Kaczyński’s plan for Poland

“We can’t have this any longer” – this is the catchword that unofficially accompanied the political revolution that took place in Poland in 2015.

The defeat of Bronisław Komorowski who stood for re-election, the defeat of the Civic Platform in the general elections and finally the United Right forming a government – all of this became possible because the majority of voters in Poland, even if not supportive of the ideas of the Law and Justice party (in Polish: PiS), became convinced that previous methods of fixing the Third Republic had failed. This feeling was particularly noticeable in the presidential elections, in which all candidates – except for Komorowski – presented themselves as the candidates for change.

Jarosław Kaczyński’s re-election as the chairman of PiS symbolically ties up the period of his party coming to power. In his speech, delivered during the electoral congress, Kaczyński stressed that he will personally supervise the good change, and that he considers the result of the vote (only seven votes against) to be a sign of support firm enough for him to play that role. He called for reforms (to be accelerated, he pointed at the weaker cells in the government, reaffirmed the stance of PiS regarding the Constitutional Tribunal dispute.

Six months into the United Right’s governing term, it is clear that Kaczyński would like not so much (to) fix the Third Republic, as to dismantle it. The much belated revolution is finally starting to take shape. Poland did not get to see a fresh start in 1989 and to this day, discussions are still take place about which historical moment is considered the most crucial and defining. Was it the elections to the contracted parliament on the 4th of June 1989 or perhaps the proceedings of the Round Table? Or, alternatively, the first free elections to Parliament? Others propose to go back even further and celebrate the establishment of Solidarność as the beginning of the new Poland.

Kaczyński, considered by some perfunctory analysts to be the heir of Pilsudski’s traditions (solely because of his conspicuous attachment to symbolic and historical policy), turns out to be a politician more similar to Roman Dmowski. In which aspect? In his sober perception of politics – seeing it as a game of interests – and appreciating the economic factor as a crucial component in the reconstruction of the state. To those, who will now cry: “What?! PiS is about populism and socialism!” I will answer that the economy and the free market are not synonymous.

What is Jarosław Kaczyński’s goal? What should Poland look like in two years, or even in a dozen years time? Based on what the government has done so far, we can say that the image of future Poland is quite consistent.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski’s current vision for the state came into being after the plane crash near Smolensk in April 2010 and the snap election that followed in the summer,” wrote Andrzej Stankiewicz for Rzeczpospolita (Kaczyński crushes Michnik’s Poland, January 4, 2016), specifying: “Of course, a part of his political views – for example the criticism of post-Communism – has been a part of his agenda since the 1990s, when he started his political activity. The harbingers of today’s PiS activity are to be found also in the period of his unsuccessful attempt to build the Fourth Republic in 2005-2007”.

I agree that Kaczyński’s views have undergone a partial evolution since 1989, but this is not due to a profound change of his thinking, but to his astute evaluation of the reasons why the Third Republic is inefficient. The fight against communism and the criticism of the post-communist era were obvious for the right in the 1990s (not only the Centre Agreement, Polish: Porozumienie Centrum), but when the chairman of Law and Justice called the Civic Platform “post-communist”, he did not intend to say that Radosław Sikorski and Donald Tusk are the successors of the communist leaders, but to say that their party, which had promised bold, far-reaching changes, eventually fit in the system of impossibility constructed  in the 1990s. Today, when the symbols of the communist crimes, embodied by Jaruzelski and Kiszczak, are buried, we have a situation in which the criticism of post-communism, similar in tone to the criticism from the 1990s, simply does not make sense. In turn, the criticism of the institutional inefficiency of the Third Republic that Poland “owes” to the co-operation between the communists and a part of the Solidarność elites, does make sense indeed.

Stankiewicz concluded that Kaczyński’s principal goal is to explain the plane crash in Smolensk and to bring the perpetrators to justice. “The analysis of Kaczyński’s utterances indicates that Smolensk reinforced his conviction that in Poland the state institutions do not function at all or function improperly, and are filled with unsuitable people.  ’The tragedy in Smolensk is a bitter finale of the Third Republic,’ he said in autumn 2010.”

The diagnosis for Poland

However, the word “reinforced” means something different than the word “caused.” When we take a closer look at PiS activities after the electoral victory, we will not see an “obsession with Smolensk.” Everything that happens had been announced earlier: there is a new team of experts working to explain the Smolensk plane crash and to commemorate its victims with one or more monuments.

But Beata Szydło’s government is now taking on other issues (certain measures are still ‘in the pipeline’) and it can be already said that other things matter as well. The same Kaczyński, quoted by Stankiewicz - who was referring to interviews given after 2010 - also used to repeat before that some benefit more from the economic growth of the Third Republic than others, that the state institutions are inefficient, and that Civic Platform’s idea to develop the country through investing solely in large cities is unfair and ineffective. Between 2007 (when he lost power) and 2010 (Smolensk) Kaczyński repeatedly talked about the need for balanced growth, for equal opportunities, for a different distribution of the financial aid from the EU. And of course, also about the need for repairing the inefficient state.

At the time, very few people listened to him. Today, after eight years of frivolous and wasteful government of the Civic Platform’s and Polish People’s Party’s coalition, Kaczyński’s diagnosis sounds more convincing. Civic Platform’s success propaganda was recently given a hard blow by Gazeta Wyborcza; on the first page, there was an article mourning PiS’s activity directed against the flagship program of the coalition, which is building football fields. Well, the Civic Platform bore many great postulates on its flags, but the only thing that has remained after its fall are the football fields. How could we possibly be surprised that people now trust those who said “We can’t have this any longer?”

“How can we talk about fixing the state and its institutions, if Kaczyński is just crushing and devastating these institutions?”  PiS’s opponents ask. So let us make a quick overview. The Central Anticorruption Bureau, which at the time of Wojtyniuk’s leadership mainly went after county officials, now once again deals with big scandals. The special services, instead of tailing the opposition – or alternatively its own agents to verify their links with the opposition – today take care of state security and counterintelligence. As far as the changes in the civil service and in public media law are concerned, I will say something cynical: they are not devastating, they are realistic. The technical difference between Civic Platform’s coalition’s and Law and Justice’s treatment of media is that the former, while taking control over the media, were saying that they had nothing to do with it. In turn, the latter, saying that the public media cannot belong to one party, got rid of those who tried to appropriate it. What will happen to them? So far, little has been done, and the work on the media law smacks of grotesque. Let us wait for the effects.

However, there is one fundamental subject that deserves attention: the conflict surrounding the Constitutional Tribunal. It starts to get interesting here because it is not only about who had the right to choose and who did not have the right to choose three or five judges. I refer to my book POgrobowcy in which I discussed this issue in detail, here I will explain it concisely. In a great text, published on the 18th of January, 2016, on the portal Jagiellonski24.pl, Krzysztof Mazur carried out an accurate analysis of the inspirations of Kaczyński’s activity and summed up his views on the system of law in the Third Republic. He began by recalling the figure of Professor Stanisław Ehrlich, an excellent (but nowadays slightly forgotten) theoretician on law and state, who was the promotor of Kaczyński’s Masters and  PhD theses (by the way, among his pertinacious opponents, is there someone who knows that he is a doctor of law?). Ehrlich, “in numerous academic writings criticized the traditional meaning of the notion of legalism, and questioned the view that law is the source of the legitimization of power. Instead, he argued for the contextual interpretation, saying that the source of legitimization is the political will […]. So Ehrlich thought that political will was superior to law, and not the other way round.”

Is this a dispute about the tribunal or about the Third Republic?

Mazur recalled the lecture entitled “Is Poland a rule-of-law state?” delivered by Jarosław Kaczyński at the Jagiellonian University in February 2010 (that is before Smolensk). His main arguments were as follows: towards the end of the Polish People’s Republic “the process of “jurisdiction” of the communist system began. Many matters were regulated, including those that had remained unregulated beforehand; certain institutions were established, such as the Constitutional Tribunal, the office of the Ombudsman, the administrative courts. This process went very far.” The pinnacle of this process was the parliament’s resolution in the last days of 1989 concerning the novelization of the Polish People’s Republic Constitution (in force since 1952, replaced as late as in 1997). Mazur indicated: “What is most important, is that the first article of this statutory act stated that henceforth ’The Republic of Poland shall be a democratic state ruled by law.’" This fact was decreed automatically, it was not preceded by dismantling the structures of the communist state.

Jarosław Kaczyński noted that in the Third Republic, in the letter of the law and in the jurisdiction, the definition of a “democratic state ruled by law” was such that it focused on the protection of acquired laws (introduced during the former system). Mazur summed this up as follows: “Introducing this laudable idea was meant to, in Kaczyński’s opinion, ‘serve the petrification of social relations so that the beneficiaries of the previous system would not risk losing the rights they had enjoyed formerly.’. […] The doctrine of ‘the democratic state ruled by law,’ not preceded  by a real dismantling  of the communist state, instead of serving the young democracy, in fact constrained the reformers and guaranteed a nomenclature benefit to the people who served  the previous system.“

The dispute about the Constitutional Tribunal is, therefore, not only a dispute about the number of judges and the order in which they are to be sworn in. It is a dispute about the extent to which the Third Republic, built on pathological fundaments, can be reformed and dismantled, and also about to what extent the Third Republic is a continuation of the Polish People’s Republic. And – assuming that it is – this dispute seeks to unveil the ways in which such heritage could paralyze further development of the country. Without ending the dispute about the Tribunal and its place in the system of law in a way Kaczyński wants it, no further reforms of the prosecution service and the judiciary can be introduced. There, through far-reaching structural changes, personal changes are to be forced through. It is not just about de-communization, because the vast majority of communist judges are now retired, but about freeing the system of justice from inefficiency and “impassibleness.”

Linking the two impulses – a ruthless fight against corruption and changes in the system of law – is supposed to notably decrease the corruption tax paid by Polish citizens and Polish companies. Simultaneously, the vast social program – starting from “Family 500+” and “Flat Plus” is meant to deprive Poles of the feeling that the state has abandoned them, that things never get better, and that the state is for the rich and for those who have “connections.” 

What about the economy?

Here, far more interesting observations about Kaczyński’s goals are formulated by the representatives of the left, rather than by those of the right, who shout about “populism and socialism”. Jan Śpiewak, in his article entitled “New national middle-class versus zombie opposition” (June 11, 2016, portal Dziennik Opinii. Krytyka Polityczna) wrote: “Kaczyński wants to create a new national middle-class. […] He proposes a new vision of Poland.”

“Through “500+” and “Flat Plus” PiS is able to durably change the social structure of the country. […] The first program will also have an impact on the increase of the wages among the poorest. If we add to this a minimal hourly salary, promised by PiS in the electoral campaign, we will witness a real revolution for 25% of Poles who earn the least. […] Program “Flat Plus” might cause that subsequent tens of thousands of Polish families will decide to have children, move out from their parents’ homes and start to live on their own. Briefly speaking, there will be many people who owe their social advancement to Law and Justice. “

The new national middle class will not be established on the basis of petty capitalists – as it has seemed so far – but will provide the customers for Polish capitalists. This is the second piece of good news for Polish business. So what was the first one? As I wrote earlier on: the corruption tax. This tax has already been cut down thanks to the activities of the new government.

What will happen next to the economy? Morawiecki’s plan is based on the dream of repeating Germany’s success in the 1950s and 1960s, when the investments stimulated by the state became a driving force for the entire economy. This links with Kaczyński’s distrust – described above – towards inefficient state institutions. Why – Deputy Premier Morawiecki asks – must the “invisible hand of the market be supported by the invisible hand of the state”? Simply because in the pathologic Third Republic there is no justice, the “invisible hand of the market” is incontrollable and there is no one to slap it on the wrist when it does ignoble things.  And it does so when Anti-development Interest Groups (a notion by Professor Zybertowicz) successfully guide it, masking their self-interest with slogans such as: “this is how the free market operates.” What is more, they make the robbed believe that their financial condition is their own fault as they do not know how to profit from the transformation.

Far-reaching plans

Believers in neoliberalism à la Balcerowicz and free market right wingers have joined forces to criticize PiS, talking about the new sanacja and socialism. “Do something for the entrepreneurs!” – they shout. “Something” will be done, but this will not be a reduction of VAT nor CIT. The starting point is the idea to merge pension and health contributions with income tax to streamline the system and eliminate loopholes as a prelude to the introduction of a new pension system and to cutting red tape. Here, we get back to the basics of Kaczyński’s diagnosis – as long as state institutions are inefficient, there is no point of trying other reforms, because their effects will be clumsy and uncertain. His plan for Poland has so far been as follows: a plan of national development (by Deputy Premier Morawiecki), a plan to establish the national middle class (programs “Family 500+ and “Flat Plus”), restoring Polish identity (new historical policy, national public media, reinstating belief that a sovereign foreign policy is possible, propagating pride of Poland), rallying the silent majority around national security (investments in the armed forces, forming territorial defense units). At the same time, the institutional revolution is to take place and enable the state organs to become efficient political instruments. This ambitious plan will be realized by Kaczyński during Law and Justice’s first term in office. The answer to the question of what exactly these instruments will be used for will presumably be provided during PiS’s second term in office. However, we know for certain what they will not be used for - to make our reality the same as it had been before.

What are potential threats to Kaczyński’s plan? The smallest one is a divided but vocal opposition. A bigger one seems to be the international situation (Europe after Brexit), because we will inevitably feel the consequences of the acute crisis of the European Union. However, the greatest threat is the economy. If PiS does not make former Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s promise come true, which is to say, will not “release Poles’ energy”, then it will simply run out of money for the rest of its plans.

Piotr Gociek

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