Poland: on the anti-populist opposition, no lessons learned

Elections is Poland are slowly approaching and, again, the national-conservative populists with some social leaning will face the neoliberal opposition (with moderate social-democrats trying to mark their presence too). The previous confrontations were lost by the neoliberals, whose focus on rule of law could not attract hesitant voters. If someone thought that Polish opposition would come up with a new electoral story… they have been wrong. The latest developments have shown that liberal opposition is incapable of any critical thinking. It can only play into Law and Justice’s hands.

We got an insight into the opposition leaders thanks to a longread interview with Bogusław Grabowski. Grabowski, an economist that has been somewhere in the third or even fourth row of the neoliberal elites in 90. and in the first decade of 2000’, spoke to a top neoliberal medium at the beginning of December 2022. I had never heard of him before reading this very, very long interview.

If I am wrong and Mr Grabowski had actually shared his views more frequently, please be easy on me. This kind of articles in Gazeta Wyborcza came in multitudes every month, always with a predictable structure. We read again and again how the Polish economy is right now on the edge of apocalyptic collapse. You know, this guy is THE economist, so, you know, he knows everything well. 

Then we have some sort of narrative about Law and Justice pushing us into ‘the East’. So East is of course bad, East is Russia, oligarchy and so on and so forth. Okay, now the economist is also a geopolitical expert. All of that while the Polish government single-handedly gave half of our army supplies to Ukraine in order to fight Russia, and wages a symbolical battle against Germany for the military hegemony in Central Europe.

When we learn again that Law is Justice is bad and East is bad, we witness the confession of neoliberal faith. Grabowski argues for privatization of everything, every single thing! Military industry, energy industry.. and so on. Next steps? Raising the pension age, like French neoliberals are now trying, and cutting social benefits. Everything in order to save Poland from oligarchy and financial crisis! 

These kinds of interviews come on the surface every couple of weeks. Sometimes a retired general speaks, but usually it is an economist from nowhere, replicating neoliberal dogmas and praising privatization.

Every time the leaders of Civic Platform (PO), Rafał Trzaskowski or Donald Tusk, distance themselves from those interviews. They have enough intuition to guess that a big part of Polish voters, having experienced a partial correction of neoliberalism, will never want to go back to neoliberal realities of PO rule. That is why Tusk sometimes declares that he would not touch pensions, or that PO would even raise the salaries of state sector workers etc.

But then another interview or op-ed comes and, again, Gazeta Wyborcza provides PiS with more arguments why Civic Platform must never come back to power. In other words, another interview reminds the voters that PO politicians have always been paleo-liberal at heart.

And while it is not entirely obvious that Mr Grabowski and his old-fashioned theories = PO, there is no problem with this in the case of Małgorzata Kidawa-Błońska. The former PO presidential candidate declared around the New Year that raising the retirement age was beneficial. It rhymes with Grabowski’s words, isn’t it?

Of course, raising the pension age would be a nightmare for most of the people, and would turn most of the voters into the hands of PiS. People would not rush to save the rule of law, if their health and calm future are on stake.

And if they had any dounts, there comes PO’s MP Izabela Leszczyna, the so-called economy expert, with her latest remarks. She declared that “If the party wins this election, what the entrepreneurs are asking us to do, they will have arranged for sure”.

The party that has served business will serve business. As simple as that!

At the same time the Polish left-wing coalition seems to be uninterested in any politically offensive moves. They just do what they have done before. Some of them visit workers on strike (if anyone is on strike), some go to the media, mainly the liberal media where their ideas are ridiculed or presented as extreme. No fresh blood, no new ideas or proposals of any bold actions outside of parliamentary walls. One can think that this status quo suits them. 

No matter what Tusk might say, Gazeta Wyborcza and neoliberals from PO will make sure the old order will be restored, should their party win. That is why millions of Polish working people will do all they can not to allow the neoliberals to have a new chance. A conservative, slightly social state is, economically, still a better alternative for them – if there are no other options on the horizon.

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