Saturday, October 07, 2006

Warsaw takes to the streets

We had the ‘blue’ march, the ‘white and rose’ march; we had the governing party hold a rally; we had crusty anarchists with pet mongrels (Photo taken from Dutch journalist Marloes de Koning’s blog).

Three main demonstrations today – by opposition Civic Platform (blue march), minority coalition partner League of Polish Families (white and rose march) and the Law and Justice rally outside the Palace of Culture, gathered over 20,000 people.

But playing a supporting role in this sudden carnival of democracy were numerous other little demos: the Young Socialists (who probably hold their AGM in a small wardrobe) gathered at 12.30 p.m. in Plac Bankowy; half an hour before, a handful of ‘anti-globalists’ (remember them? Anarchist types with dogs on the end of bits of string) were outside the Presidential Palace, demanding the end of…globalization, I suppose; down the road there was something about EU integration going on; and at the same time, back up in Plac Bankowy (where the Young Socialists were filling up a couple of tables in KFC) something called the Labour, Health and Ecology Party held a mass meeting, in a telephone booth.

There is some dispute – as usual – about numbers. Euronews says:

More than 15,000 supporters of Civic Platform, the biggest opposition party, are calling for the government to dissolve parliament and call a fresh general election.

Reuters in Warsaw:

"We are here to say loud what Poland feels ... We are here to say ‘enough’," Donald Tusk, the leader of the Civic Platform, told a crowd of more than 11,000 people.

Media reports say that the ruling Law and Justice picked up around 8,000 and League of Polish Families managed just 2,000.

I was at all three demos and I would say that Civic Platform’s gig was about 30 percent bigger than Law and Justice. And I have seen League of Polish Families on many marches and this was easily their best showing yet. Maybe more than 2,000, That means, with opinion polls showing their support down to well under 5 percent, they must have got their entire electorate out on Saturday. Quite a feat of organization!

Before the demonstrations the media was full of’ ‘there will be violence on the streets’ apocalyptic rubbish. Lots of people on the streets means bad news for many, in a country where demonstrations could end, in the bad old days, with someone getting killed.

Come the day, however, there was little trouble – just a few eggs thrown at the Young Socialists (maybe by Old Socialists).

All in all, a better day for Polish democracy than we have seen in the Polish parliament for the last 12 months.


Anonymous said...

The Polish word - which the English speaking world would do well to borrow - is not "anti globalist" but "alterglobalista." You have accepted the terms in which the "debate" (there is none really: alterglobalists are merely "people with dogs on strings") is framed by the mass media - the same mass media which wastes tons of paper on futile slagging matches between PO and PiS (Poland) or Democrat and Republican (USA) or between Conservative and "New" Labour (UK)...

It is not starry-eyed optimism to recognise that "alterglobalists" are not opposed to globalisation as such (to paraphrase Kurt Vonnegut: you might aw well be against glaciers) but rather the forms which it tends to take.

As a matter of simple journalistic scepticism, you should always beware of accepting the terminology (and accompanying stereotypes) of those who have a clear interest in smearing the opposition. You don't call the Democrats in the US the "party of Osama Bin Laden" because that would be to accept the wacko fringe of Republican Party politicians; why, then, should you do the equivalent on the European scene?

beatroot said...

I agree with you that I was being more facetious than journalistic, but that’s what this blog is about, really.

But I will answer you seriously.

I say ‘anti-globalists, remember them’ as back in the days following Seattle anti-global was everywhere. I remember watching a few infantile thugs smash up a Macdonald’s in Oxford Street once and asking some of the protesters what they were ‘against’. Everyone said something different. One person started going on about ‘animal rights’.

These days anti-globalist demos are just a few crusties. They are certainly not significant in Polish politics (though Andrzej Lepper is anti-globalist).

If anti-globalists are anti-capitalist then why don’t they call themselves that? And if they are anti-capitalist then how do they propose to get rid of it? And what comes after – socialism? If so why don't they call themselves socialist, set up a political party with clear aims and objectives and engage in Politics.

They don’t because they are part of the post-political world….

Anonymous said...

Fair enough, but the labels are usually attached not by the labelled/libled but by outside commentators. Few of those labelled "anti-globalist" are actually against "globalisation" - it was a lefty, not a right winger who said "workers of the world unite" - so "alterglobalist" is simply a more accurate description, allowing for the differences among a large group of people.

Some of whom, indeed, have dogs on a strings.

beatroot said...

Is there an alter-globalisation 'dogs on string' faction then?

But I think you identified one of its weakenesses when you say: "alterglobalist" is simply a more accurate description, allowing for the differences among a large group of people.

It just wasn't focused on anything in particular...

Anonymous said...

Who is so focused on *one thing* so as not to take on many issues simultaneously?

Perhaps some Roman Catholics are focused on the Eucharist. But the trick there is to avoid the *Seven* deadly sins. Sheez, even Buddhists have the Noble *Eightfold* Path.

By the way, what does that chicken scratch on the placards in the photo symbolize?

beatroot said...

If tyou take on issues such as animal rights and building a damn in China - or not- then you had better explain what these issues have in common.

The chicken scratch' the symbol of Civic Platform and it relates a map of Poland, with a smile!

Anonymous said...

"Globalisation" in general is about as useful a word as "populist." Means everything and nothing.

Frank Partisan said...

When rightists demonstrate, they always have focused demonstrations. If they are against abortion, or for keeping religion in schools, you know atleast.

beatroot said...

"Globalisation" in general is about as useful a word as "populist." Means everything and nothing.

That is completly right and they are both in my list of words I loath. I also don't like 'Squat' for some reason.

Yeah, you are right, Ren. I once watched an anti-abortion march here, maybe 100,000.... No left or liberal party could get that many people out on the streets in Poland.

Anonymous said...

The chicken scratch' the symbol of Civic Platform and it relates a map of Poland, with a smile!

>>> And I thought it was a pizza man without the baker's hat!

Anonymous said...

Why demonstrate since Civic Platform hasn’t told us what their plan is? At this point the message is “we’re not like them” hardly worth an election. What’s the vision, what’s the plan, is there something else other than getting into power.

Its no wonder Polish voters don’t have any faith in these politicians!

If Tusk was a real leader with a vision and program, he wouldn’t be sitting around looking at winning an election with a minority as his best election result and finding a pack of fringe zone freaks to hold up his government…for a price.

At the moment all we can look forward to with a Civic Platform is a less crude performance and some smiles from Brussels. Big deal!

Mr. Tusk has failed to articulate, that he can modernize and administer a growing economy in a fashion that doesn’t ignore social justice. As wildwest capitalism isn’t going to fly here. So far if he’s tried, not enough people seem to believe him.

And this issue of Catholic values and Polish nationalism, any half competent politician can pull the rug out from under the ducks easily as they don’t own the concept. Most people don’t want to see extreme positions on this anyway.

Going to a lot effort to replace one dim light bulb with another makes no sense.

michael farris said...

Was that an earthquake? hell freezing over? I actually completely agree with jannovak .... I'm scared.

beatroot said...

But the thing on Saturday was EVERYONE was demonstrating. I even saw a man demonstrating ON HIS OWN! A one man protest. I think he was the Individualists Party. The Hermit’s Alliance? Its only member.

So people are trying to deal with this situation. And that’s good. Just saying that Civic Platform have no vision (I think it’s the ‘don’t do anything and let them make all the mistakes’ tactic – very popular all over the world, these days) is easy. Harder is to come up with ways ahead.