Friday, November 18, 2005

Is it a bird, is it a plane...?, it’s Andrzej Lepper, Super-capitalist!

Yes, you thought that Lepper, leader of the populist, left wing farmer’s union and lawmaker, was the former communist party political bruiser, the farm owner down on his luck, who came to fame as the organizer of road blocks in rural areas in the fight to defend the Polish farmer from market reforms, Brussels, and towns and cities in general with populations of over six hundred and fifty.

You thought his foreign policy included a sympathetic ear to the trials and tribulations of the Belarus’ president, Alexander Lukashenko.

You thought his economic plan included halting privatization, and the state keeping hold of all major industries.

You thought that Andrzej Lepper was an unreconstructed, Soviet-type socialist with a dollop of nationalism thrown in.

But just as Clarke Kent slipped off his suit and tie in a phone booth to reveal the caped crusader beneath, so Lepper has thrown away the muddy boots and straw in the top pocket, to reveal a tasty pinstripe suit.

Andrzej Lepper has declared himself a capitalist!

“A socialist party has no chance today,” he says, with the dazed look of a Damascus experience still lingering in his eyes. He’s in favor of the privatization of everything but essential industries. He’s a modern guy! Honest!

But what led Lepper to this flash of market orientated inspiration? What took Leper out of the pig shed with shovel and into the office and executive toys?

Naked ambition? Quite probably. He knows that the minority PiS government can’t rule without him and his Samoobrona (Self defense) party. He wants a formal coalition with PiS, and a place in the government.

But he’s not just decided he’s a capitalist. He also says that he is now a ‘social-liberal’.

Oxymoron? Yes, but a typically Polish, political oxymoron. The liberal bit means he ‘believes’ in the market. The social bit means that the state is not going to be cutting social services, welfare, and social spending in general. And the farmers are still going to get price stability and lots of subsidies.

A tactical metamorphoses. But the change is less like a Clarke Kent to a Superman, as a tadpole into a frog.

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