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25th October 2015 – The last day of Post-Stalinism on the Polish Left

Text below is translation of the article 25 października 2015 skończył się w Polsce poststalinizm

On 25th of October there was a breakthrough in Polish politics. Firstly – it has been the end of idyllic time for burgeois politicians from the Civic Platform (Platforma Obywatelska, PO). The rule of PO has been disgraced by many anti-worker acts – e.g. rise of the retirement age up to 67 and Labour Code liberalization.
The undisputed victory belongs to the Law and Justice (Prawo i Sprawiedliwość, PiS), which gained the 37.6 percent of votes and obtained an absolute majority of the deputies. PO took second place and lost almost forty percent of its votes - from 39 percent in 2011 remain only 24.
PiS, the chauvinist, conservative, populist, and anticommunist right-wing party is nevertheless – according to the polls – regarded by the working class as a voice of protest against the political system. Third position is occupied by populist and nationalist committee Kukiz'15 (8.81 percent), estabilished by Paweł Kukiz, a rock musician with unclear political views.
„Interesting times are ahead of us” - These are the words of formerly left-wing historian Tomasz Nałęcz spoken in an interview for one of the TV stations.
There are two more parties, which have got into the parliament. The first of them is .Modern (.Nowoczesna), set up by neoliberal economist Ryszard Petru. Petru is the follower of Leszek Balcerowicz – a man responsible for the neoliberal massacre of Polish economy after the 1989 counter-revolution, which lead to closure of many factories, robbery via privatization and unemployment rate exceeding 20 percent in some years.
.Nowoczesna got an outcome at the level of 7.16%. The last is centrist and peasant Polish People Party (Polskie Stronnictwo Ludowe) which is as of now part of the ruling coalition. The fascist party KORWiN (Koalicja Odnowy Rzeczypospolitej „Wolność i Nadzieja”, Coalition for the Renewal of the Republic „Freedom and Hope) – the acronim is the same as part of the leader's surname – remained slighty below the threshold of 5 percent, which allow the parties to get MPs.
Disappointment caused by long years of neoliberal rule resulted in social discontent. But the betrayal and indolence of the leader of biggest left-wing party, Alliance of Democratic Left (Sojusz Lewicy Demokratycznej , SLD), prevented it from using that discontent to achieve a good outcome for the Left. The social-democratic SLD organized a broad electoral coalition with social-liberal Your Movement (Twój Ruch, TR), old-style socialists from Polish Socialist Party (Polska Partia Socjalistyczna, PPS), Polish Party of Labour (Polska Partia Pracy , PPP), Green Party and trade unions – All Country Coalition of Trade Unions (Ogólnopolskie Porozumienie Związków Zawodowych, OPZZ) and small radical trade union August 80 (Sierpień 80). Establishing that coalition made it possible to build popular support, but the outcome at the level 7.55 percent was not enough to get the MPs. The „Nowacka's effect” kicked in, but with too small intensity. If the Post-Stalinist leader of SLD had organized one party out of several smaller parties, it would be enough – the threshold for parties is 5 percent, for coalitions 8 percent.
The effect is that there are no left-wing parties in the Polish Parliament. 26 years after the elections carried out on 4th June 1989, when ruling Stalinist Polish United Workers' Party (Polska Zjednoczona Partia Robotnicza, PZPR) gave away the power to the anticommunist opposition and 25 years after the dissolution of PZPR, another act of counter-revolutionary destruction of the organizational base of Polish Left took place. The leaders of the SLD – which have been set up in 1991 as a coalition, and in 1999 as an united social-democratic party have been working toward the present outcome for 25 years.
From the beginning SLD have been a pluralistic left wing organization which at one point consisted not only of social-democratic organizations, but also of parties like Union of Polish Communists' „Proletariat” (Związek Komunistów Polskich „Proletariat”) as part of the coalition. SLD remained a party with roots in the PZPR. Some of the SLD politicians are devoted to the tradition of the Polish workers' movement. In 2006 in Warsaw, in the Wola district, thanks to the left-wing vice-mayor Paweł Pawlak the monument of Ludwik Waryński, prominent socialist and internationalist from the second half of 19th Century, was erected. In 2013 SLD published „The historical compendium of the Left”, a small red book praising the People’s Republic of Poland and sympathetically recalling the pre-war Communist Party of Poland dissolved by Stalin in 1938.
There was a potential in SLD to gain the anti-capitalist vote and the backing of the working class. However, its neoliberal rule in the years 2001-2005, when the CIT tax for the capitalists dropped from 27 percent to 19, when the corruption scandals shook the country, and the so called „Left” helped the US imperialists to establish secret prisons for the Central Intelligence Agency, when Polish Army took part in an imperialist aggression against Iraq, resulted in reduction of popular support. SLD lost almost ¾ of its votes – the outcome in 2001 was 41%, but in 2005 only 11%.
Despite the responsibility for scandals, imperialist war and neoliberal policy, SLD remained a significant parliamentary party with support varying at the level of 10% and was able to transform into more of a workers' party after expulsion of the right-wing liberals and internal take-over by the left-wing faction. This situation lasted until the end of 2014.
During this time there were some changes in the party's leadership.
Suddenly, after the appointment of former neoliberal Post-Stalinist Leszek Miller for the party leader's seat at the end of 2011, the era of collaboration with capitalists' organizations like Business Centre Club was over. It was the beginning of the left-wing drift in SLD. In the years 2012-2014, SLD and OPZZ organized mass May Day rallies in the capital. Not only Jan Guz, the chairman of OPZZ, but also Leszek Miller gave some pro-worker, even „democratic socialist” speeches. The participants of the rally sang „The Internationale” in accordance to workers' tradition.
New Year 2015 brought hope, that SLD leadership is going to strengthen its pro-worker view, will reach an agreement with trade unions and radical Left, will take part in class struggles like numerous miners' demonstrations to gain the support among the working class. It could lead to electoral success in elections which were held in May (presidential) and October (parliamentary).
After two weeks it was clear, that a disaster was unfolding. The „Left” candidature become occupied by Magdalena Ogórek. She was a person without any political skill, but with great self-esteem and extreme right-wing political views including economic liberalism and islamophobia. She have discredited herself and SLD, spouting strange slogans like „establishing a National Guard from hunters to strengthen national defense” and „writing all of the law from the very beginning”. The leadership of SLD – chairman Leszek Miller and vice-speaker of the Sejm Jerzy Wenderlich were speaking about that right-wing Barbie doll with tenderness as „Miss Ogórek PhD”. Their stubbornness and irresponsibly strong support for Ogórek devastated the biggest left wing party. Some rank-and-file members, being in opposition to the leadership, deserted the party. The party reached a state of decay.
Withdrawal from organization of the 2015 May Day rally in Warsaw was only a forecast of the incoming disaster. The real disaster came in 10th May during the presidential elections – Ogórek got only 2.38 percent. In 2010, the candidate of SLD, Grzegorz Napieralski, got 13.68 percent. It was the enormous defeat of polish Left.
It was reflected also in polls – 2-3 percent of support (in comparison do 8-13 percent at the end of 2014 and beginning of 2015) didn't give SLD any chance. Leszek Miller, which really would like to participate in government coalition with liberal PO, was forced to change his plans once again. Miller, in collaboration with leaders of Your Movement (TR), and some minor parties and trade unions created common electoral list – The United Left (Zjednoczona Lewica). The United Left wanted to raise minimum salary up to 2500 PLN (583 EUR) instead of current 1750 PLN (410 EUR), introduce minimum wage at the level 15 PLN (3.50 EUR) per hour, fight with the non-Labour Code temporary contracts (the so-called “trash contracts”) and supported the separation of Church and State.
The United Left remained on the ideological position of moderate social-democracy, without any anti-capitalist slogans, like nationalization of industry. Despite the coalition’s heterogenic class character, SLD – which is a party of the white-collar office workers and post-Stalinist bureaucrats rather than of the industrial workers – together with trade unions and also bourgeois party Your Movement, The United Left began to recover popular support. It was close to 8 percent threshold for coalitions, in many areas the support for the party exceeded 10%.
On Tuesday [27th October] however, when the official results were announced, the disaster become evident.
The second left-wing party was „Together” („Razem”). Adrian Zandberg, the informal leader of „Razem”, defined himself as a „democratic socialist”. „Razem” use symbols similar to those of the new Spanish left-wing party PODEMOS. Razem was set up during the first party congress in May this year. Therefore the party gained tens of thousands of „likes” on Facebook, despite unremarkable activity “in RL”. Nevertheless „Razem” showed, that it is able to achieve success in real politics. In September, party mobilized its members and send them to the streets in order to collect over 100 thousand of signatures, which were necessary to take part in the parliamentary elections.
In general, „Razem” is a creation of internet users and activists of the Young Socialists („Młodzi Socjaliści”). Młodzi Socjaliści – set up in 2005 and dissolved this year – were a youth organization representing anticommunist and petty-bourgeois „New Left” ideology of „democratic socialism”, limited almost exclusively to feminism, ecology and LGBT rights.
However „Razem” has a different ideological profile. „Razem” is a party of the social Left. In its program we can find demands of 35-hours work week and raising of the progressive personal income tax up to 75 percent for the richest people with annual incomes over 500 000 PLN (117 500 EUR) per year [when the average is about 48 000 PLN (11 300 EUR)]. It can be included in the current of the „old” social-democracy.
Despite the pro-worker slogans, „Razem” is a petty-bourgeois party. And also anticommunist – according to one of its activists „Razem” is a party „without postcommunist remnants” – and full of the sectarian hatred against the SLD.
36-year-old Zandberg, the informal leader, won the electoral debate which was held on 20th October and gained about 3 percent of popular support due to this event. While the representatives of two main right-wing bourgeois parties – current prime minister Ewa Kopacz from PO and future prime minister Beata Szydło from PiS were focused of themselves, Zandberg not only presented the most left-wing and most pro-worker, but also the most substantive program.
It is not true that the missing votes of the United Left have been „stolen” by Razem. According to the polls – only 4 percent of SLD voters from 2011 voted for „Razem” on 25th October 2014, while it has been done by 7 percent of PO voters from 2011.
Despite not getting any MPs, both left-wing committees will obtain the budget support in amount of some million PLN, which will help them preserve their member bases. Both parties are unfortunately not class-based and don't have significant working class support.
According to the polls – working class (defined as blue-collar workers) voted for PiS and Kukiz'15 over 30 percent more likely than all voters as a whole. The support for United Left, Razem and PSL was also slightly higher among the working class. But workers rejected the liberal party .Nowoczesna, which has been appreciated by capitalists. Support for .Nowoczesna was four times greater among the capitalists than among the workers.
Bourgeoisie in Poland is class-conscious and knows exactly its class interests. Unfortunately, we can't say the same about the working class. There is no workers’ party in Poland and working class representatives – like Elżbieta Fornalczyk, Patryk Kosela, Piotr Szumlewicz, have lost their chances to enter the parliament.
Nevertheless the electoral campaign was a step forward for the Polish Left. For the first time when radical activists of the class-oriented workers' movement were close to becoming MPs and gaining a real opportunity to defend the working class in the parliament. Despite the coalition agreement, Polish Left returned to point „0” - as nowhere else in Europe.
Maybe the experience of 2015 election will give fruitful effects in the future. The future of Polish Left will become more clear during next weeks. The Left should organize on the ruins.


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