A Shock-Therapy After the Smoleńsk Tragedy?

This article first appeared in Polish on the blog: http://syska.dolnoslazacy.pl/
(translated into English by Gavin Rae)

On Monday, instead of leading a planned discussion before the pre-premier showing of the ‘Shock-Doctrine’, I paid my respects, in front of the headquarters of the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) in Wrocław, to the victims of the tragedy in Smoleńsk. I went there in particular to remember the left-wing MP Izabela Jaruga-Nowacka, who was a loyal fighter for left-wing causes in Poland. I had known her for over ten years, when she organised a political discussion group in Warsaw, at which I had the opportunity to meet personally a number of well-know left-wing figures in Poland, including Jacek Kuron.

The Wrocław premier of ‘Shock-Doctrine’ (based on the best selling book by Naomi Klein, in which the author shows how catastrophes, crises and wars are used to introduce neo-liberal policies without social resistance) did not happen. However, it now seems that we will now have our own actual shock-doctrine, without quotation marks, in the whole of Poland.

Saturday’s catastrophe, in which many leading Polish politicians and heads of public institutions died, could diametrically change the economic and political situation in the country. Already specialists from the economic agency Bloomberg have stated that the events are likely to strengthen the position of the ruling party Citizens’ Platform (PO) and establish a more liberal course of reform in Poland. Investors perceived President Lech Kaczyński, and his appointed head of the National Bank of Poland, Sławomir Skrzypek, who also died in the crash, as hostile figures. Preston Keat, the director of the London consultancy firm Eurasia Group, has stated that they were the major obstacles to further market reform in Poland.

Bloomberg, in its analysis of the current situation, recalls that it was President Kaczyński who blocked the government’s liberal health and pension reforms.

Peter Attard Montallo from the bank Nomura, has added in turn – assuming that PO’s candidate for President, Bronisław Komorowski wins the presidential elections – that it is likely that PO will hold total power in their hands. Montollo has added that this should mean that the program of privatisation and fiscal reform will be speeded up before the parliamentary elections in 2011.

According to some market analysts, the head of the NBP, Sławomir Skrzpek, obstructed the introduction of many ‘necessary’ liberal reforms in Poland. Just a few hours after the catastrophe one of Poland’s leading economic commentators, Witold Gadomski, in an interview published on the website of the daily newspaper „Gazeta Wyborcza”, argued that a new head of the NBP should be quickly nominated. Speculation has already begun as to whom Skrzypek’s successor should be, with some even suggesting the reappointment of the architect of Poland’s original shock-therapy reforms – Leszek Balcerowicz.

Izabela Jaruga–Nowacka once said: ‘Defining what is left is easy – it should stand on the side of the ants and not the anteaters’. It now seems that the anteaters want to use and benefit from the shock that has been afflicted upon the ant’s nest. The question raised now is who is going to stand in the interests of the ants?

Michał Syska is director of the left-wing think tank Ferdinand Lassalle Centre For Social Thought in Wrocław and a leading member of the group „Krytyka Polityczna (Political Critique)

3 comments on “A Shock-Therapy After the Smoleńsk Tragedy?

  1. “The question raised now is who is going to stand in the interests of the ants?”

    Call me old-fashioned but the ants can’t be relying on some EO Wilson figure to liberate them, that’s their job.

  2. gavin on said:

    #1 which is exactly the point. The left has been decimated during the past ten years or so in Poland. THe political scene is now dominated by two parties of the right – PO and PiS. When PiS had both the presidency and the government and were introducing a conservative-nationalist programme the real goal of the left was to defeat them and stop their reactionary agenda. However, once PO were in government then it was useful having Kaczyński in the presidency as he vetoed policies of the government such as privatising the health service, privatising industries, etc. This does not mean that he was any sort of progressive – far from it – but it was better for the left to have some form of balance and that the two right-wing parties could negate each others policies. Now there is a danger that this will be broken and PO will pursue policies that they weren’t able to do before. Noone would argue that what is really needed is a left, rooted within the working class.

  3. Of course it could be argued that PiS are a populist party with elements of the left and right. Certainly they seem to inherit some of the legacy of PSP

    But when the tram stops at Independence Sq