Poland’s liberal elites are ‘saving’ democracy by destroying it

Once Polish liberals decide that democracy belongs solely to them, the line between the good of their group and the good of democracy becomes blurred, writes Polish columnist Rafał Woś

editor: Grzegorz Adamczyk
author: Rafał Woś
Young Poles hold Polish flags during the annual Independence Day march in Warsaw, Poland, Thursday, Nov. 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

The “Anti-PiS” liberal government has entrenched itself within the framework of democracy to carry out a campaign against the very concept of democracy. But how is it possible that the Tusk government, while claiming to repair democracy, seems to be undermining it? Why are people, who until recently would speak six times a day about the rule of law and the constitution, now applauding undemocratic actions? The answer is simple: it is the consequence of the liberal camp’s appropriation of the very concept of democracy.

In Poland today, a democrat is no longer someone who acts in accordance with the rules of democracy. Instead, democracy must conform to the needs and interests of those who consider themselves the rightful democrats.

This appropriation is akin to turning something that was once common property into private property exclusive to a particular group. History has shown us striking examples of such appropriation of state assets. The early years of Poland’s transformation witnessed privileged representatives of old-new elites taking over factories, real estate, and media outlets under unclear and subjective conditions. This process, criticized as an opaque and unfair appropriation, was hidden behind the curtain of significant historical changes.

Appropriating democracy is not just an old tale. In recent years, while we thankfully haven’t seen such blatant examples of appropriation, the pattern remains strong. The latest instance is the symbolic appropriation of the concept of democracy by the liberal elites, now united under the broad banner of Anti-PiS. Their actions, from manipulating laws and bypassing presidential vetoes through questionable legal tactics and brute force to imprisoning political opponents on flimsy pretexts, are hard to reconcile with the principles of democracy and rule of law.

This hypocrisy stems from a belief that they, and only they, understand and act for the good of democracy. It is evident in the actions of the Tusk government and the new parliamentary majority, where the discord between words and deeds is glaring. They grant themselves permission for actions that would have been condemned as democratic death knells if perpetrated by the PiS.

Their main argument is that they are allowed more leeway because they are “saving democracy from PiS,” which allegedly was destroying it. This belief, however subjective, also originates from their appropriation of democracy. Once a Polish liberal decides that democracy belongs solely to them, the line between the good of their group and the good of democracy becomes blurred. Hence, any action or policy differing from their preference is labeled “undemocratic.”

Tragically, the likelihood of the liberal establishment looking in the mirror and being alarmed at what they have become is slim. The mirrors have long been shattered, and the Anti-PiS’s conviction in their righteousness remains unshaken.

Unfortunately, this is the current state of affairs.

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