Monday, January 28, 2008

Poland’s winter of discontent


“Civic Platform are clueless.” That’s what many are saying of Poland’s still fledgling government. It must be the shortest political honeymoon in history.

Usually, governments get elected, the majority are relieved to see the back of the old government, and a period of optimism and popularity ensues for the new leaders.

In the UK, Tony Blair and New Labour had, post-1997, a honeymoon that seemed to go on for years. In fact, it went on until after the next election, which they won, too. And then the honeymoon just kept on going. Until, that is, Tony went and spoiled it all by doing something stupid: he invaded Iraq, alongside his buddy, George.

Oops! Honeymoon ends in tears.

After Civic Platform won the October 21 election, the honeymoon seemed to be going to plan. Opinion polls put their approval rating over 50 percent; people were genuinely relieved not to have to wake up in the morning and read the headlines full of Roman Giertych, Andrzej Lepper or Jarolsaw Kaczynski making a fool of themselves, or Poland, or both.

But the approval ratings for Civic Platform are already on the decline. Some members of Platform’s coalition partners – the ever opportunistic Polish Peasant’s Party (PSL) - are muttering, off the record, their discontent.

When Tusk wakes up in the morning he will not be hearing the birds in the trees singing their welcoming morning chorus; all he will be hearing are people on the march demanding more of…well, pretty much everything, actually.

Organized, and not so organized, labour, are having a go and trying to get as much out of the government before they have time to settle. Miners, hospital workers, teachers, customs officials…the list is endless.

Not all of this is Civic Platform’s fault. They have a budget, and deficit, that was drawn up by the previous government.

They have chaos on the eastern border, with HGVs queuing for miles and miles, and days and days, on the Ukrainian and Belarusian side after Poland joined the Schengen fortress. Jaroslaw Kaczynski was claiming that Poland was ‘ready’ to enter Schengen as early as last summer. Well, plainly Poland was not ready. The new restrictions on Ukrainians, Belarusians, Russians entering the country - through already tough and inefficient borders - has created the increased delays and customs officials can’t cope with the extra bureaucracy. Naturally, they want more money for the work, and they want more staff to help them.

Though not their fault, the government, characteristically, seems ill prepared for what would happen after the election.

They created an expectation that here would be a government that would be competent – not like that Kaczynski farce – they would be decisive, resolute, purposeful, determined, strong, unifying.

Well, I just don’t see any of those qualities. None at all. All I see is dither, dither, dither. How long before the Polish Peasant’s Party start to distance themselves from the mess piling up before Tusk’s incredulous eyes?

Honeymoon? It wasn't even a day trip.

37 comments:

jannowak57 said...

The honeymoon with politicians in Poland is rather short and justifiably so. So you want power ok but now it’s time to perform, and if current perception is anything to go by then maybe Tusk was just a political midget that found himself in the position to benefit from the political errors committed by the twins.

Political success is just as much about perception as it is about actual performance; it’s fair to say that thus far he has lost the first part of the battle.

As far as the PSL goes, Kaczynski had Roman Giertych and Andrzej Lepper while our boy Tusk has a party that would find itself dignified by being referred to as political parasites. We could call the PSL political prostitutes but then that could offend Polish prostitutes.

If you have to deal with problems in the health sector you allow the relevant minister to deal with it and be accountable for his actions likewise with the border issue. If the problem isn’t resolved then you fire the minister that failed. His replacement may try harder.

But here is the problem, Polish politicians and civil servants have made the avoidance of responsibility and accountability into an art form and it’s this culture that must be ruthlessly eliminated. This is not exactly a revelation.

I truly hope Tusk will not need to get a new prescription for eyeglasses a consequence of over indulging himself at the masturbation circle.

beatroot said...

We could call the PSL political prostitutes but then that could offend Polish prostitutes.

:-)

geez said...

1. There are no virgins who have been involved in politics for any length of time. You soon enough get fucked.

2. Even politicos who think they are pure are whoring themselves out for somebody, whether they realize it or not.

geez said...

Mea culpa for going off-topic but I just happened to have the telly on and came across Michael Palin's (of Monty Python fame) New Europe (BBC) with the first episode being "War and Peace" featuring Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Serbia and Slovenia. Neatly done. Beautifully filmed and very cool interviews with down-to-earth people.

I noticed too that Episode Six is "Pole to Pole" on Poland. Has this been shown in Poland yet?

http://www.bbc.co.uk/palin/

Renegade Eye said...

I think we saw the same thing in France with Sarkozy, a short honeymoon.

Brad Zimmerman said...

Yes, yes, it's all true. They promised whatever it is they promised. They've delivered none or virtually none of it.

...And what of it?

Sure, in other countries there is a bit more action and delivery of promises but not that much more. I am glad, if of nothing else, to not have my new country made to look foolish and incompetent. If that's all we can ask of this government and that's all they can deliver then that's ok.

Maybe the next government will have the gumption to do some real work, who knows? For now, though, I'm still happy.

Jola said...

Beatroot said:

"They created an expectation that here would be a government that would be competent – not like that Kaczynski farce – they would be decisive, resolute, purposeful, determined, strong, unifying."


Beatroot, you often cross the line on your blog by assigning inaccurate profiles and generalizations to individuals that you may dislike. Sure, it's your opinion and blog, however, a bit overboard in that context. Let's take a step back. In world history, we've had countless villains, dictators, and yes, the disliked politicians of various countries - those who the media often belittled and crucified to the point of embarrassment, in many cases unjustified, due to the fact that those particular politicians didn't dance and sing to their (media) specific political agenda. This doesn't mean of course, those individuals are/were in any way incompetent, or even bad people and ineffective politicians. How do you, and who are you to, derive who is and isn't competent ? What is your special formula? Is it quantified, pure opinion, or because certain people don't fulfill and match your expectations? Most of the politicans that are targeted with such cheap nonsense have higher educations and credentials than the accusors themselves. Sure, I am personally no big fan of most politicians, however, I would never dare to stand up on my pedestal and arrogantly accuse them of being incompetent. This low-balling technique is usualy utilized in a debate when there is no more ammunition or justifiable points available. The 'incompetent' name calling game isn't the most intellectual way to debate an opinion, or opponent. The same could be easily said on this blog about you - that the 'Beatroot' is incompetent because he doesn't agree with 'me', or the aggregate political agenda of the European media in general. That would be a low blow and unfair. It isn't wise or conclusive to suggest a particular politican is incompetent just because, for example, Gazeta Wyborcza, The New York Times, The Financial Times, The Economist, Sikorski, Geremek, Krajewski, Kwasniewski, etc, or others share this view. To conclude, I enjoy your blog and you often bring up some good issues. Try to omit the name calling, judgement of an individual's character, competency, and physical appearance out of the picture, because by doing so, it doesn't enhance your character and competency in anyway.

Jolanta Somerfeld
Attorney at Law - Political Scientist

peter said...
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beatroot said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
beatroot said...

Jolanta, Attorney at Law - Political Scientist
It isn't wise or conclusive to suggest a particular politican is incompetent just because, for example, Gazeta Wyborcza, The New York Times, The Financial Times, The Economist, Sikorski, Geremek, Krajewski, Kwasniewski, etc, or others share this view.

Actually, if all those filk are saying someone or something is incompetent then I would say that they were exactly that.
Secondly, in a political world bereft of competing ideology and vision we are blessed with politics that is characterized by managerialism. They, politicians, want to be judged as good competent managers. Under those circumstances the only way we can judge them is by their competence. If you think that Civic Platform have been shining with competence in the last three months then that is your opinion.
Me – I beg to differ.

Jola said...

Beatroot said:

"Actually, if all those filk [Gazeta Wyborcza, The New York Times, The Financial Times, The Economist, Sikorski, Geremek, Krajewski, Kwasniewski, etc] are saying someone or something is incompetent then I would say that they were exactly that."

So, if they jump off a bridge, you do as well? Who bestowed upon them the authority to judge and categorize other fellow human beings as being incompetent, when they themselves may possibly be incompetent? It is quite degrading to yourself that you allow your opinion to be entirely influenced by nothing other than private media enterprises, common journalists who are employees of these mentioned enterprises, and several politically affiliated individuals that have educational credentials similar to those they accuse.

First, let's define the standard definition of "Competence": the quality of being adequately or well qualified physically and intellectually. ( Source: wordnet.princeton.edu/perl/webwn )

Let's use Tusk, Kwasniewski, Kaczynski Brothers, Geremek, Putin, Giertych, Sikorski as our samples.
Educationally, they all possess the 'adequate' intellectual and knowledge base requirements of worthy politicians, with Kwasniewski being a possible exception due to the grey area involving his university studies. However, does it take an educated individual to be a good politician? Not in all cases. Lech Walesa didn't have a higher education, yet he was a decent politician and statesman. All of the above listed aren't 'perfect' in anyway. They are all intellectual in their own way, skilled in different areas, and have their pluses and pitfalls. It is more appropriate to say of a politician, 'In my opinion, that politician didn't perform to my expectations and therefore was simply not an effective politician and did not possess the political skills to satisfy my agenda'. This is much more acceptable as opposed to saying flat out, "that politician is incompetent". When I read this absurd accusation often in the press, or see it on a blog, hear it on the radio, I tend to question the accusors of their competence level, and not that of the accused. It does make one wonder.

Jolanta Somerfeld

geez said...

A couple of standard definitions of incompentent:

Inadequate for or unsuited to a particular purpose or application.

Devoid of those qualities requisite for effective conduct or action.

The point here is that you based your whole argument on defining the wrong word. Does that make you competent?

beatroot said...

Competence, plainly speaking, is doing the job properly and living up the expectations of those who put you there in the first place. Civic Platform have failed so far to do this.

And that is not my opinion, but many of those who voted for them that I know. Personally I had no expectation of Tusk etc as I am not a uspporter of his. They are free market conservatives and I am not. So I can hardly be disappointed in something I didn’t believe.

But people are disappointed. Tusk positioned himself as ‘not being the Kaczynskis’..meaning no more hysteria, nastiness, etc. Calmness, reasonablness would reign. Well, there has been no hysteria. In fact there has been almost nothing going on at all. They are so calm they are soperific, while small fires break out all around them. They nedd to get a grip. Soon.

beatroot said...

PS
What has having a university degreee got to do with being a good politician? You are falling into the technocratic thinking that is the problem with politics at the moment. Give me someone with some interesting ideas and is inspirational and I will show you a good politician. Politics is not about managers and technocrats – it’s about the battle of ideas and winning support for them. And you don’t need a uni degree to do that.

beatroot said...
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Jola said...

Geez said:

"The point here is that you based your whole argument on defining the wrong word."

Wrong, I didn't. The Word 'competence' has indeed been defined correctly. Go the the provided link and perform a search for the word.

Are you competent?


Beatroot said:

""What has having a university degreee got to do with being a good politician? You are falling into the technocratic thinking that is the problem with politics at the moment."

A university degree has nothing to do with being a good politican. Haven't you read my earlier post fully? You obviously haven't read the entire post. I stated:

"However, does it take an educated individual to be a good politician? Not in all cases. Lech Walesa didn't have a higher education, yet he was a decent politician and statesman."

That statement speaks for itself. The fact that Lech Walesa didn't have a university degree and was a good politician only proves the degree isn't important. That was the point I made. So Beatroot, I don't know what you are getting at.

Jola Somerfeld

geez said...

Jola, you criticized the Beatroot for criticizing Civic Platform for being *incompetent*.

You chose to base your criticism on defining and proceeding from the word *competent* as defined in one particular dictionary. A bit of an echo from your previous post here, but "how do you, and who are you to, derive who is and isn't competent" to properly define competence or incompetence?

Here are some other definitions of competent I have found in various dictionaries:

Adept; capable; suitably skilled, able to successfully perform a particular task.

Do you really think Lech Walesa was a competent politician?

I think it's important to consider competent in terms of what.

In winning elections?

In putting forward and successfully implementing a particular agenda?

What if that agenda doesn't serve the common good and how do we consider the common good?

jannowak57 said...

Beatroot said: “What has having a university degreee got to do with being a good politician?”

You’re right, nothing if your plan is never to get elected. But the bullshit ends shortly after you get into power. Now you’re at the helm and being fed endless reams of data on the economy, the nations geopolitical situation and security needs……..there’s a need to comprehend. Also to have the analytical skills to appoint appropriate managers and technocrats to move a vision into the realm of physical reality.

Lech Walesa was a poster boy for the dilemma, on one hand he had the ability to communicate and influence the working masses as very few could but once in power was greatly frustrated by being out of his depth because of a limited education.

What’s the point of politics or a battle of ideas if the ultimate goal is not to change the physical condition of the nation whether that be liberating an enslaved people or improving the material condition of the people?

When you look at Poland you can’t help but to ask where are the statesmen?

beatroot said...

Jola, sorry you are correct, but why bring up universities in the first place, then?

And students, these days, are the last place I would look for to find a politician. Have you noticed that uni students these days the most apolitical bunch of wooses?

My geberation - the one before that one - are the first to wish kids were MORE radical than they are.

beatroot said...

And Jan. All the great politicians in the past in Britain never had any university degrees - but they did have a fire in their belly to change the society they lived in. I am thinking of people like Nye Bevan.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aneurin_Bevan

geez said...

My geberation are the first to wish kids were MORE radical than they are.

M-M-My Generation? Do you really believe the generation coming of age in the late 60s and early 70s was universally all that politically radical?

My sense of what's "radical," politically and culturally, has changed a lot since back in the day, too.

michael farris said...

I can't say I'm disappointed (yet) in PO because I didn't expect much.

I was just glad that the Kaczynsk small-minded living-in-the-past agenda of revenge and isolation are slowed and the worst lunatic fringes (LPR, SO) are discredited and in disarray.

Of course PO is hamstrung by the fact that they won the election by not being the Kaczynskis (who'd made the fatal mistake of embarrassing the country in international eyes) and not by virtue of any broad groundswell of Thatcherite sentiment in Poland.

beatroot said...
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beatroot said...

Geez - it's true: students - and I am talking about students, but there was a militant trade unionism from where I come from, and young people were involved that way too - are much less political. Hardly a shock: what is there left to believe in for these kids: Obama and his mysterious 'change' thing (what does that guy mean?) and environmentalism, which is not a progressive worldview at all: it's reactionary, backward.

Jan
and not by virtue of any broad groundswell of Thatcherite sentiment in Poland.

This is the vital point: all the parties here don't have widespread support with any kind of real social base, or ideological underpinning. They are just election machines, that break down more often than his dad's old Polonez.

geez said...

There may have been a groundswell of youthful political radicalism in your parts but I think it's been blown way out of proportion vis-a-vis the US (which is why he-who-should-not-be-named is such a riot).

Radicalism in Poland? Not sure to what that really amounted. Seems it needs to be oppositional to the powers that be. So I guess Solidarnosc was very radical in that sense. And nowadays I think certain aspects of Catholicism are very radical in all times and all places.

I'm kinda thrilled about and for the young ones around Obama these days. It's amazing to see so many young black and white faces rallying together. It will be interesting to see if the American Ajrysz will go the Kennedy way in supporting him.

I don't expect him to change anything all that much in terms of a domestic agenda but I do think he won't be so much the warmonger as Hillary Clinton and any of the others. And his being black and having a Muslim name will mean something good in terms of the American image abroad. So maybe in some sense, image can be just as important as substance. Maybe substance will follow image. Most importantly, it would be nice for me not to have to feel so damned guilty and ashamed for how my tax dollars are spent. But being pessimistic, I think Hillary will win the Dem nod and go against McCain. I will have a hard time deciding what to do in that situation. I'd like to think that McCain won't be so wont to indulge in new wars since he experienced war, but things he says give me the creeps. Same, of course, with Billary.

beatroot said...
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beatroot said...

So maybe in some sense, image can be just as important as substance.

Geez, where is any evidence that substance will follow the style? Where is the political movement that could feed him? He has been compared to Martin Luther King! Amazing. King was the head of a brave and radical movement.

And what's Obama got? He 'won't be such a warmonger'? They said that about Clinton.

MLK 'had a dream'. What is Obama's? To get elected?

geez said...

No evidence. Only hope. And a feeling. Without hope and feeling, there's only mindnumbing neon buzzing static and despair. But I'm used to it by now. Nobody who I can relate to ever said that Billary wouldn't/won't be such a warmonger. Maybe a political movement of some decency can grow if some hope is given a chance. King could only dream in the context of the Kennedy years (and certainly they were warmongers up to a point in time). What's Obama's dream? I can't see into his heart of hearts but my intellect and feelings tell me he holds at least a smidgeon of promise for something a helluva lot better than I've experienced most of my life. Then again, he won't even get the nod so it's back to www.despair.com (a real website with lots of "inspirational" posters that would prolly sell real well in Poland with the appropriate translations).

beatroot said...

No evidence. Only hope. And a feeling.

Oh, no! That is exactly the type of thing that Bush says!!!!! Ahhhhhh

geez said...

He had the evidence, ignored it, and then lied about it.

He's one of the the most hopeless SOBs I've ever come across in my life.

He's a fucking malfunctioning robot incapable of thinking or feeling anything... who's programmed by Cheney et.al.

geez said...

BTW, looking over at despair.com for the first time in a while (haven't felt the need to get so inspired for awhile), I came across a t-shirt that reads "More people have read this t-shirt than your blog."

opamp said...

How do you, and who are you to, derive who is and isn't competent ? What is your special formula?


I knew human sciences in academia were in bad shape nowadays but I didn't expect to be that bad.

I strongly suggest you make that point to your boss during the next performance review. You will receive a detailed reply, entitled "grounds for termination".

The politicians, like any other paid workers, should be judged only on how they complete the assigned tasks. And their performance is such that they wouldn't finish a trial period on a normal job. Remember, we're a democracy. I pay their salary, so I demand results.

(Side note: I recommend BR to write a post about our dear ex-representatives who cannot find a job after leaving the parliament, and demand state support. I guess that inability to find a job is the best testimony to their alleged competence).

Anonymous said...

After watching PIS get hammered by the media for two years, it's very odd to see Platforma just sliding by without so much as a snark from the medias. My god, with all the strikes going on now, the anti-PIS feeding frenzy would have been overwhelming (oh wait, forgot...actually, according to Janusz Palikot the customs officers strike is a PIS conspiracy.)

So anyway, I just find it interesting that Platforma, who got elected because Poles were told every day that the Kaczynskis were embarrassing, and also partly because Poles were told that they would be rich and be able to drive on highways and swim in nice pools, has a virtually identical platform to PIS (after all, what people seem to be unaware of is that these guys come from the same political formation.) Tusk goes to Berlin, bats his eyelashes at Merkel without making any kind of statement of substantial change in policy, and suddenly the Germans love the Poles. Ewa Kopacz is asked about the health crisis, and all she can do is splutter about PIS' incompetency (and that is relevant to her supposed dossier how?). Sikorski has continued with the status quo on approval of US shields. What Kaczynski could never get is that it's all about PR, marketing and rhetoric. If you smile every five seconds and make noises about being European, it doesn't matter if your core policies are the same as your despised predecessors!

But I agree with Beatroot that the honeymoon might be ending soon. After all, you can blame PIS for the current state of affairs only so long...or so one would think. I'm just waiting and wondering where the hordes of young people are returning from the UK now that Platforma has made it ok to be Polish again.

beatroot said...

Listen, most journalists are from emergingmiddle class in cities. Platform's support comes from the same place.

Quite where a distanced, independant journalism comes into all this is beyong me. In Poland, even trying to be 'balanced; is just laughed at (or so I was told this morning by someone who should know better).

So forget balance when reporting politics. Polisj journos not interested.

Anonymous said...

The problem with Polish journalists is that they know better than everyone else how to run the country. If only we would all just shut up and listen to them: lower tax, close unnecessary hospitals, park a Merc in every driveway, learn English, be more European....

Anonymous said...

Oh yes, anonymous, I could not agree more with you. Frankly I am getting really tired of this condescending attitude...the idea that the great unwashed masses need to be told what is best for them. For me, it goes hand in hand with the CONSTANT appeal to the "civilized countries..." i.e.,
"In civilized countries everyone knows that hospitals that aren't profitable have to go..." "In civilized countries this kind of mess would never happen..."

And meanwhile, Italians are literally poisoning themselves with their waste in a return to the 14th century, the Belgians are without a government for months, and France's president is fodder for a daytime drama. I'm not trying to bash those "civilized" countries, but how come they're always such a shining example?

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