REAL CLEAR POLITICS “How Poland Can Be an Example Again” by Srdja Popovic and Greg Satell


December 20, 2017

Despite the fact that activists in Poland have already made some important strides, their efforts still fall short of creating sustainable change.

For RealClearWorld, CANVAS’ executive director Srdja Popovic writes about the worrying direction of the Polish democratic movement. After two waves of democratic movement in the last four decades, we are now seeing that same democratic process moves in reverse. Poland sits at the epicenter of that worrying dynamic. “The painstaking work undertaken over the past quarter century to create a civil society with solid democratic institutions is now under siege from a populist movement that operates under the thin guise of what it calls traditional values.”

In stopping their country to move towards authoritarianism, and protecting civil society, activists in Poland have already fought some important battles. Almost as soon as PiS assumed power, activists have been able to  mobilize civil society outside the sphere of party politics. They have extended the battlefield by strongly emphasizing the involvement of the international community, and effectively combined mass mobilization for street protests with concrete actions.

Despite the progress that has been made, crucial elements for creating sustainable change are still missing. While the individual activist groups have been effective in their own way, there has been little effort to create a strong unity within collective action. Then, while the opposition forces in Poland have  mostly beendefending democratic institutions by reacting to government actions, they must go on offense to create sustainable change. Finally, while uniting and taking the offense, activists have to develop an affirmative vision for the future. In a society where PiS’s message of traditional values clearly has resonance, what positive alternatives can the opposition movement offer?

This years’ developments in Poland cause both worries and hope. Can Poland become a model once again and point the way to defeating authoritarianism and protecting civil society? A fight for which  Piotr Szczesny was willing to give his life.

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Photo: AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowksi