Poland’s deep divide

On December 13, 1981, martial legislation was imposed in Poland and the primary unbiased commerce union in Communist Eastern Europe, Solidarity (Solidarnosc), with over 10 million members, was forcibly dissolved by the Polish army. Dozens of individuals had been killed or injured within the violent crackdown, tens of 1000’s of officers – together with Solidarity chief Lech Walesa, who later received the Nobel Peace Prize, had been arrested.

General Wojciech Jaruzelski, who was additionally the then-prime minister and head of the Communist Party, had deliberate the imposition of martial legislation months earlier than to interrupt the rising energy of Solidarity. Whether he was pressured to take action by the Kremlin remained unclear.

As a reporter for Austrian journal profil, I skilled the imposition of martial legislation as the one journalist from Austria who was current in Warsaw. The then-profil editor-in-chief Peter-Michael Lingens feared an invasion by Soviet troops as was the case in 1956 in Hungary, in 1968 in Czechoslovakia and Afghanistan in 1979.

Lingens gave directions {that a} profil reporter needed to be current in Poland always. He was to be proved proper, nevertheless it was the Polish military that destroyed the hopes of many Poles for a lifetime of freedom and dignity as had been preached by the Polish-born Pope John Paul II.

On a freezing Sunday, in December 1981, armored automobiles had been parked in essential locations within the capital. Army troops and items of the ZOMO particular police patrolled the streets. Demonstrators gathered in entrance of the Solidarity headquarters on Mokotowska Street in Warsaw, which had been sealed off by the police. From the balcony of a flat, I captured the scene with my digital camera. I later smuggled one of many slides to Vienna, which ended up on the covers of TIME journal, Paris Match, Espresso and different magazines.

It was not till the start of 1989 that Poland’s Communist regime, going through financial chapter, sat down with the Solidarity functionaries on the “round table”, the place a peaceable power-sharing settlement was reached. Partly free parliamentary elections had been held in June 1989 the place the Catholic mental Tadeusz Mazowiecki shaped a authorities.

Walesa, himself, was elected president in 1990. 

The Solidarity motion later cut up into two events: The extra left-liberal Civic Forum (PO) and the more and more right-wing PiS (Law and Justice) celebration led by the Kaczynski twins. The PiS celebration beneath Jaroslaw Kaczynski, which got here to energy in 2016, as we speak leads an arch-conservative course in opposition to the EU, one which can be anti-Semitic. Only this yr, the already strict abortion legislation in Poland was additional tightened, triggering mass protests. 

There was a cut up between the bulk liberal-ruled cities and the countryside, the place the PiS continues to dominate. During demonstrations in opposition to the federal government, the unofficial anthem of Solidarity, the music Mury (Walls) concerning the collapse of the previous world, may very well be heard once more.

The Polish authorities’s many conflicts with the EU management over undue interference within the judiciary escalated final October. The Polish Constitutional Court, composed of judges loyal to PiS, declared two articles within the EU treaties incompatible with Polish legislation. This undermined an EU precept that EU legislation takes priority over nationwide legislation. 

In the meantime, the European Court of Justice has imposed binding penalties on Poland. For instance, Poland should pay a effective of €1 million for every day that the controversial Judicial Disciplinary Board, as demanded by the EU, continues to exist. Thus far, Warsaw has to date refused to pay. 

The European Commission has already frozen the share of COVID support reserved for Poland – €20 billion in grants and billions extra in loans. And within the subsequent step, the subsidies for Poland from the traditional EU funds – €12 billion internet, yearly – is also stopped if the PiS authorities doesn’t give in. The authorities in Poland has even floated the concept of leaving the EU, however the inhabitants’s approval for Europe has been remained pretty excessive. 

A Polish lawyer, and a member of a German-Polish basis for reconciliation, Pawel Kuglarz, sees the origin of the present battle within the missed purge of Communist judges and prosecutors after 1989.

“In addition to the economic, political and legal reforms, the question of an honest reckoning with the Communist legacy was of great importance. The basis for a real coming to terms with the past is decommunisation, lustration, i.e. the examination of collaboration with the secret services, criminal rehabilitation and punishment of the perpetrators. This chance was missed. And when the PiS-government started the purge quite late, the EU saw it as a breach of the independent judiciary.”

Of nice significance within the scheme of all that is Poland’s head of presidency, Mateusz Morawiecki, who doesn’t need to give in to the EU’s calls for and has brazenly threatened Brussels.


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