Saturday, July 20, 2024

Farmers on the Watch List

(Photo: iStock

The progress camp has always been suspicious of peasants.


Piotr Semka

Karl Marx once decried the “idiocy of rural life.” Today this prejudice is returning in a decidedly unexpected form. Here we have spectacular peasant protests that have alerted the entire support apparatus of the new coalition. They suspect that the villagers are an obedient army being deployed against those in power either by Putin or by the diabolical Jarosław Kaczyński.

In the case of the Kremlin’s ruler, the ironclad proof of secret links is the farmer who attached a pro-Putin sign to his tractor. (For this, by the way, he is to be held criminally responsible.)

And the allegations of Kaczyński’s secret influence? Well, many farmers resent the previous government’s lack of opposition to implementation of the Green Deal. At peasant protests, Law and Justice (PiS) politicians are not always welcomed with open arms. But what’s the use of questioning a narrative? Over on the Onet website we read: “The farmers’ protest is the handiwork of PiS. Jarosław Kaczyński issued one order.” When you analyze journalist Andrzej Gajcy’s report, all you can find there is information that the Law and Justice leader ordered his politicians to link up with any farmers’ demonstrations. The new coalition’s army of elite supporters also employs hundreds of sneers, jokes and expressions of contempt, all dressed up in pseudo-intellectual garb.

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As usual, the most straightforward is Magdalena Środa, who announced: “Zero solidarity with the farmers. They are a rich and very entitled social class.” The columnist asserted that the protesters “have close ties with fascists,” and continued, “They have huge subsidies from the EU, yet they despise it; they don’t pay taxes, yet they despise the government; they don’t remember who neglected their interests (PiS), yet they bash [Donald Tusk’s] Civic Coalition.” Środa tries to disparage the farmers’ demands, going as far as outright demagoguery. “They demand absurd guarantees for the sale of their products one could follow suit and demand that the government purchase all intellectual, musical and artistic products.” Lesser exemplars of self-righteousness follow in Środa’s wake.

Let us also note another phenomenon: the completely uncritical fascination with the peasant protests on the political right. The widely acclaimed peasant marches on Warsaw are indeed the biggest problem facing Donald Tusk’s left-liberal coalition. Conservatives are viewing the farmers’ protests across the EU a bit like people fed up with communism viewed the revolts of shipyard workers on the coast during the communist era. However, the movement brings together very different protesters, with very different demands. Some are a legitimate reaction to the EU’s ecological madness, but any government, not just Tusk’s crew, would struggle to meet some of the demands.

In addition, a leadership structure for this new movement is yet to form. Only after such leaders emerge will it be possible to assess this phenomenon. The fact is that a new force has appeared on the Polish political scene. And it is not yet clear what shape it will take and in which direction it will go. Some are already treating farmers as “agitators,” while others see them as saviors of the homeland.



This article was first published in Polish in the Do Rzeczy weekly in February 2024.