After years of offering no alternative to the reactionary right-wing forces, the Polish social democrats have been destroyed. They are voted out of the parliament, for the first time since the founding of the Republic of Poland. Social democracy started as a socialist ideology, but moved towards accepting capitalism. In Poland, the social democrats are united in the Democratic Left Alliance, which grew out of the Stalinist; Polish United Workers Party, the totalitarian party that ruled the People’s Republic of Poland. Although popular in the 1990’s, the Democratic Left Alliance lost its electorate after participating in austerity governments that served only the rich!
In 1990, the stalinists of the Polish United Workers Party (PZPR), decided to disband their totalitarian party. For 40 years the PZPR ruled the People’s Republic of Poland with iron fist. Out of all Stalinist parties loyal to the Soviet-Union, the Polish stalinists were more tightly controlled. The Kremlin made sure Stalinist Poland did, what the Politburo in Moscow demanded. By 1990, stalinism was death and Polish workers demanded freedom. Unlike other eastern Europeans, their struggle started years before the popular movements. In 1981, Polish workers created the first independent trade union in a Stalinist controlled nation. ”Solidarity” became a front for workers in the struggle against the totalitarian state!
As the civilian leadership of the PZPR collapsed due to strikes, the military took over and installed general; Wojciech Jaruzelski as leader in late 1981. This Jaruzelski then imposed martial law and started arresting members of Solidarity including Lech Wałęsa, who was chairperson of the independent trade union. Life in the People’s Republic of Poland became very difficult in the 80’s, as people were forced to wait in lines for basic products. All workers knew that this was not socialism, this was militarism and totalitarianism!
By June 1989, Jaruzelski understood he could no longer ignore the popularity of Solidarity. So he allowed Lech Wałęsa to participate in the (controlled) national elections. To his surprise, the Solidarity Citizens’ Committee won 35% of the vote. Still the stalinists believed they could control the situation. But as the Berlin Wall came down in November 1989, they realized that the game was over. The PZPR was dissolved and replaced by two social democratic parties, who embraced the free market ideology. By now Solidarity started to move to the right-wing. Although the early Solidarity leaders were socialists, after 1990 they became conservatives or liberals. Chairperson Lech Wałęsa for example called for privatizations and deregulation of the economy. Socialists who rejected this betrayal created a new militant trade union called ”August 1980”. A reference to the month when Polish workers first rebelled against stalinism!
Out of the PZPR came; Social Democracy of the Republic of Poland and the Polish Social Democratic Union. Both parties were led by former stalinists, who now embraced the free market and capitalism. Together they founded the Democratic Left Alliance for the 1991 elections. In the new era of capitalism, Polish social democrats are mistrusted by the anticommunist media. They were called ”enemy’s of Poland” and ”communist rats” because most of not all social democrats used to be members of the PZPR. Lech Wałęsa was elected president of Poland in November 1990. He oversaw the transition from a single party state into a multiparty democracy!
Although popular at first, many workers realized that Wałęsa turned them over to their new capitalist bosses. Anger and deep disillusion followed as Wałęsa lost the 1995 presidential election to a former Stalinist. By the mid 1990’s, the Democratic Left Alliance was in power, ruling in a coalition government with capitalist parties. Many workers hoped that the social democrats would save their jobs and pensions, but instead were betrayed again. Now the voter turnout reached a historic low point with only 46% of the people voting. Still the Democratic Left Alliance won the 2001 elections, it would be their last major victory!
Nationalist conservatives were able to profit from the chaotic period. Right-wing groups around Lech Kaczyński unified into the reactionary; Law and Justice party. Kaczyński began his carrier as a activist fighting against the Stalinist government. He was a member of the Workers Defense Committee and the Solidarity Trade Union. At the time he did not called for capitalism or the rule of the rich, which would be very unpopular as a representative of the proletariat. The Workers Defense Committee and Solidarity were committed to workers rights back in 1981. However after the collapse of stalinism, Kaczyński became openly hostile to anything that was socialist or leftist. He even called for the banning of communism, which was rejected as unconstitutional!
Using populist and nationalist rhetoric against the political corruption of the post-Stalinist era, Lech Kaczyński won the 2005 presidential elections. His Law and Justice party defeated not only the social democrats, but also the liberal party. By now the Democratic Left Alliance had lost 161 seats in the Polish parliament and 51 seats in the senate. The 2007 parliamentary elections were also not good for the social democrats as they kept losing votes and seats!
President Kaczyński ruled conservative and religious. He did not agreed with homosexuality and gave the police orders, to brake up demonstrations for LGBT rights in Warsaw. The reactionary president was not happy with the way, police officers handled the situation and said; “Why was force not used to break up an illegal demonstration?” As Kaczyński did not respected homosexuals, he wanted their voices crushed. In limiting the freedom of gay’s and lesbians, he was supported by the Roman Catholic Church which is given special treatment in capitalist Poland!
Social democracy was unable to win public support. Their opposition to Catholicism was portrayed as ”communist atheism” by religious conservatives. Because the Democratic Left Alliance came out of the Stalinist PZPR, they were easy bullied and harassed by the reactionary media. Social democrats choose to be very supportive of the European Union and therefore portrayed as ”enemies of Poland”. While defending social liberties, the social democrats failed to oppose the massive exploitation of workers. While in government either national or local, the Polish social democrats supported the idea that the market is to be god, competition is to be king!
On 10 April 2010, president Lech Kaczyński died in a plane crash. His presidential aircraft crashed in Russia, while tying to land. The president and his wife both died, also many government leaders were killed, including most senior commanding officers of the armed forces. Right-wing nationalists blamed Russia for the crash, but it turned out that the Polish pilot was pressured to land. Because the president was to attend the memorial of the Katyn massacre. Visibility was low and there was a lot of fog that day. Still the presidential aircraft tried to land and hit a tree, which cut off a part of the wing. The plane turned and crashed, killing all 96 people instantly!
The next elections gave the remaining social democrats a huge blow. They lost 27 seats, but like the election before were unable to learn. Four years later in October 2015, the new United Left coalition (Democratic Left Alliance and allies) failed to enter parliament. After 25 years, there is not a single self-described leftist in the Polish parliament. Although a woman called; Barbara Nowacka led the United Left coalition, she was unable to change the downfall of social democracy. Most voters choose to vote for national conservatives, right-wing populists or liberals. There is a huge vacuum on the political left, mainly because social democrats offered no alternatives to the capitalist parties. This is why a new workers party must be build on a socialist program!
Today the average income in Poland is near 700 euros (767 dollars) a month. Even after 25 years of capitalist ”progress”, most wealth remains centralized in the hands of the new rich. The bourgeoisie who are supported by their puppets, in a fully right-wing and capitalist Polish parliament!