Poland’s Old-New Government Offers a Cautionary Tale 

The challenge to the West is not only from without but from within — by proponents of a left ideological movement that seeks to control free societies.

AP/Petr David Josek, file
The Polish prime minister, Donald Tusk, at Warsaw, October 15, 2023. AP/Petr David Josek, file

It is often those who warn of democracy’s demise, should power not be granted them, who preside, ultimately, over its unseemly death. So it seems to be with Donald Tusk, who, in December and for the third time, became Poland’s prime minister. Poland’s predicament since has thrust the country — a member of the North Atlantic Treaty — into turmoil. For America, too, it is a cautionary tale of electoral consequences.

“We will chase away the darkness, chase away the evil,” Prime Minister Tusk said following his election on December 11. “Everything will be according to the law, as we understand it.” What a curious understanding, indeed, it is and could turn out further to be.

In recent weeks – and in the name of political impartiality – Mr. Tusk’s government has commandeered Polish public broadcasters. The management and supervisory boards of TVP, Polskie Radio, and the Polish Press Agency have been sacked and replaced by those chosen by culture minister Bartłomiej Sienkiewicz, a move since rejected on constitutional grounds by a Warsaw district court, subject to appeal.

Two members of parliament previously pardoned by President Duda have been arrested — in the Presidential Palace, no less. Mr. Tusk has condemned Mr. Duda for attempting to thwart their arrest, a criminal act. Justices appointed by the Law and Justice Party to Poland’s judiciary council, too, have been urged to “immediately step down.” Their appointments, claims Mr. Tusk’s Civic Coalition, were “unconstitutional.”

Justices are now likely to be appointed by “peers” and in accordance with conditions set forth by Brussels. On deck is legislation to recognize same-sex partnerships and make “gender hate speech” a criminal offense. Abortion, too, is set to be legalized up to the 12th week, according to Poland’s new Minister of Equality — a likely affront in a country where more than 70 percent of the population identifies as Catholic.

If Poland’s new Minister of Family, Labor, and Social Policy has her way, funding for the Catholic Church will also be slashed and reallocated to, among other line items, migrants. Mr. Tusk has formally rejected Poland’s participation in the European Union’s migration pact. Yet his fealty to Brussels and the $21,870 a head fine for states refusing intake suggest Poland’s participation is likely a fait accompli.

The speaker of Poland’s house recently posed for pictures with illegal migrants inside parliamentary walls. The image has since been removed. It could be that much of this is transitory — growing pains as the new government settles in. The previous one was not without its faults. Yet the brazenness with which Mr. Tusk has proceeded, and the bombast of his government – largely made up of veterans of his last – suggest it could be more. 

“I think it’s very good,” President Biden said of the changes. The European Commission has said it does “not comment on specific events in member states.” That’s rich coming from an organization that for eight years did little but comment. Billions of euros in Polish recovery funds have been kept frozen over a rule of law dispute. Those funds are now likely to be released, absent any legal reforms.

For Europe, it seems, having its preferred politics in Warsaw is enough. The West, though, finds itself in a civilizational struggle in which Judeo-Christian teachings and values bump against collectivist notions of moral relativism and control. At the forefront of this struggle is Communist China, along with Russia and Iran. China’s social policies have been an object of praise by Poland’s new deputy minister of foreign affairs.

Yet this challenge to Western societies is not only external, from Russia, China and their ilk. It is also being levied from within by proponents of a left ideological movement that seeks to control formerly free societies. Those who oppose such a dogma are painted as menaces to society, bigots, or threats to democracy. We don’t know yet about Mr. Tusk, but early impressions give reason for pause.

This adds up to a cautionary moment for America herself, as it enters an electoral year. Events in Poland bear watching, particularly by those who warn of democracy’s demise and believe it will come from the right. For Mr. Tusk’s early overtures suggest it could yet arrive couched in fanciful promises of progress and renewal. The line between democracy and cultural upheaval today, at least, appears thin. 

The New York Sun

© 2024 The New York Sun Company, LLC. All rights reserved.

Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. The material on this site is protected by copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used.

The New York Sun

Sign in or  create a free account

By continuing you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use