by Barry Weisleder (dateline: Warsaw, July 23)
At the end of a mid-summer bus tour of this eastern European country, replete with feudal relics, perogies and déclassé intellectuals moon-lighting as tour guides, we encountered a truly massive protest in Warsaw. It was dusk on July 22.
The ultra-conservative regime of President Andrzej Duda sparked a wave of demonstrations, nationwide, by pushing a law through the two chambers of Poland’s parliament (Sejm) that would enable the government to control the Supreme Court. This crude power play by the anti-immigrant, anti-abortion Duda was performed in three acts: 1. Securing the right to fire the heads of lower courts. 2. Taking control of the body that appoints judges. 3. Forcing all Supreme Court judges to step down, except for those retained by Poland’s president.
A crowd of thousands rallied at a downtown monument to the 1944 Warsaw Uprising against the Nazi occupation (not to be confused with the 1943 Uprising of the Jewish Ghetto). Many folks carried simple, pastel-coloured posters inscribed only with the Polish word for “constitution.” A few people held aloft Polish or European Union flags. (The European Commission earlier expressed its displeasure to Duda.) It was apparent that the gathering was not limited to political opponents of the ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS). No party banners or placards were evident. The broad, inter-generational crowd politely chanted against the new law; it demanded an immediate election. A widely distributed leaflet read “3x VETO”. Can Duda be forced to veto the measures initiated by his own party? Mass protests continue at the time of this writing.
Thirty years after the fall of the deformed workers’ state, illusions in capitalism are rampant, but are fraying at the edges. Actions of both the government and the major opposition party are still cloaked in ritual anti-communist rhetoric. While the economy is growing, wages are low, the cost of living is high, foreign investment is dominant, and NATO has thrust Poland onto the front line for a war with Russia.
Stalinism has nothing in common with the construction of socialism under workers’ control, much less with the future post-scarcity world of communism. Yet Marxists can discern the truth embedded in the dark sarcasm of the Polish poet who wrote: “The worst thing about communism is what comes after.”