After elections, Poland heads for instability

Wednesday, November 20, 1991 - 11:00

By Sally Low
and Peter Annear

WROCLAW — Solidarity of Labour leader Karol Modzelewski spent nine years in prison under the former Polish regime. In the 1960s he, along with Jacek Kuron, authored a famous open letter to the regime.

Commenting on the recent parliamentary election, Modzelewski said there was no one clear victor. But three groups — the Alliance of the Democratic Left and two right-wing organisations, Catholic Electoral Alliance and the Confederation for an Independent Poland (KPN) — did score a limited success.

For the Alliance of the Democratic Left, it was an incontestable victory to have received nearly as many votes as the strongest party.

Catholic Electoral Action, in reality a front for the far right National Christian Union, polled better than predicted largely due, in his opinion, to the Catholic Church throwing its support behind this group. Nevertheless, its vote of 8.7% was at best a "small pyrrhic victory" for the church.

The KPN's was "a negative vote. Certain of the electorate (probably in fact the majority) are hostile to both Solidarity, after the last two years, and to the Communists." The KPN, with a campaign that was both anti-Communist and anti-Solidarity, was able to tap some of this sentiment.

Voters expressed their deep disillusionment with Solidarity and the economic reforms of the last two years. In particular, the Democratic Union and the Liberal Democratic Congress, the two parties most closely identified with these policies, suffered a defeat. Even Centre Alliance and Peasant Solidarity, which criticised the reforms, were not successful.

The relatively good result for the peasant party of the former Communist structure, the PSL, now perhaps a centre or left of centre formation, is also significant.

"We have the situation where Solidarity cannot form a government with an economic policy that will be in any way compact. The differences between Centre Alliance, Solidarity Peasants and Solidarity Trade Union and the Democratic Union and Liberal Democratic Congress are very profound.

"The most important factor, however, is the abstention rate. In the first free parliamentary elections, the elections which were presented as a decisive step along the path of national independence, almost 60% did not vote.

"This is the majority that has been profoundly let down. For them the experience of Solidarity has ended with the deepest disappointment of their lives because Solidarity had raised their hopes higher than they had ever been.

"None of the post-Solidarity parties, neither Centre Alliance nor us, lear alternative to the economic policies of the last two years. People did not vote for nuances, they voted for colours: So it was 'no' to Red, 'no' to Blue (if you can say Solidarity is blue) and abstention." This is why the post-Solidarity left groups, like Solidarity of Labour, scored so badly.

"I think there is at the moment no sociopolitical space for the left that is not filled by the post-Communists. All the parties coming out of Solidarity are perceived by the electorate (more or less, it is very fluid) as being on the right or the centre right.

"This also explains the profound defeat of the Solidarity Trade Union, which received only 5% of the vote. It was a disaster for them. The right-wing electorate will not vote for a trade union."

The most important factor in the political scene now is the anger and frustration of those who abstained and who will feel unrepresented in parliament. They will express their aspirations through explosions of aggressiveness in the streets, thinks Modzelewski.

"I fear that Walesa will not sufficiently take this into account. He is looking for a solution that will permit him to continue the same policies despite these election results. In my opinion that is adventurism, because it will lead directly to a clash between popular demonstrations and the democratic institutions of the state."

If parliament is dissolved or robbed of its power, it will not be able to act as a mediating instrument, he said. The government will then be inclined to use force to quell social tensions.

In his opinion, however, Walesa would not gain enough support from the army to maintain a strong or lasting dictatorship. While some of the generals would support him, the majority of officers would not. "Perhaps even for Jaruzelski they would not declare martial law again; they certainly would not do it for Walesa", he said.

For Walesa to move in such a direction would be to risk plunging Poland into "the same sort of conflict that we see in the other countries of the east. We have here all the same problems although without the nationalities conflict. But the essential problem is the 'Third Worldisation' of the post-Communist world. Our populations are well educated, and have high material, civil and spiritual aspirations; there will be no suffering in silence.

"If the country degenerates as I fear, then only the extreme political organisations will have a hearing. We will most likely see the rise of the far right, of populism and Peronism. In this black scenario I do not see any space for Western-style Social Democracy, even for left Social Democracy. So if this is true the perspectives for an organisation like Solidarity of Labour are sombre."

From GLW issue 36