Monday, 15 July 2013

From shouted slogans to practical policies

Remi Adekoya's blog post from last Tuesday about the rise of nationalism in Poland as a response to the economic slowdown offers a sobering reflection to those PO supporters who complacently believe that there's no electoral alternative to the current government.

I can feel a rise in disgruntlement from the nationalist right, and a fainter echo of it from the far left. One way or another, young people are feeling the pinch as employers are slowing down recruitment. Resentment of worsening social and economic conditions leads to extremist politics. However, I feel that other than isolated incidents of politically-incited or racist violence, Poland will not see any Iron Cross, Gold Dawn, National Front or Nationalist Party springing up. The haters are simply too thick to organise and continue to form splinter groups and sub-splinter groups based around some would-be fuhrer or other.

More importantly PiS is far too adept at seeing off competition from its right - look at what happened to LPR, look at the political wilderness that Marek Jurek and Artur Zawisza and other PiS splitters are in.

Similarly, there's no danger from the left. SLD (Stalin-Lenin-Dno) under multiple-turncoat and arch hypocrite Leszek Miller lacks leadership or direction, while Palikot's Movement lacks substance and regular motions. [While he was leader of the opposition, Miller called on Premier Buzek to resign once the latter's popularity ratings fell to 43%. But when he became premier himself, and his own popularity rating fell to a mere 8% popularity, Miller clung on to power and finally had to be tossed aside by President Kwaśniewski. Then Miller, educated at the Moscow University of Marxism-Leninism, left SLD and joined that band of crooks and sexists Samoobrona, only to return to SLD after Samoobrona collapsed.]

So - PO's competition comes from PiS, which has been leading in the polls by 4-6 percentage points for a few months now. But PiS has no one to form a coalition with except PSL, who'll happily jump into bed with anyone if it means clinging on their jobs for their boys.

Stalemate looms on the political scene. A referendum to oust Warsaw's mayor, Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz is a side-show (the real election's in a year's time so why not wait). Next year's local government elections will coincide with the European Parliamentary elections, the latter being a good excuse for a protest vote and to get some weirdos into Brussels/Strasbourg. 2015 will be the big year, with Polish presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled.

In the meanwhile, various grunty noises will be heard from left and right of the ruling coalition. Noises of xenophobia, noises of populism, of  noises of intolerance - ugly noises that have little leverage on the machinery of state.

Slogans calling for Polish media or banks or swimming-pools to be placed into the hands of Poles are as absurd as ones calling for equality of pay and full employment. What legislation - what supporting regulations (all needing to be compliant with EU Directives - unless you wish to withdraw from the EU) has to be in place to make such slogans a reality?

Let's say you are really extremist and wish to bring down the Polish State. With what do you plan to replace it? Locally-convened workers' and peasants' councils? Syndicalist cooperatives? What would you do to those who don't support your unplanned plans? And who'd ensure that in the midst of all this chaos, water-treatment plants continue working, petrol stations remain ready to tank up your car and the cash-machines of the newly-nationalised banks keep divvying up banknotes?

The complexity of the modern nation state is so great that it acts as an effective barrier to lunacy and extremism. Seizure of a properly functioning state by an individual or a gang is extraordinarily difficult. Weak states, however, can be seized and held by those determined to do so - for ideological or venal reasons.

But returning to the Polish State - its dense network of naczelnicy, dyrektorzy, podsekretarze and sekretarze stanu form a buffer preventing political parties' wilder promises from ever becoming a reality. The sad truth is, of course, that they also prevent wise, well-considered policy from ever becoming a reality too.

And here's the real challenge for PO. If Tusk's party is to win an unprecedented third term of office in 2015, it must be forced - by its supporters and by that part of the electorate who considers the alternatives to be unthinkable - to get its act together and to start reforming.

If little progress is seen by 2015, voter apathy might let PiS regain power... Based on past experience, that's not a pleasant prospect, citizens!

Today, Donald Tusk's greatest danger is complacency, and, as I wrote yesterday, there's no good Polish word for 'complacency'. Nor is there one for 'sustainable' (no, it's not zrównoważony), but that's for another post.

Finally, let me direct you to an upbeat piece about the Polish economy from the Financial Times.

This time last year:
Who should pay for railways?
[A good question to pose would-be politicians]

This time three years ago:
Grunwald - the big picture

This time four years ago:
"Take me right back to the track, Jack"

This time six years ago:
The summer sublime


Anonymous said...

I get the impression that Tusk is resented much, much more. Even some members of his own party want to get rid of him.
A lot of Polish people have been living in EU countries for years, and after returning to Poland they know what they do not want to happen to Poland. I am talking about very highly educated people, but now even farmers want to get out.
When I talk to Polish people they resent the way Poland gets treated in the EU, the negative results for Poland and the the lack of democracy.
The bank robbery of Cyprus made it pefectly clear to many Polish people what can happen tot Poland, and them selves. Some Polish people call the EU worse than communism. Again highly educated, and being shot at in the 80ties.

Best regards, Alexander

DC said...

fyi - "Who should pay for railways?" link is missing.

Michael Dembinski said...

@ DC

Thanks - fixed!

Bob Block said...

Michael - very well written and thought through.