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Id Foundation

Europeans against democracy: repression against Polish patriots

Every Monday morning, you can listen the director of the Identity and Democracy Foundation on Ligne Droite, Radio Courtoisie’s morning show, followed by his column on our website. This week, we take a look at the new liberal government’s takeover of Poland’s public media.

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The last elections in Poland saw a victory for pro-European parties. Can you remind us of the context?

For eight years, Poland was ruled by a patriotic party, PiS or Law and Justice, which pursued a social policy, notably by reducing the retirement age; a conservative policy, inspired by Catholic values; a sovereignist policy, reaffirming among other things the superiority of Polish law over European law; and a patriotic policy, rejecting mass immigration. Social, conservative, sovereignist and patriotic, PiS represented everything Brussels hates. But in last October’s elections, the pro-European parties won the day with the formation of a broad coalition of parties ranging from the radical left to the so-called conservative right, whose only common ground is alignment with Brussels policies. Poland’s new pro-European government is seeking to impose Brussels policies as quickly as possible.

What policies has the new government put in place?

This government was elected on a promise of appeasement. The pro-European coalition was supposed to represent a return to normality and appeasement, in the face of the PiS, which embodied cleavage, radicalism, populism and extremism. And yet, this new government seeks to unravel everything the PiS has put in place. It is seeking to realign Poland with Brussels, it has made pro-immigration statements and, above all, it has announced a series of highly progressive measures, including the legalization of the morning-after pill, abortion and civil unions for homosexuals. Obviously, in France, these measures are not divisive, but Poland is a very conservative and Catholic country, and a large part of the population is shocked by these measures, which are diametrically opposed to the policies of the PiS for eight years. Finally, the government’s vocabulary is very violent towards the PiS. It has not hesitated to speak of “conjuring up the PiS devil”. In this way, they are following the same logic of confrontation and division as their patriotic opponents. But beyond the policies voted, it is the “depoliticization of the media” implemented by the government of the new liberal Prime Minister Donald Tusk that is most worrying for democracy in Poland.

Why is the media issue so sensitive in Poland?

For eight years, PiS has sought to disseminate its patriotic, conservative worldview via the public media. Brussels has denounced this, accusing the PiS of wanting to control the press. However, it should not be forgotten that Poland’s private media are largely progressive, liberal and pro-European. One of the aims of this more conservative orientation of the public media was to counterbalance the influence of the private media. Moreover, similar phenomena of alignment of the public media with the liberal and progressive policies of governments can be found in Western Europe, including France, without Brussels condemning anything. By denouncing the situation only in patriotic countries such as Poland and Hungary, Brussels seeks only to weaken governments that refuse to align themselves with its policies. And the liberal Polish government is using these accusations from Brussels as a pretext to take control of the media under the guise of “depoliticization”.

And what does this “depoliticization” consist of?

It began with the dismissal of the heads of public television channels and a number of journalists, and the recruitment of progressive directors and journalists. It went so far that public television had to stop broadcasting for several days. What we witnessed was a liberal, progressive takeover of public television, a far cry from “depoliticization”. We also saw one of the new journalists apologizes to the LGBT community for the way it had been treated by the government and the media during the PiS era. Again, we may or may not agree with the substance of this statement, but we’re a long way from a desire to make the media more neutral. It’s clear that the aim is to spread the liberal, progressive and pro-European vision of the new Polish government in the public media. And in view of the private media’s alignment with this same vision, there is cause for concern about the state of public debate in Poland in the years to come.

How has the EU reacted to these measures?

The European Union supports these measures and the new government, and has just released 137 billion euros for Poland to support this “return to democracy” in Poland. Beyond the Polish case, the aim is to blackmail the peoples of Europe: if you submit, Brussels will finance you.

And how are the Polish people reacting to these measures?

The Polish people are very divided. Poland is undergoing rapid de-Christianization, and measures that were the subject of consensus just a few years ago are now much more divisive. In 10 years, 20% of Catholics have left the Church. In the space of two years, 1 in 4 practicing Catholics stopped going to Mass; the figure is now less than 30%. And this figure is even lower among young people. Moreover, the maps of this phenomenon overlap with the maps of the PiS/Liberal opposition. The fact that conservatives and nationalists accounted for only a third of the youth vote in the last elections is a sign of this. Poland is coming out of religion. So there’s a fairly classic divide between popular, conservative outlying Poland and progressive urban Poland. In the last elections, the conservatives scored 15% among 18-29 year-olds, but 53% among those over 60%. They made 64% among those with no qualifications, but 23% among university graduates. 49% in rural areas, but only 22% in cities. They made 67% among farmers and 50% among blue-collar workers, but only 19% among executives and 12% among students. In short, the Conservative vote is made up of the elderly, the countryside and the working classes, while the Liberals win back the young, graduates and urbanites. Finally, there is one last cleavage, very specific to Poland. The electoral map continues to reflect historical realities. The East, long under the domination of the Russian Empire, votes conservative, while the formerly German West votes liberal. Ultimately, the current clashes bear witness to the fact that in Poland, the national-conservative and Catholic consensus has given way to a liberal/patriotic divide common to more and more European countries.

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