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Poland's Hunt for Red Octogenarians

by r------ Fri Apr 6th, 2007 at 11:14:00 AM EST

Perhaps under the radar for many, but some interesting things are going on in Poland these days, the timing of which seems rather odd. Poland's government has whipped up a Red Scare, which seems modeled on America's initial de-Ba'athification efforts in Irak. They seem intent on clearing the entire civil service of anyone associated with the former Communist regime, in even quite ambiguous ways, and on prosecuting, again, Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, a former Communist-era dictator, responsible for imposition of martial law in Poland in 1981.

The driving force behind it? President Lech Kaczynski, and his twin brother Jaroslaw, two far-right, homophobic and xenophobic demagogues who rose to prominence fighting corruption and are now fighting charges of cronyism themselves.

Poland may be volunteering to point missiles at Moscow (er... I mean Teheran) for Washington, it may be running secret prisons for the CIA, it may be violating the European Convention on Human Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by participating in extra-ordinary renditions, and it may have extra time left over to cover up CIA use of its landing strips from EU Parliament investigators, but that doesn't mean they don't have time, nearly twenty years on (and despite the fact that prosecutions have already taken place), to go on a good old fashioned purge of former Communist party members. Vigorous government, indeed (there's Kaczynski right here):

The Post had a rundown of the witch-hunt over the week-end, below the fold.

From the diaries - whataboutbob

GDANSK, Poland -- Almost two decades have passed since dictatorship gave way to democracy in Poland, but after years of burying memories and avoiding the subject, this country is finally grappling with its communist past.

On March 15, a controversial law went into effect requiring an estimated 700,000 civil servants, teachers and journalists to sign an oath declaring whether they collaborated with the communist secret police before the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989. Anyone caught lying, or who refuses to sign, is to be fired.

In January, the new archbishop of Warsaw quit after admitting he had been an informer. Since then, dozens of priests in this devout Catholic nation have likewise been outed as collaborators, shaking public faith in an institution that was long seen as the only reliable refuge from totalitarian rule.

Meanwhile, prosecutors are expected this spring to put on trial an 83-year-old man whose unsmiling visage and dark eyeglasses still symbolize the country's tribulations under communism. Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, Poland's former military ruler, faces charges that he illegally declared martial law in 1981 to suppress the Solidarity labor movement that arose in Gdansk's shipyards.

The accusations and recriminations, about who did what during the communist era, have split Polish society. Proponents of the current purges say that they are long overdue and complain that ex-communists unfairly profited during the country's transition to capitalism. Critics, including many former foes of the communists, describe the campaign as a modern-day Red Scare that is driven more by political machinations than an honest desire to hold people accountable.

Indeed. There are more than a few ways to settle scores, and Poland is by no means the only country to have had equitable distribution issues when it came to divvying up State assets. Curiously though, Poland is one place where divestiture was delayed so as to ensure a more stable environment in which it could take place. Polish authorities may have done what US Development Economist Jeffrey Sachs, architect of so-called "shock therapy," suggested when it came to eliminating state intervention in industry via asset allocation (so-called "subsidies"), state control over the social and ultimately legal environment in which they operated (so-called "deregulation") and price controls. But they were quite careful, unlike the Russians, to not follow his advice on immediately transferring public assets to private concerns. Which is why accusations of cronyism ring rather hollow.

Add to this the fact that the Polish architect of "shock therapy," former Finance Minister Leszek Balcerowicz, is in Polish terms a centrist (and in French terms, centre-right) who had once been a Communist but had been kicked out of the party due to his leadership role in the Solidarity movement. Given this, government accusations of former regime insider deals seem somewhat contrived.

Unless we consider the cronyism and unpopular policies a certain pair of Twins are feeling the heat from. A little bit of a divisive witch hunting can go a long way to distract the vox populi.

Few people have gone unscathed, including Lech Walesa, the Gdansk electrician who led Solidarity and won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1983 for confronting the communists. Walesa has had to go to court twice to clear himself of allegations that he served as an informer.

"Some people will never believe that I managed to accomplish as much as I did without the help of the secret police," Walesa, 63, said in an interview in his office in Gdansk, where he has led a pro-democracy foundation since he served as Poland's president from 1990 to 1995.

Walesa resisted opening Poland's communist-era intelligence archives during his presidency, saying the new republic was too fragile to endure a direct reckoning with its past. Today, however, he supports opening them and said the purges are painful but necessary.

"Only cowards and those who didn't fight didn't have any files," he said. "But we need to get it over with as quickly as possible and do it once and for all. We need to make this issue disappear forever."

Those who actually had skin in the game know that the battle has been fought, won, and it is time to move on.

Unlike in some of its revolution-minded neighbors in Eastern Europe, Poland's transition from communism to multiparty democracy was a carefully negotiated one.

In February 1989, the country's communist rulers opened talks with a delegation of Solidarity leaders and other activists in Warsaw. After two months, they reached an agreement that led to the first partially free elections in the Soviet bloc. Although the communists soon lost their grip on power, for the most part they avoided prosecution; many, in fact, joined new political parties and restyled themselves as democrats.

Some former Solidarity activists and other communist foes seethed at what they saw as a lack of accountability. After years of operating on the political fringe, they swept into power in late 2005, led by identical twins Jaroslaw and Lech Kaczynski.
The Kaczynskis -- Lech is president, while Jaroslaw serves as prime minister -- have called for a "moral renewal" in Poland. "The problem of confronting the communist past in Poland was always addressed in a weak and inefficient way," said Ludwik Dorn, a deputy prime minister and a close ally of the Kaczynski brothers. "If problems are left unresolved, it's quite normal for them to resurface."

In an interview, Dorn said the new government had already had a cleansing effect: About 1,200 local police officers who had worked for the communists have resigned in the past 18 months.

One gets the picture of what's really going on here.

The Kaczynski government is also targeting the country's military intelligence agencies, he said, prompted in part by Polish voters who came of age after 1989 and are demanding to know why the purges didn't happen earlier.

"They are the judges," Dorn said. "They were 4-year-olds during martial law, and they're asking their fathers and grandfathers: 'Who are you? Who were you?' "

This can lead to no good, save perpetuation in power of a certain malignant form of demagogue. Conveniently ensconced in power after accession.

The backbone of the de-communization campaign is the new law that requires civil servants, journalists and academics to declare whether they ever collaborated.

Critics said the law could be easily abused. Jacek Zakowski, a television commentator and columnist for Polityka magazine, said the statute was poorly worded, defining a collaborator as anyone who was in "a position of trust" with the communist authorities.

"I was in the underground in the 1980s, but even I don't know if I could be labeled a 'person of trust' or not," he said. "This is a way to blackmail people, because anybody who says, 'No, I did not collaborate,' could be in trouble."

Jacek Kucharczyk, deputy director of the Institute of Public Affairs in Warsaw, said the vetting law is likely to be overturned or modified by the courts. Regardless of its legality, he said, the measure reflects a broader social divide over the 1989 revolution.

"You have a coalition of people who disliked the new division of authority and power that evolved in Poland," he said. "There are people who genuinely think it was a moral scandal and that it should be rectified in some way. But there are also those who see this as a convenient way to remove the older generation and to take their place."

That's what purges always are about: power. And make no mistake, whatever the color - red, black and all shades in between, when a political witch-hunt is afoot, someone is usually angling for a bit more of it. And usually illegitimately.

And Commies aren't the only folks famous for purges and political show trials.

Millions of pages of security archives have been placed in the custody of the Institute of National Remembrance, an agency with authority to prosecute crimes committed against Poles during the years of Nazi and communist rule.

Under the new anti-communist vetting law, the institute will be required to publish a comprehensive list of collaborators this year. Some researchers at the institute questioned how reliable it would be.
"A lot of people just consider it as black or white -- either you were a collaborator or you were not," said Antoni Dudek, a historian at the institute. "But a lot of times, when you look at the files, it's much more complicated."

Which is exactly the desired state of affairs, surely, for Poland's current government. Ambiguity breeds the perfect conditions for blackmail, account-settling, and worse.

Meanwhile, prosecutors from the Institute of National Remembrance are preparing to try Jaruzelski. After beating similar legal action in the '90s, he was indicted again in March 2006 on charges of "communist crimes," stemming from his decision to declare martial law. Dozens of people were killed in clashes that resulted in 1981, and thousands of underground activists were arrested.

One would think double jeopardy would apply in a country which prides itself on having shed its authoritarian past and its arbitrary judicial system. "Communist crimes"? What the hell sort of trumped up charge can this be?

Jaruzelski has maintained his innocence and portrays himself as a Polish patriot, arguing that he did what was necessary to stabilize the country and prevent an invasion by Soviet troops. The elderly general spends his days in the institute's reading rooms combing through historical archives to gather evidence for his defense. Although Jaruzelski was a reviled figure during his rule, surveys show that many Poles today view him more sympathetically.
Mieczyslaw Rakowski, one of Poland's last communist prime ministers and a former deputy to Jaruzelski, said there was no doubt that the Soviets would have intervened in 1981. He said the general avoided a bloodbath by declaring martial law and also by agreeing to negotiate with Solidarity in 1989.

"My generation saw Budapest on fire in 1956," he said, referring to the Soviet suppression of a rebellion in Hungary. "I saw the Prague Spring uprising and how [Czechoslovak leader Alexander] Dubcek and his people were taken on a plane to Moscow with their heads in a sack. I also witnessed the next Russian invasion, of Afghanistan, in 1979. Why do you think it would have been any different for us?"

Among the general's defenders today is his old foe Walesa. "He believed, and the communists believed, that there was no other choice, that the Russians had directed missiles at every Polish city," Walesa said. "I do not punish people for faith, and they believed in that. I'm leaving the judgments to God."

At least one post-Communist Polish leader uses his faith as a guide, rather than as a tool to further their political agenda. Too bad there aren't more like him in the halls of power of this deeply religious country.

Happy to see how easy the youtube embed was.

I know I've posted up a lot lately, hopefully not wearing thin, but I've some (rare) time on my hands this week and it appears many others are either travelling or do not...

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Wed Apr 4th, 2007 at 04:26:08 PM EST
good stuff, you're most welcome to continue!

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Apr 5th, 2007 at 03:22:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A former leading dissident's criticism of this lustration was discussed in the 26 March Salon. It was in an IHT Op-Ed by Adam Michnik, the most important man in the Polish liberal media.

Some things to consider.

I'd support trying Jaruzelski, I don't think "let's forget the past" leads anywhere, but this of course goes much beyond that.

Regarding former secret service files, in the past 18 years of them being kept confidential, they have been used to blackmail people or kick up scandals with well-timed leaks. I'd support a full opening of the files for historical research, without automatic legal consequences for those in the files.

Regarding former regime members, many active after 1989 were indeed corrupt crooks. At the same time, many were Atlanticist and neoliberal: many of the US-related actions on your list were begun by them. Meanwhile, correlation between past participation in dictatorship and present crookedness is not causation, these issues should be purtsued separately.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Apr 5th, 2007 at 08:28:45 AM EST
with its files? Just curious -- not implying anything like what's gone on in Poland.
by Matt in NYC on Thu Apr 5th, 2007 at 11:48:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Remember this and this?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Apr 5th, 2007 at 12:19:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes and yes, and they were terrific. I was wondering, though, if there had been revelations and scandals about more recent informants. I know that modern Hungarian history is over-shadowed by 1956 -- and rightly so -- but spying and informing must have continued in the 1980s, didn't it?
by Matt in NYC on Thu Apr 5th, 2007 at 12:43:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There have been scandals throughout the last 18 years. A referred to some in other Hungary diaries. But here is a little write-up from memory.

A seminal moment of the transition was in early 1989 when, at the invitation of a whistleblower, a video news team went to a cellar full of secret service papers, which proved that the allegedly ended observations of opposition figures still continued, while destruction of files was on-going -- this led to the removal of the interior minister, the dissolution of the interior secret service, and the seizure of a large part of its archives (but loads of files were apparently taken for future use).

When the first elected government, a right-wing one, took over, the new PM was famously presented by the old with a list of former informants in his government. Nothing was made public, but there were guesses.

A few years later, during the time when the populist fringe of the coalition was cut off, it was leaked that both Smallholders Party leader Torgyán and far-right leader Csurka signed recruitment papers -- but both denied ever having reported, and no documents turned up to disprove them. I note that Csurka, who also runs a far-right daily, would later get to publish a series of leaks himself, implying rather good connections (and use those in a very spinning way -- for example, documents about a visit to the secret service by now Budapest major Demszky, a former leading liberal dissident in the eighties, presented as if he 'offered his services', in truth to deliver a provocative challenge at a time he was persecuted through his wife.)

The highest-profile leak came in 2002, when freshly-elected Socialist PM Medgyessy, an economics technocrat in the eighties, was exposed as a former counterintelligence officer. He steadfastly held that that is different from spying on people, and that his job involved keeing the Russians in the dark about Hungary's talks with the IMF. At any rate, this opened the floodgates for a few more tit-for-tat leaks (but no significant legal change). Among these: the father of a leading Fidesz politician, a former minister of the previous right-wing government, even fake documents about Medgyessy spying on bank employees, several local leaders.

Since then, there were further waves of leaks. The original dossier of the first elected government among them, then the exposure of a number of former church leaders, some noted journalists.

There were two spectacular cases in literature. A leading historian who researched the files in the archive (and who argued for more transparency) learnt that in the eighties his then best friend, a poet, told everything about him. He 'forgave' him publicly in a long open letter, but the other guy, then an alcoholic and depressed right-winger, wouldn't (couldn't) take it. A few years later he committed suicide.

The other case was writer Péter Esterházy, who wrote a long book about his aristocrat ancestors which was really about his love for his father, and shortly after publication, he learnt that his father was an informant reporting on all his relatives for decades. He wrote a new book about the files. (This case looks as if his father was balckmailed to be an informant not to get back any information, but to ruin him as a possible leader of an aristocrat power group.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Apr 5th, 2007 at 01:54:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Megbűnhődte már e nép
A múltat s jövendőt!

I knew Hungary would have the best stories.

by Matt in NYC on Thu Apr 5th, 2007 at 02:52:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think the Polish stories are up to it, but I hope Marek or someone else will turn up to tell of them.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Apr 5th, 2007 at 04:08:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I should be turning this into a diary, but what the hell - a couple observations.

Michnik in addition to being a leading media exec and left liberal is also the most vociferous and prominent opponent of any sort of lustration or settling of accounts or even any purely verbal, non governmental condemnation of both the ex regime apparatchiks and the informers. These views are not limited to ex-communist regimes - he has been critical of Zapatero of raising the Francoist past (in 1989 the then dominant left liberals modelled their approach on the Spanish transition).  

He explicitly lends his views the moral weight of a lifetime as a leading opposition figure with two decades shuttling in and out of prison, that started as a high school student, then a leader of the March 68 student movement, then of KOR, of Solidarity, in the underground, and finally of the Round Table negotiations in 1989. That is one of the major reasons why he is the most hated figure on the Polish right - the Kaczynski side sees him as a traitor to the anti-communist movement; the fundie right always hated him as a pinko commie cosmopolitan trotskyist zionist liberal.

Personally, I find his moralistic condemnation of all those not willing to completely forgive and forget annoying - it's one thing to do so on a personal level, it is another to attack those who aren't willing to do so. Whatever the merits of lustration, criminal trials,  and retribution, they're complicated moral and practical issues. And I certainly don't see anything wrong with people who choose to continue to despise Jaruzelski, Kiszczak, et. al.  Part of what's driving the dispute is also the divide between those who feel there needs to be some accounting for all those ruined lives, and those who believe that revealing everything would only add to that toll.

As you say, the transition to a market economy had a good deal of both corruption and cronyism - particularly the latter whereby the ex nomenklatura enriched itself. That was a feature, not a bug. The left liberals who dominated the initial transition felt that it was important to give the former rulers a stake in the new system for the sake of ensuring stability.

On foreign policy the only difference between the three main post-Solidarity factions is their attitude towards the EU. They all agree on a very Atlanticist foreign policy. Same goes for the post-communists. Those four groupings could be described as running the entire gamut from the Weekly Standard to the New Republic - and even that minor level of disagreement runs within each party, not between them. The outliers are Samoobrona, and, especially, the LPR - the two small partners in the current government.

Like you I have no problem with putting Jaruzelski on trial. Very rapid advance during the Stalinist era, becoming Poland's youngest general at age thirty two with strong but circumstantial evidence for NKVD ties,   distinguished himself as the last general in 1956 to accept the end of Stalinism, in charge of the antisemitic purges within the Army in 1967-8 which got him his promotion to Defense Minister, in charge of the bloody repression of the 1970 shipyard strikes, and finally of course, martial law. What's not to like?  On the other hand there are decent arguments that one shouldn't put ex-dictators on trial if they accepted a peaceful transition to democracy because that makes it more difficult to do so in the future.

I also support a full opening up of the files - get it all out, end the damn war by rumour and innuendo, allow it to be clear who informed, who didn't, to what extent, and under what amount of pressure, if any. It would have the side benefit of making the lustration declarations irrelevant. Back in the early nineties I supported a barring of senior party members from elected office for a set period of time, and still think it would have been good for Poland, but it's far too late for that now.

by MarekNYC on Thu Apr 5th, 2007 at 05:35:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Perhaps there is only a window of opportunity for a nation to develop its own particular version of modernity. Maybe Poland never got that window of opportunity. That would explain what's happening now.

A bomb, H bomb, Minuteman / The names get more attractive / The decisions are made by NATO / The press call it British opinion -- The Three Johns
by Alexander on Fri Apr 6th, 2007 at 05:36:30 AM EST
Well, Poland doesn't equal its current government. (Which was elected with record low turnout, by the way.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Apr 6th, 2007 at 01:51:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Don't you think that America's current government says something about America? Why should it be any different with Poland? (And America's current government wasn't even elected.)

A bomb, H bomb, Minuteman / The names get more attractive / The decisions are made by NATO / The press call it British opinion -- The Three Johns
by Alexander on Fri Apr 6th, 2007 at 02:33:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There is a difference between saying something and saying everything. In fact, I could draw a parallel between US Democrats and their urbanite voters, and Polish urban liberals and main opposition party PO.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Apr 6th, 2007 at 04:39:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If you think America offers bad choices for the left wing voter, you'd go crazy in Poland. In the last election you had the PO - think Grover Norquist on the economy, John McCain on foreign policy; PiS - Pat Buchanan on domestic policy, McCain on foreign policy; the SLD - the DLC channelled through a bunch of horribly corrupt and utterly cynical ex-apparatchiks. Then there were the small parties - the PSL - straight patronage/special interest group; the LPR - a cross between James Dobson and the German NPD; and Samoobrona - at attempt to bring to life every negative connotation of the term 'populist'.
by MarekNYC on Fri Apr 6th, 2007 at 05:22:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BTW, what was that from Tusk about abortion?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Apr 6th, 2007 at 06:22:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What specifically are you referring to?  There's been a debate in Poland recently over whether to tighten the already restrictive abortion laws by eliminating the rape, incest and health exceptions, and  inscribing the new version in the constitution. The PO, including Tusk, is mostly against the changes. Back in his early career Tusk was full throttle pro-choice and generally socially liberal (even openly atheist). Now he's become moderately pro-life, realizing that those kind of laws don't apply to people like him - they can always pay for a high end domestic clinic or just go abroad. I guess this is what sometimes happens after a decade and a half as a well paid politician/businessman as opposed to a decade plus as persecuted and blacklisted oppositionist eking out a living doing grey market high risk construction work.
by MarekNYC on Fri Apr 6th, 2007 at 06:41:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I read that Tusk praised the restrictive 1993 law as great compromise, though from the above, that sounds like a relative comment.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Apr 6th, 2007 at 06:47:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, like I said his views have changed - in 1993 he was strongly opposed to changing the straightforward abortion on demand law. The Kaczynski campaign had a field day dragging out his speeches and articles from the eighties and early nineties - intense hostility to nationalism, very strong secularism and suspicion of organized religion, social liberalism...

The law itself is quite restrictive but barely enforced, the classifieds are filled with ads for clinics offering a 'full range' gynecological services. Its main practical effect is screwing over poor women who are either forced to have a child or to pay money they can't afford for a low end black market abortion.

by MarekNYC on Fri Apr 6th, 2007 at 06:57:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There is debate raging right now in Sweden over wheter or not women from other EU countries should get free abortions in Sweden (or rather for the extremely low rate swedes pay), even if their home state refuses to pay for it.

It still going on, but I would say that the "yes" side is winning, and it has a lot to do with abortions being banned in Poland.

And this with the minister in charge being the leader of the Christian Democrats. He gets quite aggresive attacks from his own voters, but as they don't have anywhere to go he can safely ignore them.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Fri Apr 6th, 2007 at 07:31:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Poland and the US both have nasty right-wing religions having a strong influence on politics, which makes them different from most other Western countries in that respect.

Do you know what form the Enlightenment took in Poland, whether it was more like the Scottish, French, or German Enlightenment? I ask because Christian fundamentalism can be traced to the Scottish Enlightenment, with its position that religion cannot be approached with reason. Unlike the Scottish and French Enlightenments, the German Enlightenment did not attack Christianity, which largely explains Pope Benedict's position that Christianity is based on reason.

A bomb, H bomb, Minuteman / The names get more attractive / The decisions are made by NATO / The press call it British opinion -- The Three Johns

by Alexander on Fri Apr 6th, 2007 at 07:39:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think it was a French-inspired Enlightement.

The Scottish fundamentalism was markedly a Protestant fundamentalism, the Polish one is Catholic. In most of Catholic Europe, clerical influence wasn't defeated with the arrival of Enlightement, it took a century of struggle (the French Revolution was followed by several conservative governments) -- or more, for example, in Spain, it wasn't until after Franco's death. So for present-day Poland, I'd say the question is not really its roots, but what kept it strong. I think the explanation is on one hand Pope JPII, on the other hand, the unusually strong role the Polish Catholic church played in the dissident movement.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Apr 7th, 2007 at 11:54:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, I suspected that what kind of Enlightenment it was that affected Poland wasn't that significant, because the church in Poland wasn't touched by any Enlightenment, any more than the Russian Church was.

The thing about Catholicism in Germany is 1) Germany is predominantly a Protestant country; 2) in Germany, even Catholic theologians are university professors. That means that in Germany, Catholicism has to keep up with Protestantism.

On the other hand, since America itself did not go through the Enlightenment, one can have unenlightened Protestants, so that reactionary Protestants and reactionary Catholics can give each other support.

A bomb, H bomb, Minuteman / The names get more attractive / The decisions are made by NATO / The press call it British opinion -- The Three Johns

by Alexander on Sat Apr 7th, 2007 at 02:21:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
the church in Poland wasn't touched by any Enlightenment

I think churches were hit by Enlightement :-)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Apr 7th, 2007 at 06:34:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
 touched, hit, or swung from a rope as in the case of two bishops during the Kosciuszko uprising.
by MarekNYC on Sat Apr 7th, 2007 at 08:10:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Was this one of those?

1794 Jun 28, The Bishop of Vilnius, Ignotas Masalskis, was hanged without trial in Warsaw on grounds of alleged treason by forces under the control of Polish Revolutionary Tadeus Kosciusko. Masalskis had helped to seek free-city status for Palanga and freedom for the local serfs and in his efforts had appealed for Russian military aid. Later 17 of the 18 men responsible for the direct hanging without trial were themselves tried and hung under the direction of Kosciusko.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Apr 8th, 2007 at 05:02:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes. Heh. Prince Ignacy Massalski, Bishop of Wilno. Patron of the arts, corrupt educational reformer in the 1770's. Paid agent of Catherine II in the 1780's and early 1790's, a leading member of the Confederation of Targowica, a military organization led by conservative magnates like Massalski  that backed Catherine II against the king and the May 3 Constitution.
by MarekNYC on Sun Apr 8th, 2007 at 11:00:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Masalskis had helped to seek free-city status for Palanga and freedom for the local serfs


The Targowica Confederation was a military organization (Latin:"confederatio") of some Polish-Lithuanian nobility, backed by Catherine II of Russia, who opposed the Polish Constitution of May 3, 1791, that had been adopted by the "Great" or "Four-Year" Sejm, especially the provisions limiting the privileges of the nobility.

<chuckle> I love it when the same history can be presented in diametrically opposed ways...

But was the first Wiki page right in claiming that Kościuszko hanged Massalski's hangers?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun Apr 8th, 2007 at 06:07:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
French. Not sure about the relevance of that. Post Napoleon the Poles turned to Romanticism and then in the last third of the nineteenth century they were very into English utilitarianism which in turn was supplanted by a conflict between Marxism and integral nationalism.

The Polish far right has nothing to do with the Enlightenment, though it's foreign intellectual antecedents are often French as well - de Maistre and Maurras especially - i.e. reactionary Catholicism updated with the late nineteenth/early twentieth century mix of protofascism and clerical conservatism. Another inspiration is Francoism. You can see similarities to interwar Austrian political Catholicism as well. Like all of them it's deeply hostile to the Enlightenment and sees all of the Enlightenment's descendants as pretty much the same - Marxism in all its forms, liberalism, neo-liberalism, feminism, human rights, secularism, etc.

by MarekNYC on Sat Apr 7th, 2007 at 03:06:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks very much for that sobering overview.

Do you think that Poland is unique in Europe today in how forces of reaction are very powerful and influential? That comes to mind because in her recent diary Helen said something along the lines that European countries "other than Poland" had accepted gay rights. Spain isn't Francoist any more, and you describe Austrian political Catholicism as an interwar phenomenon.

Robert Kagan has argued that the American and European world views have diverged fundamentally. I think that a good case can be made that he is right, given that there does seem to be a consensus among American elites that war is inevitable. Thus American foreign policy experts routinely speak of "the next war" in purely abstract and general terms. Do you think that a case can be made that Poland is analogous to the United States in this respect? Not everyone in America rejects the Enlightenment, but sizable and powerful groups do. The same seems to be the case with Poland.

BTW, I found it very striking that the Economist, in its end of the millennium survey of the previous millennium, made no mention of the Enlightenment. I thought that was a dead giveaway. The Scottish Enlightenment, with Hume's restriction of rationality to instrumental rationality, was a crippled Enlightenment, so it is natural that the Economist would not look back on it fondly. For neoliberals, the aspirations of the Enlightenment are better left forgotten.

A bomb, H bomb, Minuteman / The names get more attractive / The decisions are made by NATO / The press call it British opinion -- The Three Johns

by Alexander on Sat Apr 7th, 2007 at 04:15:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Can I get you to cross-post this at ProgressiveHistorians?  I think the discussion of history is very timely and would go well there.

The Crolian Progressive: as great an adventure as ever I heard of...
by Nonpartisan on Fri Apr 6th, 2007 at 11:30:14 AM EST
I'd do this but I don't think it's complete without dodo and marek's comments.

Is it possible to do this with integrating them?

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Fri Apr 6th, 2007 at 01:52:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
For my part,I'd have nothing against you block-quoting it in the diary body there.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Apr 6th, 2007 at 02:02:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'd have no problem with that, though maybe I should repost a proofed version of the comment.
by MarekNYC on Fri Apr 6th, 2007 at 05:05:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ok. Will look for it over the week-end.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill
by r------ on Fri Apr 6th, 2007 at 05:27:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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