GB No. 2(13)/94


The Polish Right is loyal to traditional nationalist/Catholic values, is uncompromising in its attitude to Communism, and is ill-disposed toward any proposals that the State take a neutral view of the world. Its informal organ, the Gazeta Polska (GP), announced in issue 8/94 the results of a readership survey which shows, among other things, its readers' priorities among certain issues. Of the 18 issues proposed to the readers, "environmental protection" was ranked in penultimate position. (The first five items on the list were: the actions of post-Communists; the actions of former Communists; the fate of the Polish Right; monitoring Belweder; and Polish national traditions). A profile of the typical respondent was drawn up based on the results of the survey. He is "an educated, middle-aged male from a large town, wage-earning rather than self-employed."

In other words, for this type of GP reader, environmental protection issues (which, after all, include the environmental situation of his/her own country) are of little importance when compared to the activities of the Communists or to Poland's national traditions. This is very surprising, because the ecological crisis facing Poland is unquestionably the work of the Communists, and its causative factor, "the socialist industrialisation of the country," was in principle levelled at Polish national traditions. One of the aims of industrialization was to eradicate such traditions from the millions of people who were displaced from the country, and who were transformed into an atomised human mass readily-susceptible to the political manipulations and propaganda of the Communist authorities. The results are seen in the narrow-mindedness of the GP readers, who are incapable of grasping the inherent connections between the most important issues concerning the existence of our society. After all, a great deal has been said and written in recent years about the fact that Communism in its very essence was totally anti-human as well as profoundly anti-environmental. Moreover, the enormity of the destruction and threats caused by this criminal system is increasingly coming to light in the vast areas of the former USSR. Among others, Ryszard Kapuœciński has written about this topic recently in his book Imperium (Warsaw 1993). Zbigniew Brzeziński, too, in his latest book (Polish edition Bezład pp 43-44) has pointed to the highly environmentally destructive nature of Communism, relating it to the system's characteristic justification of all manner of activities by reference to their utility in realising their utopian vision of society. Also the Catholic Church -- an undisputed source of authority for the Polish Right -- has declared a definite pro-environmental stance (albeit not always sufficiently consistently).

This indifference to environmental matters shown by the readership of the GP is not, however, typical of the whole ideologico-political structure which designates itself the Polish Right. Some groups describing themselves as right-wing produced election manifestos last year in which it was possible to find a serious and competent treatment of environmental issues. Examples are the manifestos of the Porozumienie Centrum or the Christian Democrats (see ZB 50-52). The environmental document of the Porozumienie Centrum even warranted a positive comment from a well-known environmental activist (ZB 53, p14). However, the lack of interest in environmental issues shown by such groups as the SLD (Democratic Left Alliance), KPN (Confederation for an Independent Poland), Koalicja dla Rzeczypospolitej, UPR (Union of Real Politics), and Partia Konserwatywna (Conservative Party) was striking. The treatment of the ZChN (Christian National Union) of such issues was perfunctory, and the environment received little attention from the SLCh (Peasant Christian Party). In other words, there was no correlation at all between attitudes to environmental issues and the left-right political divide (if that has any meaningful sense in today's political arena).

A certain reserve is noticeable in our right-wing spheres towards environmentalists of all sorts, a reserve shaped by the stereotype of the environmentalist which has come from the West, i.e. an extremist, "alternative" agitator, inspired by the "neopagan" ideology of the New Age. This seems to be echoed in the remarks in the widely-known (probably because of its oddness) book by Jan Maria Jackowski Bitwa o Polskę (see ZB 49 and 55).

The period since the fall of Communist rule in Poland and the above mentioned '93 election campaign, when considered from the point of view of environmental affairs, give rise to several observations and unhappy reflections. An examination of national political life in this period shows the uncommonly low calibre of our political elites -- both those who were in power until September '93 and those who took over the reins after the last elections. This pessimistic appraisal pertains to the whole so-called political class, and one of the symptoms of its poor calibre is precisely its attitude to environmental matters. The opposition Solidarity camp was interested in the environment as long as it provided unusually convincing arguments in the battle with Communist authorities. However, the autumn take-over of power in '89 made it clear how very expedient and opportunistic this interest was. It was immediately evident in the matter of the Zarnowiec nuclear power plant. Although its construction was finally brought to a halt in 1990, this happened only as a result of dramatic protests by the Polish environmental movement, whereas it ought to have taken place immediately upon the take-over of power in accordance with the declarations contained in the Round Table documents of April, 1989 (in those documents the opposition Solidarity movement demanded the unconditional renouncement of the nuclear energy option).

Further developments showed the justice in accusing the new rulers of treating environmental issues as a troublesome white elephant which it is better not to deal with at all in the hope that maybe somehow the difficulties will resolve themselves. These bitter accusations appeared in the summer of '90 in the columns of Elita -- a biweekly for young intellectuals which turned out to be short-lived. Interest in environmental affairs was reduced to the point where the Department of Environmental Protection was merely a bargaining tool in coalitions. As a result of such political games, the Department even fell to such a grotesquely absurd figure as the head of the Department of Environmental Protection in Hanna Suchocka's government, who so quickly acquired a Herostrates-like notoriety, that he was not able to last to the end of the cabinet's term. I raise all this to demonstrate that the attitudes of GP readers towards environmental issues appear to correspond quite well with the attitude of the entire Polish political class. Meanwhile, what is needed is a coherent overview of the problems, one which takes into account their numerous connections. Moreover, the problems need to be considered on a time scale which exceeds the perspective of the nearest parliamentary elections.

In a recent column in Wprost (no 12/94), the well-known economist Professor Jan Winiecki developed the idea which had previously been proposed by J.K. Bielecki: that socialism was worse in its consequences than war. He expressed it in a way which is indisputable for economists: "that overcoming the effects of socialism is more difficult than overcoming the effects of war" (p 28). The foremost of these effects which must be overcome is the socially useless heavy industry created by Communism, which serves only to burden the economy and destroy the environment. And it was the fact that I proposed this as a condition for emerging from the environmental crisis which brought the angry protests of such "environmentalists" as J.T. (ZB 42 pp 28-9) and Professor Romuald Olaczek (ZB 47, pp 18-9), whose moral indignation at my so-called scorn for workers superseded any arguments of substance. Equally indisputable is the proposition that it is impossible to improve the environmental situation without eliminating the excessive production of raw materials independent of market demands. It is obvious that this must be connected with a temporary loss of employment for a considerable part of the "heavy industrial working class" created by Communism (the basis of huge, branch lobbies). Since some "environmentalists" are unwilling to accept this, what can we expect of a political class which is starved of power, and which sees in heavy industrial workers a potential constituency, worth winning over by the most misleading and ridiculous promises or even deeds (e.g. support for the environmentally disastrous production of raw materials in the Tadeusz Sendzimir foundry at the cost of state guarantees to buy a continuous steel-making line).

These remarks and sad reflections came to my mind when I read about the environmental indifference of "Real Poles." As uncompromising trustees of traditional national values, one might have expected them to be consistent in seeking out all forms of the evil which was brought upon the country by Communist rule. For it is precisely the devastation of the environment and the current environmental crisis which is one of the most nationally-disastrous manifestations of that evil. After all, it threatens the nation's biological survival, its nature, and the wealth and heritage of its material culture.

Andrzej Delorme
ZB 5(59) p 86

GB No. 2(13)/94 | Contents