I’m just back from a conference/research trip to Europe, where this recent piece by Adam Michnik in the New York Review of Books was recommended to me by an expert in Polish affairs as an indispensable account of the Kaczyński regime and its lustration law. Regardless of the underlying debate about whether or not former collaborators should be made to reveal their actions, Michnik’s piece makes for grimmish reading:
But the lustration law was only one act among many in a systematic effort by the ruling Law and Justice party and its supporters to undermine the country’s democratic institutions. Since their election victory in 2005, the Kaczyńskis and their governing coalition have attempted to blur the separation of powers in order to strengthen the executive branch they control. … In the ministries and state institutions, numerous civil servants have been summarily replaced by unqualified but loyal newcomers. The independence of the mass media—especially of public radio and television— was curtailed by changes in personnel instigated by the government and by pressures to control the content of what was published and broadcast. The Kaczyński administration’s efforts to centralize power have limited both the activities of the independent groups that make up civil society and the autonomy of local and regional government. …
Today, Poland is ruled by a coalition of three parties: post-Solidarity revanchists of the Law and Justice party; post-Communist provincial trouble-makers of the Self-Defense Party; and the heirs of pre–World War II chauvinist, xenophobic, and anti-Semitic groups that form the League of Polish Families. That coalition is supported by Radio Maryja, a Catholic nationalist radio station and media group that is fundamentalist both in its ethnic Polish nationalism and its commitment to Polish Catholic clericalism…. The Constitutional Court stood up to its responsibilities and, after repeated government efforts to postpone the court’s session and to impeach its judges, it reviewed the new law and found it unconstitutional.
As my informant notes, the Kaczyński brothers have not themselves indulged in anti-Semitic rhetoric. Furthermore, their distrust and suspicion of the intentions of Germany (more on this when I write about the EU Treaty negotiations) is to some extent justified – the German government has shown itself entirely too willing to sell its eastern neighbours out in order to keep Russian gas flowing. Even so, there’s something decidedly creepy and worrying about their apparent willingness to trample over civil liberties in order to go after their enemies.