Sunday, April 20, 2008

What’s left of the Polish Left?


Not much. And this weekend saw another lump fall off the alliance of leftwing parties.

On Saturday, ex-communist Marek Borowski (on right of photo, mid nose facilitation) announced that he was taking his party, Social Democracy of the Republic of Poland (SDLP) out of the Left and Democrats (LiD) coalition with the ex-communist Democratic Left Alliance (SLD). Borowski said that this was because the SLD had failed to consult his SdRP party when kicking out the Democratic Party (PD) - made up of some old Solidarity leaders such as Bronislaw Geremek - out of LiD.

Marek Borowski’s SDLP is actually a splinter group of SLD. So a splinter group has left a coalition made up of members of a party they used to be a part of.

To recap: SLD ended the LiD alliance with PD, while SDLP left the left alliance over SLD not consulting them over kicking PD out of LiD. LiD was also made up of the non-communist leftwing Labour Union (UP), but nobody bothers to tell them anything.

Are you following me? Well, if you are then you are doing better than many of the Left’s former voters, who have been deserting them in droves over the last five years.

From the heyday of the 2001 election, when the SLD bagged 42% of the popular vote and a majority in the Sejm, the leftwing vote has all but collapsed in elections since.

So SLD - itself a coalition of left wing parties which got together after the immediate collapse of communism, and which has its roots in the old Polish United Workers Party, but has a policy programme identical to most social democratic parties in Europe - has decided to shift leftwards, in a desperate attempt to get some of its old support back.

The row with the Democratic Party included two issues: the anti-missile shield in Poland - which SLD opposes but the PD is for - and Poland’s restrictive abortion laws, which PD are for keeping pretty much as they are, and SLD wants to liberalise.

Where have all the voters gone?

Much of the left in Poland is saddled with the yoke of their history - they were in the communist party. So many of the more liberal Poles, like my girlfriend, would never vote for them even if they agree with their programme. Sje is not going to vote for people who made her mum’s life difficult because she, as a school teacher, had the cheek to refuse to join the Party.

Their second problem is that, on the economic redistribution issue that should be on any left or left of centre party’s agenda, there are many parties trampling on this ground. Kaczynski’s Law and Justice party relies on much of its support from poorer Poles. The Polish Peasant’s Party, now in government with Thatcherite conservatives, have always positioned themselves on the redistributionist left. So do the now out-of-parliament Self defence and League of Polish Families.

The third problem is that too many of these guys have links with corrupt rich people who got their hands on the goodies in the wake of the fall of communism. This tends to have very bad consequences for trust scores in focus groups.

So the secular Left finds itself making and then breaking alliances, chasing smaller and smaller amounts of voters. Poland needs a strong secular left/social democratic party, which could slot into the populist areas possessed at the moment by Kaczynski and other conservatives.

The problem is, the country doesn’t seem to trust the ex-communist left to deliver that politics.

And making and breaking LiD alliances between SDLP , SLD, UP and PD is going to do nothing other than alienate the dyslexic vote.

10 comments:

opamp said...

Marek Borowski (on right of photo, mid nose facilitation) announced that he was taking his party, Social Democracy of the Republic of Poland (SdRP)

Marek Borowski is from SDPL (Polish Socialdemocracy), not SdRP. SdRP was Kwaśniewski's party.

History recap:

PZPR -> SdRP + some smaller parties

SdRP + some smaller parties -> SLD(coalition)

SLD(coalition) -> SLD(party)

SLD -> SLD + SDPL

SLD + SDPL + UP + PD -> LiD

As for PD:

Solidarity -> (among others) ROAD

ROAD -> UD

UD + KLD -> UW

UW -> PO + PD

Interesting part here is that large part of PO leadership are the KLD people (Tusk, Lewandowski, Boni), while the UD people (Geremek) went to PD.

beatroot said...

Of course you are right, and it was a case of pasting in acronyms ( which I always do with Polish political parties, because the initial PD is not going to be the same way round as in Polish).

jannowak57 said...

It’s so hard to be a social democrat with a straight face in Poland, just imagine the mental gymnastic you have to perform when your questioned on your resume which looks like this:

We were former communist apparatchiks.

We worked for a foreign occupying power.

Our origins are the PZPR whose historical claim to fame is shooting Polish workers dead in the streets and lets not forget the ones that were shoot down in the coalmines. We worked day and night to hide Poland’s true history from its people. We supervised the mechanisms of the totalitarian state to lock up tens of thousands of our fellow citizens because they wanted a trade union.

We fielded a candidate for president who was a cabinet minister in the Gen. Jaruzelski’s government.

We took over a million dollars from our friends in the Kremlin to get our party of the ground as no doubt everyone knows the Kremlin is the champion of social democracy.

We got out candidate elected to the office of president so he could show the people exactly how to pillage state resources with Poland’s most corrupt administration in it’s national history.

We provided Poland with a president that didn’t have the courage to stand in front of the graves of patriots with out getting drunk.

While in office we committed treason.

My hats of to the PR/media genius that got this scum elected.

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

You just can;t blame PR scum, jan. Poles want a social democratic, secular party. Problem is - the main social democratic party is full of sleazebags. Consequently we get populist parties taking bits of social justice type politics but adding in weird nationalisms. That's why Poland needs a new centre left wing party.

opamp said...

My hats of to the PR/media genius that got this scum elected.

Which would be the post-Solidarity folks.

Face it. The postcommunists weren't getting elected because of some media manipulation; they were getting elected because post-solidarity politicians were grossly incompetent, and managed to crash the economy. Twice.

The (post-)commies, on the other hand, at least knew how to run this business.

So if you ask me, using their services was not a bad deal after all.

jannowak57 said...

beatroot said: “Poles want a social democratic, secular party”

I agree with this part but that hope was killed when the apparatchiks choose to find a cloak of respectability call social democracy. This cynical move sank any hope of developing a social democratic movement early on.

Until there is a clear break with the old boys of the PRL and the public sees that to be genuine, forget social democracy. The only hope is the appearance of a leader not associated with the past and he or she very publicly cleaned house.

beatroot said: “a new centre left wing party “

It should be sinking in that it’s capitalisms that brought the material improvements and real jobs people have today. If I were a young Pole I would be likely to want capitalism’s advance over any notion of socialism as a matter of self-interest. I believe Poles are more interested in a society that values social justice and less in the labels of socialist or social democrat. Social justice is not the private preserve of the left-wingers, all be it they hold the record for misguided attempts.

Poland needs to concentrate on more GDP per capita than any thing else and that means nurturing the business sector.

jannowak57 said...

opamp said... “post-solidarity politicians were grossly incompetent, and managed to crash the economy”

Yes and no. Yes the post-solidarity politicians had no experience in managing an economy or managerial experience and this caused problems. There was also no textbook on how to take a centrally managed economy and transform it into a market driven one. As a consequence there was great disruption and that was translated into huge unemployment someone would have to take it on the chin politically.

No the (post-)commies didn’t know how to run a business, when it came to the governance of the country their administration was known for doing nothing therefore avoiding blame for anything. They were masters in personal business affairs as they started the process of looting state enterprises prior to 1989 in order to position themselves in the new free enterprise based society.

opamp said... “So if you ask me, using their services was not a bad deal after all”

It wouldn’t have not been a bad idea, had we done just that used their services, but rather we gave them free rein and got a demonstration of how a kleptocracy operates.

The SLD through their actions and with no particular help from the political opposition just committed slow political suicide. The SLD’s existence was of no value to Poland.
One cannot have great expectations of a house constructed with rotten boards just because they received a fresh coat of paint.

opamp said...

There was also no textbook on how to take a centrally managed economy and transform it into a market driven one.

While this can be used to defend the actions of the 1989-1993 cabinets, it does not explain the economic downturn in the 1997-2001 era, when the leading economic guru decided to "cool down" the economy putting thousands of SMEs out of business.

No the (post-)commies didn’t know how to run a business, when it came to the governance of the country their administration was known for doing nothing therefore avoiding blame for anything.

The economy tends to operate better if the government is not meddling with it, so it is not a bad strategy. The fact is that under the postcommunist governments (until Marcinkiewicz/Kaczynski) the economic indicators always looked better then under the Solidarity governments. That means that they were doing a better job. It's really that simple.

They were masters in personal business affairs as they started the process of looting state enterprises prior to 1989

And the looted enterprise would usually remain operational and even - horror! - profitable.

The other option preferred to sell a factory to a German corporation, which would immediately fire everyone, close the shop, raze the facilities, and build a shopping mall (authentic example).

Not to even mention the brilliant idea of NFIs...

jannowak57 said...

Only in Poland’s sad political landscape would one have a debate on the merits of a government of criminals and traitors. Of what possible use is the party / gang that spilt the blood of Poles on behave of a foreign master. Many of those who still find redeeming values in the PZPR and the successor party the SLD represent the mental scares still prevalent in Polish society from the long years of totalitarian darkness.

The simplest peasant in Poland understands that once your dog has turned on you club it to death and move on.