January 20, 2019

Against Liberal Defeatism

“People here are no longer moved by warnings about the demise of democracy. Why should they be? Poles have been living with “Nazis” for years.

It was February 2010 when a former prime minister first described Law and Justice, the right-wing populist party that has governed this country since 2015, as an “updated version of National Socialism.” Since then, the comparison has been made thousands of times.

It’s true that Law and Justice displays an authoritarian streak. The party has attacked the rule of law, and inveighed against minorities. In the three years that it has been in power, it has tried to take control of the Constitutional Tribunal and it has changed the public news media into instruments of government propaganda. Again and again, the response from the liberal opposition has been the same: “Nazis! Fascists! Dictators!”

By now, these strong statements have not only ceased to shock, but they are ridiculed by the populists against whom they are deployed. Hearing accusations that the government in Warsaw is rebuilding authoritarianism, Law and Justice asks laughingly: “Do you see any tanks in the streets?” In a country where just 37 years ago the military was deployed as part of a coup, the contrast is indeed stark.”

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