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Poland Stands Up for National Sovereignty in Europe

Arnold Winkelried was a legendary Swiss hero who sacrificed his own life for the nation while staying on moral high ground. Thus his name has become associated with the idea of an individual idealistically challenging the enemy in the interest of the common good. It is a theme that still resonates today, especially when considering the place of Poland in the European Union.

Julisz Slowacki, one of the “Three Bards [1]” of Polish literature, also embraced this way of Winkelried in his dramatic poem Kordian [2], a drama published in 1834 that is a profound study of a Polish romantic revolutionary’s psyche. The story’s protagonist is a Hamletesque figure who is disappointed with the world, a hero implicated in a tragic conflict of values. Kordian believed that passive resistance bred apathy, and thus the quest for redemption could only be achieved through heroic action.

This historical representation of Messianism in Poland—which opposes Adam Mickiewicz’s vision of Poland as the suffering “Christ of Nations”—maintained that in the course of our tumultuous history, Poles were infused with special knowledge originating from the experience of war and oppression. That precious knowledge turned into insightful wisdom about pain and injustice, with the role of the weak being to remind the strong and prosperous about the frailty of human existence. When it comes to the future of Europe, Poland can still play this role today.

Many people all over the continent wholeheartedly welcomed remarks earlier this month from a Polish member of the European Parliament, Ryszard Legutko, challenging French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel during a debate on the current situation in the EU.

A professor of philosophy at Jagiellonian University in Krakow (one of the oldest universities in the world [3]), philosopher and political theorist Legutko argued [4] that France and Germany need to exercise some humility. He reminded the assembly of the true meaning of democracy, rejecting the idea that the “joint appearance is historic because it shows the Franco-German engine of Europe is still powering on and we have a radiant future in front of us.” This event was instead, Legutko argued, “a part of the problem … one or two countries decide for the rest … and we altogether are 28 and 28 is far more than two.”

The leader of the Polish delegation also suggested that there is a fine line between leadership and control, warning that different viewpoints need to be heard in the EU. Acknowledging that “events of recent years have placed a burden of leadership on [the] shoulders” of Angela Merkel, Legutko addressed the German chancellor directly, charging that “you sometimes forget the difference between leadership and dominance.” He explained that “people are concerned that their viewpoint does not matter. Some are ignored. Others are bullied and others are vilified. People are concerned because they hear this deafening federalist rhetoric not rooted in reality and through that thin vein of rhetoric they see a ruthless power play with the President and Chancellor as major actors.”

Legutko concluded his speech by referring to the recent refugee crisis in Europe. He asked a vital question—inconvenient for many liberal progressives—about the future of the European Union, asking why the continent was “inviting the immigrants and then cancelling the invitation.” It was, he said, “unbearable confusion of humanitarian, moral and political arguments that obscure the gravity of the crisis we are faced with … not a language of dialogue but a language to obscure things.”

When Merkel decided to “suspend the Schengen rules and open the German border and then to close the border again,” it was evidence that any semblance of collective decision making in Europe had broken down: “If this is not a proof of dominance, what is?”

There is some evidence that Legutko’s message is resonating, at least in Poland. This week his Law and Justice party secured an absolute majority in the Sejm, the lower house of the Polish parliament, the first time any party has achieved that since democracy was restored in 1989.

Legutko’s defense of freedom and deep concern over the future of Europe speaks to the historic Polish consciousness, all the way back to the tradition of Romantics such as Slowacki and legendary figures such as Winkelried. The Swiss hero threw himself among the enemy’s spears, and “opened a path for freedom.” Perhaps Poles such as Legutko, if they are unafraid to challenge the Franco-German rulers of the EU, can do the same today.

Adriel Kasonta is an editorial board member at the Central European Journal of International and Security Studies, and co-editor of Konserwatyzm.pl. He was chairman of the International Affairs Committee at the Bow Group think tank (2014-2015), and is the editor and leading author of the Bow Group’s report titled “The Sanctions on Russia.”

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11 Comments To "Poland Stands Up for National Sovereignty in Europe"

#1 Comment By Beijing Expat On October 28, 2015 @ 2:56 am

When you like to see what happens when a US president acts on personal whim: Take a look at the Iraq war.

When you like to see what happens a EU “presidentess” acts on a personal whim: Take a look at the EU refugee crisis.

Lack of checks and balances on both sides of the Atlantic. As long as it plays into the main hobby of the political establishment (war for the US, white guilt for the EU) anything goes. Seize the day! Feel good! And let future generations pay the cost!

P.S.: Yes, I know – Mrs Merkel is not the “president of the EU”. But that’s how it reads when I write on a whim. Way cheaper for everyone around.

#2 Comment By EliteCommInc. On October 28, 2015 @ 8:11 am

This was an interesting and informative artice.

Though I am a bit unclear exactly what the obhection here is.

” It was, he said, “unbearable confusion of humanitarian, moral and political arguments that obscure the gravity of the crisis we are faced with … not a language of dialogue but a language to obscure things.”

That the immigration policy is confusing by way of on and off again or that easing the process at all creating unreasonable expectation on other member staes is offered at all.

#3 Comment By JohnG On October 28, 2015 @ 10:55 am

I believe that in the same session of the EU Parliament Marine le Pen of Front National referred to “her” president Hollande as Merkel’s vice-chancellor for the province of France. And le Pen seems more likely day by day to become France’s next president, so things are sure to blow up over there sooner rather than later.

Having said that, let’s not forget that Germany is a victim here too. In this CNNizeed world, where “luminaries” like Christiane Amanpour issue licenses for what is acceptable discourse, it’s difficult to defend the right of nations and cultures to remain themselves without being labeled racist, extremist, or even a Nazi. FN, UKIP, Hungary’s president Orban, and others are demonized all the time, so imagine how high the bar is for similar ideas in Germany. The only way Germany can remain Germany, which is something I imagine many Germans yearn for, is for the rest of Europe to elect sovereignist parties that want to radically reform or dismantle the EU.

Germany is globalist elites’ ideal country. Rich and powerful to impose things on others in Europe, yet completely defenseless to their agenda from within. I am afraid our best hope on this side of the ocean is Donald Trump, someone to finally start breaking taboos of political correctness and interventionist nonsense.

#4 Comment By Martin Ranger On October 28, 2015 @ 1:45 pm

Poland is one of the largest recipients of EU funds (in excess of 100bn Euros, 2014-2020); more than half a million Poles reside in Germany, another half million in the UK, thanks to EU mobility laws. Now that the EU is facing a refugee crisis, caused at least in part by Middle East policies that Poland was a willing participant in, they throw a hissy fit, discover the need to “stand up for national sovereignty” and “defend freedom”. All because Poland was asked to accept 12,000 refugees. And of course, Germany is to blame.
If Poland is truly so concerned about their sovereignty, they are certainly free to leave the EU.

@JohnG: Good luck defending Orban.

#5 Comment By Fremder On October 28, 2015 @ 6:52 pm

@Martin Ranger – Good luck defending Orban.

Orban’s doing a pretty good job of defending himself. Indeed, the globalists want his head because he proved that a fence can work, something they pooh-pooh as hopelessly outdated in this our marvelous interdependent contemporary world.

It’s an old idea of course. Good fences make good neighbors … Used to be an American idea – Ben Franklin and Robert Frost thought so, anyway.

#6 Comment By Winston On October 29, 2015 @ 2:09 am

Too bad do not stand up for the workers in Poland. Poverty is rising there, as are hungry children. How ironic since a labor brought freedom in Poland.

#7 Comment By Jeremy On October 29, 2015 @ 4:46 am

@Martin Ranger

You seem bitter/envious/jealous of Poland that the country is receiving EU funding for infrastructure needs which were denied to them unlike the rest of Europe during the Marshall Plan wealth distribution. Poland never received any of the money promised to them because the funds were blocked by the communists, so finally the country is getting what rightfully should have been given to them after Germany ruined their country during WW2. I fail to see why you are so bitter and repugnantly against Poland’s well being and prosperity. You are more bitter about this than you are with the hundreds of thousands of illegal, undocumented immigrants that are pouring into Europe from the middle east, which Poland has every right to denounce. Poland were asked to take in 12,000 undocumented “refugees” which it had the right to turn down. Angela Merkel had the brilliant idea of letting in the world’s immigrant’s refugees, and Poland had every right to voice a loud NO. Even Merkel’s own party hates Merkel’s policies, so why should Poland go along with one woman’s crazy dictator-like idea? Merkel does not dictate to anyone and is not the president of Poland, and does not call Poland’s shots for Poland. Poland has many workers in many EU countries, but so do the British. Are you saying that Poles as free people, just as the British are not allowed to move freely across borders globally and live and work as they please as free people? Should we send back all the British living and working abroad as well, and have England leave the EU? Rethink your obvious bias because you just made yourself look like a clown.

#8 Comment By mf On October 29, 2015 @ 9:46 am

the electoral victory of PiS in Poland (stands for Law and Justice party) has little to do with upholding Polish sovereignty, more to do with a beginning of the end of the period of transition from soviet dominated state socialism to the current day market economy and EU membership. Poland made enormous progress in this period, but has finally reached the end of the relatively easy road of being a country of well educated cheap labor. After eight years in power the Civic Platform party failed to offer a coherent vision of the future and was showing clear signs of corruption that political power often brings. PiS is not offering any real alternatives, but is a coherent political force which can win on a platform of not being the part in power. In other words Poland has just entered a potentially turbulent period of generational transition in politics and the latest election is the symptom.

#9 Comment By Ron On October 29, 2015 @ 12:57 pm

@Martin Ranger


#10 Comment By EliteCommInc. On October 30, 2015 @ 10:46 am

I fear that our misguided notions about a fre market and cheap labor are going to come back to haunt us more than we imagined.

One’s high priced degree is loosing it’s meaning.

#11 Comment By Pit On January 17, 2016 @ 4:58 pm

@ Jeremy

100% true. Very well said.