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Polish politics died for me the day Kuroń died.

Published on November 10, 2010 by: in: Culture

The conversation with Krzysztof Grabowski (known as „Grabaż”) on the rebellion, „revolution” of the fourth Republic of Poland and  on what Polish people should be thankful to Stalin for. From series of articles “Ask about Poland”.


Are you a rebel?

Not anymore. I used to be one.

What did you rebel against?

Against everything.

And did you stop rebelling because of the political system change or just because you became more mature?

I’ll say it this way – who doesn‘t rebel  in one’s youth,  will be a son of abitch for old age.

Or maybe sometimes there is nothing to rebel against?

There always is! I just think that rebellion should belong to the young. At the age of secondary school you rebel because of hormones, and later, because e.g. you can’t find a job or you feel that the world is unfair. Next buses come and you can’t take a seat in any of them. And then, perforce, you stand up to it. You don’t study and gain the knowledge only so that somebody stole the best time of your life, after all. And that’s the way it is – this time is being stolen by the country and capitalism with its rises and falls cycles that affect the whole nation.  At the moment, finding a job after studies is extremely difficult. I had a classic reason for rebellion – I was brought up in communism, when defining an enemy was not a problem. You knew exactly what to rebel against – it was natural, because this system had neither arms nor legs and its head was in its ass, and its ass in the place of a head.

If you were born twenty years later, in the generation that does not know the communism from the experience – would you be different?

That’s a futurology. I don’t like wondering , what would have been if Polish history had been different, or what my life would have looked like.

But maybe then the communism would be replaced by  capitalism?

In the time of socialism we missed capitalism. It was a decline of the previous political system – the end of  Zbigniew Messner’s rule, the beginning of Mieczysław Rakowski, the first attempts of system liberalization.  At that time you could already get the passport, go to West Berlin and see capitalism,  not in the cinema or on the glass screen anymore, but with your own eyes.  People are rushing nowhere, there are no queues in the shops – that was the world I was dreaming about  and I wished so much so that our reality looked like that. However, I didn’t realize that capitalism does not only equal full shelves in the shops, nice roads, relaxed people and large advertising boards, but also a system that has its good and bad sides. Now I know that capitalism, especially the one after the Septemeber 11th, is able to smother a man very much as well.

And how should this rebellion be represented now – by peaceful slogans voicing or  by fight?

Each way of attracting attention to yourself is a good one. You can rebel at your own home writing poems or not voting in elections assuming that it won’t change anything anyway.  You can also organize yourself and take part in institutionalized rebellion. Nowadays, it is legal to establish an organization, whereas before 1989 you could go to prison for that. At that time, rebellion was an act of courage and now it is a natural reaction of a discontented nation. You can lobby in media, organize demonstrations, as  my friends from Rozbrat did [the name of  a squat taken by some anarchists from Poznań in 1994, now functioning as a centre of alternative culture;  there has been a conflict for a few years in Poznań, the sides of which are city authorities and Rozbrat activists – editorial note].

Don’t you think that anarchists who try to use authorities’ mechanisms become grotesque?

It depends on how you look at it.  If you consider these people as anarchists within the meaning provided by Kropotkin and Bakunin – fighting the nation, aiming at revolution and disappearance of rights – then I never supported that type of anarchism. In my opinion, it’s a group that affects Poznań socially and culturally, which decides about its colour and simply constitutes  part of the city.  That is why I absolutely don’t think that it is grotesque.  Squaters’ culture is part of our reality. Let’s think how our life would look like without anarchists.

The truth is that these are the anarchists who rebel against corporations  that destroy their employees and not the frightened subordinates. I treat this culture with a particular fondness because I grew up from the libertarian societies myself and I think that anarchists should be regarded as an unhealthy little ulcer on the healthy little ass of the capitalism.

Only  negotiating with the city may deprive the anarchists  of the independence.

No, the single fact of conversations with official factors is something obvious and understandable for me. Poznań  is known for its alternative culture, whereas the politicians governing the city are technocrats deprived of any cultural intuition. Drowning of this huge potential would be foolish on the city’s side. I think that each matter should be approached individually and both sides of the coin should be taken into account. In this case, I definitely support anarchists.

In that case – maybe anarchists should have been interested in the attempt to legalize their activity earlier, Rozbrat has existed for over fifteen years after all.  Don’t you think that  alternative culture lacks professionalism and that it is totally detached from the legal and marketing domain?

That’s just the beauty of anarchists! They don’t feel the need to function in official circles because this is their essence. It is not their idée fix but  a part of the worldwide culture. The squatter movement is based on their  disagreement with the city. Obviously, in case of emergency some compromises should be reached.

Let’s go back to the all-Polish subjects. You talked about the need for the rebellion. Can the election in 2005 and the rule of the Law and Justice party (Prawo i Sprawiedliwość) as well as the idea of the fourth Republic of Poland be called a rebellion?

It was not a revolution but a social engineering, the ability to read the political reality, which can’t be denied to Jarosław Kaczyński. It was calculating, cynical and embedded with political marketing. With the use of propaganda, several contrived slogans were managed to have been persuaded to the Polish people. It was an extreme populism. I feel connection to the third Republic of Poland, the system of which helped me feel that I live in my own country in 1989. However, after 2005, after elections, I have felt like I lived in a different country for two years.

In that case, after the elections in 2007  did you feel like after a successful uprising?

Of  course! I remeber, it was 21st October. I sent two and a half thousand SMS messages –  I know thanks to the billing that came to me later (laughs). Everybody was mobilized then. I knew a lot of people who always voted for the left wing, but at that moment they decided to vote for the party that could stop the madness of the fourth Republic of Poland.

What were the symptoms of this madness?

Two people, who never were foreground characters of the democratic opposition,  became influential in Poland. Persons from the seventeenth and eighteenth ground suddenly stood against the heroes – Jacek Kuroń, Adam Michnik, Karol Modzelewski, Władysław Frasyniuk and many more outstanding characters. Commandos from 1968 and the workers form the 80’s were forgotten. This madness was an attempt of the aggressive distortion of our history, our identity and self-appropriation of the polishness.  For me, the diagnosis of the fourth Republic of Poland was clear: we were heading straight towards the quasi-dictatorial nation, in which the authorities were to think for you –where you are supposed to work, whom to value, whom to make friends with, what is black and what is white. The moral revolution was announced and later Andrzej Lepper was taken to the government, I ask then – where, the fuck, their morality was?

However, attacking Lech Wałęsa, Adam Michnik, Tadeusz Mazowiecki and Jacek Kuroń did not begin in 2005. Maybe it is not only politicians’ fault but also the whole society’s.

I’m surprised that these characters do not have their monuments yet. But this is probably the question of the Slavic mentalism – the Bolsheviks fought most severely the Mensheviks, who were their allies not so long ago. I think that the crucial factor is also the jealousy. It is known that the greatest power of the Polish opposition was the Worker Defence Committee (Komitet Obrony Robotników). Now that we are living in the democratic country, many people, who at the time of communism were simple cowards, envy those, who contributed to the overthrowing of the previous political system. Avant-garde of the changes is always eaten by those, who later are allowed to have their say. Adam Michnik is envied that he  took a chance  he got from Lech Wałęsa and created the newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza, that became one of the symbols of the constitutional changes. Additionally, these societies could present to the Polish people a specific vision of Poland – tolerant, open, solidary etc. Such vision of Poland suits me fine, I agree with it.

And what is your opinion about the relation of Gazeta Wyborcza towards general Wojciech Jaruzelski? This subject evokes the greatest emotions in our society.

I assume what follows – I think that the year 1989 was an only Polish miracle. I think that as a result of the geopolitical conditionings as well as the general clinical death of communism, the talks were held. It is known that both sides wanted to outsmart each other – which is typical of any clash . However all this cunningness found its happy ending, which – taking into account the past of our country – should be understood within the category of a miracle. I don’t believe in any confidential arrangements, since due to that compromise our homeland became a democratic country. After the year 1989, the Polish people decided who is supposed to govern their homeland. In my opinion, people who led to the Round Table at the red side should be well respected.

Anyway, many beneficiaries from the previous political system regard communists who caused changes – Wojciech Jaruzelski, Czesław Kiszczak, Florian Siwicki or Mieczysław Rakowski – as traitors. That was the most dangerous group of people, they blocked all reforms in Poland, starting with Edward Gierek and ending with the round-table changes.

However, this massive revolution, that ended with the Round Table and collapse of the communism, led to capitalism – the system which, according to many, is unfair, anyway, you talked about the reasons for modern rebellion yourself.

That was an operation on the living organism. After the year 1989 nothing was given free – everything was thrown on the streets and to have something – you needed to stoop to get it. I also started to fight, to stoop, to pick up and it was hard of course, but this state of affairs was good for me. I remember that at the time of reforms of Leszek Balcerowicz I worked in students cooperative societies. Before reforms I earned more than my father, who has  academic degree of Doctor  and was a manager of the research and development centre.  I was laughing that  experience and knowledge are of no use, because you could take me as an example, a person without education – I was still doing my degree at that time – walking around the Old Town , sweeping and earning four times more than him. Fortunately, Balcerowicz came and this absurdity came to an end. The truth is that I became a bankrupt because of him but I understand that there was no other option.

Do you think that after the year 1989 the correctness of the communists’ idea of the mythic ‘thick line’ should have been verified  [the truth is that Tadeusz Mazowiecki’s words ‘thick line’ meant  detachment from the communistic continuity of authorities, however, after many years  the ‘thick line’ slogan started functioning as a symbol of neglect of dignitaries of the previous political system verification – editorial note.] ?

And again we are entering the world of futurology. The idea of verification alone is not bad in fact. Usually, the law in itself is not evil, after all. The danger is in executors of this law, in its interpreters.  We saw how  in Poland the attempts of inspections looked like. These are delicate matters because it is very easy to destroy a man whereas it is very difficult to cancel it afterwards, for the reason of which I am a firm opponent of the death penalty.  We know how the public prosecutors offices and courts function in Poland, therefore I can also imagine how the inspection would look like. That’s why, after many years,  Adam Michnik deserves being agreed with.

You are a rebel who admires the year 1989. There are people who wouldn’t agree with your assessment, stating that you could talk about the revolution only if the changes were made with  the use of weapons, verifying all the communist activists.

In every political storms there are some madmen, and for me the civil war is a madness.

Such an event would mentally divide this country for many generations. In 2005 we had a sample of it – fortunately a little one – during the rules of Kaczyński brothers, who, in my opinion, introduced a state of a mental civil war in Poland.

Of course, there are some other reasons, including the rational ones – the game with the use of weapons would have finished very quickly because the whole police and army was on the communist side. Don’t forget that Polish people can lose in a very nice way. In 1989 I also thought that direct confrontation would be better than negotiations but I was young and stupid then (laughs).

In that case maybe the history of Polish rebellions, which ended with the victorious Round Table, proves that pragmatic view on the reality is better than romantic revolution?

To cause any change you need both a pragmatic view and romantic fight will. The success of the year 1989 was a result of  connection of visionary intellectual thoughts with the workers. The basis of our country was industry where the workers were crucial, therefore they were the workers whom the communists feared most as only they were able to dismantle this system. And workers always care only about the full plates and meat. Therefore, the fact that in Poland apart from the full plate and meat they also cared about the freedom is a huge success.

We talked about the rebellion against the communism and against the capitalism. Do you think that you can justify the fundamentalist attitudes such as protesting against the national minorities with the emotions and the need of rebellion?

No, certain matters can’t be justified anyhow. The diagnosis is simple – the racists are idiots. The most dangerous tools with  which you can manipulate the society is religion and nationalism. Sometimes connection of these two elements leads to a disaster and sometimes only one of them is enough. Paradoxically, we should be thankful to Stalin that Poland is a homogenous country with regard to nationality. It’s enough to take a look at what happened to Yougoslavia after the death of Josip Tito, or at the second Republic of Poland, remember about Volinia and Ukrainian Insurgent Army. The world should not be so close to religion and nationalism but deal with the culture first of all.

Some time ago you criticized a fundamentalist rebel – Che Guevara. In the song “A letter to Che” you sang about him: “The blood dries on the banners, I remember you only form the photo, commandant Che Guevara.

Yes, I regard him as a criminal, who became an icon of the popculture. It’s a paradox of the modern world that young people wear his image on  shirts because he looks handsome, as at least  women that I know say (laughs). Che Guevara functions just like Marylin Monroe and John Paul the Second.

Don’t you feel the lack of the legal wing political force  in Poland in this capitalistic reality?

I miss it like an oxygen! There must be a balance and at the moment I only find a choice between the lesser of  two evils. All my elections looked like that, apart from the European Union referendum. I remember how I was nervous before it, I cursed our little compatriots watching the eurosceptics’ shows but fortunately the referendum was successful. Only then I voted for, earlier and afterwards I always voted against.

Maybe it is a result of your rebellious nature, maybe you would never be able to find a political party suitable for you?

No, Poland simply lacks classic – within the European meaning – social democracy. All interesting political trends are niche, hidden in the undergound. We choose between the worse and better right wing, whereas, my heart is on the left side.

And what about the wallet?

It’s also on the left side.

Adam Michnik has it on the right.

So we differ at this point (laughs).

Recently feminism, a trend stemming from the left wing attitudes, became popular in Poland

I will not talk on this subject since I regard it as a women’s subject. It is very difficult to talk about it. I am a guy and I have no intentions to disturb feminists’ work.

And what about anticlericalism?

Yes, I support it by all means. I already talked about two matters that I consider most dangerous. Of course, I have nothing against religion in the strict sense, I don’t  reject the Decalogue. However, the realization of the religiousness is exactly the same as politics. It is directed only at the immediate benefits. The art of politics and religion is an art of  fight and war. The Church always finds an army which is able to support it. Let’s listen to the Radio Maryja – what has it to do with the Decalogue?

On the other hand – there is a circle of Tygodnik Powszechny.

Yes, but nobody wants to listen to them anymore. This is a tragedy of honest people.

Poland lacks not only social democratic party but also a liberal one.

Yes, definitely. The true liberal wouldn’t talk about castration of the pedophiles or wouldn’t think about introduction of anti-nicotine  law of this sort. Some time ago, somebody of this sort was the Union of Freedom (Unia Wolności) for me, the party that paid a high price for its pride.  Of course, intellectual potential of the politicians from the  Union of Freedom allowed them to behave this way but party based only on the intelligence will never come to power in Poland. It’s enough to open the atlas and see how many cities with more than seventy thousand citizens  and how many villages and little towns are there in Poland –  there lies the secret of Polish elections.

Are we doomed to populism?

We may have to deal with lesser or bigger populism. It will never disappear. Nobody has ever invented anything better than democracy and democracy is based on populism.

Not so long as ten years ago Jacek Kuroń was a popular politician, who was not supported by marketing. Today such a person would stand no chance.

Yes, we are watching the world that doesn’t exist, the world of illusion. Even a politician is a simple human  being who has a  right to the weakness and a mistake, but we can’t see such politicians because the marketing forbids them to show it. The media must live on something therefore they chase sensations and politicians simply want to be in media. A politician is a different sort of a person. The classic art of journalism that assumes listening to the both sides does not exist anymore. Media became the justice administrator that immediately assesses who is guilty and who is not. The journalism evolves in the direction it is not supposed to. Nobody wants to reach the truth because somebody else may be faster.

And do you look at any politician kindly at the moment?

No I don’t. Some time ago it was Jacek Kuroń who allowed me to understand the world but now I don’t find anyobody like that. Polish politics died for me the day Kuroń died.


Marek Korcz

Jan Radomski

Krzysztof „Grabaż” Grabowski: Born on the 13th March 1965. He graduated from the history faculty at the University of Adam Mickiewicz. He is one of the most recognizable figures of the Polish rock. The founder of the legendary band “Pidżama Porno”and currently the leader of the “Strachy na Lachy” band.

Photo: Sławomir Nakoneczny

Tłumaczenie: Edyta Romańczuk

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About Grabaz

He graduated from the history at the University of Poznań, one of the most recognizable icons of Polish rock music. Leader of the band Pidżama Porno and Strachy na Lachy.

Fredrich Naumann Foundation For The Freedom
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