BY EFFIE DEANS
There is almost no political correctness in Poland. Few statues were vandalised by Black Lives Matter activists in Warsaw, because there are very few black people living there. A few hundred thousand people from neighbouring countries like Ukraine live in Poland, but the largest ethnic/racial minority originally from Vietnam is less than twelve thousand. If you wander around Warsaw, you will find a uniformity that is quite striking in comparison to any Western European city.
Poland is a country that ceased to exist from 1795 to 1918 when it was split between Prussia, Russia and Austria. Attempts were made to eradicate Polish. Poland also ceased to exist when it was partitioned between the Soviet Union and Germany in 1939. The territory Poland lost in 1939 it never regained. It is now part of Lithuania, Belarus and Ukraine. In return Poland was given territory from Eastern Germany and Poland’s border and people therefore moved westwards to the River Oder.
The price Poland paid for the second world war was the second highest in Europe in percentage terms. Poland lost 17% of its population. It lost approximately six million citizens in the Second World War about half of whom were Jewish. Only the Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic lost more with 25%. Poland was also only nominally independent until 1989 when it was finally able to throw off Soviet occupation.
It is necessary to understand this context in order to understand Polish politics. Poland recently re-elected Andrzej Duda as its president. It was a closely fought election between Centrists and Conservatives. Left wing parties have only small levels of support in Poland because Poles can remember living with socialism. Only those who have never lived in a socialist state choose to support left wing parties.
Duda’s Conservative Law and Justice Party [Prawo i Sprawiedliwość] which also forms the Government in Poland is routinely criticised by the BBC and other forms of Western Media. It is described as Right-Wing Populist and sometimes even as Far Right.
I have always struggled with the word “populist”. It is used as an insult, but the Oxford English Dictionary defines it in this context as “intended to appeal to or represent the interests of ordinary people”.
Perhaps this is the clue to why the BBC and others use it as an insult. Populist parties do not appeal to elites, they try to do what ordinary voters actually want. This is another way of saying they are properly democratic rather than following the elitist rules that modify democracy in places like Britain.
The main objections to the Conservative Government in Poland are that it is:
2. Anti-Gay and transphobic
3. Hostile to immigration
Law and Justice is indeed Eurosceptic but rather less so than Britain. While it is against European federalism it is not proposing that Poland leaves the EU. This is not least because Poland is a net beneficiary of EU money. There is no prospect of Poland leaving the EU in the near future.
It is not illegal to be Gay or Trans in Poland. Poland’s laws regarding Gay and Trans people are similar to Britain’s laws in the 1980s and 1990s. Poland is not a theocracy, but its politics is influenced by the fact that most Poles are Catholics and still go to Church. They believe and follow the Church’s teaching on homosexuality and the Biblical teaching that a person’s gender is determined by God. They go along with the Church in believing that marriage is a sacrament and that it can only take place between a man and a woman. All of this was totally mainstream in the West until thirty years ago.
Poland does not allow Gay and Trans lifestyles to be promoted to children, but this is no different from when I was a child. Schools in the 1970s and 1980s in Britain taught no more than human reproductive biology. Many British people would prefer this to five-year olds being taught that there are one hundred and more genders and being given details about Gay sexual practices.
Poland allows immigration from within the EU just like any other EU country and does not discriminate on any grounds. A French Transsexual black Muslim can emigrate to Poland as freely as anyone else. Poland like every other nation state requires visas for people from outside to the EU to live and work in Poland. The same rules with regard to asylum seekers apply in Poland as in every other European country.
Poland has refused to accept quotas of migrants that the German Government unilaterally chose to allow into Germany. This may make the Polish Government unpopular in Germany and the EU, but it makes it popular in Poland. It was precisely to avoid being told what to do by Germany that Poland fought a war in 1939.
There is almost zero racism in Poland and almost zero-anti-Semitism. There is far less of these things than in Western Europe. The reason for this is that there is no one to be racist about and no one to be anti-Semitic about. Poles are far less hostile to Israel than the Left in Britain. There is no need to investigate Law and Justice for anti-Semitism as the Labour Party in Britain was investigated.
Poland is one of the greatest victims of anti-Semitism in history. More Polish citizens died because of German anti-Semitism than any other country.
The reason that Polish Conservatives are sometimes described as anti-Semitic is because of property.
Because of Poland’s border changes due to World War II, many Poles are descended from people who owned property in present day Lithuania, Belarus and Ukraine. So too many Germans are descended from people who owned property in present day Western Poland. Furthermore, many Poles lost property owing to the Soviet Occupation of Poland and the fact that Communist Governments collectively owned land and property.
Jewish people have exactly the same rights as Poles with regard to the property that their ancestors lost in Poland. They can go to court and attempt to win back their property legally. What makes the Polish Government unpopular is that it treats the descendants of Jewish people murdered in the Second World War in exactly the same way as any other Pole.
It would be absurd for Poland to pay reparations to Jewish descendants of those Polish Jews murdered in Poland when Poles can gain no compensation whatsoever for the land and property they lost to the Soviet Union, nor indeed any reparations for the fact that Germany killed more than five million Poles and completely destroyed the city of Warsaw. If Poland had to pay reparations en masse to Jewish descendants of murdered Poles, it would equally have to pay reparations to Germans whose families lived in Western Poland. But this would be grossly unfair given the fact that similar numbers of Catholic Poles died in the Second World War as Jewish Poles. It is unequal and obviously unfair to treat one group as more deserving than the other especially as Poland itself was one of the greatest victims of the Second World War.
Law and Justice will continue to win elections in Poland precisely because it reflects the majority opinion in Poland and puts into place policies that are popular. Many in Britain would prefer that our Government did likewise.
The excellent Effie Deans writes at Lily of St. Leonard’s here.