Wysłany: Wto Kwi 27, 2010 10:02 pm Temat postu: Charles Crawford: A Very Polish Conservative. Remember Lech
Charles Crawford served as British ambassador in Warsaw from 2003 to 2007.
A Very Polish Conservative.
Remember Lech Kaczynski
NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE, April 12, 2010 4:00 A.M.
In 2005 I attended a smart Warsaw dinner party not long after the
Kaczynski twins and their Law and Justice party (PiS) had triumphed in
the Polish elections. The assembled Poles, distinguished Warsaw
intellectuals, united in noisy disgust: The Kaczynskis were pathological
extremists, and Poland was hurtling to ruin, even dictatorship.
Attacks on the Kaczynski phenomenon from many Poles (including
Solidarity-era colleagues) spurred many journalists to label them with
one or more of the following adjectives: extreme, nationalist,
homophobic, anti-German, anti-European, ultra-Catholic, xenophobic,
reactionary, divisive, populist, right-wing.
The worst adjective the patronizing Warsaw elite threw at the
Kaczynskis was Polish-specific: They were provincial. Too petty and
pedantic, too truculent and self-righteous, too wrapped up in Poland’s
proud myths, too worried about all those uneducated, primitive Poles out
there. In short, too Polish — but in the wrong way.
I found all this baffling. I had met the Kaczynski family on
numerous occasions. They came across as smart, amusing, private,
determined, and far-sighted Polish patriots.
Conservative? For sure. But not snooty, paternalistic conservatives.
Rather, their conservatism was based on rock-hard core beliefs and
unshakable private integrity. Yet it was not a free-market conservatism:
They liked a strong state, and fretted in almost left-wing ways about the
Polish underclass. They were uneasy with tycoons and capitalists; they
suspected (presciently?) that too much easy money sloshing around
would do more harm than good.
The Kaczynskis’ overriding ambition was for Poland to be strong.
(Since 1795, Poland has been free and independent for only 40 years.)
The Kaczynskis believed that Poland’s bleak modern history had created
One weakness was the dire moral and institutional legacy of
Communism. Poles’ heroic efforts to end Soviet rule had come at a huge
cost. Poles had spied on and betrayed other Poles. Key state institutions
had been penetrated by Moscow.
Above all, the Kaczynskis insisted that key Solidarity leaders,
including Lech Walesa himself, had pulled punches when Communism
ended, allowing Communist villains to sneak away from their crimes only
to return in expensive new suits, whistling nonchalantly as new European
“social democrats.” This argument infuriated former Solidarity
personalities. How dare the Kaczynskis call into question Poland’s (and
Solidarity’s) triumph in ending Communism peacefully. Heresy!
Lech Kaczynski wanted to win the 2005 presidential election
primarily to see his view of this recent history vindicated, though he had
no clear plan for handling it. There was no unconditional throwing open
of Communist-era archives — too many Solidarity people and senior
Catholic Church leaders had to be protected from devastating revelations
of betrayal or private indiscretions. But Kaczynski worked hard to give
proper recognition to the victims of Communism and to many elderly
Polish World War II veterans, whose fight for freedom had been
airbrushed from history by the Communist regime.
Lech Kaczynski was a fastidious constitutionalist. He did not want
Poland slipping back into the ruinous feuding of the 1930s. By 2000, the
dozens of political parties that had contested early post-Communist
elections had been reduced to some ten groupings. However, too many
Polish voters flirted with overtly populist leaders of a “Red-Brown”
inclination. Many were marginalized Poles from families displaced from
Ukraine during World War II, left “rootless” in poor rural areas.
After the Kaczynskis’ PiS party (to their own surprise) became the
largest party in the 2005 parliamentary elections, the twins hit upon a
strategy that scandalized many middle-class Poles: They formed a
coalition government with two populist parties, the Self-Defense and
Polish Families parties.
The ridiculous government wobbled along for a year or so, then
collapsed. In the 2007 elections, the centre-right Citizens Platform party
swept to power. Insisting on “social justice” and strong state support for
the less fortunate, PiS sucked in votes from traditional leftist voters. The
populists and former Communists were crushed.
The result of the Kaczynskis’ machinations has been a spectacular
success. Only four political groupings are now in parliament, and all of
them are committed to modernizing, pro-Western policies. Polish
politics, decision-making, and institutions are notably more stable.
Poland’s current economic success (while Europe as a whole struggles) is
Lech Kaczynski wanted Poland to be strong in Europe. But he also
wanted Western Europe to grasp that while it had prospered after World
War II, Poland had been left at Yalta to rot under Soviet misrule. The
values of “modern Europe” had been formed without Poland’s rightful
participation; Poland was not automatically bound by them.
One classic example: As Warsaw mayor, Lech Kaczynski famously
banned two gay parades. Not because he was against homosexuality
(which was decriminalized in reactionary Catholic Poland four decades
before the liberal United Kingdom got around to doing so). Rather, he
thought that such parades — where gays from Germany and elsewhere in
Europe jeered at his authority — were just unseemly.
Lech Kaczynski accepted Poland’s membership in the European
Union as the best available way to protect Poland from domineering
Germany and assertive Russia. With hundreds of thousands of Poles who
had suffered in German labor camps during World War II still alive, his
rhetorical noises against Germany played well with his core constituency
but did little to make EU processes go smoothly.
He struck defiant postures against Putin’s Russia, but lacked the
diplomatic guile to build international alliances and make much of a
difference. In a grim yet touching twist of fate, the Russian establishment
has responded generously to the fatal crash of the president’s aircraft
while en route to the Katyn massacre commemorations. Andrzej Wajda’s
harrowing film Katyn is being shown on Russia’s main TV channel — a
startling (and good) development by the frosty standards of recent
President Kaczynski made clear that Poland had not thrown off
Communist Moscow to submit to petty-bureaucratic Brussels. Unlike all
other EU leaders, he studied the 270 pages of the Lisbon Treaty with an
expert legal eye. He accepted it only when he won a dramatic German
concession: to extend Poland’s favorable EU voting weight until 2014.
Kaczynski also steered the issue of Poland’s eurozone membership
into the long grass. Given the eurozone’s ongoing internal crises, this
seems to have been another far-sighted move that did Poland no harm.
Lech Kaczynski fought long and hard to make Poland strong again.
In foreign policy especially, he reminds me of Bill Buckley’s famous
ambition for NR: to “stand athwart history, yelling Stop!” His weakness
was turning his fiercely held attitudes into policies.
Yet his unwavering insistence on integrity and constitutionality
made a real difference. I was asked on the BBC and CNN whether Poland
would now slump into political instability, given that so many top
officials died in the plane crash. I replied, “Of course not.”
Poland today is in deep sorrow, yet it is coping firmly and
democratically with this calamity. That is Kaczynski’s towering
achievement, for Poland and for Europe. _________________ Jadwiga Chmielowska Przewodnicz?ca Oddzia?u Katowice i Komitetu Wykonawczego "Solidarnosci Walcz?cej"
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