‘Cultural counter-revolution’ tests Polish democracy


Divisions have heightened as the scope of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party’s ambition has become clear: to roll back the social liberalism that has flourished since communism collapsed and shift the country back to more conservative, Roman Catholic roots, The Financial Times reports:

In its zeal to do so, say critics, it has been eroding democratic checks and balances. They accuse the government of neutralising the constitutional court, turning media into a propaganda tool and weakening the civil service by stuffing it with loyal but not necessarily competent appointees. But the party of Jaroslaw Kaczynski — seen as Poland’s most powerful man despite holding no formal state position — is meeting increased resistance. ….

Civil society, which led the resistance to Soviet domination, demonstrated its continued strength with the women’s protests that forced the government to drop its plan to ban abortions. ..On the other hand, activists worry that, except during the abortion protests, young people have been passive. Indeed the ruling party’s nationalism is increasingly popular with young Poles, particularly its anti-immigration stance. The backlash against Law and Justice is led by the greying Solidarity generation.

A recent parliamentary crisis marked a “cumulation of frustration” among the opposition, says Aleksander Smolar (right), president of the Stefan Batory Foundation, a liberal civil society group.

“It was frustration brought about by what I would call the second wave of Kaczynski’s ‘cultural counter-revolution’ — to use his own term. Because it’s quite an accurate term,” says Smolar, a member of the National Endowment for Democracy’s International Forum’s Research Council.


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