Friday, 9 July 2010

A new opening for the Left (and Greens)

May Day: Greens march with
trade unions and SLD
(photo by Alicja Szymczak)

Of course, I am less than happy with the outcome of the presidential elections, but the struggle carries on. Many among the Greens feel that the main obstacle for a reemergence of progressive politics in Poland is the anti-Law and Justice (PiS) hysteria. It prompts many otherwise left-leaning voters and opinion leaders to support the Civic Platform (PO), a deeply conservative and market fundamentalist party passing for "liberal", but hardly representing any progressive agenda at all. The anti-PiS mobilization wipes everything that is progressive, green, feminist, social democratic or even liberal out of the scope of reasonable political choice. I am amazed how many in the liberal media follow this suicidal path.
It is in this context that the result of Grzegorz Napieralski, the leader of the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), also supported by the Greens, is considered to be a miracle. He obtained nearly 14 per cent of the popular vote. Were the circumstances different, it would not be that impressive. But it was deemed to be a failure. In the time of sharp polarization, with only reluctant help of most other SLD leaders, and with some of them (Włodzimierz Cimoszewicz) even openly supporting his Conservative rival Bronisław Komorowski, he was expected to win no more than 3 or 5 per cent of the vote.

But why is it a new opening for the Left? And, even more so, for the Greens?

Napieralski showed his political cunning in not supporting either Komorowski or Jarosław Kaczyński in the second round. He let them struggle for the minds and hearts of his voters by including left-wing agenda in their programmes. And they did it, or at least they did try. Komorowski started to talk about public financing of in vitro fertilization, 35 per cent obligatory quotas for women on the lists to Parliament, and cheaper railway tickets for students. Kaczyński raised the issues of labour relations, public health care and the model of welfare state. He even called the institution of permanent employment contract "one of the very fundaments of our civilization." So, progressive agenda unexpectedly appeared in the very center of debate between... two right wing candidates.

But obviously, it is not the Right that is going to represent this agenda in the future. But will the Left be able to do it? Napieralski declares he wants to cleanse his party of neoliberal elements that proved so unuseful and even disloyal during his presidential campaign. He probably will attempt a renewal of the SLD in a close cooperation with the Greens, the Women's Party, and trade unions. If only he is consistent and determined, he can transform SLD from the party of postcommunist establishment into a genuine Social Democracy. And this would open the way, in Poland, for a more progressive future.

Adam Ostolski
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