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Submitted by Marcin Bąk on Mon, 12/30/2019 - 08:25

Jarosław Kaczyński:

Poland must remain an island of freedom within Europe. This is one of the canons of todays Polish patriotism, of Polish patriotic politics. An island of true freedom of speech, true freedom of religion, true political freedom.

Patriotism is a concept that defines the relations between an individual or group and the motherland. We speak of patriotism, of being a patriot, or of being in a patriotic group, when that relationship has an affirmative character: affirmative in an active sense, that is to say, we speak of patriotism when it is at least a serious motivation, and often indeed the sole motivation, of a persons whole life attitude or at least significant elements of it. Then patriotism is something truly significant, something that builds a community, something that also defines the life of individuals.

We may also speak of patriotism in a slightly different meaning, in relation to those currents in Polish social and political life which have made it a basic principle of their actions, which have wished in one or another way to affirm both nation and state. We find that at a certain time in Polish history, in extreme and unhappy circumstances, the question of independence arose. Because Poland lost that independence, the issue of the Polish state, the regaining of that state, found itself at the heart of Polish patriotism. The question was naturally asked, the most famous one: Poland... but what kind?This was the question posed by Słowacki. In general the point was that Poland should continue somehow to exist. During the time of partitions, indeed with certain anticipations coming from the previous period still certain currents in Polish patriotism were shaped. In that active patriotism of which I am speaking now.

The insurrectionist trend, which in fact came in two varieties, made progress in society in those nineteenth-century conditions, more conservative and realistic the first set its sights on world revolution, the second on a set of relations between the powers that would be favourable to Poland, that would enable the rebuilding of the Polish state. Over time that trend was rationalised, both from a social standpoint and from what we might call a geopolitical standpoint (a name first used by Józef Piłsudski). We had a patriotism that reached its mature form somewhat later, a patriotism of active politics, namely of a future national democracy, where that final goal a free country was defined as a more distant goal. It was to be achieved in stages, namely through a striving for autonomy, but above all a striving to build a nation which had existed previously, or even still at the time when that movement was being shaped, primarily as a nation of the upper classes, in particular of nobles, and at the same time to a small extent of intellectuals, as the intelligentsia already existed and functioned in social life.

There were also other currents, those that saw the question of independence as one that lay beyond the horizon of possibility, but nonetheless affirmed the nation and wished to serve it somehow; there are different types of realist movements, of the autonomous variety, that is, one that strove towards autonomy one may refer for instance to the great success in Galicia, the very limited and very short-lived success, in fact no success at all, in the Prussian partition, but everywhere there was an effort towards gaining strength in various spheres, including the national economic sphere.

There were also, of course, various types of movements that may be referred to as apostasy partial apostasies, that is, the retention of certain elements of identity, certain traditions, but in essence complete rejection of any political ambitions, however they were to be understood and in whatever time they were to be placed; simply merging with the partitioning powers, or some kind of pure national apostasy, as in the case of Górowski, saying simply that the Poles should cease functioning as a nation and join with the partitioning nations, particularly with the Russian nation.

Of course, these traditions were transformed due to the change of situation in the period of independence. It must be noted that in the time of the First World War they worked functionally together, and both contributed to the regaining of independence; later one of them changed into the state patriotism associated with the Sanation movement, and subsequently evolved markedly to the right, after Piłsudskis death, towards the National Democracy movement. The second changed into a nationalist concept, but over time also evolved, towards a concept that may be briefly summed up as that of the Catholic Pole, and this had a certain significance for the future.

The Second World War came. As far as the main current of resistance is concerned, namely the insurrectionist tradition, which in a political sense had been taken over by a weaker tradition which was born after 1926, a tradition of democratic patriotism, opposing authoritarianism, the centre left, various other undertakings aimed at removing the Sanationists from power this was that tradition. Subsequently the four-party agreement during World War II, which provided the base for the governments of Sikorski, and later Mikołajczyk. All of this makes up that tradition. It dominated at least formally, because the actual situation was very variable in the Home Army.

The war ended, communism came, in essence a kind of occupation, although different from that of the Nazis a Soviet occupation. Those traditions were continued to some extent in the first years, but gradually lost their sense. The insurrectionist tradition, referred to today by the term the Cursed Soldiers, was simply defeated. The nationalist tradition changed to an insurrectionist one: the National Armed Forces and generally the National Forces provided the most determined and long-lasting resistance, continuing even to the 1950s, but this was also eventually defeated. The democratic tradition a great effort on the part of Mikołajczyk, the PSLthat also ended in failure. As regards the realist traditions, there were various small-scale attempts to continue them: Edmund Osmańczyk with Matters  for the Poles, Aleksander Bocheński with The History  of Stupidity in Poland, rather in the intellectual sphere than a purely political one, but again in essence this led to nothing.

Stalinism was in full force. Some had to retreat into internal exile, some had to play certain games involving adapting to the new system, and then there was a small group that directly supported that system particularly among the young generation although the insurrectionist tradition was continued, though weakly, through over a thousand underground organisations which came into being in that period, particularly among the young, and generally the very young, those who were still at school. Later, there was no such continuation.

The year 1956 came, and here we can say that we reach the direct sources of our present-day situation. What I have talked about up to now, these are the more remote sources. The year 1956 obviously I cannot go into more detail about it here was on the one hand a challenge to communism, but of an internal nature, that is, from communist positions, from a position of expressing loyalty to communism, and on the other hand spontaneous defiance, through various types of risings the best known of them is Poznań, but there were also Bydgoszcz, Szczecin, many other events not all of them ended in fighting and arrests, but there were many such events. They allude clearly to the national tradition, and also to the movement for independence. In essence, they were only minor incidents, not articulated politically.

There was a second phenomenon of huge significance. After a period of withdrawal, remembering the exceptional role of Cardinal Wyszyński, the Millennial Primate, and his arrest, the Church under Wyszyńskis leadership went on the offensive. In the conditions of the times this took religious forms, that is to say, the celebrations of the nations millennium were what was possible in that official reality. Remember that that element of pro-independence thinking was contained both in what was said, by Cardinal Wyszyński himself and by others representing the Church, and in the actions of the faithful, who attended meetings en  masse, in the singing of the song Boże, coś Polskęwith the line give back to us, Lordrather than protect for us, Lord. In all of these external manifestations of attachment to that idea one that seemed to be sleeping, but essentially still existed in the social consciousness it was somehow expressed within these special frameworks. It might be said, although what Im saying here is certainly controversial, and there are some who strongly disagree, that the Primate whom I hope shortly to be Blessed alluded, though in a way that altered the idea significantly, to the concept of the Catholic Pole, to a concept adapted to the new times. In that concept the point is something specific, which had relatively little presence in the earlier Polish pro-independence movements, in the broad meaning of the word; that is, to the issue of building not only a Polish identity the Active Politics Movement did this on a large scale, the National Movement also but to the building of a powerful consciousness. Indeed, the original National Democracy movement was not Catholic in character, it grew in an ideological sense out of positivism, but what Dmowski did as more an agnostic than a believer, although he was converted towards the end of his life was an attempt to build a strong Polish identity, with strong axiological foundations, and at the same time founded in something with a universal character; after all, the Church is not something that is particular by nature, it is universal, just as its teaching is universal. In this case, however, a certain type of particularisation was present.

Universalisation would come later, in the teaching of another great representative of the Church. This is a current that would transform later into everything that would take place in connection with the election of Pope John Paul II and his pilgrimages to Poland. That universaliation began then, although it was a process that continued over a longer time. Universalisation through a concept of philosophy of life and philosophy of death. The philosophy of life, as a civilisation of life, became a proposal that was offered to Poles, but after 1991 the great pilgrimage to Poland, the Ten Commandments, the papal sermons. In brief, everything that constituted a proposal extended quite directly for the building of a new Polish reality in various dimensions, from the social and cultural to the economic. As far as the second current is concerned, the one that grew out of acceptance of communism, followed later by a departure from it, but an internal departure through revisionism: it took a quite different shape.

As early as 1956 it became embroiled in a dispute, which was in some measure only an apparent dispute. One of the sides was not authentic. This concerns the communist nationalism that emerged in 1956, manifested above all in anti-Semitism. The Natolin movement, with its anti-Semitic rhetoric and attempts to shift the whole of the responsibility for Stalinism onto Jewish circles, which in fact bore very little of that responsibility. And then not so much as Jewish circles in a strict sense, but as communist circles. This movement was transformed over time into Moczarism. This had consequences later, up to 1968, to the events of March of that year. It was a superficial, artificial nationalism, purely sociotechnical, having nothing in common with the real experience of Polishness, with the real experience of patriotism, with a desire to act for patriotic reasons. However, the other side treated it completely seriously, and a deep wound was made between those groups, particularly that current which was identified generally with some kind of national movement, or more broadly a patriotic one with Polishness.

In this way, something came to be built that opposed not nationalism, not anti-Semitism, but Polishness, and in particular the concept of a nation. Here, the concept of the nation was the main focus of the attack. The nation was turned into something that was inherently an abuse. It came to be something that was unacceptable within the movement. That movement, having gone through various adventures, began after March 1968, in the form of the WorkersDefence Committee (KOR), to merge at a rudimentary and symbolic level with the current of workersdefiance. This had made itself felt both in 1956 and later, at least in the events in Łódź in 1957, but also in smaller events of various kinds; smaller revolts continued, until in the end the great revolt of 1970 came. A revolt that led to significant change in Poland, as it led to a change that in essence signified nothing other than an attempt to build a consumer society in socialist conditions, which could not possibly succeed. The very essence of that system, its inefficiency, its structure, its subservience to the military goals of the Soviet Union, meant that a programme of that type was impossible to carry out. Such an attempt was indeed made, with the aim of stabilising the system, and this later had much to do with the fall of communism.

Those currents that had previously functioned separately namely the church-inspired defiance, manifested not only through what the Church did officially also functioned separately through the numerous clashes between Catholics and the communist authorities, particularly from 1957 to around 1965. Perhaps the best known, although little remembered today, are the clashes in Nowa Huta in 1960. Similar events took place in Kraśnik, Częstochowa, Toruń, Przemyśl, Zielona Górathere were many more such towns. These were very important for the course of Polands history. Although the Church naturally did not initiate them they were spontaneous events they made the communists aware that there was a certain boundary in relations with the Church which they could not cross, without reintroducing Stalinism, and that was something they did not wish to do, as it was not even in their own interest. It was shown that there was a certain barrier that could not be crossed. Hence the Church was able to retain its position, although it was still a difficult one.

In KOR there was, on the one hand, Solidarity with its workersdefiance, that of 1976, there was the revisionist tradition, there was a small added dose of Catholic tradition, so-called Catholic realism, associated with the Catholic intellectualsclubs some of those people were active in KOR or in connection with it, and there were also priests. At that time this was a very small group, but a few names could be listed; some of them played an important role in various places. This was just a taste of what was to come.

Before I reach the conclusion of this stage, I should recall that in that period there also came into being organisations that were illegal, although at the time they were tolerated, subject to what was called repressive tolerance. Persecuted, oppressed, but not liquidated, like the Human and Civic Rights Defence Movement, which made a clear link to the times of the Cursed Soldiers, but at the same time to the European and global ideology associated with the Helsinki Conference, as well as other national movements, and from 1979 the Confederation of Independent Poland (KPN), the first to have such unambiguous pro-independence objectives. It is only proper to recall these facts.

Those movements opposed all attempts to consider seeking a solution for Poland within the system that existed on a world scale. The concept of that type most often encountered, which was severely criticised by the KPN, was Finlandisation. This idea was current among some in KOR, particularly Jacek Kuroń; it meant giving Poland the same kind of status that Finland had, that is, dependent on Russia, but with a far-reaching autonomy of democratic mechanisms and so on. This should also be recalled, since although these movements did not play any significant role in later history, they nonetheless were and still are a part of Polish history. I have already spoken of the papal visit and of the continued story of the movement associated with the Church. All of this culminated in Solidarity. It culminated in 1980 with a social revolt, where all of those three currents came together naturally subject to various differences and reservations, in particular the distance felt by the Church towards Solidarity. All of this united into something that had the character not fully articulated of a republican national movement, a liberation movement.

Solidarity never succeeded in setting out, in articulating, its political conception, let alone its ideology or doctrine. There was not the time for that, nor the conditions there were great internal differences within the movement. But its general sense was such that, we might say, at that moment Polish patriotism as a broader phenomenon, existing seriously in the sense that I have spoken about, as a powerful stimulus for action, for commitment was rebuilt. Martial law came. The process that would otherwise probably have led to the downfall of communism was halted for a time.

Under martial law, events took place that would have numerous consequences after 1989. Within the underground I mean the mainstream the upper hand was gained by the movement I have already mentioned, which grew out of the mechanism of revolt within the system, and which at a certain point became severely conflicted with everything national. In the sense that, although it never declared itself anti-patriotic, it took positions that were at least significantly distanced from patriotism. During martial law there were various attempts, at least by people such as Michnik, to somehow reduce that distance. There were Michniks books; he had the privilege of being able to write books in prison, as he was imprisoned for most of that time, up to September 1986. He published several books then, but this proved to be a purely tactical game. The real disputes that had already broken out openly within Solidarity were then put on ice.

There was a new openness; communism was not overthrown by some great rebellion, but a compromise was reached. I do not wish to pass judgement on it here. I do not have an unambiguous, simplified opinion on that matter like many others have, perhaps because I was on the inside, I saw it at close hand, but we have to deal with a fact that would have huge consequences, namely that the group I have mentioned here gave up its attempts to take a more patriotic or even national direction, and simply went the other way. It chose an alliance some did this immediately, like Michnik, others only later with part of the post-communist camp: the part with its origins in Puławy, I mean the group from 1956, liberal in comparison with Natolin or especially with Moczarism, although of course if we consider Millers case this was not necessarily a rule that was always followed; and a formation came into being that at least distanced itself significantly from patriotism. That formation took the upper hand in the media, and in the initial period also in government.

This was done in various forms there were the Democratic Union governments, with various allies, later there were communist governments, from 1995 we had a post-communist president. Above all it had the upper hand in the social sphere, where it gained a more profound advantage. Let us remember that we may consider two notions: political authority in a strict sense, the government, which has what political scientists sometimes call a centre of political disposition; and rule, meaning the rule of a group that has a social advantage. That group was formed by the communist nomenclature and its co-optees, those whom I have mentioned.

That communist counter-elite, which had been shaped since 1957, since the first resignations from the party, was a counter-elite very strongly tied to the previous system, to its way of thinking and its reservations towards patriotism, which at the same time were highly advantageous for the building of relations in Europe and beyond, in the United States. There were various types of suggestions, also from opposition forces, far removed from any ideology, particularly any national ideology where national ideology does not mean something that would have grown directly from a national ideology, but any true form of patriotism. An offensive began I cant say whether it was prepared, whether it was part of a plan, whether it was centrally controlled, I have no evidence of that, but it is true that the early 1990s saw a direct and fierce attack on the Church. Some clergy were even afraid to go out in the street in ecclesiastical clothing. There was full approval from the new authorities, even at the times when there was a post-Solidarity majority, for the continuation of various pacifying and sociotechnical methods which the communists had applied during martial law. All information of a sexual nature was widely publicised.

This had already occurred under martial law. There was Owsiak, who was an element of the later sociotechnics of the martial law period, when preparations were already being made for change. There was also Kotański, although to a lesser degree, as he did many good things. There was something that only appeared after 1989: Urban and the whole of the ideology associated with him, attacks on all values, quite brutal, including on the values of language, but also attacks on patriotism, on the Church, on Catholicism. It was said, rightly or not, that the magazine of the former fourth department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs represented the strongest cultural message of that time. Maybe I was mistaken, maybe not. I dont know if it was the strongest, but it was undoubtedly very powerful, very intense. It created a new ideological situation in Poland, one might say the first stage. Subsequently it vacillated. There were various developments. The situation with the Church calmed down, Solidarity Electoral Action at last concluded a Concordat there was also a tendency in favour of a Concordat in the Democratic Left Alliance, particularly in the case of Aleksander Kwaśniewski; they still thought: we have to make peace with the Church, its a condition for lasting government. For some time the former tendency became quieter. Later it returned in a more severe form, that of Palikotism. This was a completely direct attack on all values. Palikot now explicitly formulated the idea that if you want to be in Europe, you must stop being Poles. This was stated directly. Others didnt take it up. He was an individual carrying out battle reconnaissance. It was stated in Polish public life, by a member of parliament. This in turn should be linked to a phenomenon that had appeared earlier, the questioning not only of the nation as a concept, as a community which was to be exclusory in nature, which had to give rise to nationalism, understood more or less as chauvinism, but to a certain extent with the undermining of the nature of the Polish state itself. The assumption was made that affiliation to Europe was a better affiliation than the Polish one, while Polishness was removed to the domain of shame, of embarrassment. This was an exceptionally dangerous weapon, because if we look at Polish history, the history of Polish culture, this phenomenon has been a powerful one. An allusion was made to something that has a place in the Polish soul. This changed the ideological situation in Poland, and today we are moving on to a further stage. We are witnessing an attack on the Church of a kind that was not seen even in the early 1990s, incomparably more severe. The film  Kler  (Clergy), in which the principle of pars  pro  toto is taken to extremes. We are seeing a direct attack on the family, on children the WHOs interpretation, the whole LGBT and gender movementAll this is imported to Poland from the West. These are not internal Polish mechanisms. Nonetheless they pose a real threat to our identity, and thus they threaten our nation, they threaten continued survival, and in the end they threaten the Polish state.

This being the case, in my view, it is valuable to formulate something that might be called the foundations of patriotic politics. I believe that if we accept what my party has been saying for very many years: It is worth being a Pole. Poland shall survive, then it must be conceded that a politics that comes out of this briefly stated but patriotic assumption must, first of all, accept and affirm the sovereign Polish state. Sovereign, today, within the European Union and NATO. Why does Polish patriotism require this today? Because if we look at the three main dimensions of the countrys external policy military security, as well as energy security and defence against cyber-attacks, although this is already perceived today in military terms then considering this requirement and this is the first condition of a well-conducted policy, to ensure that the state is secure it cannot be achieved without such affiliations.

The second reason is the need for Poland, or any state, to gain an appropriate status. Such a status is some kind of lasting system that defines the situation of a state in relation to other states, but in at least a relatively permanent way. For example, being a superpower is the highest status; this is linked formally in this sense to membership of the UN Security Council and the right of veto, as well as a number of other conditions which go to make up that status. Today there are two such superpowers in the world, while a third country aspires to join them. The superpowers certainly include the United States and China, while Russia constantly aspires to regain its lost status.

There is also the status of a more local power, which may still be linked to UN Security Council membership and a number of other attributes; I am thinking here of Britain and France. Germany also undoubtedly has this status: although it is not a Security Council member and does not have nuclear weapons, in other dimensions it has succeeded in building such a position for itself.

There are also the statuses of countries that are not among the great powers, but still have an independent character. In colloquial diplomatic language, they are sometimes called seriouscountries. This is the status that Poland may seek. It may seek it only within the framework that I have mentioned here today. Outside such a framework, we are not capable of gaining that status. I am not claiming that we have that status today, but I repeat: it is there to be won. The construction of such systems as the Three Seas Initiative or the Visegrád Group enables us to win that status only within such a framework. Were we to try to exit that framework, it would not be in any way possible.

Finally, the third thing that a state needs to seek is position. Why do I speak of this separately from status? Because position has the property that it is variable. Even the United States has varying positions. At the end of George Bushs administration it had a much worse position than at the present moment, for example. After its defeat in Vietnam it continued to enjoy the status of a superpower, but its international position was very markedly weakened. This variability is what distinguishes position from status. We can seek a position and raise that position within the system that we are currently in, if we play our hand well. My late brother did this magnificently, raising that position through various relationships in this part of Europe. Some understood this policy in an entirely wrong and entirely naive way. This affiliation is necessary.

A sovereign state, a state must be the emanation of a community, and the latter must have an axiological foundation. What does this mean in the conditions in which Poland finds herself? That regardless of whether someone is or is not a believer, they must accept Christianity, because Polish culture grew out of Christianity, and there is no other generally known axiology of a system of values than that which grows out of Christianity, that which is propounded and wielded by the Catholic Church. Questioning the position of the Catholic Church in Poland is unpatriotic. Regardless of ones personal faith, and regardless of the fact that the Church, in its institutional, earthly dimension, has sinners among its clergy and lay helpers, this must be a foundation.

Apart from an axiological foundation, a community must also have a real foundation. A group of people is not a community, even if they have a common axiology, if their social situations are radically different, and the state, the emanation of that community, fails to react to this. A social policy must be conducted which strives on the one hand to eliminate poverty, and on the other to reduce social differences, which in Poland are very large. This is also an obvious requirement.

There is another requirement that I believe is part of the canon of contemporary Polish patriotism, namely the need for a policy of development. A policy that aims to reduce the still very considerable distance between Poland and the Western countries. Certainly, our GDP is already above 70% of the average for the European Union. We are reducing that distance. When we started, that index was 47%.

Let us consider our main partner, Germany. That country has an index of 120%. The difference between us and our Western neighbours is still extremely large. Our goal must be to reach the same level as Germany. Is this an unachievable task? I once spoke to journalists from one of the main German magazines,  Stern. When I told them about this, and it was more than a few years ago, they replied: What are you saying? That might take a few hundred years.No, I assure you, it might take only twenty. If the current difference in rates of development is sustained. There must simply be implemented a good economic policy and a good policy with regard to public finances.


There is one camp in Poland engaged in turning public life into a battlefield. And it is not the Law and Justice party. Why? If we look at sociological research carried out in a serious way, so-called qualitative research, it indicates that when we come down to a practical level, the great majority of the electorate does not differ. Since no-one is able to deny that we, as Law and Justice, are conducting a policy incomparably more effective and efficient, giving better economic and financial results, than our political opponents, then if only these questions came into play, then in a practical sense elections would be a virtual formality.

The only way to keep part of society on the other side is to build a wall of hate. I do not like the term language of hate, as it is a leftist expression, serving to limit and eliminate freedom. Today in the West, freedom and speech and freedom of religion are essentially absent, or nearly so. If in Britain it is not possible to run church family clinics, because they would have to arrange homosexual partnerships or even hand children over to them, since otherwise they would be discriminatory institutions, excluding certain people, then there is no freedom of religion. Our religion clearly forbids this. If you can find yourself taken to a police station for saying that homosexual couples do not produce children, even though it is an obviously true statement, is that freedom?

There are really very many such examples, including cases of prison sentences. Today, this freedom is on the retreat. I am confident that one day the tide will turn, that people will come to their senses. Until then, however, we must make use of that tradition which in this short speech I have not spoken about, but which is clearly linked to Polish patriotism.

I have focused on the matter of the nations independence, attitudes to nationhood, because such was the course that Polish history took, and such were the problems faced by those political or social movements. Of course, freedom has had enormous significance in Polish history. Andrzej Nowak now writes beautifully on this subject. Poland must remain an island of freedom within Europe. This is one of the canons of todays Polish patriotism, of Polish patriotic politics. An island of true freedom of speech, true freedom of religion, true political freedom.

Text of a speech given by Jarosław Kaczyński, leader of the Law and Justice party, at the conference titled To Be a Pole Pride and Duty”  (Włocławek, 24 April 2019). Title and abridgements by the editors.