The one and only right

Wieslawa Lewandowska asks Prof. Zdzislaw Krasnodebski whether the dispute about Poland should stop or on the contrary, it should go on.

Wieslawa Lewandowska: – Two big parties are running for presidency in Poland and both eagerly refer to the tradition of ‘Solidarity’, but they differ like fire and water. It is hard to understand.

Prof. Zdzislaw Krasnodebski: – Yes, it is hard to understand since it is a very emotional dispute. To such a large extent that the centre-right and the tradition of ‘Solidarity’ have disappeared somewhere… So it is worth asking what these concepts mean in the programmes of the parties, especially what it means for the party, which regards itself as the only serious political power in Poland. First of all, we must reflect what kind of party is the Citizens’ Platform (PO), the representative of which seems to be, according to public opinion, the main presidential candidate.

– What kind of party is the Citizens’ Platform?

– It is hard to define. It is known that in the European area its main ally is the German Christian Democrats but is the Citizens’ Platform democrat and Christian? Despite the fact that Europe sees it as a middle-of-the-road conservative party, Christian Democrats, its activities in Poland can undermine this picture. Its core programme is rather closer to the German party FDP, i.e. liberal party. But as each party is defined by its voters and interest groups supporting it, one can say slightly provocatively that the Citizens’ Platform is a left-wing party! We can see General Jaruzelski say that he will vote for Bronislaw Komorowski and even the most faithful post-communists leave their candidate for the PO candidate. I would say that it is a party representing almost the whole post-communist establishment and partly the post-solidarity establishment. I think that at one moment the Citizens’ Platform became a guarantee of stability of all that was created within 20 years, including the social-economic system. All former post-communist activists can find themselves perfectly in the Citizens’ Platform and its members, who quarrelled with ‘Gazeta Wyborcza’ once, speak the same today. And they together create ‘the one and only right Poland.’ This Poland aspires to exclusiveness. And this must be a source of conflict. President Kaczynski and his Chancellery were the last fronton, a kind of ‘Reduta Ordona’ of the second Poland, which won in 2005 and which was constantly pushed to the margin with the hope that they would totally disappear.

– And it happened on 10 April 2010 due to some tragic fate….

– It is true. Near Smolensk many important people of this ‘second Poland’ lost their lives but I hope that the second Poland has not died completely…

– You are claiming that the brand of the Polish-Polish conflict is not in Law and Justice Party (PiS)– as many people think – but in the Citizens’ Platform that calls to unity?

– This conflict shows asymmetry, i.e. no criticism of this ‘only right Poland’ is allowed. I am a fervent critic of the rulings of the Citizens’ Platform. I regard them as terrible and bad for Poland but I would never say that the Citizens’ Platform has no right to exist. If Poles vote for Komorowski I will not be astonished and I will not grumble that they have not matured to democracy like the opposition party did once… I would say that they have used their freedom and accept the consequences. Today the influential publicists – Waldemar Kuczynski, Adam Michnik – make direct protests, ‘We do not want the Fourth Republic of Poland!’

– But the threat of the Fourth Republic of Poland is not ‘empty threats’ but it has measurable effects. Why?  

– Because the project of the Fourth Republic, proposed by the government of Jaroslaw Kaczynski, was changed into a horrifying caricature to threaten the naive. And as Adam Michnik reminds us today it is a vision of police state, based on invigilation of citizens and wire-tapping. Adam Michnik does not want such a state and neither do I! But I, like Jaroslaw Kaczynski, do not want many other things about which Michnik does not speak and which are present in contemporary Poland. I do not want a corrupted state, which is a client of powers; I do not want a state with huge social divisions; I do not want a state that loses its identity, falsifies its history, in which the former secret collaborators teach at universities or are judges…I do not want a state where General Kiszczak is a man of honour and Anna Walentynowicz is forgotten. I do not want a state in which some small group decides who is a great writer and who is not; I do not want a state of pseudo-universities, etc. And I do not want a state in which only one group has monopoly to rule and is – as Leopold Tyrmand wrote – bound to be wealthy… This discord constituted the essence of the project of the Fourth Republic in the years 2005-2007, proposed by Law and Justice, the essence of a new different Poland.

– What kind of party is Law and Justice today?

– The critics of Law and Justice, around whom the ‘second, different Poland’ gather, say that it is a left-wing party because one of its mottos is social solidarity, focus on lower strata that lost in the economic transformation of the country and what is most painful to its opponents  – the mutual relationships with trade unions (currently the NSZZ ‘Solidarity’ supports Jaroslaw Kaczynski). Certainly, it is a party that does not represent only the elite…

– ...and it is stressed: PiS is a worse party, not of the intelligentsia, and people are ashamed to admit that they support it, and moreover, PiS is too ‘parochial and non-European’…

– PiS has its elite and growing support in the circles of the Polish intelligentsia, which is testified by numerous support committees in Krakow, Poznan, created by people enjoying great respect in their environments. The programme of PiS will always have elements that were important to the historic politics of President Kaczynski  – reference to national tradition, understanding modernity as a wise connection with tradition, focus on the need of strong state, present in economic structures and completely different than the binding understanding of our international politics. It is a party that speaks boldly about the independent role of the Polish state  – the suspicion of parochialism and non-Europeanness must have come from that  – and referring openly to the national traditions. And Europe does not like these traditions very much.

– Does Europe like all that PO proposes for Poland better?

– PO is a party that raises all kinds of opportunism to a moral and political principle: it follows the main trend and is awarded and praised for that. On the European level it is a party of clients whereas on the national level the principle of its philosophy is the focus on public opinion polls  – which have got out of control a little now  – and first of all, service to various strong and influential groups in our society. For Europe Donald Tusk – let us say it frankly – will never be a politician who would decide about something; he will always be praised and supported to keep this ‘European province’ in peace, especially in crisis when the Greek peripheries are burning, when something is happening in Romania, Ireland, Spain, when the conservatists have seized power in Great Britain, which was not eagerly welcomed in Europe… The difference between Poland and Great Britain is that no external force can influence elections there…

– Whereas the German Charles the Great Award for Prime Minister Tusk, handed him in Aachen, was excellently inscribed into the Polish presidential campaign as an advantage of the PO candidate because Poles feel proud of such a solemn favour of the West.

– This award was given in January when Donald Tusk was a potential presidential candidate. Then I wrote in ‘Rzeczpospolita’ that such awards simply meant interfering into internal affairs of Poles’ choices. By the way, there were statements of the local German politicians who said straightforwardly that ‘we will begin the presidential campaign in Poland from that.’ However, things went slightly differently…

– Poles do not understand the essence of the dispute between PO and PiS. They wonder why the dispute exists. Therefore, Bronislaw Komorowski tries to convinces voters that ideological coherence is necessary and it will be possible only when he becomes president because there will be no more ‘quarrels’…

– Some let their imagination run even farther. Namely, they presume that ‘their Poland’ is the only one possible and if there must be some opposition it should resemble the ‘one and only right’ party or should become its total vassal. It is as if it was before: all power in the hands of the Soviet Union! Then there will be no quarrels because they will succeed and even the public television will be ‘ideologically coherent’. For me it is an authoritarian vision, almost totalitarian. It would be an accumulation of power in one party, a situation that has not existed in Poland before.

– Even when the Prime Minister was Miller and the President was Kwasniewski from the Social Left Alliance and then when all power was in the hands of PiS (President Lech Kaczynski and Prime Ministers Marcinkiewicz and Jaroslaw Kaczyski)?

– They never had full monopoly, full power – ideological and economic. However, the postcommunists did not control all Polish public area. As once a publicist wrote in ‘Gazeta Wyborcza’, ‘in independent Poland postcommunists were allowed to do less.’ And they knew it very well. But during the government of PiS, let us recollect, how strong the opposition was, supported by the powerful private media. It is hard to compare those situations with what is about to happen soon.

– The mourning after the crash at Smolensk, like a silent national uprising, destroyed this vision of one and only right Poland a little …

– It was a disturbance that they decided to order at once. They used the presidential plane crash almost a half an hour afterwards, speaking about its causes, four trials to land, possible influence of the president to land in bad conditions and first of all, announcing a Polish-Russian reconciliation at once.

– The government announced this reconciliation as a big success, almost a benefit of the crash.

– This governmental motto of reconciliation makes me realise only one thing: how cynically and corrupted the environments of the leftist-liberal intelligentsia are. The ideology of these environments was citizens’ society, democracy, freedom and freedom of individuals, etc. It seemed to me that their partner could be only the Russian ‘Memorial’, the Russian opposition… I have always thought that we should talk to Russians, invite them to scientific conferences, organise youth mobility, publish books together, that journalists should conduct debates.

– Build bridges between nations like we did with the Germans?

– Exactly, but we must remember that Germany, reconciling with us in 1989, was a democratic country and moreover, they settled their past somehow… Whereas Russia is an autocratic country governed by a former KGB officer… I am surprised that our advocates of free market and entrepreneurship want to reconcile so quickly and unconditionally with the country that arrested the businessman Chodorkowski, country where the journalist Politkowska was killed, the country that waged a genocidal war with the Tchetchenians? I really wonder that ‘Gazeta Wyborcza’ eagerly supports reconciliation with the regime that does not hesitate to kill… This is an extreme cynicism.

– How do you evaluate ‘Message to the people of Russia’ issued by Jaroslaw Kaczynski?

– Most of all, one must strongly emphasise that it was a message to the Russians, a kind of thanksgiving… and not to Russia, especially to Putin’s Russia. At first, the Polish media asked with reproach, ‘Why did he not say a word about Miedviediev?’… Yes, there were no words about Putin because he did not mean a reconciliation with Putin and Miedviediev, with the Russian state because it is too early… The Russians themselves know well what kind of country Russia is today. I have Russian colleagues. I meet them in Bremen; most of them are critical towards Putin. The message has been received very well by the Russians although it did not include any servile declarations… although it did not stress the need of some immediate Polish-Russian reconciliation. I want to add that although Germany and Russia have good relationships today they have never made any reconciliation rituals. They have rather close collaboration but Germany has never been called to light candles on the Russian graves; on the contrary, just now, on the occasion of the end of the war, a documentary about the rapes of German women by the soldiers of the Red Army was shown. There are no empty gestures here…

– And we emphasise gestures, words too much and for us it is sufficient.  

– Exactly! And nobody asks difficult questions, e.g. what will the Polish-Russian reconciliation mean? Perhaps it will mean that we will accept the Russian energy politics that is disadvantageous for Poland? And what will we do when this Russia, with which we are reconciled, wants to destroy President Saakashvili in Georgia? Will we protest as we did two years ago? We have stopped protesting about Ukraine… Now it is clearly seen to what extent we conduct the politics our Western neighbour assigned to us. It is obvious that Europe’s interest is to draw Russia to itself and Russia wants to get closer to the West… Poland was the problem and therefore, it was necessary to change her international politics radically, to give up the ideas of Giedroyc and the Jagiellonians and follow the main trend, about which our Minister of Foreign Affairs spoke disarmingly sincerely… The Polish foreign politics has not been realised in Warsaw! Now somewhere there, in the Western capitals, plans for Eastern Europe are constructed. And they must find suitable doers of the plans. Twenty years ago Jaruzelski accepted the Polish opposition in the spirit of perestroika and now the Polish government fulfils excellently the expectations of our Western neighbours.

– The chances of Jaroslaw Kaczynski are growing. His political opponents and the media accuse him of a cynical change and use of the mourning for the election campaign. Has Jaroslaw Kaczynski changed?

– Discussing whether Jaroslaw Kaczynski has changed seems to be somewhat scholastic. Why does nobody ask whether Putin has changed, which would be perhaps more important to Poland’s security and would explain all what is happening… Seemingly, some presume that he was so shocked by the Smolensk crash that he must have changed and it is even a kind of dogma. As for Jaroslaw Kaczynski I do hope that he has not changed! I hope he has not changed his beliefs in certain values and principles, which he and his brother wanted to realise, that he has not changed his vision of Poland.

– The election of Jaroslaw Kaczynski would be a big threat for social peace in Poland and Polish interests in Europe – the PO politicians warn people. Will there really be some destabilisation?

– In some sense, it will if of course Jaroslaw Kaczynski did not give up his aims. His election would mean that the dispute about Poland is not finished. But this rather makes me happy and does not worry me. It is actually a very real and unavoidable dispute because as we are more and more convinced two Polands do exist despite the fact that from the liberal-left wing publicists, intellectualists and politicians Poland should be only one, one and only right Poland. After the crash this rejected ‘second Poland’ was mostly touched in its dignity, felt deceived, stabbed… Yes, in Poland we have undoubtedly a real conflict that is increasingly difficult to hide, which requires attention and productive discussion in which both parties are treating each other at last seriously. But one of them is clearly ignored or ridiculed. However, this present asymmetry of dispute points to the fact that potential monopolists of power should make an auto-reflection, which, unfortunately, they have not made yet. They prefer to keep their pose of correctness.

– We are dealing with the same pose of correctness and lack of deeper and independent thoughts in various opinion-making circles and thus in Polish society, too. Are Poles not able to think independently?

– It is a phenomenon connected with the way of our education. Young people do not know Poland’s history and even the educated people are educated badly. After all, in Poland we have not even reformed universities! No quality jump has been made. We have produced hundreds of thousands of pseudo-educated people, who do not have the only skill that university should give – the skill to read texts and to understand them, which could be the basis for criticism. But if Parliament Speaker Komorowski, a presidential candidate, comes to students with a page from ‘Wikipedia’, the symbol of trashy knowledge, and students show their gratitude for his ‘modernity’ confessing that many Master’s theses would not have been written without ‘Wikipedia’, what one can speak about…

"Niedziela" 23/2010

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: