The “Polish Question” at a crossroads: Part 2


December 9, 2015 – 

By J. Arnoldski for Global Independent Analytics

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Political developments and the rise of “nationalism”

Having established a general picture of the Atlanticist subjugation of Poland, its basic indices, and the nature of the Polish oligarchy as a whole, the details of recent political developments in Poland become can be integrated into a more coherent picture. The most significant of these, of course, include the election of Andrzej Duda as president, the ascent of the Law and Justice (PiS) party to power, the decisive electoral defeat of the post-socialist left represented by the United Left coalition, the apparent resurgence of nationalist movements, and the founding of the new anti-Atlanticist party, Zmiana.

In mainstream Western analytical circles, the recent change in government has been described as a “shift to the right” and has been presented as an “ultranationalist” revanche of anti-EU conservative forces that catapulted Law and Justice into power. Mainstream media in various European countries has whipped up hysterical fear of a new “ultranationalist” government in Poland hell-bent on stalling Poland’s EU integration and reflective of a general growth of “far-right extremism” across Europe.

This perspective is largely an exaggeration and sees a single tree rather than the forest. While it is correct in its placing of Law and Justice to the “right” on the liberal-democratic political spectrum, it fails to recognize that the so-called “soft Euroscepticism” and “conservative values” of Law and Justice not only do not alter its fundamentally Atlanticist nature, but are in fact a ploy in perpetuating the obscuring of Poland’s thoroughly Atlanticist elite. 

Just like Civic Platform, Law and Justice is subordinated to Washington’s hawks and takes no second guesses in supporting anti-Russian policies on the international level and enthusiastically aiding fascist forces in Ukraine. Moreover, Law and Justice’s conservative face, which is usually identified with Catholic fundamentalism and pays lip-service to Polish nationalism, seems to have deceived just as many analysts at it has Polish voters.

In reality, the temporary electoral triumph of Law and Justice is not the transformative force or  dramatic about-face which some analysts have claimed it is. As Boyan Stanislavksi has pointed out, the Polish political arena is arguably even more oligarchical, bleak, ritualistic, and feigned than the American two-party system. Law and Justice is just as fundamentally Atlanticist at its core as the formerly ruling Civic Platform (PO). Anti-Russian warmongering, ultimately suicidal economic and diplomatic moves, and subservient neo-liberal mimicking of Poland’s colonizers can be expected from any PiS government just as predictably as from a PO one.

However, the nuance which manifests itself in this year’s Law and Justice victory is not a “shift to the right,” but rather a quite possibly carefully engineered victory of PiS for the purpose of co-opting and neutralizing a growing “nationalist” movement in Poland which, unlike PiS, can indeed be linked to the growth of “right-wing extremist” elements on the European political scene.

Over the past several years, grassroots nationalist initiatives have gained more momentum than Poland’s semi-colonial regime is comfortable with. An increase in incidents of physical violence against foreigners, homosexuals, and the growing popularity of slogans denouncing “the dictatorship of Brussels,” the “Islamization of Europe,” and calling for a “Poland for Poles,” paired with patriotic clichés, have gradually brought what were formerly marginal anti-EU voices into the political mainstream. However, unlike other right-wing resurgences in Europe which have clearer political programs and even anti-Atlanticist undertones, the new wave of Polish nationalism represents an amorphous mass whose prejudices and contradictions expose the dire political situation of Atlanticist Poland in particular and the confusion of the “Polish question” itself. 

The individuals, groups and their mass followings which can be associated with this movement cannot seem to decide amongst themselves if the problem is the contemporary Evil Empire, the USA, the old “Evil Empire”, Russia and the “lesser dictator” in the form of Brussels, or if Poland’s contemporary system is overall satisfactory with the “problem” being mere “undesirable” groups such as Muslims, Jews, or homosexuals. They demonstrate an uncertainty as to whether or not it is more “Polish” to hate Russia and Ukraine or to support the Ukrainian perpetrators of their own people’s genocide to spite Russia. In the meanwhile, they are content with recycling old clichés which are in fact already monopolized by the ruling regime’s ideology and pay lip service to Catholic fundamentalism as “Polish culture,” a thesis which has historically been propagated by Atlanticism in stressing Poland’s “Western” identity. 

Accordingly, the result has been a “march of patriots” whose directionless marching displays decisively pathological, reactionary, and infantile tendencies. It goes without saying that this movement lacks any genuinely constructive proposals. Nevertheless, by the sheer number of the youthful forces and its accelerating aggressive outbursts (indicative of its own anxiety), this growing movement has proven to be a force worth reckoning with. Moreover, this is one force that if not co-opted by the regime, can be co-opted by anti-Atlanticist forces or spiral into chaos and ultimately produce some form of lumpen, vulgar fascism instead.

The co-option of this movement was precisely the task of PiS. Relying on its “conservative” image and banal anti-EU sentiments while employing a “strategy of silence” by avoiding to touch on the sharp issues, such as Ukraine, which the nationalist mobs themselves are incapable of resolving, PiS won the vote of the average Polish nationalist whose allegiance proved to be the minuscule percentage advantage over PO. 

The remnants of the Polish Left, conglomerated within the United Left alliance, and the new party Razem (Together), failed to address this trend at all. The pitiful condition of the Polish labor movement and the Left’s failure to address the fundamental problems of Polish Atlanticism caused their copy-and-paste social-democratic pleas  to fall on deaf ears for the last time.

The move to neutralize expanding nationalist initiatives with the victory of PiS appears to have been a calculated plan of the Polish oligarchy. With PiS in power, the masses of “nationalists” at the annual independence day march in Warsaw on November 11 – despite managing to draw a significantly larger number of participants than in earlier years – found themselves disoriented and engaged in mere ritual. How could the march chant denunciations of a PO government when such a government no longer existed? How could participants demand the liquidation of the remainder of leftist forces when the left had been decisively defeated? 

Moreover, the mild Kulturkampf of PiS on social issues such as homosexual marriage and abortion as well as its opposition by inertia to accepting immigration quotas for Poland has seemingly satisfied what would otherwise be radical oppositional demands by the stirring nationalist pool.

What has emerged is somewhat of a paradox resultant of the dialectics of the situation. While PiS has appeared to coax the burgeoning “patriotic” wave, new actors on the Polish political scene have seized the initiative to utilize this misdirected patriotic sentiment, as well as the crisis of the left, to call the very Atlanticist paradigm in Poland into question. 

The most important of these is Zmiana (Change), a new political party that has been slandered by Poland’s oligarchical and Western-owned media as a “Russian Fifth Column” on account of the genuine threat which it poses in exposing and constructively opposing the Atlanticist ideological, political, and economic paradigm in Poland. Zmiana is a distinctly syncretic force which strives to overcome the traditional left-right dichotomy and has the potential to unify the best elements of the anti-Atlanticist left and right in a front for social justice, national liberation, and a multi-polar world. Zmiana is perhaps the most promising new initiative which has sought to expose and confront the current paradigm for the masses of Poles who lack a representative oppositional force in the political arena and are in danger of being co-opted in the wake of false “patriotic” forces or rendered irrelevant in the context of a collapsed left.  Zmiana is not just another populist party. Its political program draws from a rich history of political syncretism in Poland and it seeks to put the question of Poland’s geopolitical identity and its role in the world back on the table using the critical perspectives of both left and right. Zmiana, moreover, is backed up and reciprocally reinforced by a growing number of independent news services that threaten to undermine the Polish oligarchy’s tight grip on information monopoly.

The Polish question once again

In aiming to better orientate the knee-jerk, reactionary forces seen in nationalist crowds or the recycling of old slogans from the Polish People’s Republic and social-democratic banalities on the left, new initiatives and groups such as Zmiana are acting as catalysts in transforming political discourse in Poland. Their efforts are not only part of a global syncretic ideological project, but are crucial in challenging the foundations of the Atlanticism in Poland in the midst of ongoing political transpirations. PiS forms the perfect target since its pseudo-nationalist pretensions can be exposed and thereby reveal the fundamentally Atlanticist nature of the Polish oligarchy obscured by the liberal-democratic myth of “competing parties” and “left vs. right.”

Polish geopolitics is in crisis. The Atlanticist paradigm has reduced Poland to an object of geopolitics instead of being a subject. And this subjugation of Poland has had negative consequences for the Polish people and has turned a supposedly finally independent Poland into an attack dog in the name of anti-Polish interests. But what are “Polish interests?”

Decades of Atlanticist rule have smothered the potential to re-investigate, clarify, and discover the Polish raison d’etat and Poland’s historical geopolitical role and identity in an emerging multi-polar world. The Atlanticist paradigm is a spit in the face of the reality that Polish statehood and the historical path of the Polish identity are vastly more complex than constantly presented. While one can easily accept the reality that Poland now stands, or alternately is held, within the camp of the Atlanticists, one could argue that this outcome is the temporary result of a rich, turbulent, violent, and undetermined history of a people who only emerged in the nation-state form in 1945. Poland’s identity, like other nation-state products of WWII-era agreements and the subsequently established order, is still in flux and open to question.

Poland’s unique geopolitical condition and its rich historical dilemma on its identity between East and West, offer the potential to position Poland as a bridge between the heart of the Eurasian project and Europe. In a multi-polar world, Poland has the potential to play a role bridging European and Eurasian integration and realizing its controversial yet undeniable identity in a constructive way. Moreover, the liberation of Poland from the confines of Atlanticist hegemony would simultaneously threaten the Atlanticist rule in the Baltic countries and send shockwaves through its Western neighbor, reinvigorating a European continental project and undermining Atlanticism’s beachhead in Central and Eastern Europe. In doing so, Poland could also pull in its wake the Visegrad group of the Central European states into an integration project based on common values, shared history, and economic ties. 

If Poland fails to re-address its situation and the Atlanticist elite continues to drive Poland into a suicidal crusade against Russia and its neighbors, yet another partition of Polish lands in one form or another could once again prove to be the “solution” to European and Eurasian political tensions which, as history shows, would only create further issues. No hotheaded nationalist movement would be able to stop or respond to such a debacle.

The battle against the falsification and distortion of Polish history in the service of the “road to Europe” paradigm is becoming increasingly relevant. The recent electoral sweep of PiS, the emerging “nationalist” factor influencing and demanding responses from the Polish oligarchy, the defeat of traditional left and right parties, the increasingly harmful effects of Atlanticist policies, the emergence of new anti-Atlanticist projects taking a stand for the “Polish idea” on the basis of a syncretic ideology, and the heightened confrontation between the Eurasian and Atlanticist projects in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, provide a fertile context for a new political discourse in Poland and the “Polish question.” 

Analysts ought to realize the re-emergence of the “Polish question” in the sphere of geopolitics and integrate it into a larger understanding of the crisis of the European Union, Atlanticist hegemony in Europe, and the contours of a multi-polar world that are increasingly drawing themselves out and putting a state such as Poland at the center of a number of geopolitical intersections. The cordon sanitaire is showing signs of a worsening sickness whose cure is once again up to debate. “Curing” Poland is urgently becoming one of the cornerstones to transforming Europe and forging a multi-polar world.

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