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So, 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?Published in