Seeking: Polish Election Expert

 

250px-Krakau_MarktSo, a lovely Polish guy works as a housekeeper in a building near mine. We make small talk whenever we run into each other. He’s busting his hump to support his family, enterprising, always cheerful, exactly the kind of immigrant the French fear because he’s willing to work for non-union wages. We bonded immediately over our shared views of communism and Putin. (“What is wrong with you guys? He’s KGB!”)

I ran into him today, and as usual we chatted a bit about the recent perturbation on the Métro — construction work, apparently — and his family, and about how amazing it is that everyone in France goes on vacation for the entire month of August. Then as usual we lamented the state of the world, and as usual griped about Putin. I asked him how people in Poland were feeling about things. He shook his head. There’s a problem in Poland, he said. The elections are coming up, and he doesn’t at all like the looks of the opposition party, which he suspects will win. The incumbant party isn’t perfect, he said, but at least they understand you can’t just make money out of nothing.

Now, usually I can fake my way through any casual conversation about politics, but fact is — I was stumped. I’ve been paying no attention to what’s happening in Poland. None. I have no idea who the main parties or political figures are.

As soon as I got home, I rushed to Google it. (Why, I don’t know: It’s not as if I trust any news outlet to report accurately on any country I’ve ever set eyes on, but my Murray Gell-Mann amnesia’s as strong as ever.) At least I’m not apt to be misled by bad reporting: I could find almost no reporting on the subject. The only thing I found that gave me a hint at what he was getting at was this:

… Poland is the European Union member state with the highest number of workers on some form of a temporary contract, 28 percent. It is creating a precarious existence for many Poles and deepening divisions between the haves and have-nots in a post-communist country that is otherwise witnessing impressive economic growth.

The “junk contracts” were originally intended to give flexibility to artists or other professionals working for multiple employers. They lack many of the guarantees of regular employment contracts in Poland, like paid vacation, employer contributions into the national health and pension funds, and protection from being fired at short notice. …

The presidency is largely symbolic. But a more important parliamentary election comes in October, and polls suggest that the pro-market Civic Platform, which has ruled for eight years, faces another stinging defeat. Law and Justice has surged ahead with vows to help the poor with more state intervention in the economy.

A second win by Law and Justice would mark a significant political shift in Poland, the EU’s sixth-largest economy. The party vows to impose higher taxes on the country’s mostly foreign-owned banks and large retailers.

You can guess why I don’t much like the sound of that.

Now, as silly as it may be to form my political judgments based on a casual chat with a Polish guy who works in my neighborhood, I have the feeling that this guy’s sound. I’d like to know more.

Does anyone here know what’s going on in Poland?

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  1. iWc Coolidge
    iWc
    @iWe

    It seems to this entrepreneur that a flexible work force is essential for a dynamic economy. Getting locked into “real” contracts is precisely why French companies try very, very hard to never hire anyone.

    • #1
  2. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @FrontSeatCat

    This blog seems to have a lot of info:

    https://polishpoliticsblog.wordpress.com/

    I wonder where the missionary is that wrote about Eastern Europe on Ricochet about 2 months ago or so and was going to report back.  It feels like events in Menace in Europe are coming to a head on many levels. Even that super creepy band you wrote about is supposedly planning a new big tour – that should excite the off the charts left-wing nutcases even more – I have never had the nerve to google one of their videos – thought my computer might get attacked – their pictures are enough to give nightmares. Being of Polish descent…God bless Poland.  At least we did something this year:

    http://news.yahoo.com/us-pre-position-heavy-weapons-along-natos-eastern-001730545.html

    • #2
  3. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Front Seat Cat:This blog seems to have a lot of info:

    https://polishpoliticsblog.wordpress.com/

    It feels like events in Menace in Europe are coming to a head on many levels.

    It does, but he’s arguing this:

     … the Polish left is in dire straits and haunted by the spectre of an ‘Irish scenario’: where two centrist, broadly liberal-conservative parties dominate the political scene with the left a permanently marginalised third force. Indeed, there is a real possibility that there will be no left-wing parties represented in the Polish parliament after the October parliamentary election.

    Now the thing is, I know so little about Polish politics that I don’t even know whether “the Polish left” means “left” in any sense we’d mean it.

    I feel very frustrated, because something about the way my Polish acquaintance said what he did made my “news story here” instinct twitch. It shouldn’t surprise me that there’s so little reporting on it — I’m the one who keeps saying, “All foreign reporting has disappeared” — but should it really be so hard to find anything about this? Granted, any country that’s not actively at war right now is not going to be in the headlines, but it’s not as if this is a completely insignificant country — it’s a major US ally. I’m embarrassed that I know so little about it, and frustrated that I can’t even begin to get a sense of what his look of foreboding was about.

    • #3
  4. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @FrontSeatCat

    I hear you -we are fixated at the moment on Cecil the Lion so any ally developments or any major news with Turkey will fall on deaf ears….

    If there was ever a time in history where we need foreign journalists in the trenches, it’s now – because we cannot trust what is coming out in MSM. This should be a headline but nowhere as usual:

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jul/27/chinas-christians-protest-evil-communist-campaign-to-tear-down-crosses

    Poland is a deeply spiritual country so I wonder what the new elections will show – a cultural shift?

    Also, how are foreign journalists able to work these days, share info? Are their any in Poland to report events there as they are happening?

    • #4
  5. Sandy Member
    Sandy
    @Sandy

    Perhaps you know someone who knows Anne Applebaum?  Your instincts that something is afoot appear to be correct.

    http://russia-insider.com/en/politics/radexit-and-appoplexit-radoslaw-sikorski-and-anne-applebaum-are-booted-out-poland/ri8887

    • #5
  6. Sandy Member
    Sandy
    @Sandy

    Front Seat Cat:I hear you -we are fixated at the moment on Cecil the Lion so any ally developments or any major news with Turkey will fall on deaf ears….

    If there was ever a time in history where we need foreign journalists in the trenches, it’s now – because we cannot trust what is coming out in MSM. This should be a headline but nowhere as usual:

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jul/27/chinas-christians-protest-evil-communist-campaign-to-tear-down-crosses

    Poland is a deeply spiritual country so I wonder what the new elections will show – a cultural shift?

    Also, how are foreign journalists able to work these days, share info? Are their any in Poland to report events there as they are happening?

    Well there is Anne Applebaum (see link @#5).

    • #6
  7. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Sandy:Perhaps you know someone who knows Anne Applebaum? Your instincts that something is afoot appear to be correct.

    http://russia-insider.com/en/politics/radexit-and-appoplexit-radoslaw-sikorski-and-anne-applebaum-are-booted-out-poland/ri8887

    Oh, man. Reading this is a good lesson for me: It’s reminding me why some people here find my posts about Turkey overwhelmingly complicated. I have the exact reaction to this post that folks here have had to what I’ve written about Turkey: Can’t you simplify this and tell me what’s going on? How am I supposed to figure out who’s who? 

    I have a sense that a) this is important; and b) figuring it out will be hard. I was hoping someone here was following this closely and could sort of sketch it out for me.

    • #7
  8. iWc Coolidge
    iWc
    @iWe

    I like a knuckle-dragging foreign policy approach. Getting sucked into the details is almost always a trap.

    Just stick to American principles of freedom. The rest of the world finds that quite attractive!

    • #8
  9. Leigh Inactive
    Leigh
    @Leigh

    The Guardian has lots of info.

    But I usually look at the Guardian on American politics just to see how badly they mangle it, or if I feel the need to raise my blood pressure.

    • #9
  10. PHCheese Inactive
    PHCheese
    @PHCheese

    Claire, if it gets too hard to understand we could turn your post in to a Polish Joke thread.

    • #10
  11. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator
    • #11
  12. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    iWe: I like a knuckle-dragging foreign policy approach. Getting sucked into the details is almost always a trap.

    Sure, just like election campaigning in Kenora riding. No need to know the details about what’s going on, just stick to the suit. No baseball cap. Works everywhere.

    • #12
  13. iWc Coolidge
    iWc
    @iWe

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    iWe: I like a knuckle-dragging foreign policy approach. Getting sucked into the details is almost always a trap.

    Sure, just like election campaigning in Kenora riding. No need to know the details about what’s going on, just stick to the suit. No baseball cap. Works everywhere.

    In foreign policy it is very important that America be seen as the city on the hill. That means that our message needs to be clear and transparent. Mean what we say, do what we promise, etc. In the event that this is far too difficult for foreign governments to understand, we have always had some degree of success talking directly to their people using the language of freedom.

    It is when we get “sensitive” that we deal with the Iranian government instead of just airdropping millions of small arms to their oppressed citizens. Our sensitivity to the complexities of Russian paranoia has done nothing more than feed that paranoia.  American Presidents end up bowing down to foreign leaders, and treating our allies much worse than we treat our enemies.

    The US policy on Poland should be open and transparent: we support freedom, whenever and wherever we reasonably can do so. We should promote American ideals worldwide because when we do so, we increase the pie for everyone.

    There is a very real value for an American to be seen as an authentic Grade A cowboy the world over. So while Saudis may want American Presidents to wear rags, he should decline to do so. He is not running for office around the world: he is the ambassador of the greatest country in the history of the world, and key promoter of its values. People respect that – they respect the strong horse.

    • #13
  14. MikeHs Inactive
    MikeHs
    @MikeHs

    There seems to be a lot of news about a “secret tape” scandal with the current government that probably will affect the next election.  Anne Applebaum’s husband, Radoslaw Sikorski, the former foreign minister, is prominently featured, from the Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/poland/11666633/Polish-ministers-resign-over-eavesdropping-scandal.html

    This is from an English-language Polish news site, the Krakow Post (don’t know their political leanings): http://www.krakowpost.com/2015/06/polish-government-chaos-resignations-secret-tape-leaks/

    Curiously, I seem to be blocked from accessing a number of English-language Polish news sites (may be the company security fire wall).

    (Oops, I guess this all “old news.” – from June.)

    • #14
  15. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    MikeHs: This is from an English-language Polish news site, the Krakow Post (don’t know their political leanings): http://www.krakowpost.com/2015/06/polish-government-chaos-resignations-secret-tape-leaks/

    Warning for language, but Googling up some of the names led me to this, which is at the least amusing. But note that there was obviously a political hit on Sikorski. Do I need to say who would benefit from that

    Sometimes these things are internal, but when they happen so close to Putin? Yep, I suspect Anne Applebaum’s the person to ask about this.

    • #15
  16. OmegaPaladin Moderator
    OmegaPaladin
    @OmegaPaladin

    I have a Polish online friend I am going to offer an invite to hang out here.  He’s a centrist politically, and has the worst luck I have ever seen.

    • #16
  17. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    iWE – The Grade A cowboys (Reagan and GW) got results – they were not perfect, but yes, we were respected and the world was not so insane – as I recall – the day Reagan took office, Iran released the American hostages, which they hung on to under Carter, the peacemaker. Kerry left the 4 American hostages in Iran.

    • #17
  18. Mike LaRoche Inactive
    Mike LaRoche
    @MikeLaRoche

    This gentleman was a next-door neighbor of mine years ago when I lived in Montana.  A Polish writer of some note, but not an election expert.

    • #18
  19. dialm Inactive
    dialm
    @DialMforMurder

    Im not a Polish political expert but I am Polish (by heritage), so maybe I can help here. I visited and lived for a few months in Poland about 3 years ago, spoke with Poles about current events and society and this is roughly what I gathered.

    First, the positives: A hard-working country with a steadily improving standard of living, strong religious backbone, unifying racial and cultural makeup, and few false illusions about the socialism.

    Negatives

    Naivety about the EU (a glorious “redevelopment” gravy train or a nanny state with a third-world migrant problem?)

    Brain Drain (too many of the best and brightest leave to settle in the west, there is a major problem retaining the skills of people such as doctors and dentists, and if they do remain in Poland, a problem of ensuring their professional time is not just bought up by higher-paying western “medical” tourists)

    Paranoia (Negativity and complaining are part of the national character. Not many people really seem aware that the past 25 years have been probably the most stable and prosperous time they’ve had for centuries, also the old Russian scare)

    The Church (some people believe it has too much control over politics and everyday life. Forget abortion, a friend had a controversy in their hometown where the priest refused to perform a funeral for someone because he thought he didn’t go to mass enough’)

    Ukraine/Putin (What country wants a civil war and an autocrat next door?)

    • #19
  20. dialm Inactive
    dialm
    @DialMforMurder

    One thing I found very frustrating 3 years ago was the universal blind enthusiasm for all things EU. The currency and migration problem were already pretty obvious by then, but everyone had dollar signs in their eyes. |The thinking is that east is bad and west is best, always, no exceptions.

    Now that the Greece situation has finally come to a head, Poles are waking up. And thank goodness they haven’t traded in their old currency yet (unlike Slovakia). Adopting the Euro is now on ice. But are they still in too deep? And without reliable American defense guarantees (Thank-you Chosen One) that leaves Eastern Europe between a rock and a hard place (what else is new).

    But at the risk of invoking Murphy’s Law, I don’t see what Putin has to gain by trying to pull Poland back into the Russian fold. There is no aggrieved Russian minority, or great wealth of agriculture and resources, or warm water port.

    • #20
  21. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    dialm: But at the risk of invoking Murphy’s Law, I don’t see what Putin has to gain by trying to pull Poland back into the Russian fold. There is no aggrieved Russian minority, or great wealth of agriculture and resources, or warm water port.

    Pull?

    • #21
  22. dialm Inactive
    dialm
    @DialMforMurder

    The Reticulator:

    dialm: But at the risk of invoking Murphy’s Law, I don’t see what Putin has to gain by trying to pull Poland back into the Russian fold. There is no aggrieved Russian minority, or great wealth of agriculture and resources, or warm water port.

    Pull?

    pull, push, entrap, entice, threaten, seduce, invade… take your pick :)

    • #22
  23. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    A friend who saw this post sent me an e-mail about this. He wrote:

    “what’s going on in Poland?” In a nutshell, the left/right cleavage as understood in France (or the US) does not apply in Poland.

    To which I replied, by e-mail:

    That’s what I suspected. I find it maddening that in the (extremely) limited English-language reporting we get on (rather important) places like Poland, journalists almost never bother to specify what these terms mean in the context. It verges on the deceptive, because Anglo readers may be assumed to have an idea of what “left” and “right” means, and journalists should fully grasp that by using the terms without clarification, they are not serving their readers well.

    He further wrote:

    The left (a minority), i.e. former Communists, have converted to capitalism and are more or less liberal (in the classic, free market sense). The center (Civic Platform) is Christian Democrat as elsewhere. The right (Law and Justice) is socially very conservative, nationalist, Eurosceptic, but also favors state intervention in the economy (i.e. economically speaking, it is the most statist of the parties).

    And I replied:

    This still doesn’t give me a sense of what’s going on, though: I wanted a feeling for why he felt (what I am now guessing, in retrospect) Duda was apt to win, and why he had such an instinctive bad feeling about them. (In another conversation, he lamented that young people in Poland these days don’t know how bad it was before, how people didn’t even “have anything in the grocery stores; now every kid has a cellphone, they don’t remember what it was like when you couldn’t buy anything.” Not sure how old he is — late 30s? — but he’s obviously an instinctive anti-communist.)

    I probably should have mentioned another comment in my post — “Yeah, they’ll build a huge statue for the Smolensk massacre, but we don’t need them to spend out money on big statues.” I suspect his aversion to them is based on both what you say — their impulse to statism — but also an uneasy misgiving about their nationalism, which I’m guessing he senses as dangerous and populist. I wonder how Viktor-Orbanish these guys are.

    But I’m also curious about this Sikorski business, which may just be a run-of-the-mill domestic scandal, but given the neighborhood and what was obviously a fairly sophisticated, long-term wiretapping operation against someone who “hopes that NATO and the EU will finally take off the kid gloves in their dealings with Russian President Vladimir Putin.” He wants to see the West stand up to Moscow and, if necessary, threaten the Russians militarily” — and is married to the most prominent journalist in the US who covers this beat — I don’t think I’m going too far down conspiracy-theory lane to wonder. In fact, I don’t think I’d lose money by betting that Putin had a hand in that, although I wouldn’t bet more than a round of drinks.

    • #23
  24. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Sandy:Perhaps you know someone who knows Anne Applebaum? Your instincts that something is afoot appear to be correct.

    http://russia-insider.com/en/politics/radexit-and-appoplexit-radoslaw-sikorski-and-anne-applebaum-are-booted-out-poland/ri8887

    There’s a subheading on that site that says “People Over Profits.” It makes me suspicious.

    I find it entirely plausible that a Russian smear campaign is in the works.  That doesn’t mean Applebaum’s husband didn’t say some impolitic things, of course.

    BTW, everyone here who has not already done so should read Anne Applebaum’s book, Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe. It’s even more important than her Gulag book, which has been around longer. It helps you understand what the Obama progressives are doing to us.

    Applebaum is a good person, even though she works for the Washington Post and has blocked me on Twitter.  (I once pointed out that her working for the Washington Post puts her in the same position as some of the Eastern European intellectuals who found a way to make their peace with the Soviet Union and thereby keep their jobs.  She then went out of her way to go and block me on Twitter.  To appreciate how cutting and obnoxious my remark may have been you need to read her book.)

    • #24
  25. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    dialm:

    The Reticulator:

    dialm: But at the risk of invoking Murphy’s Law, I don’t see what Putin has to gain by trying to pull Poland back into the Russian fold. There is no aggrieved Russian minority, or great wealth of agriculture and resources, or warm water port.

    Pull?

    pull, push, entrap, entice, threaten, seduce, invade… take your pick :)

    Well, I have a problem if I’m allowed to pick only one.  As far as I can tell Putin does all of the above.  The importance of this is not always understood by conservatives.

    • #25
  26. dialm Inactive
    dialm
    @DialMforMurder

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    I don’t think I’m going too far down conspiracy-theory lane to wonder. In fact, I don’t think I’d lose money by betting that Putin had a hand in that, although I wouldn’t bet more than a round of drinks.

    That “lane” is well trodden by now. As a conspiracy it is to Poland what the grassy knoll and the moon landing are to America.

    But foggy weather and a nervous pilot with an impatient President yelling in his ear to get moving? No, completely unrealistic!

    Although, I have to say that the official Russian response to MH17 adds juicy new layers to this riddle

    • #26
  27. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    dialm:

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    I don’t think I’m going too far down conspiracy-theory lane to wonder. In fact, I don’t think I’d lose money by betting that Putin had a hand in that, although I wouldn’t bet more than a round of drinks.

    That “lane” is well trodden by now. As a conspiracy it is to Poland what the grassy knoll and the moon landing are to America.

    I figured as much. Sounds like you know Poland pretty well, though, so maybe you could back up and give me a bit of a primer on who these politicians and parties are?

    (By the way, as Polish conspiracy theories go, the word my Polish pal used — in French — to describe Smolensk was “massacre,” not “accident.” I really can’t blame them for thinking that.*)

    *That said, I wouldn’t eagerly fly in a Tu-154, either.

    • #27
  28. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Ah, finally: An article that at least makes sense to me, as a general background piece.

    • #28
  29. dialm Inactive
    dialm
    @DialMforMurder

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    I figured as much. Sounds like you know Poland pretty well, though, so maybe you could back up and give me a bit of a primer on who these politicians and parties are?

    With the parties themselves I don’t know much more than what has already been said in this thread. They are very confusing and not really lined up along western left-right conventions. The main left-wing party has an embarrassingly low level of support. The Kaczynski twins are regarded as too conservative and fuddy-duddy for even my dad (who is safely conservative in western terms). But really, I’m out of my depth in trying to confidently describe them.

    I picked up this article last week and thought it was interesting: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/economics/11762020/Poland-will-never-join-a-burning-eurozone-says-central-bank-governor.html

    There is also some kind of nostalgia at play that is similar to what you might hear from East Germans. “Yeah sure communism was bad, but at least we didn’t have any crime and homelessness…” Of course its another thing altogether to say that people who says these things want the old system back (which is what some leftist western commentators assume they are saying). But capitalism does have its winners and losers, that’s for sure.

    • #29
  30. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: *That said, I wouldn’t eagerly fly in a Tu-154, either.

    I don’t do bucket lists, but I have said that I’d like to fly Ryanair at least once (my daughter refuses to do so) and I’d like to fly Aeroflot at least once.  However, although there are many parts of rural Russia I’d like to visit, I have no desire to get Putinized.  The possibility of going there grows dimmer each year.

    • #30
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