The Past Is A Country Called Poland


As a persistent and keen observer of nations, I have often compared present-day Poland to Ireland in the 1980’s. My comparison was based on the assumption (and hope) the Poles would follow the logical course of development. I never, in my frothiest dreams considered the path you have now chosen. But Poland is a very specific place and they do things differently here.

By means of a popular vote, the people have chosen to neuter the judiciary. They have chosen to ramp up police surveillance. They have chosen to emasculate the civil service. They have chosen to put public media under the government’s heel. Get your Wham! records out of the attic. Put on the VHS recordings of Dynasty and let’s hotfoot it down to discotheque – Poland is going back to the 1980’s!

By dismantling the supporting rods of the democratic system and doing so quite willingly and obsequiously, motivated not by any outside pressure or external coercion, the Poles have propelled themselves backwards in time, a nation of ham-fisted Marty McFlys, half in love with morose Soviet brutalism, for lurking somewhere in their defective memory- banks is a file marked; ‘Better’.

And maybe the past here was better. I missed the Communist era and all its attendant contradictions, but last November’s election has given me a second chance – so here I am, an independent observer, critical of the previous government, sitting in the crow’s nest and watching a big European nation loose itself from the shackles of democracy and rush triumphantly… in reverse. Well done to the Poles. They have collectively thrown two fingers to those snooty historians writing how Communism was only possible because of the gigantic hammer and sickle dangling perilously above Poland. Pah!

Something in the Polish psyche has long been seduced by Communism’s warm, authoritarian embrace. And now that it’s back I can’t help sensing how snug and relaxed, the Poles feel. Happy and content because there’s a steel fist to flatten any green-shoots of deviation. Communism’s metallic mitt just had to be reconfigured to accommodate the iron glove of Catholicism. Bingo! Communism 2.0! That old contradiction is cured by a little rebranding – new and improved totalitarianism! Now comes in repressively stultifying Catholic flavour!

Of course this is great news for Poles of all ages, especially those with a fondness for the other right-wing, eighties-era flavours – Apartheid, Ceausescu, Thaterism, Reaganomics or indeed anyone who recently came out of a thirty year coma – everything is still the same! What? Henry Cioch? You’re joking? He still has his hands on the levers of power? Wasn’t he a fully paid-up, card-carrying member of the Polish Communist Party and a vigorous and snarling prosecutor of Solidarity members? Who else? Stanley Piotrowicz? The same Stanley Piotrowicz who put his name on an indictment against some architecture graduate arrested for distributing flyers on behalf of Solidarity in 1982? What’s he doing now? He drafted the government’s new laws? Are you kidding me?

And if those coma patients turn on the radio, they’ll only keep hearing about the ‘enemies within…’ Wasn’t that what Gomulka said about the Warsaw protests in ’68?

So the good ship Polandia is sailing through chartered waters. No surprises ahead. Most Poles have been here before. The Leader is always right and he’s always watching. This is only because he cares about you. He cares about your loyalty. Your patriotism. Don’t worry if you don’t understand, the public media news broadcasts will explain everything right after they warn you about the liberal newspaper editor who turned into a reptile and ate a nun and shat her out in the shape of a Star of David.

Me? I’m clinging to my Irish passport. Lucky me, I’ve always got the plane option. I don’t think the rest of Poland will be so lucky.

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