I am clutching in my hands a pile of paper sheets. They are stacked neatly one on top of another. These are printed pictures of Polish demonstrations; a sea of colourful heads, white and red flags, those of KOD as well. Somewhere one can see symbols of feminist organisations, umbrellas, a poster – CONSTITUTION, there are political party symbols, candles, faces. There are pictures of KOD members. They are standing in the street by the information desk in Warsaw (PIKOD). It is cold. People are chatting. Next photo. A group of people are seated at a small meeting, they are having an agitated discussion. This is a meeting of citizens with law authority. I am holding these moments in my hands tightly. Local Polish issues, they will soon jump a couple of steps and will reach an international level, where European academics, specialists will be confronted with the chill of powerlessness and the fire of hope from grass root. The hall of the EU institutions Regional Committees is full.
I am slightly nervous. Not because I will speak to the broad audience of the international community. This is more because of the context. It is my second year of representing Polish situation and citizens’ activism (and from the KOD’s perspective). From one conference to another, from a meeting to meeting, the tone of my presentation changes. Poland is at a dramatic moment and ‘enthusiastic masses’ of people that turned out to the streets at the end of 2016, with whatever effort is left (albeit bravely and with faith) are now pulling the train of resistance and opposition. I know that. This is why I do not want to impair banalities on the forum of the European Union or in other institutions. I do not want political correctness. I don’t want to incite empty admiration for Polish social movements. Applause for the sinking Titanic. Although the situation has to be defined in the correct terms. Democracy is at its end. It is increasingly difficult for the activists to generate force and motivation. Tools and resources are lacking.
Of course, it is not that we should panic together. We have to find solutions. The aim of effective speech is the accuracy in defining the situation in Poland. One has to relay the facts, information as well as emotions which the audience will not be able to read from The New York Times, Huffington Post, Die Welt and other foreign media. One has to bring the viewpoints from the cold streets, or summer marathons outside the Polish courts or the loud echo of the sounded ‘veto’ outside the Presidential Palace. The real tensions of everyday debates have to break into the halls of the European Institutions and academic rooms, on how to communicate within this deeply divided society. Questions, doubts, arguments – all this, which is real, authentic and what forms activism reality in defining its challenges.
Spokesmanship is the process of continual learning. What do European institutions, representatives of the public spheres in Spain, Iceland, Holland and Macedonia, think of Poland? It is important. More important, however, is what they will think after conversations with the representatives of the civic society.
KOD’s meeting with Frans Timmermans, vice-president of the European Commission responsible for law in one of the many chambers of the European Parliament we had in our delegation at the start of our movement, was the junction of many viewpoints. Poland, the golden child of Europe, almost untouched by the economic crisis, an example of a democratic miracle, was entering dark tracks of history – first unpublished ruling of the Constitutional Tribunal, the sworn in doubling judges on the Tribunal’s panel. In the press, also in Polish press, there was little of the analysis which would clearly present the spectrum of the causes of this disgraceful fall from the heights. A question arose, what happened? Is this a moment of imbalance, dictated (who knows?) by personal reasons of the newly elected leaders? Or is there a deeper groove in the society, rebellion, anger or maybe an intention, which will open doors to acquiescence of the gradual change of political system?
Then all delegations (to the president of the European Council Donald Tusk, representatives of the European Parliament fractions) and subsequent meetings, conferences taking place on the international forum, were describing the current situation in Poland. With some disbelief. The year 2015/2016 was also a common attempt to answer this desperate question – why?
After two years, there are broadly drawn diagnoses in the spokesmanship. There is in the narrative, a harder, less emotional, but deeply concerned conviction, that the present government is going for everything. Everything – the defined vision of the socio-political order in which they calculated system change. There is also a worse worry. Majority of the population will probably allow this to happen.
The aim of a dialogue with the international society is to bring out these diagnoses, as well as to present enormous efforts of the citizens of Poland, who work in many aspects, to reverse this current. They resist (demonstrations, campaigns, strikes) they build awareness, structures, preparing for the long fight to regain democracy, or should I say, its more solid structure.
The most important conclusion is such. How can international environment help Poland? In reality and efficiently? And what lessons for Europe and other continents must be learned. Are we in the inevitable civilizational spiral of history, which repeats itself in various forms? Can we prevent reappearance of totalitarianism and in, what Hannah Arendt would call ‘ banality of evil’? Is democracy constant? Or is it a process which should be cherished even in 100 years as if it were one day old?
Benefactor & networker dedicated to civil society & media capacity building with focus on the impact of communication channels worldwide. Working with NGOs and other stakeholders on democracy, human rights and media literacy. Political Commentator, Entrepreneur, Dancer (more: www.katarzynamorton.com).