Monday, April 12, 2010

Lech Kaczynski: Ask Not For Whom the Bell Tolls

One statement that I often hear in my Little Corner of Progressive Paradise, usually pronounced with misplaced innocence, is, "What's wrong with socialism?"

You wouldn't have needed to explain that to most of the Poles who died in the conflagration that took the life of Lech Kaczynski and 87 other Polish dignitaries and relatives of the 22,000 Poles murdered by direct order of Stalin back in 1940 so that they wouldn't put up a fuss over losing their republic. Many of these were the very people who put their lives on the line to openly defy Soviet communism in Poland. I will write of only one today.

Lech Kaczynski was raised by parents who were resistance fighters in Poland during World War II, when that country was invaded simultaneously by National Socialist forces from the west and Marxist Communist forces from the east. At least 55 million deaths later, the Nazis were defeated, but the sacrifice was not enough to release Poland from Soviet terror. The Soviets murdered thousands of military prisoners (of which the Katyn massacre was a part) or sent them to gulags. In one year alone, more than a million Polish civilians were deported to northern Russia and Kazakhstan, most of whom died. A majority of the dead were children. All organized religions in Poland were persecuted, with clergy and religious teachers imprisoned and tortured for such offenses as not removing references to God from the walls of schoolrooms. All enterprises, including farms, were taken over by the state, and the Polish currency was abolished and replaced with Soviet currency.

What could possibly be wrong with socialism?

It is not surprising then, that Lech Kaczynski, Poland's third democratically elected president since the fall of communism in 1989, was a committed anti-Communist who followed in the footsteps of his friend, the legendary Lech Walesa, co-founder of the Soviet bloc's first trade union, Solidarity. When the idea of open opposition to communist dictatorship caught on in the Soviet bloc, the Soviet Union collapsed.

"I want good relations with Moscow," said Kaczynski, the former Solidarity activist, "but Russia has to recognize that Poland is no longer in its sphere of influence."

Putin must have loved to hear that.

It is not a surprise, then, that leftists detested Kaczynski.

Although Poland joined the European Union, Kaczynski was a Eurosceptic, because he believed more strongly in Polish independence than in the European Union. During the Russia-Georgia War, when Russia planned to annex two provinces of Georgia, he strongly denounced Russia. He called the confrontation between Georgia and Russia a "test of strength" in which "Russia showed the face it wanted to show--an imperial face."

Kaczynski saw Russia as "just the old Russia," not the "reset" Russia accepted by Obama. But, unlike Obama, Kacznyski knew Russia very well. He was a proponent of building alternative routes for oil and natural gas from Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and Kazakhstan to bypass Russia and thus break Russia's stranglehold on European energy supplies.  "We have to convince Russia," he said, "that the imperial era is over. . . . Those who were then appeasing Hitler were firmly convinced that they were right. Time showed something different."

He backed plans with the U.S. under George W. Bush to deploy 10 interceptor missiles on Polish territory, a plan which Russia hated. From Kaczynski's perspective, those missiles "would deepen the interest of the United States" in Poland. Obama later countermanded that agreement, in line with his usual treatment of American allies, like the UK, Israel, and India.

Even more annoying to leftists is Poland's own energy independence; while much of Europe depends on Russian pipeline gas, Poland draws on "its own plentiful domestic gas and enormous oil reserves." There "is even talk of Poland becoming a gas exporter to its Central European and Baltic northern neighbors." According to David Howell, former British Cabinet minister:
This in turn reinforces the opportunities for the whole of Europe to become increasingly self-sufficient in low-cost energy, and therefore far less reliant not only on Russia's arrogant gas monopoly, Gazprom, but also on the smoldering Middle East and other shaky and worrying sources of oil and gas round the world. Moscow's gas czars would then have to sell their gas eastward to China, Japan and other Asian customers for the best price they could secure.
To bring the necessary physical infrastructure into existence, of course, "would require EU leaders and officials to work for much simpler regulations and licensing procedures and much lighter taxation."

Simpler regulations and lighter taxation do not sound like the socialism I know. In contrast, Poland's fiscal policies enabled it to sidestep the current recession.

In terms of religious belief, Kaczynski was a double-edged thorn in the side of leftist politics. He stood up for his religious faith, and was a founder of Poland's conservative Catholic Law and Justice party, which was no friend to abortion or gay marriage. And, as William Jacobson pointed out, "Kaczynski also was a great friend of Israel and the Jewish people, as described in the Jerusalem Post." Jacobson's view:
A man who loved the United States, freedom for the individual, and the Jewish people. There are far too few such people in the world, and we just lost one of the best of them.
James Corum at the UK Telegraph agreed. "The death of President Lech Kaczynski and many Polish national leaders yesterday," he said, "is not only Poland’s loss — it’s also a loss for the Western democratic world."

I will add that it is a particular loss for the world to lose a political leader who knows whereof he speaks.

Kaczynski didn't pick up his political views from ideological textbooks painting rosy pictures of an idyllic world "unfettered" by responsibility, religion, and ambitious pursuit of happiness, but in a torturous cookpot of repression, anti-religion, and communal poverty--for those lucky enough to live through the experience.

And he came out of it with his moral compass intact.

Lech Kaczynski was the stalwart antithesis of the leftist ideal, and we have great need of such men. So, it is with profound sorrow that I ask not for whom the bell tolls . . . .

Related: Poland's Tragedy Marks Another Tragedy

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