Tuesday, 2 January 2007

McCarthy Lives in Poland

Jarosław Kaczyński (prime minister) and Lech Kaczyński (president), the "Terrible Twins", have come a long way from their childhood as stars of a children's film. They are former members of Solidarność. They are now in charge of a their country, something that should in itself be mildly worrying to most democratically minded people.

Just as worrying, are the ideas supported by those prominent figures of Prawo i Sprawiedliwość, Law and Justice, an ultra conservative party.

Joseph Raymond McCarthy died in 1957 and with him the era of anti-communist and anti-homosexual witch-hunts bearing his name more or less came to an end in the US. It seems however that McCarthyism is about to be resurected in Poland and again communists (real ones this time) and homosexuals are going to be the victims of the witch-hunt.

The twins say they want a morale revolution in Poland. Jaroslaw K. explains:
"These are very traditional Polish values that I stand for. Three words: God, Honour and Fatherland. We consider family as the base of our society and we consider that family as a woman, a man and children and not, for example two men and a dog"
"God, Honour and Fatherland": a rather historically charged formula, in my opinion.

Senator Andrzej Tadeusz Mazurkiewicz, also a member of the Law and Justice party claims that the government is "looking for a catharsis. we want to purify the media, the politics and the economy. We want cleanse them from any post communist influence" (my emphasis).

Again, an interesting choice of words.

These two quotes come from a recent report on PM on BBC Radio4 (5min23, 5Mb, MP3 file) which also explained the new lustration law currently doing the rounds in the Polish parliament

The lustration process has been underway in Poland for about 10 years (though the Vetting Law was only enacted in 1998). Compared to its neighbours, notably the former Czechoslovakia and East Germany, Poland began late and efforts were made to adopt a less dramatic approach. In the summer of 2000, the shadow of suspicion fell over two candidates in the upcoming presidential race: the incumbent and highly popular president, Aleksander Kwaśniewski, and the former president and hero of the Solidarity movement, Lech Wałęsa. Both were quickly exonerated. Otherwise few people seem to have suffered from the purge.

Now, with the new law, 85 kms of files (that’s 500 000 files) on secret police and collaborators stored in the National Archives could be placed under scrutiny.

Interestingly, the Catholic clergy is excluded from the effects of the new law, despite the fact that 10% of Polish priests might have collaborated. This, according to a senior Dominican priest interviewed in the Radio 4 programme "means that 90% of the Polish priests concretely opposed the system".

That’s for the Communists. Here is for the Homos:

Lech Kaczyński, as the then mayor of Warsaw, banned the city's gay pride in 2004 and 2005 while allowing a homophobic, far-right counter-demonstration, the "Parade of Normality" in 2005. He declared that allowing an official Gay Pride event in Warsaw would promote a "homosexual lifestyle". He banned the parade on the grounds that the application by the parade organisers had not been properly filed.

While recently admitted that privately he supports the death penalty in cases of heinous murders, although he acknowledged that no changes in Polish law can be made against EU standards that ban capital punishment, he has also been criticised for speaking against same-sex marriage. He says property and inheritance issues for gay couples can be settled by lawyers. Talking to the AP, he now claims to be misunderstood.

"I do not support the turning back of the wheel of history," Kaczynski said, noting he is for equal rights for women and is "not an enemy" of gay people.

"I only think that we cannot say that there are two equal cultures," he said. "If we said so, that would mean we are saying that our fate is extinction."

"I have a certain fear here, but that does not mean that I intend to persecute anyone, that I intend to prevent him from living, from making a career, from working, from being a soldier."

Jaroslaw, for his part, announced in 2005 that "homosexuals should not be allowed to teach." Earlier he had told the weekly Ozon: "The affirmation of homosexuality will lead to the downfall of civilization. We can't agree to it."

The previous prime minister, also a member of Law and Justice, Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz, told Newsweek (Polish edition) that homosexuality is "unnatural" and also threatened lesbians and gay men with "state intervention" if they tried to "infect others with their homosexuality." It was a "violation of freedom" to "infect" others with homosexuality, he explained, adding, "The family is natural, and the state must stand guard over the family."

In June 2006, the state prosecutor announced an investigation of all gay groups for illegal financing, criminal connections, and pedophilia. This came in response to a May 12 letter from Wojciech Wierzejski, a front-bench member of Parliament for and a vice-president of the homophobic, anti-Semitic, and Catholic fundamentalist League of Polish Families Party.

The League (together with the conservative populist party Samoobrona (Self-Defense)) recently became part of the hard-right national government led by the Kaczynski twins and Roman Giertych, the chairman of the League, has been appointed minister of education.

A copy of Wierzejski’s letter was attached to the state prosecutor’s order. In addition, the Ministry of Justice (headed by [[Zbigniew Ziobro]]) has ordered local prosecution offices to investigate if ‘any crimes of a pedophile nature have been committed by homosexual persons’ in their respective areas.

95% of poles are Catholics, and the Kaczynskis have clearly decided to appeal to them by putting god at the heart of their policies. This, to me, is in itself frightening.

What is even more frightening is the role that they see Poland taking in the European Union. Poland's size means it has the same weight as Spain in EU votes, behind the UK, France and Germany. Senator Mazurkiewicz thinks it is to become a missionary state and to "remind other European members that there is god, there is honour and there is fatherland. Nowadays, Europe often forgets about god. It's worse remembering that there exists values which are more important than money and careers".

In a perhaps not too surprising coup de théatre, Poland's second-most important newspaper, Rzeczpolita, published documents in June 2006 (some only recently declassified, and some that were leaked-from the files of the Polish Secret Service) that discussed Prime Minister Kaczynski's homosexuality. The report was apparently also confirmed by former President Lech Walesa on national television and has been picked up by several other news outlets. It seems that Kaczynski's homosexuality is now an open topic of Polish political life.

Finally, it seems interesting to note that the Polish goverment is currently busy refusing to comment on allegations that secret "black sites" used by the CIA for the "extraordinary renditions" of prisoners in the Warn On Terror(TM), were located in their country until 2005 (just before either of the twins came to their current positions).

An official Polish website claims that
Human and Civil Rights are guaranteed by law, primarily in the 1997 Constitution, which says that the inborn and irrevocable dignity of man constitutes the source of his freedom and of his rights as an individual and a citizen. These may not be violated, and it is the duty of public authorities to respect and protect these rights (Article 30).
This is, of course, reinforced by the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, which Poland had to adopt when joining the Union in 2004.

Let's hope that the other countries of the Union will keep a good eye on what is happening in Poland and will not hesitate to remind it of its obligations while resisting its missionary zeal.

see also:
* 2005 US Department of State Country Reports on Human Rights for Poland (nothing more recent)
* Amnesty International USA webpage on Poland
* Human Rights Watch's reports on Poland

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  1. Poland is visibly 80% catholic, and probably 95% in reality.

    The twins are vile, and Warsaw's scene is so underground. I am so sorry my pal moved from Praha to Warsaw. I can't get so excited about visiting Warsaw.

  2. ps I meant to comment on the twins. They are vile and far from progressive. It is the view of my gay polish friends that things will get far worse...


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