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The Decline of the Democracy. The Mob and its leaders.

Published on August 24, 2009 by: in: Thought

Although the democracy is defined by the peoples’ rule, it needs its own aristocracy as well. In antic Greece ‘klerotoi ek procrioton’ (which means: chosen from ‘the chosen’), not only were the ‘product’, but also a testimony of a collective wisdom. Hence, elite of choice does not offend democracy, but legitimizes it. That is way the true democracy cannot despise the elite.


Meaning ‘the choice’ it is not the formal election of course but rather the common respect which is a kind of conscious choice. Does it imply the fears of the European and American conservative liberals (from Tocqueville and the American Founding Fathers to Weber and Ortega y Gasset), who were afraid that the democracy would lead to the “mob law?” Their fears turned out to be justified, yet precocious.

The mobocracy does not derive from democracy itself, but from its decline. At the end of 20th century democracy has little in common with its 19th-century form or even with this one at the beginning of the century. The successive revolutions and social upheavals won democratic system in 19th century. As limited to few countries, it was all in all the achievement of the elite. Nevertheless, in 20th century even the communist regime during its totalitarian and Stalinist period usurps the name of true democracy. However, at the end of this century a strong belief in a definite victory of democratic system and of market economy persuades Francis Fukuyama to proclaim the end of history. Of course not to the definite end as believed those who did not finish the Fukuyama’s bestseller. It would be the end through Hegelian logic postulating a predetermined succession of ages.

The history of democracy from its very beginning is actually the history of successive inclusion in its own system the variety of social groups: slaves, the poor, racial minorities, women. Democracy as political system had been brought to life through a series of violent rebellions, revolutions and wars and only in few countries. Moreover it was the elite to struggle for and on of behalf of masses. For those reasons it became an exclusive achievement. It was the elite who called for rights of excluded individuals, sometimes bearing indifference or even reluctance of the group that should be concerned the most. Although indifference and reluctance could have surfaced while extending to the minorities democratic powers that had previously been denied to them, the elite and the masses maintained a link.

Manifestation of the feelings of superiority or disdain over the masses did not belong to the ethics of an elite’s representative. It was the reason for exclusion from the Establishment. On the other hand, elite created standards (attitudes and behavior patterns) that were the point of reference for ordinary people and justified an unchallenged elite’s authority.

At present there are no groups that would be excluded from the participation in democracy, those whose rights should be called for. Instead of that we face the other phenomenon. Some groups exclude themselves from partaking in democracy as democracy ceased to have any value for them.

The fact that today there are no more social groups or collectivenesses excluded from democracy changes hitherto prevailing relation between elite and the masses. Elite is losing a sense of mission and obligation towards an ‘ordinary man’. It was superseded by a sense of distance and manifestation of superiority – the more ostentatious, the emptier. As if he did it in revenge, a straight man ceased to worshipped or even respect the elite’s representatives.

In anticipation of a demagogue

In Bunt motłochu, considering Polish social reality, I identified the mob with the electorate of Samoobrona (J.Chłopecki, 2003). Now [text was written in 2007] I believe, however, that with this term can be defined the majority of the electorate of Prawo i Sprrawiedliwość. The notion “mob” in terms of social background can explain the paradoxical phenomenon of this party that continues to be on the political scene because of the specific social reality.

The notion “mob” was introduced into the social science by Hannah Arendt. It was exactly the mob that constituted the social basis for fascism. Maybe that is way some intellectualists tend to describe the government of Kaczyńscy as “soft fascism”. Mob, believes Arendt, used to be the collectiveness where “the outcasts of all classes could find their political and social space” (H. Arendt, 1993). Mob does not identify itself with the society and it does not feel like the part of it. As the mob is isolated from the society and deprived of the political representation, it usually decides to take extra-parliamentary actions. Here it is necessary to clarify that Arendt uses the notion “mob” in terms of description and diagnosis, not of evaluation. The similar meaning had the expression “deviant type” used by Zaniecki in his work Ludzie teraźniejsi a cywilizacja przyszłości. Zanicki included to this type Piłsudzki what of course engendered protests.

If this mob was actually a group – as put it Arendt – it means that there must have existed a kind of link that would unite its members. Otherwise, we would observe a loose collectivity. But what could unite those “outcasts of all classes”? This binder was not composed of common values or even of awareness of common interest. It was nothing rational, what could be discussed, reconciled or compromised on. The binder was constituted by the mixture of negative emotions: frustration, xenophobia, irrational expectations, low instincts and feelings of helplessness. But above all it was constituted by hatred as it is next to fear one of the strongest emotions. Thus hatred and fear unite the mob in a group that can speak collectively. The mob gathered under the banner of negative emotions that by definition cannot be “agreed on”.

The mob is made of poorly educated people inhabiting rather provinces than urban agglomeration. According to the statistics that adduce Seymour M. Lipset German and Austrian fascism, French poujadism, lepenism and American maccartism had the biggest public support (apart from rural areas) among poorly educated, small traders from provincial communities.

“The acceptance of democratic norms depends on the level of personal confidence and sophistication. The less one is sophisticated and level-headed, the more probable that he will opt for simplified political vision. He will either understand the essentials of tolerance towards people who he disagrees with and he will have difficulties in understanding or tolerating the gradual political changes” (S. M. Lipset 1995: 121).

To the hard and soft fascisms mentioned by Lipset can be added the Polish kaczyzm [duck-ism], yet with some reservations.

The mob needs an enemy to hate somebody. The mob rejects also an acknowledged and legitimate authority cleaning the ground for a demagogue to appear.

According to popular belief, a demagogue is an actor who first of all manipulates the feelings of others and plays his part on the scene-rally. Demagogue appears in varied embodiments. Hitler was a master of winning the crowd during ecstatic mass meetings, whereas Stalin presented just another type of demagogy. I could venture to say that they are dramatically opposed types of demagogic leadership – rally or cabinet demagogy. However, one thing they have in common – they ‘simplify’ the world to the people who are not able to understand the complicated phenomena not characterized by the easy reason-result relationship. Those people cannot comprehend that this relationship can be very complicated or just stochastic, in the end unexplainable.

The most important role of a demagogue is then to explain the complexity of the world. It allows a demagogue to lead the masses, make them follow him. A demagogue gives a sense of purpose and security to the mob. He makes the world understandable and familiar. He is the one who knows.

What I said before can lead to the conclusion that I am willing to identify the government of Kaczyńscy (in this context there is no point in differentiating the brothers) with dictatorship or even fascism. Of course such statements would be difficult to justify. None of Kaczyńscy brothers meant to be a dictator, but as a matter of fact their social and political background is closer to dictatorship than to democracy.

The common frustration in the Weimar Republic was a dangerous explosive mix. The majority of society felt marginalized and impoverished. There was also a strong belief in historical injustice done to the whole nation. We faced a similar state of opinion in the first decade of 21th century in Poland, whereas frustration, hopelessness, feelings of being rejected and marginalized appeared practically among all social groups. Moreover, it was accompanied by deficiency in national satisfaction resulting from religion and symbolic values had been destroyed. Those values could and did provide satisfaction.

The myth of the August and Solidarity fell into oblivion. The historical value of Polish Round Table Agreement was destroyed by varied types of political and psychical deviants. Europe did not acknowledge the role played by Poland in destruction of the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain. It is not surprising as we could not do it ourselves. Kaczyńscy brothers began to present the most successful period that is to say the 3rd Polish Republic as the Times of Troubles which would be dominated by political scandals, steeling away national heritage and selling out Polish interest. Moreover, the eastern neighbor recovered relatively quickly from the imperial dissolution. Consequently, those historical events that supposed to be the source of satisfaction instead brought about disappointment and frustration. Kaczyńscy distorted the truth about the 3rd Polish Republic influencing the historical collective consciousness of the part of the Polish society. The similar mechanism was applied by communists during Polish People’s Republic while distorting the facts about the 2nd Polish Republic. Kaczyńscy brothers falsified history on purpose and knowingly, so did communists. It was all about provoking people’s anger, mob’s anger. Eventually, it succeeded.

Only in the light of these social issues we can analyze and evaluate the problem of leadership.

Kwaśniewski, Wałęsa and Kaczyńscy

The choice of the leadership is the social process in democracy. It would be worth examining who and by who has being elected since the moment when opportunity for choice became the substance of political system. However, the most interesting elections were of mid 90s. In 1995 during the presidential run-off elections I printed a text published in Gazeta Wyborcza. It analyzed figures of both candidates – Kwaśniewski and Wałęsa. These are the excerpts from the text written 12 years ago.

Kwaśniewski is perfect. Sunburnt, intelligent, smart, educated, he knows foreign languages and he raps superbly. He is eloquent and speaks fluently. He is provocatively modern. But it is necessary to listen in on what he is saying to notice the triumph of form over substance and to realize that what he is saying can be appealing, but does not make think. It does not bother, but either enraptures. Kwaśniewski is too soft-spoken. He is a professional but cold-hearted, calculating and maybe even cynic. These are not valuating terms. Kwaśniewski is a really remarkable manager in politics, a western-style or more precisely an American-style professional. However, he does not seem to be a great personality rather he looks like a model from a fashion magazine. A plastic person. He could advertise gilette sensor on TV, or better a new type of a mobile phone. Probably an American style of his campaign is not accidental. Kwaśniewski tries to be Polish Clinton. If he was elected, he would be a soft, amicable politician prone not only to the influence of his own formation.

The case of Wałęsa is far more complicated. He does not escape conflict. If there is no conflict, he will create it. Politics without conflicts must appear to him as uncreative and unconstructive and of this kind that he does not fit it. State of harmony and relative order do not allow him to play his favorite role of a “playmaker”. But why?

In politics it is problematic to constitute an order. As a matter of fact is for Wałęsa politics a personal matter – who, with whom, against whom. It is typical for poorly educated people to take the world of politics very personally. The poorer education, the stronger tendency to personificate the social and political events. Evil is being done by people who for some reason (mostly secret) are not willing to fix it, though the very fact they govern allows such a possibility.

The leader who does not change things for the better can be absolved for one and only one reason. He wants surely everything to be ok but other people just stand in the way. For a Galician farmer the Emperor was good and bad was the officials who deceived the Emperor. If the Emperor knew about injustice afflicting the farmer, the situation would change.

Wałęsa has perfect feeling for this aspect of plebeian mentality and he masterfully turns it to his advantage. Not only does he act upon this kind of mentality, but he shares it himself with one reservation: he does not have to believe in a good Emperor for he feels like him.

Many people in Poland especially from intelligentsia were socked observing a career from worker to president. Some believed that deficiency in education and savvy indeed disparages the authority of Poland in the World. However, the amazing biography of Wałęsa was acknowledged by the societies more democratic than ours what was beneficial for him and us as well.

A candidate for president can be an intellectual (who indeed was Carter) but he cannot manifest it as he would better present himself (following the same Carter) as a grower of peanuts. Then his career embodies values (and delusions) of Democracy. It makes the democratic promise that each of us (even bootblack) can succeed come true. However, it is clear and everybody knows that not each of us can win. The winner cannot be an uneducated, straight man. Though he does not have to be an all-knowing specialist, he needs advisers that would posses conceivably the highest qualifications, intellectual as well. Himself not being an expert, he has to understands experts and know how to talk to them.

Here comes another problem. It is commonly believed that president is not surrounded by people with high level qualifications. To stay by Wałęsa people who have been his advisers in Stocznia Gdańska would have to know how to stay in his shadow and not to threaten his position or even popularity. Is this only an expression of Wałesa’s vanity that was mentioned by so many of his ex-coworkers? In my opinion it is not.

Stylistically, Wałęsa’s language is rich, juicy and figurative but of narrow vocabulary. It strikes his limited vocabulary referring to realm of notions describing complex mechanisms and general problems. He manages cleverly and skillfully everything concrete, but he gets lost in the field where abstract thinking is needed. Probably, for this reason appears the part of Wałęsa’s problems he has with advisers. Both parties fail to understand each other. They get their wires crossed, they live in different words. It is not the only reason for Wałęsa’s problems with advisers.

Plebeian mentality is characterized by a specific understanding of loyalty. It identifies loyalty with subjugation. The traditional, folk family model is based upon hierarchical relations of subjugation joined by the principle of obedience. In this model there is no room for partnership which allows difference of opinions. Sun should not have different opinion than his father. It regards not only the relations within a family but all kinds of interpersonal relations. In the model mentioned above there is room but for loyal service in the shadow of the patron. There is no room in turn for loyal and efficient counseling. The majority of intellectuals (but there are some exceptions) do not tolerate the demand of undisputed loyalty. The plebeian patron in turn interprets each attempt to take up a discourse to be arrogance or betrayal.

Kwaśniewski presents himself as a model of a skillful public servant, a leader of the party which he does not count without. Modern and young (or rather youthful) Kwaśniewski does not enjoy respect to be listened to, he can be an idol to follow (or even to admire) at most. Young people vote for him not for (at least not only) they did not experience personally the whole history of socialist realism (PRL, PZPR, communism). In the first place for they are the generation not trusting leaders and reluctant towards authorities. The young generation of Poles being more “americanizated” than “europeizated” (the influence of popular culture) is prone to influence of idols that can be followed and leaders can be identified with.

Wałęsa anlike Kwaśniewski is a personality. Wałęsa cannot be followed. His astonishing qualities as well as his disturbing and embarrassing imperfections make him a unique person. As contrasted with malleable Kwaśniewski is Wałęsa probably unpliant. He is the leader making himself a savior, the “Father of the Nation”. He convinces those who want to trust and to believe that there is someone out there holding reins of the historical fate. Those who need to worship somebody.

The electorate composed of the young and the elder, the well or poorly educated from western and eastern regions of Poland – this stratification of election preferences proves happening in Poland revaluations on the profound level. It cannot be reduced to the simple division between the period of Polish People’s Republic and of 3rd Polish Republic, between post-communist system and post-Solidarity, between ex-apparatchik and a legend of that time.

These old divisions will be disappearing into the past dying away alongside with people whose biographies they had stigmatized and who cannot free themselves from them. The new generational and civilizational division makes its presence felt already. Soon it will be the dominating division (J.Chłopecki, 1995).

In 1995 the majority elected the idol, as for the rest, according to the rules of mass society which we were becoming in fast-track procedure. It proved correct assumption Kwaśniewski would be a soft, amicable and pliant president. He was neither a statesman nor a leader but a notable host. Wałęsa despite being sometimes ridiculous or imperfect had ambitious to become a leader. As for the rest, he was a real remarkable leader of a great social movement. Definitely, he did not fit the salon where he looked funny and anachronistic.

Jarosław Kaczyńscy (we can take no notice of Lech – he is a very important but only an attachment to his brother being prime minister to whom Jarosław reported after election have been won) is probably even a better socio-technician than Kwaśniewski at the same time he has perfect feeling for mob’s moods. Wałęsa cannot equal them, if we realize the difference between people and mob. Kaczyńscy are neither intellectuals as Kwaśniewski nor plebeian as Wałesa. They are petit-burgeois and half-educated people meaning “already not commons, not yet intelligentsia”. As we mentioned before Wałęsa did not quite fit salon, still Kaczyńscy fit it less.

The metaphor of salon has appeared recently. In principle it appeared after elections have been won by Kaczyńscy and their party. The term was coined by those who had not been let in to the salon. Reading such Ziemkiewicz (R. A. Ziemkiewicz, 2006) there is no doubt about it. The bitter and in fact ridiculous anty-Michnik obsession results from painfully hurt ambition of not very brilliant publicist who has not entered the salon. As for the rest, Kaczyńscy brothers either had admission to enter it. Their place was in a hall. Not only for their claim to fame was definitely smaller than people’s like Wałęsa, Geremek, Mazowiecki, Kuroń, Hall, Frasyniuk and the others from the leading opposition. There was also some specific cultural distance.

But let’s come back to the question of salon, as it is important against all appearances. The metaphor of salon is fitting. The 3rd Polish Republic indeed brought to life the salon along with all its “rules” – snobbery, glamour, including-excluding ritual and behavioral patterns respectively of professed opinions as well. The society frequented the salon – the term became popular during so-called Rywin Scandal being investigated. Salon entrances meaning a card proving societal membership constituted money, popularity in media, a prestigious position and an aristocratic surname. Not anybody could enter.

Salon is accused of dictating outlook, imposing views and of monopoly of style. It is true. However, present-day critics over salon seems forgetting or just does not know that it has been always like that being a kind of social norm. Each epoch created, produced a dominating culture. It was constituted by values that could not be disregarded (rejecting them would be a revolutionary act), norms that had to be followed (transcending them would be provocative), ethical and aesthetic criteria to obeyed out of discussion (to challenge them was to act in an extraordinarily bad way, or even to commit offence or crime).

In the pre-revolutionary epoch (before bourgeois revolution) we faced Aristocracy-Church alliance. In Democracy it was replaced by Elite-University alliance – where limits of mentioned monopoly were determined. The temple of mass society is the Salon-Media alliance determining what can be accepted and what not. In such mass society elite ceases to be important and is replaced by notable society people. The authorities cease to count and are superseded by idols.

Wałęsa was in the end an authority, even by virtue of his biography. Kwaśniewski was an idol at most and that is way he won in 1995. It would be unlikely that he would have won in 2005, whereas Wałęsa certainly would have no chances this year. They both belong to the past. Kaczyńscy appeared on the scene.

Kaczyńscy brothers present this kind of leadership that characterizes the epoch of mob. They surfaced on the wave of anger that they had engendered. Mob does not constitute salon but court. It is very interesting to analyze the journalist profession from this perspective.

Socially, journalists are situated on the border-line between aristocracy and service, between elite and courtiers. It is not an accident then that this part of the journalist profession not had been accepted in the salon of 3rd Polish Republic constituted the court of Kaczyńscy brothers.

Salon by nature is pluralistic – provided that some formal, aesthetic-social norms are maintained. Salon tolerates different orientations, acknowledges independence, unconventionality, being extraordinary. A courtier has to be obedient, loyal and dependent. In the court there is no room for independent thinking. The norms of behavior dictated by independent and impersonal sense of decency and aesthetics are superseded by alertness to intentions and ambitions of the ruler.

Psychopatology of hatred

The role and significance of anger tend to be underestimated by sociology as well as by politology. While it is true that the “scapegoat theory” mentions it, it puts emphasis on the integrating function of cultural ritual killing. The issue of anger is broader. Anger unites of course, but it also (or even in the first place) activates those groups that succumb to it. The social bonder of mob is anger engendered by a sense of grievance, injustice and flowing from it desire for revenge. Jarosław Kaczyński has an intrinsic talent for using this instrument.

Some participators and observers of political life drew their attention on that. A psychologist, Edward Necka, noticed in times of PiS ruling that: “politicians that currently hold two the most important offices in Poland have a paranoid attitude” (E.Nęcka). Though professor of psychology makes a reservation that it is not a mental disease but a trait of personality, it does not really matter. It matters that it is actually the psychoanalysis apparatus which is useful here.

Exactly at the same time, in another paper, Władysław Bartoszewski answering a question asked by a journalist: What is happening in Poland that the cooperation (meaning with president and his milieu) is not possible even in such a place like the chapter of the Order of the White Eagle, says: I don’t know. I can only direct you, madam, to eurodeputy of the Civil Platform party – Mr. Bogdan Klich, who as the only one is qualified to voice his opinion on this subject. As before he took office, he was a psychiatric practitioner in Krakow”.

It would be naivety to believe that the political scene is free from plots and social world from political set-up. Set-ups, caucuses, mafias, cabinet biddings, political conspiracies, plots – yes, it all exists. So does our black economy. We face also black social life therefore political. At the same time seeing social world through the net of plots and setups is one of the most important symptoms of paranoia portrayed in medical literature. “Views of a paranoiac concerning history are not worth mentioning for he believes in existence and significance of plots – in the end they happen and can have their meaning ‒ but for he considers them to be mover of history and a principle organizing the world of politics of any kind” — states the authors of the book that not without reason became a bestseller in Poland not before eight years ago since it was published and translated (R. S. Robins, J. M. Post; 53).

Historical conspiracy theory actually has its advocates among people from three groups. Some just believe that the world is the arena of warfare of good and evil. It happens among them there are people being very intelligent but ill. They live in a constant sense of danger. Any objection makes them feel attacked and any criticism is an assault to them. They are convinced others hate them so they connive against them in return. Half-shadows are absent to their Manichean world. We are on the right side whoever is not with us is evil. There can be no alliance between good and evil. “We stand where we stood then. They stand where the ZOMO stood”.

Historical conspiracy theory frequently tends to be a lifeline for people having problems with piecing the world’s image together. The less one is educated, the more one’s tendency of personificating all social and political phenomena both negative and positive.

Such thinking does not involve impersonal, objective, causative mechanisms. For everything wrong are always responsible some concrete people being guilty of our unhappiness. Longstanding characters of this story are Jews and masons – the third part of the triumvirate of forces of evil is historically changing. Once they were imperialists, other time communists or post-communists. Recently they have become liberals – needless to say, in the foreground with Balcerowicz has been a devil ever since appeared disproportion between the amount of items in our shops and of money in our wallets.

For some reasons, the compound words are very appealing to ears being eager for plots. Hence we have jewcommunism, jewmansonry, Polish-speaking media, the Catholeft or recently fibelite.

Perceiving world in terms of plots tends to be a personal inclination resulting sometimes from mental disease. There are though such politicians who use the scapegoat theory for their own political gain. They know presented world of plot convention has irresistible lure of the truth of Divine Revelation for sizeable portion of society.

Ignorant people will buy it as would say famous Jacek Kurski. “Paranoiac does not let seemingly innocent facts to distract him – he claims he knows what is beyond them. […] He does not acknowledge the most irrefusable evidence that challenge his convictions. He considers them as concocted to lull him into security”(R. S. Robins, J. M. Post; 18).

If there is no proof of guilt of Mr. So and So, just because he has to be guilty as evidence must have been destroyed. This type of thinking is typical for Kaczyńscy brothers. It is of less importance if this reasoning stems from their beliefs or is just a psycho-technical manipulation designed knowingly for mob’s mentality and its understanding of the world. If facts disapprove our views, they are ones in trouble.

„In its extreme form – saying cited above authors – paranoid style of performing politics cause more harm than any other style. Paranoiacs have no opponents, rivals or objectors but only enemies. It is not enough to defeat them and definitely it is not allowed to compromise with them or to try to gain them. Enemies are to be destroyed” (R. S. Robins, J. M. Post; 15).

Unfortunately, psychopatology of hatred hits today in Poland the fertile soil.


Arendt H. 1993, Korzenie totalitaryzmu, Warszawa.

Bartoszewski W., Moja rola była fikcją, „Dziennik” z 12-13 maja 2007

Chłopecki J. 2003, Bunt motłochu [w:] Czas na sanację, Rzeszów.

Chłopecki J. 1995, „Gazeta Wyborcza” z 25 listopada 1995 r.

Lipset S.M. 1995, Homo politicus. Społeczne podstawy polityki, Warszawa.

Nęcka E., Inteligencka tęsknota za inteligentnym politykiem, „Polityka” z 12 maja 2007

Robins R. S., Post J. M.; 1999, Paranoja polityczna. Psychopatologia nienawiści. Warszawa

Ziemkiewicz, R.A.,2006, Michnikowszczyzna. Zapis choroby. Poznań.


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About Jerzy Chlopecki

sociologist, deputy rector of the University of Computer Science and Management in Rzeszow.

Fredrich Naumann Foundation For The Freedom
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