Poland's Blood: Gone But Not Forgotten

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Courtesy: Polyp

By Ann-Marie de Veer
Saturday 26 July 2014

In June 1989, Poland held its first partially free democratic parliamentary elections since the Parliamentary Legislative and Senate elections of 1922. The event was triggered by the rise in political force of the Solidarity trade union led by Lech Wałęsa, a former electrician at the Gdańsk Shipyards. As the union's power gained momentum, aided by a major strike in the summer of 1988, the ruling Polish United Workers' Party (PUWP) were forced into negotiating a power sharing deal with Solidarity. The results of the elections were emphatic, the former union, now a political party, had won all but one of the seats available to it and was swept into government in August 1989. Wałęsa, the party's charismatic leader, was subsequently elected as President of Poland in the country's newly reinstated presidency in December 1990.

Thereafter, the plight of the impoverished Polish people slowly improved, or did it?

Poland's fate has waxed and waned for over a millennium as its neighbours have often vied for a slice of its territory. In the 20th century it was no different as Stalin ignored the Polish government in exile during World War II and enabled the PUWP, a pro-communist regime, to assume power in 1948. In 1952 the Peoples Republic of Poland was formed and the former United Soviet Socialist Republic's (USSR) absorption of Poland was complete.

Thirty nine years later in the completely free parliamentary elections of 1991, Lech Wałęsa went on to form the country's first western style representative parliamentary democracy and began transitioning its once planned economy into a free-market based system. As history records, Wałęsa proved to be less successful as a domestic politician; nonetheless he was demonstrably adept as an international statesman, having negotiated the withdrawal of the former USSR troops and substantially reducing the country's foreign debts.

Of course, the rise of Solidarity was not a spontaneous outpouring of dissatisfaction and disaffection by the people with the current regime, it was financed by the US who spent over $50m on the project. Communism was the foe from the end of World War II until the late 1980's and Poland's pro-communist regime was to become the first of many to be subverted and the nation turned into a NATO buffer state.

Returning to the effects of regime change on the Polish people:

In the table below the key indicators, or instruments, of measure used to compare the performance of each nation are: Per Capita GDP (PPP): Gross Domestic Product (Purchasing Power Parity), GINI Coefficient: a nations distribution of its income, Life Expectancy and HDI: Human Development Index (a United Nations measure of well-being in a country that measures Life Expectancy, Education and Income).

Development Indicators
Country Yr. (Re)gained
Yr. Joined
Per Capita
Yr.'s Life
Belarus 25 Dec 1991 2 Apr 1996 $15,633 26.5 72.1 0.793
Estonia 20 Aug 1991 1 May 2004 $23,213 32.5 76.4 0.846
Latvia 21 Aug 1991 1 May 2004 $20,204 35.2 72.7 0.814
Lithuania 11 Mar 1990 1 May 2004 $23,978 32.0 73.8 0.834
Poland 13 Sep 1989 1 May 2004 $21,118 30.9 76.8 0.821
Sources: United Nations, The World Bank & International Monetary Fund

As the table above shows: Poland has gained practically nothing compared to three of its Baltic neighbours (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania). Only Belarus, its nearest neighbour who is neither a member of the EU nor NATO, is significantly lagging behind on one measure with a per capita GDP of just 74% ($15,633) of that of Poland. In other areas, particularly its GINI coefficient, life expectancy and HDI, Belarus is a more egalitarian society than any of the others, its life expectancy is increasing and its HDI is moving up and closing in on Latvia. It appears that EU and NATO membership has little to offer.

What is most troubling for Poland is that for all the pain and suffering its people endured during the 1980's, its transition to western style representative parliamentary democracy and its open free-market reforms of the 1990's, it is measurably no further forward than most of its Baltic neighbours. It is as if it has been passed over as the NATO border moved further eastwards.

The Polish people then, understandably and quite deservedly, nurture a sense of entitlement that they have yet to be rewarded for helping the west in not only adding another nation state to their growing global economic hegemony and move the NATO border further east but for acting as a catalyst for the dissolution of the former USSR empire. That is why, when the Obama regime pledged a further $1bn for European defence on the 3rd June this year, the Polish people were hopeful that some of it would come their way. It was not because of the few hundred US military personnel or the handful of F16 fighter jets that would be prepositioned in Poland to deter a perceived threat from Russia but the knowledge that at last there was going to be some payback for being the pioneers in the spread of the western geo-political and economic empire to the east.

That Poland thought western style representative parliamentary democracy and a free-market economy was going to be a panacea to all its ills was extremely unlikely. The truth is that promises were made and never kept, that it has paid handsomely in blood for the west's foray into eastern Europe and the Baltic region but has yet to see a measurable return on its investment.

If you bank with the devil your interest will be a trident in the back.
Ann-Marie de Veer