Freedom is coming on Na Temat

Things are different. When you walk in the crowd of the so called “people enjoying an evening walk”, as the pro-government media described the protesters, down the Krakowskie Przedmieście from the President’s Palace or from the Supreme Court towards the Sejm, or to the park behind the Senate, you feel the power of the community, you can breathe freely. Even though you are surrounded by the chants of different slogans about fighting for freedom, there is a broad smile on your face. You are not alone. There are many of us.
Thus, we are creating a new map of Warsaw – a map of civic resistance to the dictatorial take over of the state by the Law and Justice Party (PIS). Symbolic places are being created, which are the sources new experiences and emotions and as such the focal point of a developing community. We were missing this kind of bond as citizens.

You see those you still remember from primary school and haven’t seen for years. There are those with whom you have gone to secondary school and you cannot understand what happened to your friends, like Piotrek Gliński who used to be great guy. There are those whom you met in the underground “Wola” magazine. There are those who used to be in the distribution – whispers a friend. He says he has to leave, he’s weak because of cancer…This is the generation, the vast majority of which believed in 1989 that we were entering into a time of irreversible freedom. If you look into the Citizens’ Tent from in front of the Sejm, you will see legends of the “Solidarność” movement from Wrocław, Warsaw, people from the “Mazowsze Weekly”. A woman says: I am 69, but I’ve got to be here. Frasyniuk asks the young people at the demonstration which is the best year to have been born in their life time, because he was born in the best year, 1954. 1989, they shout back. In a symbolic way the year communism fell is becoming connected to the struggle for freedom once again.

Things are different in Warsaw, Poznań, Wrocław and many other Polish cities and towns. To go to a protest there you need real courage as you don’t get the kind of strength and support which the crowd can give. In Sierpiec there is one courageous person in front of the court! This is a growing phenomenon. Despite the walls built by the means of the words of the apparatchiks from the current government. We believe what Kaczmarski taught us to sing and Dorota Stalińska sung the other day with fervor: ”…and the walls shall fall, fall and bury the old world”.

This is true because for the last few days also our children, and the grandchildren in the case of some of us, have been coming to the marches and rallies, to shout, sing, and hold their candles in the air. When punished with a fine for blocking the entrance to the Sejm they refuse to pay. They are going against a more and more brutal state. They come every day and there are more and more of them. They don’t discuss politics. They tend to look at me as the politician from a distance. Nevertheless, they are determined. There is a kind of a positive ritual in the rhythmic repetition of the names of the cities and towns from which the Law and Justice senate members come from and who will vote for the law on the Supreme Court. They still have time to do the right thing. Then, we shout out their names to the rhythm of the drum. Our shouts are reminiscent of a kind of moan as in the litanies sang by the Piwnica pod Baranami cabaret. After every few counties and names, we chant “You will do your time in prison!”. I look at their faces, they show no signs of hate. There is a deep moral conviction that punishment is inevitable for violating the constitution.

The Constitution has gained immense significance in the last few days. It is a great lesson. We are listening to it and learning to abide by it – as citizens. In a world of raging populism and rubbish seen as valuable – a new politics of values is being born.

I hear a 20 year-old talking to his grandmother: “Now it is our duty, our time”. I then hear instructions being given before the blockade begins: when the police come over and capture you, you go limp… A lesson in passive resistance. Like Gandhi taught.

It does not matter whether the young people are supporters of the Action Democracy, the Razem Initiative or the Feminist Initiative, the youth of the Committee for the Defense of Democracy (KOD) or Campaign Against Homophobia. They are diverse, but open to one each other and now they are rapidly learning how to work together. On the stage they state bravely that they support refugees and sexual diversity and minorities. We, the elder generation, are beginning to learn from them but they are ready to learn from us too.

There is something even more important going on in Warsaw which is changing as a city, other than political divides; a growing number of citizens understand what is really going on in Poland. When the former head judge of the Constitutional Court prof. Rzepliński at the demonstration in front of the Supreme Court gave a long lecture about fundamental rights and what it means to be a citizen, nobody was bored. When the leaders of the Civic Platform (PO), the Modern and the Polish People’s Party (PSL) talk about a united opposition, then doubts are transformed into hope. What is crucial is for this hope and promise to become a reality. When the young leaders of the opposition Kamila Gasiuk-Pihowicz and Borys Budka spoke, then trust grew in the crowd and you could feel sparks fly. This should not be lost, the energy should not be wasted. May it grow. We mustn’t stand in the way of what I hope is a feasible process of self-integration.

The chains of light and hope are beautiful. To hear the national anthem and the strong voice of the actor Jerzy Radziwiłowicz reading the preamble to the Constitution gave me chills. A new symbol arose. The resistance and protest against gaining control over the courts by politicians is gaining force. The resistance against destroying them is growing because there are active leaders. There are hashtags in the social media which speak about this and they strengthen the unity of the rebellion, because we know we are going to protest with a candle to look for hope in the darkness. It is not just a literal candle but a symbol of our rising determination. We have places in the city where we can gather as a sign of civic disobedience. We feel that we are together linked by the community of the protest, although from different backgrounds without politics being a dominating force. All is missing is our song, but it will be written… So will a film about these days just as the film “Workers 1980”, which could have the title “Citizens 2017”.

Politics tends to be as predictable as a chemical formula. Yet it is the unpredictable turns of action which are the most interesting in history and politics. Chemistry becomes alchemy then. What we are seeing in Poland is such a process of alchemy.

In fact, it does not matter whether the President will forward the law draft to the Constitutional Tribunal and wash one’s hands of it. In this case the draft would be left in the hands of the shaky Tribunal which is politically dependent on Law and Justice President Jarosław Kaczyński. Even if the President does veto the law on the Supreme Court to have and the two others ( one on the National Judiciary Council and one on the lower courts) to gain positive publicity this will undermine the independence of the judiciary system. Finally if following the slogans of the demonstration, he will veto the three bills, this will be a beginning of something new, but only partially. What about the demolition of education (starting on September 1st), the mess in the health services (network of hospitals – on 1st October), threat to pluralism of the media and the press?

Should the President sign everything, it will be clear that he does not want to understand anything.
In every one of those scenarios the awakening of the citizens, intergenerational energy, a promise of uniting the opposition are needed. We are at the beginning of the path towards rebuilding Poland which serves the citizens’ goals. This is the first step on the path towards making sure that the next elections are really free. We are witnessing a situation similar to the one in Poland in 1987 or 1988. Only back then, when we were creating the new phase of the “Solidarność”, little did we know there would be elections in 1989. Now the new 1989 is coming for certain.

Freedom is coming! Freedom is coming with the marching citizens!

Michał Boni
22 July 2017