Wiesława Lewandowska talks with a sociologist and social philosopher prof. Zdzisław Krasnodębski about the presence which goes beyond history, the meaning of the term ‘a Smoleńsk people’ and projects for Poland.

WIESŁAWA LEWANDOWSKA: - You arrived especially to Poland on the second anniversary of the Smoleńsk catastrophe. Do you think you belong to ‘the Smoleńsk people’?

PROF. ZDZISŁAW KRASNODĘBSKI: - Like everybody gathering in Krakowskie Przedmieście for two years in order to commemorate the memory of the President Lech Kaczyński and other victims of the Smoleńsk catastrophe, I was included in ‘the Smolensk people’ and I do not deny it, although, as it was known, this term is pejorative.

- Mass media emphasize that on 10th of every month people who have been coming to Krakowskie Przedmieście for at least a few months have been manipulated by the Law and Justice for political purposes but not to commemorate the victims of the catastrophe. Are these more and more massive demonstrations a result of a political pressure?

- It is rather a consequence of civic decency. This mocked ‘Smoleńsk people’ are citizens who gather in front of the Presidential Palace because they think that explaining the causes of the catastrophe is an important matter for the country and not everything have been explained so far, because the investigations is being badly carried out. These people criticise official media for the de-informative campaign and, as a consequence, they are censured for it and often derided.

- They are presented as a crowd of political wranglers...What are these people like?

- Certainly they are not political wranglers. During that day people from whole Poland were going through Krakowskie Przedmieście with banners and slogans. Sociologically speaking, during an evening meeting attended by many people, it was striking that this crowd was various, socially mixed – one could notice the presence of all social groups, with the noticeable participation of the youth. Since the time of mourning I have not seen such a big crowd of people! Standing in this crowd, at a moment I heard someone saying to somebody: - It is not an ordinary crowd, it has already become a social movement and it is impossible to neglect it....

- Was it really a different ‘Smoleńsk crowd’ than previously?

- Yes. The atmosphere was different. The crowd from last year was quite resolute but one could feel defensive... quite earlier, in the first months after the catastrophe was a crowd plunged in distress, lost and helpless. In fact, this time, even the word ‘crowd’ is not suitable here. It was a big group of calm and confident people, even cheerful in some sense, despite of the sad circumstance.

- And wasn’t it simply a ‘political gathering’ during which there was not spontaneity and ‘magic atmosphere of mourning national unity from two years ago’?

- It was judged so by Robert Mazurek in ‘Rzeczpospolita’. I completely do not share his opinion. I think that it was a gathering which gave its participants hope and strength. Young people with patriotic slogans and it was white-red everywhere due to the national flags...A thought was obvious that these are worthy citizens who raise themselves from humiliation and they rescue this dignity taken away from them. They came to show: you will not fight us, we are getting stronger and stronger! We are fighting for freedom and diversity, this freedom about which ‘you’ only say, while fighting against it in fact! Yes, there is freedom on this ‘Smolensk’ side. These, not other people, are demanding autonomy and subjectivity of Poland in the foreign policy today.

- So, do we deal with not a mourning crowd any more but with and social movement organizing itself?

- Yes. Certainly. Similar groups take place in many other cities. And various ‘post-Smoleńsk’ meetings are constantly taking place: for example, the April congress of the movement of Lech Kaczyński in Cracow, a conference within the congress, Poland – A big project’ and many other valuable local initiatives undertaken in order to commemorate the victims of the Smoleńsk tragedy, and especially President Lech Kaczyński – and what is very important – in order think over a possibility of realizing its vision of Poland. We deal here with a completely different reality than the one presented in media in which this ‘Smolensk people’ is a synonym of hatred, blindness and blackness. This media reality reminds of past times more and more, when, for example, Fr. Jerzy Popiełuszko, who allegedly was engaged in ‘the séances of hatred’...

- Repetition of history?

- Yes, at least as for as methods of propaganda are concerned. Journalists of main media create an association of mutual adorations and support one another in politically correct beliefs. One can even say that the presence goes beyond history. For example, I was amused when the Prime Minister Donald Tusk was honoured by journalists with a Viktor prize and his opponents were: President Komorowski, Janusz Palikot and Ryszard Kalisz! It is simply ridiculous but what is really serious and dangerous is the fact that today Poland is governed unscrupulously by a powerful media-political-business complex. We can only hope that one day we will receive a bill for harmful actions.

- Whereas we have two Polish countries, one of which has been pushed into a ‘hostile’ underground...The prime minister even says about a cold domestic war. Has this division of Poland deepened finally, Professor?

- Certainly the situation is till polarizing. On the one hand we have a shoddily sweetened world of celebrities, actors, journalists, some scientists and priests who support the present authority, and on the other hand...

- ...only excommunicated ‘people of Smoleńsk’?

- Yes, but not so excommunicated or disappearing at all. It is still increasing group of people who are politically aware and ready act and coming out from a shadow. However, because the authority of the present establishment is based on a promise of modernisation and success, the society is still in a kind of suspension, in a thoughtless acceptation of these unrealised promises. One can only see that stadiums appear, although unsuccessful or some highways are being built...

- So we still have – not mentioning the ‘Smoleńsk people’ – a society in lethargy, which is hypnotized by media and ‘media’ politicians...

- It has looked so during the last 4-5 years. Now – what is seen in surveys – there is a slow change, there is a kind of awakening, probably under the influence of the Smoleńsk matter. Citizens who has always accepted this authority, also started to notice faults and a scandalous way of conducting the investigations and humiliating Poland by Russia, literally at every time. I think that the so-called ordinary citizens were simply trying to reject all these unpleasant circumstances and events...

- It was even said that they are tired of ‘Smoleńsk’ and they do not want to know the truth at all.

- However it turns out that there are more and more of those who do not want to forget and set requirements. A group of critics of the proceeding by the government in this issue is increasing. In addition, there are many faults of the government in many other areas. It is more noticeable that this government in the electoral campaign has cheated Poles by committing the electoral lie.

- Does it look as if the voters of the Civic Platform started verifying their political attitudes?

- It seems to me that the uncritical infatuation by the Platform stopped working because the arrogance of its authority is seen more clearly. When the ‘Solidarity’ demanded to subordinate a new pension project to the social consultation, it received a brutally negative answer. I think that the majority of the society is perfectly identifying this arrogance now, but there is still a question whether it has still strength to oppose...

- Or maybe whether it will rather want to think about its really important matters...

- That’s true. The Polish society is quite passive and not so effective in submitting its requirements. At this time, when a protest against pensions took place in Poland, in Germany labour unions of the publish sphere won 6 percents of pay rise. All over the world employees can defend their rights, whereas the Polish society has simply got divided in many areas! Young people do not think about the future but they accept rubbish contracts and scandalously bad treating by their employers. I do not know any other country where citizens are treated in this way.

- In Poland those who do not allow other people to treat them in this way are still called old-fashioned fools!

- Unfortunately, it is so but basing on the example of the Smoleńsk movement it is clearly seen that we must and are allowed to defend ourselves and that in every matter we must organize ourselves, protest and collect signatures. In Poland we see the beginnings of this social activity now; demonstrations in various matters are organised, even finished successfully, like in the case of the opposition to ACTA. Let’s hope that this kind of social activity will develop in Poland, despite of being derided by media.

- Can we say that thanks to the Smoleńsk catastrophe the awakening appears – first, although for a short time, the awakening of the nation and now the society and citizens?

- Undoubtedly, this process is slowly taking place. Therefore, there were such strong attempts to convince us that Poles are not interested in the truth about the catastrophe at all and they are tired with it; whereas it is Krakowskie Przedmieście where the civic society is being born today. In the speech of the chairman Jarosław Kaczyński dramatic words were said that some good derives from that evil... In the mouth of somebody who lost his brother, it is a very thrilling confession...

- Jarosław Kaczyński was saying about the appearing of the new IV Polish Republic. How to understand it?

- There is just a movement of self-organisation in order to repair a badly functioning country. Unfortunately, it was just the Smolensk catastrophe which proved to reasonable people how poor is the state of our country. I do not think that anyone reasonable could say honestly that this tragically finished visit of the President of the Polish Republic in Katyń was prepared well by the Polish country and that the causes of the catastrophe have already been explained and that the investigation is being carried out well if even the representatives of the governmental commission admitted that they had not investigated anything exactly... We cannot have illusions that the present Polish government cares about the explanation of the causes for the catastrophe, instead – as it seems – it cares about blurring remembrance.

- Why is the Smoleńsk matter pushed away into the non-existence and non-remembrance?

- Maybe because it is connected so much with the deepest Polish identity. Theoretically, there are no reasons; it seems that after this catastrophe both the Polish and the Russian government should do everything to make this matter clear. It happened the other way round. Why? Today every honest and reasonable man must think over it.

- Were you surprised by a nervous, even hysterical reaction of the prime minister towards the project of the Seym Act by the Law and Justice in the matter of bringing the wreckage of the aeroplane to Poland?

- Not really. This nervousness probably resulted from the surprise by the dimension of the celebrations connected with the second anniversary of the catastrophe. There were hopes of the government – and fears of the Law and Justice – that people might not come to the Presidential Palace because the date was just after the Easter holidays. However, it turned out that they arrived! In order to commemorate the remembrance of the victims and to meet Jarosław Kaczyński. Official governmental celebrations were limited to a nearly noticeable minimum. It is hard not to notice that the camp of the authority is becoming more and more alienated but also frightened by the situation. Hence this aggression towards opponents which will still be growing. It must have been a big surprise for the Prime Minister Tusk that this year a few dozens thousands people arrived at Krakowskie Przedmieście; and that it became clear on what side are: fervour, emotions and truth...

- And that it was a political demonstration against the government...

- These people arrived first of all from the sense of decency, in order to pay tribute the victims, but also certainly to demonstrate a disagreement to the falsehood in politics. Hence, there is this kind of panicky scare which revealed itself with verbal aggression of the prime minister a few days later.

- There is an accusation about making the catastrophe political...

- Yes, it repeats like a chorus, like a mantra, an accusation about giving political character to the Smolensk catastrophe by the Law and Justice. it is an absurd accusation because it is obvious that this kind of tragic events always have a political sense. They prove about the country and they force everybody to draw political conclusions concerning the life of the nation and functioning of the country. It is hard to separate this event from politics, similarly as many other events of the history of Poland. Repeating of this accusation is completely thoughtless.

- And this term ‘the Smolensk people’, which was to offend, becomes a positive symbol!

- Because it turns out that it is not a small group of fervent political activists but a vast group of free people who cannot be neglected or discredited and who are becoming a real threat for establishment.

- Is an alternative country being born at the Presidential Palace?

- This obvious term is slightly exaggerated. The term of an alternative country is necessary only in this sense in order to define our specialist, political and social preparation for the change of the authority. It is known that in order to change anything in Poland, first of all, one must take over this existing country, authority and responsibility for it. I remember the speech of Lech Kaczyński on the 70th anniversary of the beginning of the Polish underground country, in which he expressed his hope that the underground country will never be needed to Poland.

- And isn’t it?

- For now we have a real alternative civic society, his some institutions are even created. Luckily, there is no need to get down to the underground because the rules of formal democracy are still binding. So, any actions of ‘the Smoleńsk people’, even these unfriendly towards the government, are legal. There are legal meetings and works over alternative solutions and projects.

- However, mostly in a kind of conspiracy. Co-operators of the team of Antoni Macierewicz preferred to remain hidden not long time ago. And in the broadest opposition facilities, a kind of fear, like against destroying the career or against sociable ostracism...

- However, it seems that this fear is decreasing and soon conspiracy of any kind will stop being needed.

- Are hopes of the Law and Justice to take over the authority rising?

- Definitely yes. But we must remember that now the rebuilding and repairing the country will be much more difficult than in the years 2005-2007...Not earlier than after taking over the authority we will be able to get to know what the state of the country really is and the matter of Smoleńsk will be possible to explain. What appeared again as a slogan of IV Polish Republic points out to the fact that certain matters have not been settled and the program of IV Polish Republic is probably more urgent than ever...

- And we can expect to be frightened by lustration again...

- It has been a long time, lustration is now completely hindered but disputes about the future have not finished. However, I do not think that it would become a central matter of this new IV Polish Republic. After all, what was used to frighten was a caricature of an idea of IV Polish Republic, which was to cause its self-destruction. It is known that it was not about prosecuting citizens as it was presented at that time...

- Are we going to have earlier elections?

- I suppose that this government will not survive four years. The situation in Poland is very dynamic. In the Civic Platform frustration is growing towards demagogic and populist reigns of Donald Tusk who has never distinguished by ability in real action.

- And in the Law and Justice?

- Law and Justice as a real opposition must get prepared for governing at any time. It must present a clear alternative program so that people would know what it intends to do. Short and clear messages addressed to the society are needed. I think that this program is already being outlined. It is also important that if the change of the authority is to come, the society is much more aware of its rights now and certain political mechanisms, for example manipulation by media. One of the positive features of this post-Smoleńsk crisis is the fact that we already know who is who.

- And can we say - although it sounds quite horrible – that this new IV Polish Republic is to be derived from the source of the Smoleńsk catastrophe?

- It is good when a great good results from a vast evil. And I have an impression that it is so in this case. As long as Poles were not prepared for the change of the authority in 2005 either psychologically or essentially, now they are toughened by Smoleńsk.


"Niedziela" 20/2012

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
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