Address to the Polish Parliament (Sejm)
delivered on the occasion of the first hundred days of the new presidency and government
Mr. Speaker, Distinguished Members of the Sejm:
One hundred days is a milestone. If memory serves, under President John Kennedy it became customary to refer to the “first one hundred days” of a presidency or government. We have done likewise. This is not a matter of surrendering to the magic of numbers, but rather an attempt to recognize something very serious: for the first time since we regained independence seventeen years ago, we are about to try to turn a corner, as far as fundamental renewal of our country is concerned. Seventeen years is a long time in the life of a man, but it is also a considerable period of time in the life of a nation. After the reconstitution of the Polish Republic in November 1918, the Second Republic had only twenty years to reinvent itself and Polish society. Seventeen years after its reconstitution, the man who was most responsible for its existence, Marshal Joseph Piłsudski, was already dead. Seventeen years after the end of the Second World War, the lucky Western Europe, having avoided a takeover by the communists, was already well advanced in rebuilding itself and its economy. The German economic miracle had already been accomplished: the year 1963 is usually regarded as the last year of that “miracle.” Even though the early postwar years were difficult, the countries of Western Europe made an enormous leap forward during their first seventeen years after the war. It is therefore useful to pause and reflect upon what we Poles have achieved since 1989, when the “Polish People’s Republic” ceased to be, bequeathing to us massive problems and a gigantic social and economic crisis, but, fortunately, no conflagration or destruction by firepower of our cities and villages, as had been the case after the Second World War.
It also is worthwhile to reflect on the last seventeen years because the problems we are facing now have partly been caused by the mistakes of that period. First, the economy. If all goes well, at the end of 2006 our GDP will have increased by 50 percent in comparison to 1989. This means that the Polish economy grew at a meager 3 percent per year or less. First there was decline, then growth, and in 1996 we reached the 1989 level again. After that we had a few good years of growth and then, alas, five years of very slow growth.
We have also inherited a host of serious social problems. Almost 40 percent of our young people are unemployed. We do not have adequate housing: many families still live in communal apartments or rented rooms. Our families are in crisis. These are social pathologies that lead to depopulation. Our negative population growth is also caused by emigration: there is a real danger that emigration to other EU countries and elsewhere will drain our country of its educated classes.
Of course, there are successes as well. We are finally independent. We have democracy, however imperfect. The number of students at the institutions of higher learning has dramatically increased. In fact, progress in education is probably the greatest achievement of the Third Republic.
However, we have to ask: what can those newly educated young people do in Poland? Almost 40 percent of our youth cannot find adequate jobs. While we applaud successes of the educational system, we have to remember the next step. The 40 percent unemployment rate is more relevant to the future of our youth than the educational successes we can congratulate ourselves on. This being so, we urgently need to initiate processes that will improve the material situation of those most in need of assistance. In recent times, the two great social initiatives about which we spoke, construction of the highway system and affordable housing, have ended in failure. We have to reanimate these initiatives to assure rapid economic growth for the country.
What means do we have to accomplish this? I do not have in mind only financial means but also, and primarily, that sense of purpose that we seemingly regained in 1989 but that was thwarted by various realities. In Poland today the following questions have to be asked: What does it mean to live in a well-functioning state? What are the fundamental requirements for such a state? The following answer suggests itself. First and foremost, the leaders of such a state have to be democratically elected. A well-functioning state has to be governed by just laws to be effective. The bureaucracy essentially does what those in power tell it to do, according to the law. As to the economic decisions, in all well-functioning countries they too flow naturally from the general plan, which the elected government should have. In states that do not function well the lobbying powers weigh in disproportionately on economic decisions. The well-functioning state does not rely on socialist planning but rather on a consensus, wisely researched and patiently built, about what is appropriate for the common good. This is the second aspect of a well- functioning state.
Third, a well-functioning state has to fulfill its obligation to assure security for its citizens and, to some extent, for the community of the states with which it associates itself. The aspect of security also includes the minimal standard of living that the state has to strive to assure for its citizens. Fourth, security also concerns the freedom of economic activity and, finally, the rights of citizens vis-a-vis the state, or rather, vis-a-vis the possible abuses of power by the state. Let us now ask whether the Polish state has fulfilled all these obligations during the last seventeen years.
We have had democratic elections and we do fulfill our international duties, but this does not cover all the aspects of the problem of security. The problem of energy security (the opportunity to buy oil and gas) has not been solved. Did the state assure the personal safety of citizens? Criminality in our society is so high that this question cannot be answered in the affirmative, both with regard to the megacriminals and the petty criminals. Unemployment, the sorry state of the apartment buildings in which so many of our citizens live, and the decline in health services make us lean toward a negative answer. What about economic freedom? It is enough to talk to small and medium business owners, and sometimes even to major businessmen, to hear that such freedom has often been thwarted.
Finally, ladies and gentlemen, has our state protected its citizens from the abuses of state power? Alas, here too the answer has to be no. Much could be said about all kinds of excesses that have been happening with greater frequency than it might seem at first.
What about the ability to lead and initiate economic policies? It is clear to most people that the officials of our state have often had strong connections with the lobbying interests and even with criminal activities. In this situation, there can be no question about just and disinterested leadership in economic matters. I would say more: the last seventeen years did not see any economic policy clearly formulated and successfully implemented. There have been pressures, and under these pressures decisions were undertaken. Similar things can be said about all aspects of the process of governing (applause). I repeat, the state apparatus today is subject to pathologies that sometimes go very deep. This causes an inability to act on behalf of citizenry; instead, the government often acts on behalf of the various privileged groups.
The results are far reaching, and they have a major impact on the economy. We all pay what may be called a corruption tax, or robbery tax. In the Third Republic, interest groups that use a certain modus operandi have taken over state and even private property without equivalent compensation.
Ladies and gentlemen, there is another aspect of this modus operandi. People who show honest economic initiative and who know how to produce wealth by honest methods are often pushed aside, if not destroyed, figuratively speaking. This amounts to destroying the most valuable part of our social and economic mechanism, the mechanism that advances the common good by means of effective economic activity (applause).
Ladies and gentlemen, let us look at the situation in the most profitable branches of our economy. Who are the winners there, and who are the losers? It is clear to many that the mechanisms that work there have little to do with free market principles. Those who have investigated the details of the situation-and these details can be dug up without much difficulty-see that these branches of the economy are intertwined with the former or current special services. This is a peculiarity of our state today (applause), the reality of Poland over the last seventeen years. A peculiar role of the special services, old and new, intertwined. A ruthless and, until recently, very effective defense mechanism employed in maintaining the status quo also with regard to those who had smoothly been transferred from the old regime to the new, without any “lustration” whatsoever.
This situation has to change. The Law and Justice Party considers this change to be a key part of its job (applause).
Ladies and gentlemen, let us give these seventeen years another look. During these seventeen years, we had only one government which was neither participating in nor condoning these mechanisms of corruption, in part or in full. I repeat, there was only one such government, that of Prime Minister Jan Olszewski. I am not counting the present government (applause). It is therefore appropriate to invoke the Olszewski cabinet and say a few words about what took place during its tenure. It is worthwhile to remember those anti-government campaigns that were launched then, because they may help understand the anti-government campaigns being launched today.
What did that government do? Alas, it did have a comprehensive program of the kind Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz has today. We have to admit that it was our fault, for it was our party that was in power then. But despite a lack of a well-articulated program for the future, the Olszewski government tried to combat [foreign] agents, especially those embedded in the military special services. It also dared to question what some of our remarkable journalists have ironically called a “new and scientific” worldview. Members of that government did not comfort themselves with the naive belief that after 1989 a miracle occurred in Poland and the old state apparatus suddenly became the apparatus of a democratic state, while the network of special interests that consolidated in the 1980s was suddenly dissolved by a Parliament fiat, and that the existence of a well-functioning market economy could also be so declared. It is small wonder that members of the Olszewski government were brutally and often mendaciously attacked, both in Poland and abroad. A particularly insistent lie, perpetuated inside and outside Poland, was the idea that after Leszek Balcerowicz’s economic suceesses (they amounted largely to a decrease in the Polish GDP), the Polish economy was about to disappear into a black hole.
What was the real situation? During Prime Minister Olszewski’s tenure, the Polish economy began to grow again after two years of decline (applause). The widely distributed information that it was not so was mendacious. It was a lie, pure and simple. Yet Jan Olszewski’s famous question, to whom will Poland belong, was ridiculed and countered with an allegedly more relevant question: what kind of Poland will exist in the future-even though it was clear enough that the answer to the first question was tantamount to answering the second.
The Olszewski government collapsed. Today, we pledge to continue its unfulfilled promises and tasks. And just as the Olszewski government evoked fear and loathing among the defenders of special interests, so has the Marcinkiewicz government become the target of various hostile maneuvers.
But today the situation is different. In the last five years many things have happened in Poland. The years 2003-2004 have been particularly significant. During those years, the government of Prime Minister Leszek Miller inadvertedly displayed the backstage of the economic deals which were being concluded during his tenure. Therefore, it is more difficult to lie today than ten years ago, although some people still try. Barring that, other methods are used to conceal the truth. All these attempts have intensified because we in the PiS are trying to pull that backstage curtain wide open (applause). We do, in fact, want to pull it down. Such an operation, if successful, would launch us on the road to making our country truly a country of and for Polish citizens (strong applause).
This perspective of total demystification has caused much commotion among those who have profited from the system. To defend it, new ideas have been ushered in, ideas that could be described as “restoration,” to use the vocabulary of historical sciences: change a great deal around the edges, but leave the system essentially intact and fortify it in such a way that no one can rebel against it in the foreseeable future. To accomplish this by means of activities that, in theory, could be undertaken in a democratic way, but that in Polish conditions would make democracy impotent and dysfunctional. And to do so at the expense of those who are the poorest in our society. Such webs of influence need to be reconfigured from time to time, according to the economists. Thus such a reconfiguration had begun to be promoted on a large scale. To many it seemed that it had a great chance of success. Some of its adherents presented it in a way that made it almost indistinguishable from our program of real change. The society woke up to hope, and so have we in PiS.
Well, the promoters of the “restoration project” lost the elections. What won was the concept of radical change (applause). Consequently, members of the informal network of influences prepared new methods of combat. I would like to briefly mention two of them. The first brings in attacks on the PiS government from the outside as it were, by proffering interpretations of our government that are far from the truth. This is a tried and true method of imputing motives that the government does not in fact possess. An opinion is being perpetuated that no matter who wins the elections, the system will remain in place, because the stronger always win and grab the spoils for themselves.
The activities meant to promote honest competition in our economic market, the attempts to prevent members of the corrupt system from winning because they cannot deliver a cheaper or better product, are presented as attacks on democracy and the free market. An avalanche of insinuations and plain lies accompanies such statements. Indeed, in today’s Poland one observes a triumph of the insinuation principle.
Years ago, writer Józef Mackiewicz wrote about the “victory of the provocation.” This time it is not a victory but rather boastfulness, and not of provocation but rather of insinuation. One should look at the details of this process. Who participates in it? The answer is simple: almost the entire elite of the Third Republic is involved in it. We remember very well the times when a counterreality, a reality articulated for public consumption, was a permanent aspect of the media and a formative element of the political system. Some of that fictional reality has disappeared, but much of this total lack of respect for the facts has been inherited by the Third Republic.
Yet, I repeat, something changed in the years 2003-2004. The gap between reality and what one reads about in the papers became smaller. But attempts are made to reanimate this old counterreality. Nikolai Berdiaev was probably the first to describe it in the Soviet Union; it would be good if it disappeared for good in Poland. This has not yet happened. But since PiS is accused of being hostile to democracy, let us ask when during these seventeen years was Polish democracy endangered, and who was in power then?
Let us recall that at one point [in 1993, Ed.], the UOP [Office for the Protection of the State, or part of the special services to which Mr. Kaczyński refers. Ed.] issued Instruction no. 0015, which in effect reintroduced the political police to Poland. These were the times when the Polish right was harassed: our special police services harassed the legally functioning political parties. The public square was being shaped by the power-wielding networks. Even elections were tampered with indirectly. And it was not PiS or its predecessor, PC (the mother party of PiS), that was in power then. No, PC was being brutally attacked at that time. Many of those who attack PiS now were in power when PC was attacked. They were the ones who made statements to the effect that one should first have free market and only later democracy. Thus, if there are forces in Poland that wish to curb democracy, they should not be sought on this side of the political fence.
Mr. Speaker! Ladies and gentlemen! Democracy in Poland is not in danger. The rule of law is not in danger. What is in danger is the unofficial web of connections that goes back to communist times. We shall fight against that network. We want to destroy it. We want to use legal methods, the methods appropriate for a country that believes in the rule of law. Our first goal is to discredit that network as immoral. We want to show who defends that network, and we have a right to do so. Polish citizens do have the right to know. We also want to do it because the network has intensified its activities lately.
Specifically, we face a front that defends the criminals of the past and attacks the Minister of Justice Zbigniew Ziobro (applause). It would be instructive to know if those who now sign various declarations about democracy were equally brave during the time of trial, before 1989, and also after that date. I remember what was done about Instruction no. 0015 by a certain lawyer, who is still very active and who used to be the head of the Constitutional Tribunal. I remember that, and many of you do too. I remember cowardice and repulsive opportunism (applause). We shall not allow the criminal front to win. While dictatorship and authoritarianism in Poland are out of the question and only the naive believe that they are not, Poland does need order, and it shall achieve it (prolonged applause).
Law and order are in the interest of ordinary people, and ordinary Poles are our first concern (applause). The Law and Order Party is a party of ordinary people, and we are proud of it (applause).
Mr. Speaker! Ladies and Gentlemen! I would also like to mention the second way of attacking and undermining Prime Minister Marcinkiewicz’s government. This way can be called “internal criticism.” It consists of highlighting the apparent contradictions in our program, unfriendly assessment of what the government is currently doing about the problems mentioned in our program. Such criticism is often laced with ill will and hostility, but it has to be taken seriously even if it is not motivated by concern for the common good. Let me attempt to answer such criticism in a general way, by reminding ourselves of certain obvious issues. The first concerns the most important and historically grounded function of a nation state: the defense of the interests of citizens vis-a-vis other nation states. Has the government done anything in that area? The government has been quite successful in the ongoing negotiations in Brussels, and I do not have in mind solely the financial issues. Those who know the details of these negotiations will surely admit that we can boast a measure of success in the great game that is now being played out in Europe. We are taking advantage of the possibilities of participating in that game in a certain way. We have been quite successful in our relations with the United States, the relations that open up various possibilities for us. We see light at the end of the tunnel even in those matters which seemed all but impossible to solve some time ago. We are making progress in the matter of national security. We are undertaking initiatives in the matter of energy supplies, of the supplies of gas in particular. And all this is moving ahead quickly, which could not have been said about the actions of the previous government. In short, I think that the PiS government has discharged well its duties of defending Polish interests in the international arena.
And now to the question of “regaining” the state, taking it back from the corrupt web of special interests of which I spoke earlier. The government is making preparation for the creation of the Office of Financial Supervision and Control, which will put an end to the rule of the financial lobby in our country. This is the end of the rule of a certain gentleman who is often thought to be a great man, but who has almost always been wrong on economic matters (applause). Such developments are crucial if our state is to grow in the economic sector. Of course, the details and the personnel involved are and should be a matter of debate. But the essential fact remains. We are in the process of creating an office whose principal task will be to fight corruption. This is the beginning of the real fight against corruption. We realize that the Polish officialdom is so involved in corruption processes that its ability to fight it are limited; hence the idea of the anticorruption office. I know that some people do not like it, but they are mostly those who are afraid that their own dealings would finally be revealed. But ordinary Poles like it, and it is no wonder that they do (applause). To put it plainly, this initiative is good for Poland. It is also good for the Poles that the WSI [Wojskowe Słužby Informacyjne, or military intelligence whose transition from Soviet-occupied to free Poland has been murky. Ed.] is being dissolved. It was a gloomy structure that worked without any checks and balances for seventeen years. In the Fourth Republic that we are trying to build, such structures will have no chance of surviving. The Deputy Prime Minister Ludwik Dorn is undertaking actions related to a review of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. We are reviewing the police services and other state services. We are changing the criteria of appointment for the governors of provinces. All these are actions meant to restore to our country its social and political health. In that connection, the Minister of Internal Affairs, Zbigniew Ziobro, has been the target of particularly vicious attacks by those who do not like the changes (applause). I personally would like to congratulate him and wish him endurance in his very difficult job. Another person that has been attacked is Minister of the Interior Zbigniew Wasserman. His task is to cleanse special services, an area that has been particularly corrupt and one whose healt it is particularly difficult to restore. I have mentioned a few examples; there are more. All of them illustrate our struggle against the network of special interests. That network still lives and functions within the state apparatus, and it is being defended by some who claim that it provides an assurance that the state continues to function smoothly and well.
Finally, I would like to mention something that dishonors the Third Republic more than anything else: the hungry children. I think we have found a solution to this problem. Since 1989, the consecutive governments have issued many declarations with little to show in practice. The problem of help to mothers, the problem of depopulation, assistance concerning leaves of absence and vacations, financial help for new mothers and their babies-all this adds up to a significant change. For the first time in free Poland, the government is reaching out to those who want to have babies, rather than to those who do not. Add to it actions and concerns about energy matters, energy sources for farmers, bioenergy, dotations for farmers (applause). Polish farms have been neglected in the last two decades. Add to it activities in the area of education where there were many contradictory policies on the books and in practice (applause). Good teachers retire too early because they cannot continue to teach effectively (the bell rings).
We have been hard at work on all these issues.
. . . .
The exigencies of time. I yield to them. . . . Thank you (prolonged applause). ∆
The Polish original of this address can be found at the PiS website, <http://www.pis.org.pl>, as of 17 February 2006. Translated and annotated by the Sarmatian Review staff.
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