Pasztet i kawa

posted by Kaihsu Tai on July 21st, 2006

coat-of-arms of Poland When I was at Taizé 2 years ago, there was a Polish girl there; I think her name is a Polish diminutive of “Anna”. She kept eating cookies at the reception. I said to her: “you do not look like someone who had eaten a lot of cookies”, and she said “thank you”. She was studying law, would like to be a lawyer in the European Commission, and was upset that the proposed European constitution did not include a reference to God in the preamble. On this note, His Holiness John Paul II wrote Ecclesia in Europa.

If you thought George and Jeb were dodgy, check out the twin president–prime minister combo in Poland. I am not sure how happy I would be about this if I were a Solidarność member (and I would likely have been one, had I been Polish at that juncture). (But then, Bulgaria had an ex-king for a prime minister until last year.)

The Guardian‘s “tabloid” G2 section today is called Specjalny Polski G2. The Oxonian historian Norman Davies wrote several books on Poland. Our friends Stale Urine had a Polish anthem in their Fourteen Points.

Published in: General | on July 21st, 2006 | Permanent Link to “Pasztet i kawa” | 4 Comments »

Both comments and pings are currently closed.


  1. On July 31, 2006 at 07:11 Dr Kaihsu Tai (Oxford, England) said:

    BBC Radio 4’s Face the Facts this weekend:

    John Waite investigates the legacy of the 1960s building boom for those who did the spadework. Thousands of Irish labourers came here hoping to escape grinding poverty but ended up destitute in old age. Many are homeless and have no right to a state pension as they worked for cash in a system known as “the lump”. John asks who benefitted from the system and as the UK embarks on another construction frenzy, hears concerns that a new wave of migrant workers, this time Eastern Europeans, could share the fate of the Irish.

    This reminds me that Max Weber said in his The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism:

    The proverb says jokingly, ‘either eat well or sleep well’. In the present case the Protestant prefers to eat well, the Catholic to sleep undisturbed.”

  2. On August 2, 2006 at 08:56 Dr Kaihsu Tai (Oxford, England) said:

    Guardian, 2006-07-27: Poland reluctant to give America sovereignty over missile base

  3. On August 14, 2006 at 08:08 Dr Kaihsu Tai (Oxford, England) said:

    BBC News: 2006-07-28, Polish leader backs death penalty; 2006-08-02 European Union rejects death penalty debate.

    Spiegel, 2006-07-17: interview with Lech Wałęsa.

  4. On August 16, 2007 at 10:09 Kaihsu Tai said:

    An excerpt from a talk by Naomi Klein at the American Sociological Association annual conference, from today’s Democracy Now!:

    Now, this kind of preemptive attack on our democratic alternatives, the persistent dream of a third way, of a real third way, has come up again and again. And this is what I discuss at length in the book [The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism], but I want to mention a couple of examples […] of moments where there was a similar sense of effervescent possibility of being able to breathe more and dream more fully.

    One of them was in Poland in 1989. June 4th was the day of the historic elections in Poland that elected Solidarity as the new government. They hadn’t had elections there in decades. And this was the event that really set off the domino — what’s now referred to as the domino effect in Eastern Bloc countries — and ultimately resulting in the breaking apart of the Soviet Union. But it’s worth remembering what it actually looked like in June of 1989. In Poland, people didn’t think that history was over, because they had just elected Solidarity as their government. They thought that history was just beginning and that they were finally going to be able to implement what the movement, which was a labor movement, had always seen as the third way, the third way not taken. Now, Solidarity’s vision was not a rejection of socialism. They said that they were calling for “real socialism,” as socialists often do, and it was a rejection of the Communist party. They were everything that the party was not: dispersed where it was centralized, democratic where it was authoritarian, participatory where it was bureaucratic. And Solidarity had ten million members, which gave them the power to completely shut down the state.

    So when people went to the polls and elected a Solidarity government, what were they voting for? What did they think they were voting for? Did they think that they were voting to become a free market economy on the model that Francis Fukuyama was talking about? No, they didn’t. They thought they were voting for the labor party that they had helped to build.

    And I just want to read you a short passage from Solidarity’s economic program, which was passed democratically in 1981. They said, “The socialized enterprise should be the basic organizational unit in the economy. It should be controlled by the workers’ council representing the collective” and should be operated — cooperatively run by a director appointed through competition, recalled by the council, workers’ cooperatives. So the idea was to get the party out of control of the economy, to decentralize it and have the people who were doing the work actually control their workplaces. And they believed that they could make them more sustainable.

    Now, did they get the chance to try that, to act on that vision of a worker cooperative economy as the centerpiece of the economy, to have democratic elections but still have socialism? Did they get that chance when they voted for Solidarity? No, they didn’t. What they got was an inherited debt, and they were told that the only way that they would get any relief from that debt and any aid is if they followed a very radical shock therapy program. Now, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that the person who prescribed that shock therapy program was Jeffery Sachs. And I — no, I say that because I really had hoped that we could debate these different worlds, because there are differences, there are real differences that we must not smooth over.

    Now, in 2006, 40% of young workers in Poland were unemployed, 40%, last year. That’s twice the EU average. And Poland is often held up as a great success story of transition. In 1989, 15% of the Poland’s population was living below the poverty line. In 2003, 59% of Poles had fallen below the line. That’s that opening of that gap. That’s what these economic policies do. And then, we can say we’re very, very worried about the people at the bottom, let’s bring them up, but let’s be clear about what we’re talking about. These jarring levels of inequality and economic exclusion are now feeding a resurgence of chauvinism, racism, anti-Semitism, misogyny, rampant homophobia in Poland. And I think we can see, actually, that it’s inevitable that this would be the case, because they tried communism, they tried capitalism, they tried democratic socialism, but they got shock therapy instead. After you’ve tried all that, there really isn’t a whole lot left but fascism. It’s dangerous to suppress democratic alternatives when people invest their dreams in them. It’s risky business.