Monday, April 15, 2024
European Union

Poles as guinea pigs

Donald Tusk with Ursula von der Leyen (source:

Eurocrats are using Poland to test whether it is possible to stay in power in a democracy while applying police state mechanisms.


Rafał A. Ziemkiewicz

For the second time in our recent history, we have become a testing lab for a foreign power. In the 1980s the elites of the Moscow services used Poland to test whether it was possible to switch a bankrupt communist system to democratic capitalism in such a way that the communists would keep actual power and remain a privileged upper layer of society. Today, historians’ findings leave no room for doubt about this – Jaruzelski and Kiszczak were pushed to the Round Table talks by the Soviets, and when they resisted, it was made abundantly clear to them that Moscow could reach an understanding with the Polish “democratic opposition” on its own, above their heads, leaving them to suffer the obvious consequences.

Who is testing what on the Polish guinea pigs today? My thesis is that for the Eurocrats and, more broadly, the elites of liberal democracy, the rule of Donald Tusk is a pilot operation for what they will soon be forced to implement on their own ground. As a long-time German representative in our country put it in an article for a Berlin newspaper: in order to really “restore democracy,” it is necessary to resort to police state methods. There is simply no alternative.

Poland is to supply the experimental data needed for this to be done effectively in Germany, France, and other countries, should the majority of voters there ignore the directions of their elites and vote for “populists” like the AfD or National Rally in such numbers that the customary policy of isolation is no longer adequate.

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The circulation of elites

To save democracy against the will of the majority of voters?

This sounds like paranoia and possibly is – but it is a paranoia that has been repeated many times in history. The renowned economist and sociologist Vilfredo Pareto claimed that a condition for society to develop in a stable and healthy manner, supplying everyone with the desired values – with security and affluence at the fore – was the “circulation of elites.” There must be unobstructed pathways from the bottom upwards, enabling capable and energetic individuals from the lower classes to advance to the elite. However, for this to happen, there must also exist pathways from the top downwards – mechanisms serving to degrade those members of the higher class who have not shown themselves worthy of their position on the social ladder.

And this is where the problem lies, because the members of the elites have no wish to give up their privileged position or see their protégés lose their privileges – no matter how incapable and depraved they might be. And because it is the elites that in principle decide the rules by which society functions, they gradually arrange those rules in such a way as to protect themselves from degradation.

Blocking off the downward pathway automatically blocks the upward one – outstanding individuals from the lower classes are unable to push their way up, colloquially speaking, to the positions appropriate to their ambitions and abilities, because those positions are occupied by the relatives and friends of the governing classes. (This is well captured in a joke from the Soviet Union’s final years under Andropov and Chernenko: Can a general’s son become a field marshal in our country? No, because the field marshal has a son too.) Inevitably, then, they use their abilities and energy to break down the system that holds them back, standing at the head of every dissatisfied movement. And because the accumulation of energy directed against the system from below is accompanied by ossification and impotence among the higher class, the effect is like trying to keep the steam in a boiling pot by holding down the lid.

Rape with consent

We last saw this process in the 18th and 19th centuries. The French aristocracy failed to recognize the rising pressure in the pot, and most of them went to the guillotine as a result. Their British counterparts learned from their example and were able to withdraw and give up ground slowly, the best illustration being the evolutionary rise in the importance of the House of Commons at the expense of the House of Lords.

This process whereby an ossified aristocratic elite is pushed aside by a new one – liberal-democratic, coming mainly from the bourgeoisie, gaining in importance thanks to the industrial revolution – is described in Giuseppe di Lampedusa’s classic novel The Leopard, well known largely for the principle espoused by the leading character, the Prince of Salina: if we want everything to stay as it is, then everything has to change. This same principle was followed by the elites of the Soviet special services who, as I mentioned at the outset, were experimenting on Poland in the 1980s – no doubt because, unlike the party nomenklatura and army, they remained on an open pathway to advancement right up to the demise of the Soviet Union, the best proof being the career of the street thug Vladimir Putin.

The bureaucratized and intellectually barren elites of the European Union, and of Western liberal democracy more generally, operating in an analogous situation, with a similar sense that the blocked-up social energy is about to explode, are nevertheless behaving more like the real nonfictional aristocratic elites of the past: they believe that everything can stay the same, that they are simply able to prevent change by holding at bay the contemporary “Jacobins,” “anarchists” and “Bolsheviks” by force (I use quotation marks since I am referring not to the true meanings of these words, but to the way they functioned in the discourse of that threatened elite of the nineteenth century). I will explain in a moment what they base this hope on.

First, however, we need to be clear that the fundamental crisis in the buildup of crises that Western liberal democracy is facing, and at the same time the cause of many of the others (the “mother of all crises,” as the late Saddam Hussein might have said) is the crisis of that system itself. Namely that in Western democracy the Pareto cycle has broken down again – and this has been the case for a good few decades.

As I have already found on many occasions, this simple statement triggers shock and consternation, since it calls into question the legitimacy of the present liberal-democratic elites as much as the Jacobin slogans called into question the supernatural ascendancy of the monarch and his court. After all, if we have all long accepted the maxim, attributed to Churchill, that democracy despite all its flaws is the best system that humanity has devised, then this is due to a well-established belief that this system provides a possibility of replacing the governing elite in peaceful fashion, without the shocks of revolution or loss of stability. This is all ensured by the electoral mechanisms, by civil rights, especially the freedoms of speech and association, by an independent justice system, and by the “fourth estate”: free media that help society to oversee the actions of the governing class.

EU-supported judges vs parliamentary sovereignty in Poland

Following numerous convulsions (in brief: revolution, the restoration of the monarchy and the Holy Alliance of three emperors, then the Spring of Nations) a new elite, a democratic one, finally consolidated its dominance, based on the strength of public opinion and the media that expressed it. I would personally choose as a symbolic moment for Europe the liberals’ victory in the Dreyfus case. And from then on, in spite of a series of shocks, the elite became confident that the system it had created and finally named “liberal democracy,” a combination of republican political mechanisms with the free market, was a perpetuum mobile, constantly generating affluence and security, a system that was so superior that it could no longer be improved – as expressed most fully by Francis Fukuyama in the book with the now laughable title The End of History.

Unfortunately, the class governing that liberal democracy became convinced that only it knew how to make that perpetuum mobile work. In this belief that it consisted of a closed group of enlightened people, the only ones entitled to rule the world, it began to resemble the historical aristocratic elites that it had once defeated. The Prussian King Frederick, infamous to us, but called the Great by the Germans, wrote – in private letters to Voltaire and in a treatise on power that was generally praised by the Parisian philosophers – that a ruler has even a moral duty not to take account of his subjects’ opinions, this being for their own good. He defined this duty as “combating ignorance and superstition, cultivating good customs, and making people as happy as is possible.” What was a superstition, what was a good custom, and what would make the subjects happy – these were naturally questions for him alone to decide, possibly in consultation with philosophers as enlightened as he was, such as his famous friend.

Honestly: how many contemporary political leaders, liberal intellectuals, and media bosses would sign up to such an understanding of their role, particularly if they were not told the origin of the quoted words? After all, in theory, as they would assure us just as wholeheartedly, they are merely servants of the people, the demos, taking care of the procedures by which that sovereign body decides for itself what it wants and what is good for it.

Donald Tusk’s left-liberal authoritarian revolution: Poles are facing something completely new


Let us finally begin to recognize this: the cause of the crisis in liberal democracy is not the Jacobins, anarchists and Bolsheviks, nowadays called “populists,” fervently denounced in the left-liberal salons as “supremacists,” “nationalists,” and “fascists.” They are a manifestation of the problem. Its cause is the elites themselves, which have reproduced the mentality of the old privileged classes, copied their beliefs and turned around the meanings – I call this new aristocracy the “liberalistocracy.” For them, democracy is no longer the rule of the demos, however this might be defined – the middle class, the nation, or something else. Democracy means the rule of the democrats. And who are the democrats? Simple enough – it is those who rule the democracy.

The difference between democracy and our contemporary “liberal democracy” lies in one minor detail: one cannot simply become a part of the group of “democrats” or the higher class in general; one has to be invited and accepted by the enlightened circles that are entitled to govern. Simply winning elections is not enough to be a “democratic” government. Those who win elections without the approval of the enlightened, but nevertheless attempt to govern, become the “populists.”

I have already mentioned, a threat to democracy that needs to be defended against. The liberalistocrats are becoming more and more at home with the idea that in order to perform this great task, it may be “necessary” to use methods characteristic of a police state.

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The elites of the European Union base their hopes on the fact that, unlike the previous upper classes that occupied the summit of the social hierarchy, they have at their disposal multiple new technologies for ruling with the use of “soft power.” They have managed to replace the rule of law with the “rule of lawyers,” and do this with increasing zeal, as is shown by the judgments of the Court of Justice of the European Union, while on the other side of the Atlantic the same powers harass Donald Trump with successive court rulings, guided not by the law, but by the interests of the ruling caste.

Freedom of speech has been curtailed by the censorship of “hate speech.” Along with political freedom, the free market has been similarly eroded – the big concerns that have emerged victorious there have formed an economic oligopoly in which ever stricter regulations, motivated by the “necessity” of ensuring inclusivity or saving the planet, protect those concerns from competition, demolish consumer rights, and allow business to be changed increasingly into the merciless exploitation of defenseless consumers. Of course, police truncheons and other “traditional” means still play a part in this mix of tools of power, but most of them now involve various kinds of “soft” force – symbolic, financial, media-based.

The hostile takeover mechanism developed by the business world has been adopted in politics, a prime example being the takeover of the left, through generous subsidization, by the big corporations. The liberalistocrats have also learned to take away civil rights – cunningly, not directly, but by diluting them in a succession of newly created “rights,” such as the right not to be criticized, which in practice eliminates freedom of speech. An excellent illustration of this comes from Canada, where in response to proposals from feminist organizations, those in power replied that while they supported women’s rights, they were unable to implement them because there was no consensus or legal definition on who is and who is not a woman.

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The foundations of the rulers’ superiority over the governed therefore seem to be robust. But that is how they always seem. Here and there the “populists” have achieved power, but here and there also – in Poland, for example – thanks to the use of the aforementioned tools, the “democrats” have succeeded in taking it back. But how to make this permanent? How to disempower society in spite of the pressure building up in the blocked lower layers? This is a question of great importance to the Western European elites, to which Tusk is expected to give an answer. With this in mind, the assurances being heard from left-liberal circles and media that “Tusk’s Poland is an inspiration and a model for the whole of Europe” do not sound grotesque at all, but seem entirely serious – and even bleak.


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