Tuesday, 28 July 2009

The Vestas occupation crucial for our climate struggle

The occupation of the Vestas wind turbine factory in the Isle of Wight is now at the heart of the environmental struggle in Europe.

We often fight for numbers, such as emission targets and quotas. We support political leaders (not many) who understand the urgency of the climate crisis. And we fight against politicians incapable of taking (or unwilling to take) urgent measures to prevent the catastrophe -- against people like Bush or Klaus. This is very important. But finally, we will not be able to lower our carbon footprint without proper infrastructure. We need wind turbines, solar panels, efficiency technologies etc. We need more people employed in green economy. We need not only clean technologies, but also economic demand for clean technologies; and both should be created with government's support, if necessary.

It would be an immense waste to shut down the factory now, when the challenge of climate crisis calls for massive investment in renewable energy sector, and the challenge of economic crisis calls for an earnest effort to create -- not destroy, Mr. Miliband! -- millions of green collar jobs all over Europe.

The Vestas occupation is not only about one factory, or about one country. It is about the sector of green energy in Europe. And about the future of our planet.

Please, take your time to visit the protest's website or to write a few words of support at: savevestas[at]gmail.com.

Adam Ostolski and Bartłomiej Kozek

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Free to care

I have just read my previous posts and I realized that I may sound a bit morose. Actually, I am not pessimistic at all. There are some signs of hope around, and especially within the Greens.

Oddly enough, the Green Party came out of these elections internally strengthened. The coalition was by no means a dream team, and especially the Liberals were dragging us all down most of the time. So we decided as Greens to go on with a campaign of our own. We campaigned against Barroso and for the "European dream." This helped us to take a more critical stance on European policies. When we were preparing for the campaign, we had to define for what sort of Europe we stand.

We found it is all about four basic liberties: freedom of expression, freedom of conscience, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. It was on behalf of those freedoms that the Allies combatted Fascism in World War II. Of course, we live in a different world now than we did 60 years ago. Nowadays, freedom of expression would be meaningless without the right to free internet, for example, and freedom from fear implies strong protection from social dumping and fighting against climate change, etc. etc. That is why we need Green politics, to redefine what all these freedoms actually mean today.

Next Autumn we are going to have municipal & presidential elections. We have been already thinking how do these freedoms translate into local policies.

*

On Friday, we had surprise guests in our Warsaw office: José Antonio Vergara from Chile and Mireille Grosjean form Switzerland, two Green comrades who came to Poland for the Universala Kongreso de Esperanto in Białystok. It is amazing how close is the relationship between Green ideals and Esperanto, as a language build aroud the idea of peace and equality of people regardless of their nationality. And on the principle of hope, essential to any progressive politics.

I am deeply honoured to get acquainted with José Antonio, who was an activist of the opposition under the Pinochet regime. I imagine how much personal courage it required. And I admire that he continues to struggle now for what he struggled then. It is another sort of courage, that we -- Greens, Socialists, Esperantists etc. -- need in our postpolitical era: the courage to care.

Adam Ostolski

Friday, 24 July 2009

Everyone's ally

Fakt - front pageThe front page of today's "Fakt" (Axel Springer's tabloid) brings an interesting photograph: young, half-naked man, his hand stretched in Hitler salute. It is the Acting CEO of the Polish public television TVP Piotr Farfał. The photo was made a dozen years ago. Within the issue we find more photos of this sort: young Farfał among other skinheads, their hands stretched forward in the sinister gesture.

Farfał's neo-Nazi past is hardly a revelation. The photos give graphic evidence to what has been known from the very beginning of his public career. It was already disclosed by the "Gazeta Wyborcza" soon after Farfał's nomination to the Board of Public TV in May 2006. At the time, the far-right League of Polish Families (LPR) happened to be a highly uncomfortable, and yet indispensable ally in the ruling coalition led by Law and Justice (PiS). Scandals concerning the behaviour of All-Polish Youth (LPR's youth organization) emerged from time to time, and Hitler salute even came to be re-christened as "one more beer, please!" (People trying to play down the importance of All-Polish Youth's dangerous affinities claimed that the gesture was not actually Hitler salute, but a natural pose of young men ordering another pint of beer...) Law and Justice did not seem to be happy with its allies from League of Polish Families and Self-Defense, but they desperately needed allies anyway. It was within this context that LPR pushed Farfał as their candidate to the board of TVP. Even the revelations of his neo-Nazi past were not sufficient to challenge his position.

Law and Justice lost power in the wake of snap election in Autumn 2007. Civic Platform (PO) formed a new coalition government with Polish People's Party (PSL). But Farfał could feel safe as a member of the board. PO wanted to change the Board of the Public TV, to be sure, but there was no hurry. Their ambition was broader than just a personal purge. They wanted also to "reform" the institution itself. A new media law not only enabled the replacement of the enemy's team, but was also paving the way for the privatisation of public media. In April 2008, the law was passed through the Parliament, but it was vetoed by President Kaczyński. The President was opposed to the prospect of creeping privatisation of TVP, and probably also wanted to protect PiS' control over it (or vice versa). In order to overturn the veto, PO needed support from either Law and Justice or Democratic Left Alliance (SLD). And they proved unable -- or unwilling -- to gain it. Farfał and his colleagues could still feel secure in his post.

And this was not the end... In Autumn 2008 there was a conflict within the board of TVP between members connected with LPR and Self-Defense on the one hand, and members connected with PiS on the other. Both LPR and Self-Defense, now extraparliamentary, wanted more visibility in public media, hoping it will help them to prepare a comeback. And there was also a conflict around Piotr Farfał himself. In December 2008 a mutiny finally happened, the CEO Andrzej Urbański was suspended and Piotr Farfał became the Acting CEO in his place. PiS lost control over the public TV. And for the following five months Civic Platform seemed totally incapable of taking action to replace the board.

Was it really? Let's play with a perverse thought. What if Farfał as the CEO of the public TV was a tacit ally of the ruling party once again, Civic Platform this time? As the Acting CEO he took care to have views and activities of his far-right friends appropriately covered. Six months before the European elections it was invaluable. LPR joined forces with Declan Ganley's Libertas, so Libertas gained a tool to attract public attention. It helped. TVP was quite favourable towards Libertas, whereas liberal media were definitely hostile. But both were equally unfriendly towards Law and Justice. And both talked about Libertas incessantly, much more than about any other minor party. Was it turning the attention of eurosceptic voters away from Law and Justice, the Civic Platform's ultimate enemy other? It could have done it. And if the electoral achievements of far-right proved finally so miserable, it may well be because there are not so many eurosceptic voters in Poland after all.

To the end of May, some two weeks before the elections, a miracle happened. Civic Platform decided not to tolerate Farfał any more. A new media law was passed through the Parliament, almost effortlessly. The President does not seem happier with it than he had been with the previous incarnation, and he will almost certainly try to block it. The new law is, in essence, a double invitation: let's get rid of Farfał and -- at the same time -- let's open the door for privatisation by stealth. Diabolic offer, isn't it? It would probably have worked very well in January or February, still long before the elections, when the Law and Justice's need to replace Farfał was urgent. It will probably work even now, if the Social Democrats help PO to reject presidential veto. Will they? Is SLD ready to accept the prospect of privatisation of public media? I think so, but only if they get something in exchange. Not Farfał's head, to be sure, he is nothing but a token, but some real gains for the party. If they decide to support the PO's new media law, getting rid of Farfał will serve as a good excuse to accept the dismantling of public media at the same time.

Adam Ostolski

Thursday, 16 July 2009

More of the same, or Poland after the elections

What is the result of recent European elections in Poland? The answer is not as obvious as it may seem. Each of four major parties may claim a success of its own. But the real victor is the Political Cartel itself, i.e. those same four parties considered as a whole. Though they constantly fight with each other, at the same time they have one interest in common: to prevent any political rival from beyond the Cartel from getting into the mainstream. And they proved perfectly capable of achieving this goal.

The result is a success for the Civic Platform (PO). They confirmed their position as the biggest party on the Polish scene. But it is also a success for the Law and Justice (PiS). They confirmed their position of the biggest opposition party and the only right-wing alternative for the Civic Platform. And it is also a success for the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD). They proved to be the only major left-wing party in Poland. And it is a success for the Polish People's Party (PSL). They confirmed that they do have an independent position, even though they are a minor partner in the ruling coalition.

The elections proved a disaster for all other parties. The populist parties (League of Polish Families and Self-Defence) proved unable to seriously challenge Law and Justice. Both the centre-left coalition of Social Democrats, Greens and Liberals, and the anti-capitalist Polish Labour Party (PPP) proved unable to articulate (or create) electorates of their own.

Is it Polish voters that do not need an alternative? Or is it the alternative that has not been delivered to its potential supporters? Anyway, the political scene in Poland seems to be carved in concrete. I know that even a small seed of a tree is sometimes able to subvert apparently solid concrete constructions. But how to translate a metaphor into a political strategy?

Adam Ostolski

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Hello

Recently I spent some time reading Green blogs from across Europe. I realized how important it is to have an access to news and opinion from "insiders" in different countries. So I feel like joining in...

Yesterday, Jerzy Buzek was elected new President of the European Parliament. I remember quite well Buzek's record as Poland's PM (1997-2001). It was by far the worst government in Polish post-1989 history. His infamous "four reforms" (education, pensions, medical care and administration) proved a disaster for Poland's public services and deprived many people of basic social security. Buzek's government changed the labour code making workers more vulnerable in times of crisis. And he had notoriously misogynic and homophobic ministers in his cabinet - the Minister of Education Mirosław Handke and the government's Plenipotentiary for Family Kazimierz Kapera, among many others. It was Buzek's government that decided not to introduce sexual education in schools, being strongly against HIV-prevention education. And it withdrew public funding from shelters for battered women, because they were thought to "endanger the family life" (the shelters, not wife-tormentors, to be sure!).

And one more thing... It was Buzek's cabinet that was responsible for building the A-4 motorway that destroyed parts of the Góra Świętej Anny Landscape Park. It was, and is, illegal to build motorways in protected areas near nature reserves. But when environmental activists came to defend the mountain -- and the law -- they were very violently suppressed by private security assisted by the police.

With this record Jerzy Buzek is now becoming new President of the European Parliament. It means there won't be much space for progress on the European level in next years. And it is very sad news for all progressive forces in Poland, when such a person becomes the focus of national pride.

Adam Ostolski
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