Beata Szydlo’s government intends to kill the third sector in Poland. This will be done in a variety of ways: by cutting off financing, including EU financing distributed by the government, by not permitting public fundraising, which all require permission of the Interior Ministry, by discrediting particular organisations in the public opinion in order to discourage potential donors from supporting those organisations.
The government set up a project under a peculiar name: The National Centre for Citizen Society, whose task is to commit the act of destruction of the Polish NGOs by banning those organisations which are even remotely suspected of being funded by the foreign (alien) sources.
The fight against the third sector in Poland aims to get rid of those organisations which guard observance of human rights, monitor the government and if necessary, criticise it. Particularly the watchdog organisations i.e. those which the PiS MP Ms Pawlowicz once described with great contempt as dogs, making a reference to the English term ‘watchdog’ and to the Polish saying: ‘the dogs are barking, but the conduct marches on’. These organisations are not only following the work of the government and monitoring the rule of law in the other two sectors, but also exposing incidents of bad business practices or illegitimate alliances of business with politics.
The need to curtail activities of the non-government organisations in this context, is aligned with the broader trend of the Szydlo rule, to get rid of any criticism. This is a part of the overall strategy including the suppression of the independent media in Poland as they are equally effective in highlighting all unethical and unlawful acts of the PiS government.
This unprecedented fight against the third sector, as befitting fundamentalist state, has an ideological cover. This is the reason we have been hearing of the refusal to continue financing of Single Mother Homes (in the broader context, single mothers are outside the 500+ system), because children born out of the wedlock, are fruits of sin. In the dark Catholic past, to which PiS ideology is regressing, they were branded as bastards.
In a similar way, the Polish, now triumphant right wing, fights against the best known Polish NGO led by Jurek Owsiak, Wielka Orkiestra Swiatecznej Pomocy, which they see as competing against Caritas, a religious charity of a similar mission. The right asserts that Owsiak is leading the youth to sin by organising Woodstock concerts every year. We know that this is just the opposite: the leader of WOSP is a great mentor of many generations of the Polish youth, he teaches them how to help others out of kindness and altruism. His only trespassing is that he does this outside the religious system and for this reason, we may say that he actually rivals the church. Is this a justifiable attack?
Not only this, but also by casting a shadow of suspicion on Owsiak’s charity in alleging that they embezzle or waste the funds. The organisation like many other non-government organisations in Poland is fully transparent. The WOSP reports show that the operational costs are 3%. The rest of the funds are spent on their statutory activities i.e. buying extremely expensive diagnostic equipment for Polish hospitals.
The Elbanowski foundation, however, set up for the purpose of averting the law of compulsory education from the age of 6 and much favoured by the present government, as reported in the media, has quite the reverse funding structure – it spends 70% of its funds on salaries.
Public television (TVP), under the management of PiS’s functionary Jacek Kurski, the so called ‘national television’, among many examples of incessant PiS propaganda, also fulfills the task of supporting the government in slandering non-government organisations. In particular, it targets the Batory Foundation. The founder, George Soros, is eagerly presented as a stock market speculator, implicated in some ‘shady businesses’. Of course, he has to be presented as a Hungarian Jew now located in the USA, which has to evoke anti-semitic feelings in the viewers.
The Batory Foundation works as an umbrella organisation, providing support to a great number of small local organisations this is why this attack from the government is so deliberate and premeditated that eventually, it will annihilate the whole mechanism of the work of the third sector in Poland. It would then be possible to limit NGOs to church organisations (for instance, to support father Tadeusz Rydzyk and his Radio Maryja) and those organisations which will flatter the government.
PiS’s actions against the third sector are carbon copies of what happens in Putin’s Russia. Putin’s regime viciously fights all non government organisations, particularly these which are funded from abroad by treating them as foreign agency and delegalising them. We see in Poland analogous tendency. This is why we can assume that Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the actual architect of the so called ‘good change’, is a true disciple of Vladimir Putin. This also refers to fighting pro-opposition media. We thus can expect that banning strictly political opposition will soon take place.
In the mind of the present PiS regime, the Polish society has to be permanently divided and powerless in the face of the strong authority which knows better what the electorate needs and it makes decisions single-handedly. The society deprived of the third sector, exposed to the authoritative centralised government still has local governments in its hands, but we can’t be sure if PiS will not take them over in 2018 when they decide to change the electoral law.
Third sector has its precursor, this is Stefan Bratkowski, who while still living in the communist times, called upon the Poles to organise the foundations of citizen society. Jacek Kuron was also such one with his famous ‘Kuroniowki’ for the poor.
First self help organisation aimed at supporting workers who were persecuted by the authorities and sacked, was the Committee for the Defence of the Workers (KOR), set up in 1976 and operated illegally. KOR is an example for the Committee for the Defence of Democracy, founded last year and who now has a status of the association and as such, it belongs to a great family of the Polish NGOs. The whole of KOD as well as its leader, Mateusz Kijowski, are subject of unsavoury attacks from the PiS government.
KOD is a classic watchdog organisation which points to all illegitimate activities of the government, limitations of civil liberties, stamping out of the Constitutions, the paralysis of the Constitutional Tribunal. Our protests and demonstrations are a thorn in the side of the present regime. The fight against the third sector is therefore directed at us. Not by accident, our address initiating the demonstration on the 13th of December ‘Stop the Devastation of Poland – Citizens’ Strike’, was signed by Aleksander Smolar, the CEO of the Batory Foundation, among many others. All third sector is in the same boat.
It is worth mentioning that the office of the Human Rights Spokesman and Mr Adam Bodnar are under PiS’s attack and thus deprived of financial means. All of this is written in the overall plan to make Poland the state ruled by authoritative government in which helpless citizens will be deprived of all protection and exposed to outlawed actions of the regime, outside all control and a chance to appeal.
This is why we have to say clearly, that the pessimistic forecasts, that the present government has dictatorial aspirations are very much probable.