A new culture war opens the electoral campaign in Poland

Monument of the pope John Paul II in Sosnowiec, one of thousands of memorials all over Poland.

If someone looked at the current state of debate in Poland, let’s say, two or three months ago he or she would say that the upcoming elections and electoral campaigns were going to be about the Polish housing market, war in Ukraine and the state of democracy. Even I thought so. Unfortunately for both me and my country, I was too naive and optimistic.

The last month shown that the upcoming months would rather reveal the worst faces of Polish journalists, politicians and even ordinary citizens. The new Polish culture war has begun, let me show you the main fronts of it.

Every Polish political campaign since 2015, or maybe even before, happened in a climate of a culture war. Liberals were always fighting against ‘not-enlightened’ people, peasants and arrogants from little towns who dare to be sceptic about Europe and liberalism, and who just want to suck on the public money, because they are lazy! And not so intelligent to get credit and set up a business, like we liberals do!

From the conservatives side it was a war against the liberals who wanted to destroy Polish sovereignty, invite migrants! Create an LGBT+ friendly state, which would lead to the collapse of the Christian culture and heritage, thus making it a part of the ‘rotten west’, where there are immigrant no-zones, sex is not a taboo, and abortion performed on every woman, maybe even twice a year!

Both of the camps have their media, radio stations, TV channels and newspapers. At the moment, however, the conservative camp or the ruling PiS party holds a certain advantage here, since nearly every local media and the nationwide state TV channel is under their control.

Anno Domini 2023

This years’ war had a particularly tragic beginning, as it was an actual death of a teenage boy which was exploited in the conservative propaganda. Mikołaj Filiks has allegedly committed suicide because journalists from state-owned Radio Szczecin – completely infiltrated by the people loyal to the ruling Law and Justice party – have made it publicly known whose children were victims of a member of local structure of the opposition party Civic Platform, now in jail because of his pedophilic acts. On December 29, 2022, Radio Szczecin and state-owned TVP Info channel “recalled” the story of a Civic Platform activist who harmed children back in 2020. Has was convicted and is serving a long prison sentence. The way in which the information was provided clearly indicated who the pedophile’s victims were, connecting them with a ‘female politician’ from Szczecin. There are only five “known female parliament member” from Szczecin: four MPs and one senator. And only Magdalena Filiks from PO has children at this age.

Therefore, all the country quickly knew that Mikołaj Filiks was suffering from depression. The pedophile approached him and harmed him, exploiting the good relations with the mother of the child. And this fact makes her also a victim. The other child that was molested is her daughter.

All of this was meant to – in a dark and grim way, that could be born only in the heads of really evil people – attack the Civic Platform, the biggest opposition party, under the leadership of Donald Tusk. What’s more the attack was meant to link the perpetrator with the party, and show that the party was silent when it came to pedophiles in their ranks, on the contrary to the pedophilia in the Catholic Church. The conservative media also exploited the fact that both the perpetrator and the mother of the kids support LGBT+ community. The far right has long been equating the LGBT+ community with paedophilia – and this offensive and false stereotype was used again for the sake of cheap political propaganda.

The war on LGBT+ was masked under the vicious attack on Magdalena Filiks and her family. Of course after the suicide of Mikołaj Filiks, the state owned media started to claim that it is the mother and the Platforma Obywatelska’s environment, as well as activists of the LGBT community who are to be blamed. This war is still ongoing and we will see where it leads, apart from tragic human dramas behind it. It is possible that the TVP and her family of Polish state and party-owned media will quickly find another scapegoat, to keep slandeting the LGBT community and the liberal opposition.

Santo Subito!

‘Saint, immediately!’, chanted the crowds of catholics assembled at the Saint Peter’s Square in Vatican on April 8, 2005, during the funeral of John Paul II. At this point no one would say that after 18 years his heritage and actions would divide the Polish society more than anything else. In fact he was the person so fundamental for the post-communist identity of Poles, that it is even hard to compare him to anyone else. Even Lech Walesa is not even close to him.

Of course the central figure of St. John Paul II and his teachings against abortion, contraception of any type, LGBT+ rights and anti-left, not barely anti-communist, approach is vital when it comes to the electorate of the ruling Law and Justice party. However, not only them, but also the Civic Platform leaders (including Donald Tusk) and the leaders of smaller opposition parties often referred to the Polish Pope’s teachings in their speeches.

All of this started to matter after publications of a couple of journalistic reportages stating that Karol Wojtyła – not yet John Paul II – knew about paedophile priests in his diocese and actively defended them, with no regard to their victims. Proofs come from different sources, the victims families, victims, and documents from IPN, Institute of National Memory. Now there is the question if Church documents are going to be open for the journalists. However even pope Francis admitted that this was the only way to deal with pedophilia in these times, diplomatically admitting that the journalist findings were not ungrounded.

PSL, or the peasants’ party, was first to announce that they would defend the ‘good name of Polish Pope’ at any cost. Then came Mateusz Morawiecki and the ruling PiS. With the campaign of short films and speeches, accompanied with tweets, all of the members of the conservative government stood firmly behind the symbol of the man who defeated communism. All of this was easier for conservatives thanks to the fact that it was the liberal media and their entourage who discovered this hidden truth about the Polish pope.

However nowadays the state-owned TVP 1 shows papal homilies at 8 o’clock in the evening. Instead of having a debate on the Church’s past and what is the actual value of John Paul II heritage in different areas, we are supposed to speak for or against the pope. And more than 70 percent of Poles do not want to see him ‘attacked’.

Smoke screen

However, all of this is just a smoke screen. The people are fed up with the inflation, having reached the 18-19% level recently. A lot of voters have enought of political instability and complete lack of the ideas on the side of the opposition, PSL, PO or the New Left coalition. The government rankings are steady, the inflation and prices are, according to the media, mostly so high just because of the war in Ukraine.

The second topic is the housing market and affordable housing, which in reality doesn’t exist. State does not do anything in this matter. There is no development of social and communal housing. The pathologies of free building market, which gained the name of ‘patodeveloperka’ or ‘patodevelopment’, are to be found everywhere. Looking for a flat to rent? You will surely find buildings, in which you can live paying 3-4 thousand euros per meter, in a tiny room, in the conditions worse than in a zoo – according to the urban activists.

All of this infueles the popularity of Konfederacja, a tiny far-right party which in upcoming surveys is on the third position, just after PO. Their leaders, Bosak, Mentzen and Winnicki are trying to smooth their rhetoric by using only laissez-faire slogans and giving up their earlier antisemitic, chauvinist language. Declaring that a completely free market is going to ease the pain of the economic instability and lack of the housing market. So far they are the only political force that is gaining from this culture war that wreaks havoc in the last weeks.

Cover photo: Monument of the pope John Paul II in Sosnowiec, one of thousands of memorials all over Poland.

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