Monday, 28 May 2012
OPINION: Piotr Żuk-- On France, Greece and Poland
The French are the latest electorate to go and let down the Polish media by choosing a leftist President. For Pemier Donald Tusk, who could not find the time to meet the Socialist candidate during his visit to Poland, the French election results must have come as a big disappointment. The same can be said for most of the Polish commentariat. Jacek Pałasiński, host of 'The World According to Jacek' on TVN, said on the eve of the election, "it will be interesting to see if the French re-elect Sarkozy and then breathe a sigh of relief, or if they decide to think short-term and elect Francoise Hollande, who will lead them into further debt." Witold Gadomski, the economic expert for 'Gazeta Wyborcza' and guardian of neo-liberal purity, said "Hollande, like Socialist leaders all over Europe, knows that he does not have the possibility to implement radical reforms in the economic sphere. Socialists criticise modern capitalism but they do not have a real programme for change... They rail against the dictates of the financial markets and the ratings agencies but at the end of the day they are dependent on them. They know that the markets do not mess around. For electoral reasons they play up to the left-wing gallery but they do so without too much conviction, in order to let the markets know that they do not really mean it."
It is mainly in this spirit that the 'free media' in Poland have analysed the French elections. To their minds, the politcal left should simply not exist but if it does have to exist then it should at least not meddle in socio-economic matters. In the socio-economic sphere the market fundamentalists have a monopoly on absolute truth. What does it matter that blind faith in the power of the invisible hand of the market has led the world into crisis? If anyone attempts to present a serious left-wing economic agenda then the Liberal-Conservative pundits say that they are faking it, or that they are populist, or that they are simply economic illiterates who have not read the sacred texts of Friedman or heard the sermons of Balcerowicz. One way or another, they are a dangerous heretic who should be fought against tooth and nail with no quarter given.
In Greece, the electorate's refusal to go along with further social spending cuts and good election results for leftist parties are also bad news for those who serve to protect the interests of the rich and powerful. When the Social-Democratic Greek Premier proposed a referendum on further cuts a few months ago the financial markets and their political representatives were outraged. How dare the citizens of a country think about deciding its economic policies? That is the job of financial experts who advise the large banks and corporations. Now, however, the Greeks have shown that people are not like cardboard boxes, to be flattened or thrown away at will. Here in Europe people will not stand for it!
When it comes to economic matters in the Polish media we usually only hear the opinions of the same people who advise the banks, rather than independent and less dogmatic Economics professors. The few independent academics who do get into the media are invariably free-market and privatisation supporters and loyal followers of Balcerowicz.
In Poland, as in Greece, the citizens do not have the right to make decisions on the economy. They cannot even make decisions about when they will retire. All these decisions are the domain of an elite caste of free-market priests and ideologues. For Premier Tusk the opinions of the ratings agencies, the employer's association 'Lewiatan', the bankers and the big corporations are all more important than public opinion. The people should simply keep quiet, follow orders, praise the current system and tug their forelocks to their masters. It is Feudalism in modern guise. Soon the people will be given the circus of Euro 2012 which is supposed to make them forget that they are now expected to work almost to death....
The large May Day demonstration organised by the SLD in Warsaw could not be ignored. The media, nonetheless, tried to confuse the issue by talking about Janusz Palikot and the second anniversary of John Paul II's beatification. This time they were unable to hide the fact that there has been a change in the social mood.
It would be strange if there was not such a change to be seen when people who are living in a state of complete insecurity have to listen to constant parade of great new ideas from their rulers. President Komorowski's advisors, wishing to fill the empty coffers of local governments, are looking for new streams of income in the pockets of the people. In a country where very few flats are built, and even fewer are bought, the government have decided to increase property taxes by 300%. If they come up with similar ideas then we are sure to solve the problems of Poland's construction industry. In Europe, however, the winds of change are blowing harder every day. Yesterday it was Slovakia, now France. Soon it will be the Czech Republic and Germany. Time for Poland.