Wisdom from Poland 42

A Polish gentleman told me something profound last night. He said he had for months been determined to vote No, because he thought the United Kingdom had welcomed him in. Then he started to notice something very important indeed.

He had supported Solidarnosc as a young man, and he had lived through the overwhelming barrage of state media propaganda against it. All the newspapers, radio and TV had broadcast for month after month that if Poland left the Soviet orbit the economy would be destroyed, trading links would be severed, everybody would lose their pensions and housing, they would be invaded, the currency would collapse. Democracy campaigners were branded as right wing nationalist thugs. The people had no access to a fair hearing on the media, and communities had to organise alternatively through social networks.

A few weeks ago he had suddenly realised that precisely the same thing was happening in Scotland that he had witnessed in Soviet controlled Poland. A monolithic and all-pervading media was pumping out the same propaganda on a permanent basis, and even the arguments they were making were precisely the same arguments the Soviets had made. He had suddenly realised that democracy in the UK was an illusion – the apparatchiks of the main political parties and the entire media, both state and private, in fact belonged to and promoted the same ruling establishment. Only the methodologies were different, and raw power slightly better hidden in the UK than in the old Soviet bloc. But the truth was of hard rich men wielding power, in both cases, and keeping the people down.

I have immense respect for him, and will always carry that insight with me. He spoke to me after my talk in Linlithgow last night and it is a great example of the way we have all been learning from each other, in a new understanding of how a real democracy might look.

Allowed HTML - you can use: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

42 thoughts on “Wisdom from Poland

1 2
  • MJ

    Sorry, but there is an important difference. Poland already its own currency. It had not been using the rouble, nor did it seek to use the rouble. If it had then its independence would have been a delusion.

  • John Goss

    I like the analogy. Poland, though part of the Soviet Bloc, had its own government, but I agree that propaganda, especially media propaganda, sometimes turns the minds of the populace. Take heart from the fact that Poland is no longer part of a defunct Soviet bloc. However the propaganda its media puts out today is very much what we are getting from the BBC. Poland is still a puppet regime, now under NATO (US) domination. Make sure the same does not happen in Scotland. And good luck!

  • Ba'al Zevul (Memes Ya Bas!)

    Sorry, but there is an important difference. Poland already its own currency. It had not been using the rouble, nor did it seek to use the rouble. If it had then its independence would have been a delusion.

    At that stage, even the Soviet Union wished it didn’t have to use the rouble. Just saying, in case you want to press that parallel. If the Poles had used bottle tops it would have been a better currency.

  • Abe Rene

    People were not free to leave Poland till the fall of Communism, unlike the UK. Therefore the Polish gentleman should remain grateful and vote No.

  • glenn_uk

    It appears the BBC has decided to deal with complaints later, and go for the NO campaign all the way. The consequences from a vengeful government (whether “new” Labour or old Tory) for telling the truth, is far worse than infringing their code of impartiality, and generating a sizeable number of complaints. This is a few months old now, but it certainly has not improved since:


  • JimmyGiro

    “…in a new understanding of how a real democracy might look.”

    And what has happened to ‘Solidarity’, now that the CIA funding of it, is no more?

    What does a ‘real democracy’ look like to a ‘YES’ voter?

    Idealists live on dreams, and rebels live on nightmares. Who will you vote for in ‘a real democracy’?

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella) !


    When you next see your Polish friend, whose insights you obviously respect, could you please ask him what he thinks about the following comment from the egregious Mr Goss (“learn nothing, forget nothing”):

    “Poland is still a puppet regime, now under NATO (US) domination.” ?


    BTW, note the skill with which that old apologist for the Soviet Empire manages to nuance his comment about “Take heart from the fact that Poland is no longer part of a defunct Soviet bloc”!!

  • Mary

    ‘The basic task of the government was to prepare a package of radical economic reforms which came into being at the beginning of 1990. At the end of 1989, the traditional name of the country was restored (the Republic of Poland), as was the emblem (the white eagle in the crown). The country gradually reformed; however, according to many opposition representatives, this was done too slowly, especially in the face of the fall of Communism in the whole region.

    Only in April 1990 was censorship abolished and in May the Security Service was dissolved. Simultaneously, elections for local governments were conducted.

    In November 1990, a general presidential election was announced of which Lech Wałęsa was the winner. Free parliamentary elections took place in October 1991. The process of recovering independence and reconstructing democracy was symbolically finished by the withdrawal of the Russian Army from Poland’s territory in 1993.’


    Just after Brian Barder’s time I see.

    1986–1988: Sir Brian Barder
    1988–1991: Sir Stephen Barrett
    1991–1996: Michael Llewellyn-Smith[7]
    1996–1998: Sir Christopher Hum
    1998–2001: John Malcolm Macgregor
    2001–2003: Sir Michael Pakenham
    2003–2007: Charles Crawford
    2007–2011: Ric Todd[8]
    2011–present: Robin Barnett


  • sjb

    @Glenn_uk 17 Sep, 2014 – 1:49 pm
    “It appears the BBC has decided to deal with complaints later, and go for the NO campaign all the way.”

    It’s embarrassing, isn’t it? This morning on BBC News (Freesat Ch 200) I saw addresses from Alistair Darling, then Gordon “independence is a trap” Brown and when John Reid appeared on the screen I switched off. There were a couple of short (a minute?) clips from an earlier interview with Blair Jenkins.

    What struck me about the rally(?) – Darling & Brown – was the tight shot, which suggests that there were not that many in attendance. In addition, most of the people on the stage looked rather fed up but at the few Yes gatherings I have seen on tv the mood appears much happier.

  • Ruth

    A really brilliant post. From my work with people from other countries I’ve very often found they have a better insight into the political machinations of their rulers though I must say over the last few years the British are improving.

  • A Pole

    MJ: Poland had it’s own currency, but it wasn’t a real currency. It wasn’t really exchangable on the market and it was tied to russian one.

    Abe: People were able to travel, unless they were standing against the regime. Yet they would be able to do more if they weren’t dependant from Soviet Union (look at the case of Yugoslavia).

    Jimmy Giro: answering your question: Solidarity as a trade union still exists, although it’s influence is limited. As per political powers of it, it former leader became a second President of free Poland, it’s advisor became first Prime Minister of free Poland and it’s political descendants are to be found in most of major Polish political parties.

    Habakuk: Can I answer instead? Claim that Poland is a NATO Puppet is a bit silly – it is just enough to look at the NATO reaction to Ukrainian conflict and Polish stand in that matter…

  • ------------·´`·.¸¸.¸¸.··.¸¸Node

    I’ve just heard that a friend of mine who is temporarily living and working in Cornwall didn’t apply for his postal vote in time so he’s going to drive home to the Highlands to vote YES. It’s a 1400 mile round trip.

    Can you imagine such enthusiasm from a NO voter?

  • tim lovejoy

    yes, I remember those shipyards… biggest in the world I believe.
    And Walesa then screwed his own people in exchange for power and now Poland has nothing.
    Really worked out well for a huge industry.

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella) !

    @ A Pole

    Dobry wieczo’r Panie!

    You are very welcome to answer in the place of Craig. Thank you for that, which is as I expected.

    Unless you are new to this blog, you will already have noticed that there are people here (I call them the “Excellences” although they are the opposite of excellent in any respect) who seem not to have forgiven Poland for having been instrumental in ridding Eastern Europe of the evil Soviet Empire.

    They accordingly lose no opportunity to baddmouth Poland and the politicians of the New Republic (while professing – of course! to love the Poles).

    Please refer to the very silly comment just above (from “Tim Lovejoy”) for an example.

  • Resident Dissident

    “And Walesa then screwed his own people in exchange for power and now Poland has nothing.”

    Clearly someone who has not been to Poland recently. I visited and worked in Poland frequently from 1990 to 1992 and saw the condition that you and Mr Goss’s friends left the country in. I also spoke to a lot of Poles, some of whom were imprisioned by Jaruzelski and I am sorry but the comparison being made by Craig and his friend with modern day UK is otiose and wrongheaded in the extreme.

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella) !

    Resident Dissident

    The “Tim Lovejoy” you respond to is surely related to that lovable rogue antique dealer Lovejoy, who had his own successful TV series a long time ago.

    I know this for a fact because they are both peddling a load of old junk.

  • N_

    In 1981 some western bankers wanted a Soviet invasion of Poland, because they thought that would lower the chances of Poland defaulting on its debt.

    In 2014, Alec Salmond has said that an independent Scotland would renege on its debt if the country next door doesn’t agree to a currency union.

    Judge the rationality of a Yesnik by how they appraise the risks of independence. It’s not scaremongering to ask them to do so; it’s completely reasonable – and they haven’t put up a very good show, have they?

  • Ba'al Zevul ()

    Polish sausage-making is hard to watch.

    The end justifies the means. The Co-op used to import a very fine coarse Polish sausage…really must see if I can find it again.

  • Resident Dissident

    Mr Goss

    Straight question – at the time of the Solidarity protests in Poland did you support or oppose them?

  • Semblance

    Ever since I was a teenager I’ve known that there are certain limits to freedom of speech / freedom of the press in Britain. Few people are aware of this, because the manipulating is usually done very skilfully — in kid gloves, as it were. Nothing remotely as primitive as what I see on practically all the radio and television channels here in Poland, where the equivalent of Orwell’s Emmanuel Goldstein is still Jaroslaw Kaczynski of the main opposition party.

    From time to time, however, the kid gloves come off even in Britain. Remember the editor of the Daily Mirror who suddenly lost his job for criticizing Blair’s illegal invasion of Iraq? And now, in the runup to the referendum on Scottish independence, the British media have literally been pulling out all the stops in a desperate attempt to discourage Scots from voting in favour of the restoration of the State of Scotland. Pro-independence campaigners have clearly been prevented from having their voices properly heard in the mass media. When the result of tomorrow’s referendum is known it’ll be interesting to see how many people in Scotland have learnt to think for themselves.

  • Eyes

    Resident Dissident brags of his country experience at 8:47 pm. Gee, you must have been doing awfully menial work if you failed to notice the blindingly obvious parallels between Central Europe’s repudiation of COMECON and the peoples’ repudiation of bank central planning under NATO.

    So what exactly were you doing there, Big Shot? Perhaps we met. Whatever you were doing, the Americans kept you on a very short leash.

  • angrysoba

    The UK is as bad, nay worse!, than the CCCP, in its suppression of breadth of opinion and I personally don’t understand why any dissent from that line is tolerated!

1 2

Comments are closed.