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Is Poland In the Grip of a Burkean Battle?

In 1790 Edmund Burke published his classic polemic, Reflections on the Revolution in France. The work has served ever since as a benchmark, especially for conservatives, in judging new political phenomena. A natural question in such circumstances is: what would Burke say? It might not appear on a wristband, but it’s a worthy query nonetheless. And it’s a query that might properly be applied to recent events in Poland as that ancient and long-suffering country confronts the challenge of dealing with the European Union—even as other challenges also loom large. These include the ever-present muscular neighbor, Russia, and the threat of mass immigration from Muslim lands, fostered and encouraged by other European nations, notably Germany.

Since joining the EU in 2004, Poland has had peaceful relations with Brussels, the citadel of the EU and of its post-nationalist ideology. At the same time relations are also tense. (See my piece from November 30 on the [1]TAC website noting the stream of “Polaphobia” emerging from the Brussels-minded Western media.) Looking at Poland through the Burkean prism, it’s fair to say that the Poles have always been conservative. And yet the Law and Justice Party, elected to power in 2015, has ramped up that conservatism even further. Poland’s brand of conservatism might confound many Americans, though, especially those who make an automatic conflation between conservatism and deregulated markets. For their part, the Poles are conservative insofar as they wish to conserve. They don’t go for the endless gale of “creative destruction” heralded by Joseph Schumpeter, which he described as “incessantly revolutioniz[ing] the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one.”

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Thus, while Law and Justice sees itself as consistently conservative, in American terms it is both Left and Right. On economic policy it tilts Left, supporting national health insurance and big budgets for housing and social welfare, as well as government assistance to “national champion” industries. But the party tilts Right on social issues, opposing sex education, abortion, and euthanasia. Indeed, Law and Justice recently moved to phase out shopping on Sundays, an idea that’s long been favored by both the country’s Catholic Church and its labor unions—two powerful pillars of stability, resolutely opposed to Schumpeter’s creative destruction. The argument is that workers should be able spend more time at church and with their families.

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Some might recall that Sunday closings were once the norm in America too, and for the same traditionalist reasons. Yet these days few U.S. companies still uphold that Christian-communitarian ideal. Indeed, looking ahead, one can only wonder what sort of Mike Pence-ish expressions of social conservatism the Poles might have on their to-do list.

So what would Burke say about contemporary Poland? Surely he would admire Poland’s defense of its old ways, even as the country allows for prudent progress. As Burke wrote in Reflections, “A state without the means of some change, is without the means of its own conservation.” Poland does, after all, hunger for economic development, including infusions of capital from the EU. Still, in the Burkean view, time-tested verities must take precedence over the newfangled and wide-open, no matter how lucrative the latter might be. As the man himself wrote in 1791: “The only liberty, I mean, is a liberty connected with order; and that not only exists with order and virtue, but cannot exist at all without them.”

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We pause here to remind a present-day audience that Burke was a conservative, not a libertarian. And if many Americans today—friend and foe alike—tend to conflate the two ideologies, Burke never did, nor would he want us to do so. But, if today’s Poland passes the Burke Test, what would he make of the EU? As to that question, the two-century-old Reflections brims with relevance for today because Burke was writing about a phenomenon, the French Revolution, that hadn’t yet fully manifested itself; that is, at first the Revolution seemed benign. And yet Burke espied its lurking malignancy. Similarly, the EU of today is new and avowedly benign—but what will come next?

Indeed, it’s worth noting that Burke penned his brief against the Revolution when it was still in its infancy. Even a year after the 1789 fall of the Bastille, many good-hearted observers, including Thomas Jefferson, harbored high hopes for France’s future. After all, the revolutionaries had abolished feudalism and established a constitutional monarchy; moreover, the new regime had promulgated its Déclaration des Droits de l’Homme et du Citoyen, as pure an expression of Enlightenment thinking as a Voltaire or Rousseau could have hoped for. So in 1790, when Burke put quill to parchment, what was not to like? After all, the bloodiest events of the Revolution, including the execution of King Louis XVI and the Reign of Terror, were still several years in the future.

Yet Burke, lonely and brave in his prescience, could see the blood in the Jacobins’ eyes. In their “violent haste,” he wrote in Reflections, the revolutionaries “despise experience,” even as they “admit no temperament, and no compromise.” Indeed, Burke continued, anything less than the achievement of their full demands would be, in their minds, “so much of fraud and injustice.” In Burke’s view, the revolutionaries were elevating intoxicating new dogmas over time-honored common sense, and this could only lead to trouble. As he wrote about the newly empowered Parisian mob, they “are so taken up with their theories about the rights of man, that they have totally forgotten his nature.”

And the nature of man, Burke continued, is such that it requires careful and proper boundaries. As he explained, “The nature of man is intricate; the objects of society are of the greatest possible complexity; and, therefore, no simple disposition or direction of power can be suitable either to man’s nature or to the quality of his affairs.” And this complexity, Burke continued, puts the burden on leaders to temper popular passion with deliberative judgment. “When I hear the simplicity of contrivance aimed at and boasted of in any new political constitutions,” he wrote, “I am at no loss to decide that the artificers are grossly ignorant of their trade or totally negligent of their duty.”

Indeed, Burke even compared the Jacobins to diggers of an underground mine that “will blow up at one grand explosion all examples of antiquity, all precedents, charters, and acts of parliament.” Thus, while things might have seemed fine at the time, he foresaw the coming blow-up. And subsequent events bore him out; although the revolutionaries of France had started out talking about hallowed rights and freedom, they soon enough flunked the Burke Test.

It’s important also to understand that Burke was no knee-jerk reactionary; he favored progress so long as it was orderly and measured. As he put it, the task of the statesman is to combine “a disposition to conserve and an ability to improve.” In fact, earlier in his career Burke had cast a friendly eye on the independence and autonomy movements in America and Ireland, and he even found time to pursue a corruption investigation—scourging the 18th century equivalent of crony capitalism—against the East India Company. Indeed, even in the anti-revolutionary Reflections, he was at pains to show that the English “Glorious Revolution” of 1688 was a good thing because it was about the justified vindication of ancient liberties, not the vainglorious quest for an earthly utopia.

Thus with his immortal pen, Burke drew a bright line between sensible evolution and risky revolution. Shakespeare put it well when he warned against what happens with reckless change: “Untune that string/ And, hark, what discord follows!”

Now let’s fast-forward to today. Skipping past the hideous communist experiments of the 20th century (without forgetting them, of course), we now can consider a new kind of utopianism that weighs heavily upon Poland: the European Union of the 21st century.

The EU, of course, proclaims its intentions to be entirely benign. Most likely, though, Burke wouldn’t buy it. If he was fearful of where France was headed in the grip of dogmatic visionaries—“a set of presumptuous men … the assembly of pettifoggers run mad in Paris”—then it’s easy to surmise that he would have been fearful of all of Europe in the grip of the EU bureaucracy. To Burke, it was simply not possible for anyone to develop a successful plan for centrally governing a continent, at least not quickly; as he declared, “There is not any more difficult subject for the understanding of men than to govern a Large Empire upon a plan of Liberty.” (“Empire” in those days often referred simply to a “large land area.”)

Indeed, in Burke’s day the fall of a past empire was on everyone’s mind. Like most educated Britons, Burke was fully conversant with Edward Gibbon’s magisterial The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, the first volume of which had been published in 1776, with the last volume appearing in 1789. Burke himself wrote about the fall of Rome with a Gibbon-esque flourish: “Tumult, anarchy, confusion overspread the face of Europe, and an obscurity rests upon the transactions of that time, which suffers us to discover nothing but its extreme barbarity.”

Burke looked with horror upon “tumult, anarchy, confusion” of any era, but he was most conscious of those dangers in his own country. In that same discussion of the fall of the Roman Empire, he approvingly quoted the ancient historian Tacitus, who identified “discipline” as the key attribute of the Romans at their historical zenith. In Burke’s view, Britons needed that same discipline to preserve their own realm.

Thus might Burkeans of today look askance at the updated “pettifoggers running mad” in Brussels and other EU hubs, who seem to lack the capacity to conserve Europe. That is, through design or carelessness, the Eurocrats could untune the string of continental order.

The EU’s ideologically abstracted and yet definitively heavy-handed idealism is everything that Burke abhorred in his own day. Either accidentally or on purpose, everything about the EU could yet blow up, as Burke had correctly predicted about France, “in one grand explosion of all examples of antiquity, all precedents, charters, and acts of parliament.” To Burke, there could be no worse outcome. And with its dubious supranational government, Europe is once again in jeopardy. Poland is in many ways the canary in the coal mine.

Poland faces a three-pronged threat, not unlike the Europe of Burke’s day. The rise of extremist utopian ideology under the aegis of the EU is one. This corresponds to the eventual extremist utopian ideology of the French Revolution, and today it militates against Poland’s intrinsic conservative sensibilities. Another is the ongoing geopolitical threat of Russia, so large and so near. And finally there is Islam, not the Ottoman threat of Burke’s era but rather the theological zeal of today combined with waves of immigration from Muslim lands.

As we survey these threats—from the west, the east, and the south—we can see that they constitute a big pincer squeezing Poland. And so it must be little comfort to the Poles that other European countries, too, face these same threats.

The first pincer, of course, is from the EU. For the Eurocrats, the submergence of sovereignty is not a nefarious outcome but an avowed goal. And so the feuds between the nationalists in Warsaw and the internationalists in Brussels, with Polish sovereignty at stake, are legion.

One particular flashpoint has been the state of the Polish judicial system, which the current government seeks to reform. To read the Western media, the EU has been waging a valiant campaign to stop Poland’s Law and Justice conservatives from staging a putsch against an independent judiciary—indeed, against freedom itself.

Yet such Western anxiety seems to reveal more about the entitlement mentality of contemporary progressivism than about anything that’s happening in Poland. That is, the Western Left has grown so reliant on the idea that judges are reliable ratchets for leftist policies that it is outraged at any possible de-ratcheting of left-judicial power. And yet as Poland’s prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, points out, the current system—an incestuous system in which top judges, for example, control the appointment of their own successors—is a holdover, literally, from the communist era. And it has led to inefficiency, nepotism, and corruption; no wonder a recent poll within Poland found 81 percent support for judicial reform.

In fact, Morawiecki’s reforms are an assertion of political input on the judiciary of the sort that all Americans are familiar with: that is, here in the United States, Republican presidents nominate conservative judges, and Democratic presidents nominate liberal judges. To be sure, any system in which conservative judges get on the bench will not be loved by the political Left, and yet it’s hard for anyone else to see such incremental conservatism as a symptom of tyranny. Still, mindful of Poland’s delicate position within the EU—ideologically at odds, but financially dependent—Morawiecki seems determined to slather the dispute over judges in the honeyed words of “dialogue.”

However, another bone of contention between Poland and the EU, immigration, seems less amenable to being “dialogued.” Poland’s neighbor, Germany, the continent’s strongest power, has wanted all the nations of the EU to share in its disastrous Willkommen policy of 2015—that is, to open their borders to the million refugees invited in by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, without thought to assimilation or serious vetting. Only too late has Merkel realized her mistake, and yet the EU bureaucracy—transcending, as always, any specific country—is still upholding the open-borders faith. Indeed, the comprehensive distribution of migrants within the EU, along with attendant virtue-signaling, is a holy cause for Euro-secularists. For example, Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission—holder of one of the seemingly endless number of more-or-less unelected positions of power in the EU apparatus—has ascended to his own moral mountaintop, accusing Poland of the cardinal sin of “racism.” And of course the Western media, taking its cues from the likes of Juncker, is happy to pile on; this headline from Bloomberg News, “Poland Risks Being the EU’s Rogue State,” is typical.

The tension between Poland and the EU has led some to wonder about Poland’s future within the European grouping. Yet Poland seems to have few good geopolitical options; it is, after all, just one country sandwiched within the 28-member EU. Even if it is joined by the other conservative countries in the so-called Visegrád bloc—the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, and, possibly soon, Austria—such an alliance would still be overshadowed by the EU’s potent Rhenish core—the countries, and post-nationalist ideologies, of France, Belgium, and Germany. Thus does a Polish exit from the EU seem untenable. It would be a lonely nation of just 38 million people in a continent of three-quarters of a billion people.

So if the first threat to Poland is the pincer from the West, the second threat is a pincer from the East. As we know, the Russians have been a mortal enemy of Poland many times throughout history. In 1939, Stalin’s Krasnaya armiya eagerly joined with Hitler’s Wehrmacht to carve up Poland. And, while the Nazis were by far the worst during World War II, the Russians also committed many atrocities, including the 1940 mass execution of some 22,000 Polish prisoners at Katyn, in present-day Belarus. Indeed, estimates of Polish fatalities, strictly at the hands of Stalin’s forces, run into the hundreds of thousands—and many more Poles were shipped off to Siberia or otherwise repressed.

Further, Russians of the Soviet era were suspected in the death of a Polish national political leader whose stature posed a threat to the Soviets’ aim of dominance over Poland after World War II. He was Władysław Sikorski, head of Poland’s government-in-exile during the war. Long a foe of the Russians, Sikorski died in a suspicious 1943 plane crash at Gibraltar, having just visited Free Polish troops in the Mediterranean military theater. Sikorski’s death was a huge blow to Poland’s prospects of re-emerging after the war as a sovereign country. Given that background, however long ago, it wasn’t surprising that when Polish President Lech Kaczyński, no friend of Moscow, died in a 2010 plane crash in Russia, many Poles wondered if foul play was again the cause. His twin brother, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, for a time Poland’s prime minister (and still the acknowledged power behind the throne), ultimately had his brother’s body exhumed as part of an investigation into the incident. Polish anxieties increased further over recent events in Ukraine, with Russia annexing Crimea and extending its military influence into Ukraine’s eastern provinces.

Thus it isn’t surprising that Poles collectively harbor an almost instinctive wariness toward the Russian bear, be it Czarist, Communist, or Putinist. Indeed, with the Russians—as well as, of course, their own heritage—in mind, the Poles might wish to focus on two upcoming anniversaries as teachable moments: first, the 40th anniversary of the accession of Pope John Paul II to the papacy, which comes on October 22, 2018. And second, the centennial of John Paul’s birth, which will be on May 18, 2020. Both dates offer the Poles, and the rest of us, an opportunity to celebrate anti-communism and, more broadly, anti-hegemonism.

Third, we have the pincer threat from the south. Throughout the West, there is a growing awareness of the threat from Islamist terror—even if many Western leaders choose to turn a blind eye toward the risks lurking within unchecked immigration from Muslim countries. But the Poles have chosen not to turn a blind eye; in the words of former Polish prime minister Beata Szydło, “Poland is today seen in Europe as a country free of terrorism.” The other big states in the EU can hardly make that claim.

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Still, Poles know there are 1.8 billion Muslims in the world, more than double the number of Europeans. In addition, there are billions more non-Muslims around the world, many of whom would also be delighted to take up a subsidized lifestyle in Europe. So just the demographic math alone requires security- and heritage-conscious Europeans to be careful about opening the gate to all comers.

Further, as Pew Center polls have shown, huge swathes of Muslims throughout the world support Sharia law over the kinds of secular legal systems of the West. The share of Sharia supporters within the population of Pakistan, for instance, is 84 percent, while in Niger it’s 86 percent, and in Afghanistan 99 percent. If such illiberal beliefs travel to the West in ever greater numbers, which seems to be the policy of some European countries, what happens to the Western way of life? To the West itself? The Poles believe they know the answer to that question.

Indeed, given the gap in values between Europe and the Islamic culture, it’s little wonder that a cultural clash has emerged between the two civilizations, as the late Samuel Huntington of Harvard predicted. Contributing mightily to it has been Western military interventions in the Muslim world. Muslims predictably haven’t taken to the idea of being “liberated” at gunpoint. In the meantime, a chaotic culture chasm has severely complicated civic life in London, Paris, and Berlin. Thus do the Poles feel justified in thinking that the results would be no better in Warsaw, Gdansk, or Krakow.

For Poles, situated as they are in Central Europe, the tension between the West and Islam is nothing new. They remain conscious of events dating back to 1529, when the Ottoman Turks, having conquered the Balkans and other European lands (including the European capitals of Belgrade, Bucharest, and Budapest) laid siege to Vienna, just a few hundred miles from the Polish border. The siege by the Turks’ mighty army failed, and Europe was saved. Indeed, in a little more than a decade, on October 14, 2029, we will reach another potent anniversary—the 500th anniversary of that civilizational triumph. It will be interesting to see how—or whether—the Viennese and other Europeans celebrate or at least note the 500th anniversary of that triumph.

Of more particular interest to Poles was another Western victory over the Turks, this one in 1683. In that year, the Ottomans once again besieged Vienna, and this time the Western force that saved the Austrian capital was led by Poland’s King John III Sobieski, commanding a joint Polish-German army. After that defeat, the Turks fell back in continuous retreat, mostly to Asia—at least until recently. In the meantime, those who are handy with calendars might wish to mark down 2033 as yet another anniversary, the 350th.

These were signal Western victories over a determined foe of a rival civilization bent on conquest of the European continent. Westerners today, however, don’t seem particularly moved by them or even very conscious of them. The mass immigration policies of most European countries, though blunted somewhat by increasing popular opposition, serves as testament to the lack of a civilizational consciousness throughout much of Europe.

But not in Poland, where traditionalism and a special brand of cultural conservatism still exercise a strong tug on the national consciousness. That brave country, alive with a spirit of hard-won independence, is fated by geography to be forever the target of hostile pincers. It will have to struggle, as it has struggled throughout its history, to keep itself whole and free. Perhaps Poland will find its own new Burke, a figure of erudite and thoughtful guidance, who will rally the nation’s historical and cultural resources for the struggles ahead. In the meantime, Americans should ponder the reality that, in crucial ways, Poland’s fight is our fight as well. And perhaps we, too, will wake up and realize that we need a new Burke of our own.  

James P. Pinkerton is an author and contributing editor at TAC. He served as a White House policy aide to both Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

24 Comments (Open | Close)

24 Comments To "Is Poland In the Grip of a Burkean Battle?"

#1 Comment By William R On March 4, 2018 @ 9:31 pm

The Liberalism/Conservatism
Of Edmund Burke and F. A. Hayek:
A Critical Comparison

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#2 Comment By LouisM On March 4, 2018 @ 11:51 pm

I think this is far simpler than a burkean battle or maybe that’s the intellectualized version of it.

The simple version of it is that the EU is trying to infiltrate Poland and either flip it to their platforms or neutralize it.

I caution over complicating Merkel is still in power because she was able to infiltrate German protests against immigrants, infiltrated the protests against rapes and assaults, even infiltrating political parties like Pegida and the Afd (so even if Germans flood to Afd it wont matter as Merkel and the EU have infiltrated it, subverted it and defanged it).

A social worker was asked why the homeless vagrants move every month to a new place. The social worker hypothesized it had to do with weather, abundance of free shelters and free food, etc….then after intellectualizing all the reasons someone stood up and said after 30days people complain and the police force them to move along. It was that simple. This might be a Burkean battle but at its everyday public level its the attempt to manipulate and control the public and every attempt for the public to unite together in common cause.

#3 Comment By Slugger On March 5, 2018 @ 1:19 am

My views about Poland are a little different. During the late eighteenth century Poland was partitioned and essentially eradicated as a political entity due to its unfortunate geographical location. Many Poles of that time became sympathetic to the rebels against the crowned heads controlling Europe. Men like Pulaski and Kosciuszko fought with distinction on the rebellious side in North America. They stood with Washington. Napoleon garnered some popularity by giving support for Polish sovereignty. All of this was rather unBurkean.
An important fact regarding Poland’s status in the EU is that two million Poles are living outside their country out of a total population of 38 million.

#4 Comment By ojc On March 5, 2018 @ 3:45 am

I am getting tired of all the ra-ra about Law and Justice on this site. Kaczynski and company are fundamentally populist grifters, not Burkean conservatives. Far from being a leftist fifth column, the Polish judiciary overturned a liberalized abortion law in the 1990s. Its reform is necessary, indeed, but what Law and Justice have done is turn it into a wing of their party, utterly subject to the legislature. I wonder if Edmund Burke would have applauded a similar development in his time.

Where I see they have succeeded is framing this as a battle of brave conservatives versus nasty Merkel and the Eurocrats. I have no love lost for the EU, but the notion that Merkel can unilaterally imposes hundreds of thousands of migrants upon any country is preposterous. France, as Europhilic as they come, has taken a fraction of what Germany has. The EU is pushing Poland to take a token number of refugees. But no, Law and Justice even refuses to take in a few hundred sick and wounded children from Syria.

I will give Law and Justice credit where it is due, particularly for keeping the economy humming. But paleo-conservatives should avoid following their prejudices when it comes to the politics of other countries. Just because they have the right enemies does not make Law and Justice the heroes in this story. Learn a little about the scandalous conspiracy-mongering of Father Rydzyk and Mr. Macierewicz. Or the prosecutorial misconduct of Mr. Ziobro. Or the shocking propaganda machine that is Polish public television. I think that you will find that far from being wise Burkeans, the current cabal in power in Poland is driven by a mob mentality, all too similar, I must say, to the Jacobin revolutionaries.

#5 Comment By EliteCommInc. On March 5, 2018 @ 4:35 am

A couple of vitally important notes:

1. 18th Century french Revolutions have little in common with current civil EU process.

2. Technology has made Burkean observations concerning a unified EU, nearly mute, save for two vital components: time and assimilation

Which is the problem we have in the US, the failure to assimilate by carelessness, default of deliberate has reinforced difference exacerbated by accommodating those differences instead of limiting their impact by expectation to give up culture previous for a new one.

What the EU is attempting to is create a new cultural landscape, not preserve a an old one.

#6 Comment By Jonananathan On March 5, 2018 @ 7:25 am

What a tremendous irony if Poland quits the EU, at the same time as Britain leaves in order to reduce the number of Polish migrant workers coming here under EU labour policies.

#7 Comment By connecticut farmer On March 5, 2018 @ 9:00 am

Well written and informative. Can’t help reflecting upon the irony that, at the present time, a relatively disorganized mass of Muslims, radical or otherwise, seems to be accomplishing what an organized army of Muslims (in the form of the Ottoman Empire) could not do in either 1529 or 1683.

#8 Comment By Kaare Baekgaard On March 5, 2018 @ 10:47 am

When Angela Merkel opened the borders to a million refugees, she knew very well, that the decision would come back to haunt her. It was not a blind mistake at all, but motivated by a sense of Christian duty in the face of a humanitarian disaster. Very, very few politicians are willing to risk their political life in order to do the right thing – and for that I respect her tremendously.

#9 Comment By SteveM On March 5, 2018 @ 10:49 am

Re: ojc, “The EU is pushing Poland to take a token number of refugees. But no, Law and Justice even refuses to take in a few hundred sick and wounded children from Syria.”

Poland’s response to that charge is to send foreign aid to those affected communities so the children can be treated where they live. Why is keeping families together in the places where they grew up so bad?

BTW, Poland’s historic suspicion of Russia is well founded. But rather than encouraging a post-Soviet detente between Poland and Russia, the U.S. fear-mongers Russia out the wazoo to the Poles to give its metastasized War Machine something to do and more importantly, something to justify its sanctified status and voracious appetite for even more taxpayer dollars.

Ham-fisted and hyper-militarized U.S. foreign policy poisons everything that it touches.

#10 Comment By Michael Kenny On March 5, 2018 @ 11:24 am

What’s interesting is the inherent contradiction in the article. The author trots out the usual US hegemonist nonsense about the EU, which simply makes us Europeans laugh. However, he trots it out in terms of exceptional virulence, which sounds to me like sour grapes. He has probably noticed the ironies. Poland’s only alternative to the EU is Putin’s tanks and given the still fairly recent unhappy experience of all the Visegrad countries with Soviet occupation, none of them are going to embrace a Russian Federation ruled by a man who shows every sign of wanting to exhume the Soviet Union and push them back to the “limited sovereignty” concept of those days. The irony in that is that Putin is a monster originally created by the US precisely so as to destroy the EU! Instead of that, he is making it the sole realistic option for Europe’s smaller countries. To make matters worse, by refusing to stand up to Putin in Ukraine, the US has torpedoed its own scam! And Trump’s snuggling up to Putin and attacking NATO have made matters worse. Nobody in Europe now seriously believes that the US will honour its NATO obligations. NATO went to war with Serbia for fall less than Putin has done in Ukraine. Thus, an EU defence capacity seems more or less unavoidable. In addition, Merkel is now discredited (probably due to US support of AfD!), so we’ll hear no more about refugees.
The other irony is that the EU is a quintessentially Catholic thing. It reflects the universality inherent in Catholicism and addresses the absurdity of Catholics fighting Catholics in Europe’s wars. The EU’s founding fathers were three extremely pious Catholics: Robert Schuman, Alcide De Gasperi and Konrad Adenauer. Both Jean-Paul II and Benedict have been firm supporters of the EU. The idea that Polish Catholics (or Irish Catholics, for that matter) would turn their backs on all that is just crazy.
Poland is a lovely example of the way in which the various American anti-EU scams cut across each other and cancel each other out. The tone of sour grapes suggests that the author realises that.

#11 Comment By Chris in Appalachia On March 5, 2018 @ 11:40 am

I wish the Law and Justice party would come to America. Sounds like it would make a good third party to represent so many of the people not being represented in this so-called “Representative Republic.” Stand tough against the global bullies, Poland! Maybe Poland can team up with some of the other Slavic countries and form their own union.

#12 Comment By David Nash On March 5, 2018 @ 12:09 pm

Unmitigated capitalism, in its “creative destruction”, in its tendency (or compulsion) to turn human beings into fungible assets –producers or consumers – is a distinctly Liberal idea, not a Conservative one. As the author notes, (thanks to Frank Meyer’s ‘fusionism’), a great many people today are confused as to the difference between Conservatives and Libertarians (hint – libertarians are liberals, albeit “classic”.)

Insofar as capitalism has given goods and services, it is a blessing. Insofar as it radically destroys communities, families, and individuals, it is a curse. And, of course, the “losers”, as the former coal miners and such who came out for Trump did so in part because the Democratic and Republican elites, ever beholden to Wall Street, had abandoned them. How far were they abandoned? To the “Die and Get Out Of Our Way” level of abandonment.

Indeed, when will we begin to recognize that Modern American Conservatism is just as much a product of the “liberal” Enlightenment as the most fervent European Progressivism? The sins of Manchester, after all, are still sins, no matter what laissez-faire excuses are made for them.

Poor Poland, isolated and always abandoned by the West. So close to Russia. And Germany. And Austria. (But, ever, so near to God.)

Three cheers for the Rockingham Whig.

#13 Comment By Kare Baekgaard On March 5, 2018 @ 1:26 pm

SteveM says:

“Poland’s response to that charge is to send foreign aid to those affected communities so the children can be treated where they live. Why is keeping families together in the places where they grew up so bad?”

If that were the case, it would not be so bad. But in reality these children live in bleak, overcrowded detention camps – like the Moria refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos. Look it up, you will not like what you see.

#14 Comment By ojc On March 5, 2018 @ 2:11 pm

Of course Poland has reason to be suspicious of Russia. That concern is precisely why many Polish wonder what the long-term geo-political strategy of the current regime is. The EU, for all its warts, allows Poland to embed itself in the Western order rather than become a Russian satellite.

Framing the EU-Poland dispute as a struggle between a bastion of traditionalist conservatism and a godless hegemon is very simplistic. There are aspects to that narrative that are true. But it overstates the effective power of the EU to bend member countries to its will. Furthermore, it mirrors Putin’s talking points.

Basically, I wish folks on this side of the Atlantic would seek out some measured perspectives rather than follow either the mainstream narrative of panic or the martyrology advanced by friends of Law and Justice.

#15 Comment By Jeremy 2 On March 5, 2018 @ 2:48 pm

I have a bigger problem with the EU bureaucrats’ hypocrisy. They were willing to turn a blind eye to PiS’s overall illiberalism (at least compared to other illiberal governments in the Eurozone) as long as Poland continued to be a bulwark against Russia. But now they’re up in arms about the Holocaust bill, of course.

Add to that the hand-wringing over the state of press freedom and civil liberties in Poland (and Hungary), neither of which Germany and France respect themselves. Even holding negative opinions about Erdogan in Germany is considered potentially pro-terrorist with no shred of irony.

#16 Comment By Paul On March 5, 2018 @ 4:15 pm

I am an American living in Poland. Poland’s many contradictions are best represented by a visit to Krakow’s Old Town, where at night you can wonder at marvelous churches while being accosted numerous times by strip club promoters.

Poland has embraced capitalism and could be doing far, far better if the government stayed out of the equation. It’s largest voting bloc are those who benefit from the remnants of communist bureaucracy which is at odds with modern day times.

The results are high taxes combined with unnecessary paperwork which choke small businesses and encourage Poles to work in other countries for better pay.

Poland is like a flower growing out of concrete, eeking its way with very little when it could truly flourish if it had good soil.

#17 Comment By Howard On March 5, 2018 @ 6:00 pm

The Muslims happen to have caught the West in transition between two civilizations; the Second or Christendom West, and the Third or Neopagan West, which is only now taking shape and some of the features of which are not yet clear. So when people talk about “Western values,” you have to ask, which ones?

#18 Comment By Howard On March 5, 2018 @ 6:04 pm

The economic “liberalism” and social conservatism of the Law and Justice Party is much like the views of many religious blacks and Latinos in our country. Neither party really accommodates these people. They vote Democrat because of their views on “fairness,” but their culture is “red.”

#19 Comment By ln1012 On March 5, 2018 @ 6:39 pm

“including the 1940 mass execution of some 22,000 Polish prisoners at Katyn, in present-day Belarus.”
Katyn is located in Smolensk Region of Russia. There is Khatyn in Belarus. But it is completely different story. Around 600 residents were burned by Nazis there during WW2

#20 Comment By JJ On March 5, 2018 @ 6:53 pm

This is more than Burkean, it is traditionalism and revolutionary nationalism at it’s most heated. Democratic ways are rigged and benefit only the destructive neo-liberals that seek tp massacre all Europe holds dear. Therefore, democracy as an idol must be torn down for it has outlived it’s beneficial status and has turned in on itself. Poland in a way, realizes this, and it shall lead the way in the East for the destruction of those who would in turn destroy civilization itself.

The barbarians are at the gates and they shall not stop until they wipe us all to the last. Better to die on your feet than submit to these decadent, hedonistic, hateful madmen.

God save Poland! God save Europe!

#21 Comment By Nickolas Krause On March 5, 2018 @ 8:28 pm

The RF is weak, and so is the EU; they will both collapse over the next decade. Poland with it’s rising economy and close alignment with U.S. interests will become the most powerful nation in Europe. Future technological advancement will make low populations less of a burden. Her greatest threat is Turkey. These two nations will probably enter in a conflict with each other at some point in the 21st century (maybe in the year 2033).

#22 Comment By Dom On March 6, 2018 @ 6:19 am

What this simplistic and one sided polish propaganda is doing here?

#23 Comment By Jonananathan On March 6, 2018 @ 9:54 am

Incidentally,

“Thus, while Law and Justice sees itself as consistently conservative, in American terms it is both Left and Right.”

That’s true of all European Conservative parties. It’s the US that is idiosyncratic, with the idea that “Conservatism” is opposed to universal healthcare etc. The British Conservative Party, even when it was led by Margaret Thatcher, is quite “Liberal” in US terms.

#24 Comment By pax On March 7, 2018 @ 11:00 am

Send all the diversities to Sweden, Canada, Sydney, and San Francisco. Get hospitalized in a place where operational English is not spoken and a new ethic has overwhelmed the old and not for the better. Time to slow down these activities and see Newton was correct – to every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.