Poland 2015: Liberty, Property, Security

15. 3. 2017

Since the collapse of Communism, the above triad serves Polish politicians to construct their political and economic agendas. Regardless of the political option, in the programmes of all Polish parties and the statements and actions of their leaders and rankand- file activists, these values are paramount.

I suspect that it comes primarily from the still unquenchable passion for distancing oneself from the communist period, in which freedom was curtailed to an extent depending on the stage in which the regime found itself in a given time, ownership was qualified with many terms, among which “private” was the most suspicious, and security was not associated with personal safety of an individual, but with domestic and international priorities of the government. In the political dictionary of the past regime, equality was the most important slogan, aimed to legitimize the undemocratic state apparatus. And it is the spuriousness of this slogan, perceived at every turn, which became the nail in the coffin of “actually existing socialism.”Because without equality a system calling itself socialist or communist no longer had any advantages in the eyes of society.

Of course, inequalities from that time seem trifling in comparison to today’s capitalist disparities in income and living standards of the Poles; although it seems that an at least tacit acceptance of their allegedly necessary existence was achieved after 25 years.

The voices of economists such as the late Tadeusz Kowalik, indicating the disastrous consequences of growing inequality for the entire country and making Poland a European leader in this respect, are silenced by politicians of all stripes repeating like a mantra their “freedom- property-security.”

In October 2014, in the name of freedom (the economic freedom of employers, of course) the Polish parliament by an overwhelming majority (380 against, 31 abstentions) rejected an amendment to the Labour Code proposed by the Office of Social Justice and MP Anna Grodzka. The amendment, which was mainly aimed at defending workers against so-called junk contracts (with no job security and social security), discrimination and harassment, was dismissed at the motion of the Law and Justice Party, which is still considered to be “pro-welfare” by a large section of the Polish society.

This is a clear signal from legislators to employees and employers: in Poland we support the model of precarious work (unprotected by the government and deprived of basic privileges for the employees, such as the right to paid vacation, sick leave or retirement benefits). We do this in the name of economic freedom and the belief that the Labour Code (already “liberalized” several times to the detriment of employees) is a relic of the “rightly past regime,”hampering the creativity of Polish business and increasing unemployment.

In the name of “sacred” property rights, downtown Warsaw has been devastated by unregulated restitution for two decades. A gang of sharp players exploiting the lack of any restitution act takes over townhouses, parks and playing fields, liquidates schools—and they do not even do it on behalf of former owners or their heirs, but as “trustees” of pre-war landlords they are allegedly looking for. And then they get millions of dollars from the city budget as compensation for alleged losses, which are for post-war reconstruction and decades-long maintenance of the property…

As for the security of the Poles, it is based on an extremely restrictive criminal law (which can send you to jail for stealing a candy bar or smoking marijuana) and an alliance with the United States, for which there is a cross-party consensus.

Moments before rejecting the draft amendment to the Labour Code, the Polish Parliament rejected the ratification of the Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, and all draft laws on civil unions.

So what inspires enthusiasm in our politicians, if not helping exploited workers and battered women? The answer to this question was visible in their reaction to a fragment from the exposé of Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz, were she directly addressed a soldier sitting in the parliamentary benches: “We have here Colonel Leszek Stepien, a veteran of Afghanistan, who was severely wounded, who paid for the service to his homeland with his own health. Sir, on behalf of all Poles, thank you very much.”

At these words the deputies stood up and for a long time applauded the military man with a leg ripped off by a landmine, but no one asked what he had been doing there in the first place and what “serving his homeland” had consisted of (in Afghanistan it cost the lives of 45 Polish soldiers and 360 were wounded; in Iraq there were 22 killed and 79 wounded).

Because then they might have to ask themselves the question about the human and material costs of the two wars unleashed by the United States, whose devastating effects are still very much evident, and about the political responsibility for taking unconstitutional and illegal actions, such as the invasion on Iraq and maintaining secret CIA prisons in Poland.

But the blind and uncritical co-towing of Polish politicians to the US military doctrine (called the “National Security Strategy”) results in the fact that no one will bear responsibility for the senseless death of dozens of Polish soldiers (not to mention the hundreds of thousands of Afghans and Iraqis).

Polish politics is painfully predictable. It does not matter which party wins next year’s election and what coalition forms the government. The most important policy vectors will remain unchanged—maintaining the shameful anti-abortion law (hypocritically called a “compromise”), the dominant role of the Catholic Church as guaranteed by the concordat, further weakening of the position of employees, lack of adequate laws regulating the plundering restitution or absolute support (calculated both in terms of budgetary resources and the blood of our soldiers) for the international policy of the United States. And all this in the name of “liberty,” “property” and “security.”

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