Skip to comments.Polish politics: confused? You ought to be
Posted on 09/06/2005 11:37:50 AM PDT by lizol
Polish politics: confused? You ought to be
With a general election only weeks away, and a presidential election early next month, you will often be hearing descriptions of the various political parties as either being right, left, liberal, moderate and so on. Warning: these labels in Poland can be very confusing.
Take, for example, the leading political party in most of the opinion polls at the moment, Civic Platform. I have seen them variously described as liberal, centrist, center/right, rightist, and even neo-conservative.
The term liberal is doubly confusing as it means different things on different sides of the Atlantic. In the United States liberal is generally seen as being left of center. To an American right-winger, a liberal is a pinko who believes in Big Government. During the McCarthy trials in the nineteen fifties a liberal was a communist (although we should remember that having a significant amount of facial hair in nineteen fifties made you a communist in America).
In Europe, however, a liberal means someone who believes that the government should do less, not more.. To liberalize the economy means to roll back state intervention. A liberal in Europe can mean a right-winger who believes in small government.
But what does a neo-conservative mean? Does this mean Civic Platform is Polands first party of neo-con? Does this mean that Civic Platform share the foreign policy ideology of a Paul Wolfewitz and Donald Rumsfeld, for example? And if they do share this view of the world, then how does that make Civic Platform moderate-centrists?
Confused? You will be.
If you take look at Civic Platforms manifesto it basically consist of liberal (in the European meaning of the term) economic policies meaning increased privatization, and a low, flat tax policy. But on social issues the liberal Civic Platform is relatively conservative they do not propose to liberalize Polands very restrictive abortion laws, for instance.
Liberal, free market economics, plus social conservatism are actually policies associated with Margaret Thatcher. And if you called Maggie Thatcher a centrist-moderate, or even a center-rightist, she would give you a sharp crack over the head with her handbag. Thatcher was a radical right-winger. Period.
And Civic Platform are rightwing. Period.
Confused yet? Well, it gets worse.
Take what have been called the far-right League of Polish Families. These are christian nationalists, with a nationalist pedigree that goes back to the nineteen thirties. Historian Norman Davies has described The League of Polish Families nationalist, forbears as professional anti-Semites. So they do sound like typical far-rightists in their choice of prejudices. But when the League of Polish Families was set up as a political party a few years ago I saw them labeled as christian left whatever that means. For sure, their policies are based on an interpretation of Polish social Catholicism; they are isolationists they hate the EU, for example, as they think that Poland will become inundated with social liberals (in both the American and European meaning), abortionists and gays and lesbians. They also want to restrict the amount of foreign capital in Poland.
So are they left, or right?
The Law and Justice party was set up by the Kaczynski twins, Lech and Jaroslaw. They have been described as conservative, right wing, or even, sometimes, center/right. They have promised to be tough on crime and criminals, even going as far as to bring back the death penalty. These types of anti-crime policies are usually associated with the political right. Economically and heres the twist - Law and Justice are, if anything, to the left of the so-called centrist Civic Platform, but to the right of the so-called christian leftists, the League of Polish Families. And so it goes on. I will deal with other terms like populism and the like in another letter.
But at a time when left and right are all but loosing their meaning in the west, in Poland, where these labels are quite new to the political scene, they are all but useless. Politics in ex-communist countries is peculiar to ex-communist countries. So using the terminology of left, right, etc, has little meaning outside of the country where the terms are being used.
But journalists will still be using them. And if you think that you are confused by Polish politics, spare a thought for the poor old Polish voter, who will have to choose where to put their tick beside the name of a party, or individual, that could be labeled as either liberal, centrist, rightists, moderate, neo-conservative, or all of them simultaneously.
And people wonder why turnout in Poland is so low!
They sound like the 'Endecja.'
Absolutely, every inch of it. In fact they are today's "incarnation" of Endecja.
Civic Platform in Poloand, the CDU in Germany; Chirac a lame duck in France - oh my! ;)
LPR, they are economically far left.
Chirac is also conservative dont you see it? :-)
I've always said Chirac is about as good as you're going to get out of France.
It helps to break things up into social conservatism (such a pro-life) and free market economic or fiscal conservatism (free trade & privatization/small govt).
I hope no but now France look like our eternal opponent in the EU.
Right-wingers of the world, unite! ;)
I think all this "right wing" or "left wing" terminology is hopelessly outdated and does not cover all the complexities of different political positions whether in relation to Poland or any other country.
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