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Palikot, the Left, a piece of cake

Published on January 24, 2012 by: in: Politics

Activities of the Palikot’s Movement (Ruch Palikota – RP) turned out to be the greatest, but predictable disappointment in politics (from the point of view of the liberal voter) of the last few days of the year. When the position of the group in the pre election polls become strong and especially since entering the Parliament, one of the most important questions in relation to the future of RP was the question about its ideological profile and place on the political stage.

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In my opinion it was really interesting and important question with regard to the shape of Polish political scene. Constantly repeated questions asked by mainstream media about accidental selection of the people on the electoral roll or the style of the political propaganda and media appearances or terrible stupid comparisons to the phenomenon of Andrzej Lepper’s Self-Defence of the Republic of Poland (Samoobrona) were less interesting. It was clear that RP will be the party with distinct message in terms of controversial social and moral problems (although there were still doubts about the way of subordination these issues to unnecessary harsh anticlerical rhetoric). However, the direction of the party in association with economic policy remained questionable. Such liberal attitude towards moral changes can be in practice of European politics connected not only with free market solutions trend in economic policy, but also to the tendency to create rich social security. In the first case, these parties are liberal. In the second one, they are social democratic, socialist, or alternatively, green. RP, as the significant actor on the political stage, has given reason to question whether the long-awaited centre-liberal party in Poland has already been created.

PR – long-awaited, centre-liberal party?

Recently, it was strongly suggested. This was obviously the direction hinted (honestly, there were only few such hints) in the content of Janusz Palikot’s speeches and his political statements. Furthermore, his earlier career as the politician of The Civic Platform (Platforma Obywatelska – PO), when one of the most important things for him was deregulation and limitation of bureaucratic problems, was also sign of such approach. Economically liberal demands – abandoned even by PO – are also present in the program of RP e.g. flat rate PIT. Palikot seemed to be similar to professor Leszek Balcerowicz and Krzysztof Rybiński in his criticism of PO-PSL  coalition’s reign of the first term with regard to such events as dissolution of open-end pension fund (OFE) or lack of courage in such reforms as increase of retirement age. It has created the picture of very liberal party together with such clearly presented issues as in vitro fertilisation, partner relationships, separation of Church from State.

Strategic reflection

There was, on the other hand, strategic reflection. It is true that the Polish society has never shown any tendency to support liberal views per se. It is different case with the socialist views. They have strongly influenced Polish political history, even if we do not account the time of the People’s Republic of Poland (Polska Rzeczpospolita Ludowa – PRL). The camp of left social democrats is on the deep defensive since 2005. All sociologists agree that post communist party is in the crisis and does not appeal even to the half of potential electorate of the Polish left. It means that there is opportunity for the new environment to take action. It might be easier way to strengthen the position of the new party on the political scene, than in the short-lasting liberal centre.

Janusz Palikot would probably like to build liberal party struggling for the libertine part of left voters under the moral banner. At the same time he challenges PO through enlisting its newly discovered social liberalism and promoting the program strangely resembling libertarianism (when there were pre-election debates, he has agreed with Janusz Korwin-Mikke on many economic issues). This is the party I would like to join, although I do not highly value rhetoric of the leader in many cases. It seems that strategic calculation has won, in other words, the idea of creation of the left party. The important reason for this decision might be the choice of Leszek Miller for the new leader of post-communist formation. Young left-wingers associate him with negative features, because of four reasons: when he was prime minister, he had kind of relationship with economic liberalism; he blocked morally progressive projects for the benefit of treaty with the Church in return for the support of access of Poland to the EU; he is supposed to be sexist and chauvinist making fun of feminists.; he caused the downfall of the Left and – indirectly – brought about success of Law and Justice (Prawo i Sprawiedliwość – PiS) and two years of the fourth Republic of Poland (Czwarta Rzeczpospolita Polska – IV RP) by his tolerance for the signs of corruption in his own party. The competition in form of Leszek Miller makes it easier for Janusz Palikot to become the unquestionable leader of the Polish Left. The additional encouragement is the frankness of Aleksander Kwaśniewski, who may strengthen the position of Palikot as social democrat.

Various supporters

This is why RP plans to get involved in May Day march. Palikot wants to invite, on the one hand, workers to a party and, on the other hand, also anti establishment groups and minorities. It is the reason why RP is so eager to fraternize with Democratic Left Alliance (Sojusz Lewicy Demokratycznej – SLD). This explains also the common program congress of the Left together with the Greens and almost eurocomunnist „Krytyka Polityczna”. There is the opportunity to succeed. However, from the point of view of liberal voter, it means the lost chance to represent one’s viewpoint through autonomic political party.

It is normal to complain about this. This was really the first potential chance for the significant political force with liberal profile since the failure of the project of Władysław Frasyniuk and Marek Belka from 2005. When presented currently by Janusz Palikot plans are realized on 1st May, then it will be clear that liberal voter has to pin all his hopes and votes on the left wing of PO. Even if it means choosing „lesser of two evils”. On the other hand, it does not have to happen. Maybe the way to create the liberal party in Poland is not the new structure, but instead the marginalization of conservative politicians in PO or pushing them aside the party for 5-10 years towards the followers of „Radio Maryja”.

The choice of Janusz Palikot might be pitiful, but not necessary. Probably it is something positive. Even if the leader of RP has chosen the liberal and centre direction, then his style and harsh rhetoric (even if it was right about the content) would be unbearable. People, who have earlier supported parties of Geremek, Frasyniuk or Onyszkiewicz, might feel torn apart.

Translation: Grzegorz Skrzypczyk

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About Piotr Beniuszys

Piotr Beniuszys holds Master’s degree in sociology and political science; his views are to the right in economic issues, to the left in ethical and moral issues – i.e. liberal in both cases; the final chairman of Unia Wolności in Gdańsk, a former member of Democratic Party – demokraci.pl.

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