bridges that they'd have to win an outright majority to rule which I frankly don't see happening.

PO is coming off a psychological high and the last thing they need is this distraction. And where on earth would Rokita go? To PiS? After a Kaczynski called him a criminal second only to murderers and rapists?

jannovak57 said...

Is Tusk that dumb? Ironically the SLD can be pragmatic and a workable partner for him but it’s political suicide for the PO. The credentials Tusk put forward in the last election of out with the corrupt ex-commies in with a modern liberal economy served him well, now to remove a concept that represents an under pinning of his party is irrational. This is highlighting a major disconnect between Tusk and the people who were prepared to vote for him. If he fails publicly to rule out any notion of a possible coalition with the SLD and quickly the process of suicide begins.

If the ducks were smart, it wouldn’t take a lot of political gymnastics to find a home for the disaffected and say goodbye to the LPR and Samoobrona.

Michael Farris said: “that was then, this is now”

That’s the reasoning and logic of a western mind looking from the outside and by outside I mean not from within the Polish culture. The Polish people over the ages define themselves a group sharing a common language, religion and history. The past plays a role in Poland no other society in the EU has equivalence to.
To a large portion of the people past transgressions against the Polish people are something that can never be forgotten or forgiven. Thus must always be factored into a political strategy.

Notwithstanding the SLD cynical corruption when it was last in government, it is the successor party to the communists from which all of it members came in 1989-1991 and it was funded from Moscow the last occupying power. This background earned them a position of conflict with a sizeable portion of society.

beatroot said...

Mike: rationally, you are right that the policies of SLD are probably to the right of BILL CLINTON and TONY BLAIR.

But I think you underestimate the power of memory in Poland. The SLD are trying, with their new young leader (hoping for the ‘Blair effect’) to distance themselves from the past.

But as I know you know, it ain’t that simple in Poland. And if I lived through the communist period here I would think the same. Those guys were c^^ts.

Jan is right: it would be long term political suicide for PO to get close to them.

Saying that though, I think a majority of Poles do want some kind of mixed economy, social democratic government. And they are waiting for a genuine party, independent of the past, that can offer that.

Michael Farris said...

Like it or not, SLD has not lost one single election in because of its communist past. It has lost elections due to corruption scandals on its watch at the (then) present.
I see no reason why its communist past will keep it from winning elections in the future either if they can put together a platform voters think they can support and PiS loses credibility (increasingly likely).
And good, bad or indifferent SLD has links with tradition and the past which is more than any party (besides PSL of course) can say.

And (irony of ironies) a big chunk of PiS voters are the same old folks who look back fondly at the PRL as a time of social stability. PiS could easily lose that demographic if scandals overtake the current coalition which seems more likely by the day.

Yes, the communists were royal SOB's and Poland is better off without them. But the great majority of Polish people I've known (from ... diverse walks of life) are mostly indifferent about the PRL (I can't think of a word that fits better) and could care less about settling grudges.

Maybe emigre Poles fleeing persecution bit jan novak's description of historical memory, but IME Poles are mostly hardcore anarchists at heart who pay as little attention to the government as they think they can get away with and firmly close the door on the national (as opposed to personal and family) past.

geez said...

Jan eternal glorifier of Pinochet and other fascists wrote: "The past plays a role in Poland no other society in the EU has equivalence to."
_____________________
Maybe that's why Polish poltrix is so pucked fup.

Seriously, I'm not so sure that's at all true. Only some Poles have an absolute hard-on for things past. Most Poles just want love, peace and happiness. Pretty much the same as folks the world over.

jannovak57 said...

Geez said: “Jan eternal glorifier of Pinochet and other fascists” and what happened to “Need anybody else say more?”

This would be more accurate –Jan eternal glorifier of the somewhat brutal dictator Pinochet, who’s only failing was not having shot 3001 commies.

As God favours the righteous:

Latest medical update - “The general is in a good state of health. He's well, conscious, talking and he's eating,"

Now let’s get back to the topic.

jannovak57 said...

Just as the PO was looking like a modern and rational alternative, Tusk forces us to pause for his answer on the SLD question. On the current political scene there is not another party inclined toward meaningful economic reform and it would likely need a majority in order to try it.

The advances made to date are all based on past reforms, which means in a short time growth will no longer be sustained. Over regulation, unprofitable state industries, labour laws and government spending must be addressed quickly in order to maintain growth.

By the calculation of the Central Bank Poland must grow by 6 ½ for 30 years to catch up to old Europe.

If you live in Poland and do the number crunching that exit sign is starting to look good.

beatroot said...

I think that the economy – compared to a country like Hungary, for instance – is doing pretty well. Growth this is year is running higher than the ‘experts’ expected; good macro fundamentals, etc.

More reforms are needed, as you say, but the gloomy perception about the economy is not matched by the facts.

opamp said...

Members of SLD and its ilk in neighboring countries were never communists. They have always been pragmatic opportunists; they wanted to do political careers, and if that required signing up for the communist party, so be it. Granted, in the previous generation there probably were numerous communists in PZPR, but these guys are long dead (or retired).

Remember also, that PZPR membership at its peak (ca. 1980) was on the order of 3.5 million (in the coutry of less than 40 millions!) and, because of nature of the system, was practically compulsory for all the people in management or public positions over certain level. This has naturally led to a still large number of ex-PZPR people everywhere now in similar positions. Should I remind that our icon of free market exonomy, Leszek Balcerowicz, was also a member of PZPR? Some of them have even been found in PiS!

I must second geez's comment that the obsession with the past is one of the reasons that Polish politics is the mess that it is right now. I do however hope that the demographics will sort that out sonner or later.

Regarding jannovak's comment about economy and emmigration -- I did my own number crunching. The emmigration stops being a rosy option if you calculate in the risk factor: look at the USD/PLN exchange rate for example, which has recently made emmigration to the US economically unsound. I am willing to bet that one can be better off staying in Poland and profiting from the wonders of the common market...

beatroot said...

You are correct on two counts opamp:

The meaning of the world ‘communist’ and hence’ communist’ changed drastically from 1923(ish) onwards. The ideological content of the term became pretty meaningless – certainly after the 1950s. In Poland it was kind of restricted state nationalism (as long as the ‘geo-political reality’ was taken into account, of course.

The meaning of communist became ‘a member of the communist party’.

And it was the only career ladder open to Poles. My girlfriend’s mum was a teacher who refused to join the party (she is a very stubborn individual in general, in fact, and has never joined anything, ever). But it made life doubly hard for her: no promotion, no special little trips to places, etc.

So if current lustracja takes this in account – i.e. differentiating between a simple ‘member of the party’ and some consciously political or oppressive role - then I don’t see anything wrong with it. The worry is, of course, that they are not making this distinction. Tarred with the same brush, etc….

jannovak57 said...

Beatroot said: “gloomy”

Yes it is a bit of a gloomy perception because it questions whether an environment for sustained growth can be maintained in absence of further serious reforms.

opamp said “Members of SLD and its ilk in neighbouring countries were never communists”

I agree, I met many communist party members in 1980 but virtually no one who actually was an ideological convert; to my surprise they even went out of their way to tell me they didn’t belief in the ideology. But once you join the party you’re a part of the apparatus of repression both directly and indirectly. If you were a manager and the SB told you to fire someone because of their political views, you carried out orders. When they told you to put on a red and white armband and issued you a club you beat the protesting student or worker. If you were a school teacher and the party informed you we didn’t the Jews anymore, you made sure your students reminded the Jewish student in your class everyday, that Poland was an unpleasant country to live in. So now you walk down the street passing the lines queued up for hours at near empty stores, to some anonymous and unmarked storefront. At the door you show the guard your party card and get access to a fully stocked store including western goods all subsidized by the state.

Many former nazis party members will tell you they didn’t believe in the ideology or for that matter didn’t personally push anyone into a gas chamber, how has history judged them?

Was the opportunist worse than the ideologue, who is to be scorned more vigorously the follower of a false ideology or someone who succumb to common creed? Is either fit to govern a nation?

I fully agree that demographics will diminish the intensity and animosity about the past in Polish Politics.

opamp said...

jannovak,

Good to know that we sort of agree. Anyway, I hope that the next generation of our politicians will have some moral values and we will not see in Poland a reenactment of this:

http://hedvicek.blogspot.com/2006/02/snakes-whyd-it-have-to-be-snakes.html

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