PanDemos and the Slow Death of Democracy in Poland
by Tomasz Kitlinski, philosopher living in Lublin (Poland), & Angus Reid, artist living in Edinburgh (Scotland), both activists
On February 5th the Polish government announced that the Presidential elections will be held at the earliest possible date, that is, on May 10th. One month later, on March 20th, Poland declared the imposition of a “State of Epidemic”, a new set of regulations that affect civic freedoms, giving considerable arbitrary power to the state administration.
At the same time – despite massive protests — the decision was made not to reschedule the elections. They are to be conducted by mail at the time when the country may be facing the peak of the pandemic.
We lack a fresh language with which to capture the surge of new forms of legalistic right-wing authoritarianism. During late-night parliamentary sessions, the Polish authorities are forging ahead with their upending of laws “like thieves in the night” (as the poet Ola Zinczuk puts it), while the citizens are asleep. As we speak, while the upward curve of the coronavirus is still far from its peak, they are carrying out a coup d’état. They have insisted on scheduling a presidential election for a time when the voters will still be confined to their homes.
Do we have an adequate language to depict what this hollowing out of democracy is doing to us? It feels like anomie but with the sense of an indescribable evil hovering over it. With no language at our disposal we have lost the ability to think about this politically. And yet we must.
At a time of crisis like ours, a radical new policy move is not a mere luxury that we cannot afford. A solution to the widespread impoverishment of an unemployed Polish population – such as the Warsaw philosopher Aleksander Temkin recommends–is the creation of a universal basic income, enough to live on for everyone, which requires no complicated bureaucracy but simply expresses the basic human right to exist, to live, to breathe under the conditions of capitalism.
To close our borders in the fight against an international and ubiquitous virus is a ridiculous expression of ultra-nationalism. It is as feudalistic and xenophobic as the Medieval crusades. The crusades of today are deployed to retake from the infidels residing in Brussels our sacred nation-state.
Our autocratic leaders are behaving like B-movie villains, while the doctors and nurses who care for the infected population are our heroes. And they are not being radical when they say in their letter to the Minister of Health that they are ready to pay the highest price to care for the sick; they are just asking that their sense of responsibility for the job they do be respected. They “request, beg for, and demand” fairness in the body politic. They request, beg for, and demand a postponement of the presidential elections unsafely scheduled for May 10th.
The leader in the armchair, tapping his fingers. Deadpan, he watches carefully over his grand plan for the re-election of his apprentice President five weeks from now, when Covid19 reaches its peak in Poland. His master-plan to lockdown democracy is being implemented as we speak.