Visiting the People’s Republic of Poland

Wojciech Jaruzelski

Visiting the People’s Republic of Poland

by Mark Wegierski

The founding date of the People’s Republic of Poland (Polish acronym: PRL) is considered to be July 22, 1944, when the so-called Lublin Manifesto was issued. The PRL in its foundation and early years was the savage imposition of Soviet Communism on an unwilling Polish nation. Over a 100,000 Poles died resisting this imposition, during a vicious conflict that raged until 1949.

However, the death of Stalin in 1953 led to an eventual liberalization of the regime in 1956, during the so-called Polish October. Wladyslaw Gomulka, who had been briefly jailed by the Stalinists in the earlier period, became First Secretary of the Polish United Workers’ Party (Polish acronym: PZPR) – the main Communist party. He inaugurated the period known as “The Thaw”, essentially “polonizing” the regime, and moving it away from the harsh totalitarianism of the Stalinist period.

As a result of the disturbances of the 1968-1970 period, Edward Gierek came to power as First Secretary of the PZPR. He inaugurated a period of cultural and economic liberalization that even decades later is sometimes dubbed “the golden years of Gierek”. Gierek used Western loans to build up the economy, with Poland becoming the tenth greatest industrial power in the world. There was also a quickening of culture, with a world-acclaimed Polish cinema and theatre. Gierek initiated an outreach to Polish communities abroad, notably in the United States, Canada, and Britain. Young Polish-Americans and Polish-Canadians were encouraged to travel to Poland and discover their Polish roots. The extent of this outreach has never been matched by any subsequent Polish governments. There was also an emphasis on native Slavic themes in art, as well as on Polish folk-culture, in all its splendid regional variety, including song, dance, and the decorative arts.

I was born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, of Polish immigrant parents. My parents made a concerted effort to introduce me to “Polishness”. For example, I attended the Polish (Saturday) School from 1968. In June 1974, I achieved a Graduation Diploma (Grade 8) of the Tadeusz Kosciuszko (Saturday) Polish School (Toronto), Polish Alliance of Canada.

I visited Poland a number of times in the 1970s. In the summer of 1975, I completed a Polish Ethnography Study Program (235 hours/college level) based in Kielce, Poland, for which I received a Diploma. Although I was only in my mid-teens, I was able to meaningfully participate in the studies, being fluent in Polish. The studies encompassed a rich program, with numerous trips to different historic towns and cities in Poland. Simple but good meals and accommodation were provided for the students throughout the program. Most of the students were Polish-Americans in their late teens and twenties.

Also, in August 1975, I received an Honorary Diploma for Participation in the First Polish Poetry and Prose Dramatic Recital Festival for Persons of Polish Descent Living Abroad, held in Torun, Poland. There was an emphasis on dramatic recital as an art form, both in Poland and in the Polish communities abroad. The Festival also included trips to numerous historic towns and cities in Poland.

I travelled to Poland in 1977, to Torun once again. In August 1977, I received a Diploma of Recognition for Propagating the Beauty of the Polish Language and literature, at the Second Polish Poetry and Prose Dramatic Recital Festival for persons of Polish descent living abroad.

By this time the Gierek “economic miracle” was beginning to turn sour. There had been ominous disturbances in Radom in 1976. After the election of the Polish Pope in 1978, the appetite of Poles for the truth became palpable. The emergence of Solidarity, an independent trade union movement, caught the regime off guard. It reached an agreement with Solidarity on August 31, 1980. There was a brief period of freedom in 1980-1981 but Communist General Wojciech Jaruzelski declared martial law on December 13th 1981 and suppressed Solidarity by force. I felt no inclination to travel to Poland at this time.

In early 1989, the Communists held talks with Solidarity at the so-called Round Table. In the semi-free election of June 4th 1989, the nation voted overwhelmingly for the Solidarity list. Within a few years the PRL was dissolved and the Third Polish Republic was proclaimed.

Nevertheless, former Communists held the Presidency of the Third Polish Republic from 1995-2005 and dominated the Parliament for most of the period up to 2005. The patriotic Olszewski government was brought down in 1992 by the intervention of Lech Walesa, who had been elected President in 1990.

For a variety of reasons, I only returned to Poland in 2002, after a hiatus of twenty-five years.

Sociologist Mark Wegierski is a Toronto based researcher

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In Search of Canadian Identity

In Search of Canadian Identity

 by Mark Wegierski

Canada, which Pat Buchanan once called a “Soviet Canuckistan”, has serious problems combating the ceaseless self-undermining of its military forces and traditions. But it is also having a difficult time defining a coherent identity for itself. For example, there have been frequent calls to eliminate the traditional oath to Queen Elizabeth and her heirs and successors, as a condition for receiving Canadian citizenship. Since the 1960s, Canada, which was once proud of its British heritage, has increasingly redefined itself by its “uniquely compassionate social-democratic political culture”, expunging other, more traditional and meaningful bases of national identification.

Canadian political and cultural leaders have based this new national “identity” largely on an embrace of the lifestyles, customs, and traditions of Canada’s latest immigrant groups. But if Canada is to be defined by its multiculturalism – that is, by the cultures brought here from the outside, especially in the last few decades – then this implies that there is actually no such thing as Canadian identity and culture. So why bother funding the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), or the Canada Council for the Arts?

Former Canadian ambassador Martin Collacott’s report for the Fraser Institute and books by Daniel Stoffman and Diane Francis have challenged this hitherto unquestioned immigration/multiculturalism consensus in Canada, but such contrary opinions are given little hearing.

In the last forty years, Canada has experienced a massive repudiation of traditional notions of national identity, which had flourished for hundreds of years. The English-Canadian and French-Canadian nations existed long before the formal establishment of the Dominion of Canada in 1867. However, today Canada is a cultural laboratory, having severed its roots in history, Christianity and the countryside. While it may not be surprising that British identification has melted away since the collapse of the British Empire in the 1950s, there has been little attempt to construct a more positive identity for English-speaking Canadians.

French Canada has its Quebecois nationalism, but English Canada has become a mere geographic area, a sterile “zone” with no true identity.  It has become socially and culturally American, borrowing many of the negative aspects of the United States – its vulgar pop culture, its strident political correctness, and its litigiousness. Indeed, perhaps the only remaining national institution that indirectly promotes social and cultural unity in Canada today is ice hockey!

Unfortunately, cultural interchange between Canadians and Aboriginal peoples has all but broken down in favor of establishing heavily subsidized Aboriginal “sovereign nations”. The Aboriginal peoples of Canada – Indians, Metis, and Inuit – have historically been subjected to severe persecution. However, their current attempts to wrest vast territories and resources at the expense of other Canadians, as well as their exclusive claim to the status of a native-born majority – immemorially tied to the land – delegitimates French- and English-Canadians’ senses of identity, reducing them to mere interlopers rather than founding nations.

Likewise, it is possible to be tolerant towards immigration and immigrants without implying that English-Canadian culture should disappear. Presumably, there should be some kind of dynamic interplay between the culture that once overwhelmingly defined the country and the cultures of those arriving later. If newcomers, encouraged in their truculence by government policy, continually refuse to take even small steps towards allegiance and assimilation, the eventual result may be ethnic chaos.

The longstanding dominance of the federal Liberal Party has exercised an increasingly distorting influence on the Canadian social, political, and cultural milieu. The Liberal Party has viewed immigration and multiculturalism as vehicles for assuring (or intensifying) their electoral predominance. It has almost been forgotten that Toronto, before the 1960s, was a conservative, Tory bastion, and was called “Tory Toronto”. The Liberals have faced little opposition. Progressive Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney’s attempts to imitate the Liberal strategy by raising immigration to about a quarter-million persons a year from the 54,000 or so in Prime Minister Trudeau’s last year in office was an unmitigated disaster for the Tories. In addition, the lack of real conservatism in the federal Progressive Conservative party led to the formation of the Reform Party in 1987. From 1998 to 2000, the Reform Party endeavored to broaden its appeal, transforming itself into the Canadian Alliance.

In 2003, the Canadian Alliance and the federal Progressive Conservatives merged, calling themselves the Conservative Party, significantly dropping the “progressive” adjective. Stephen Harper was able to hold the Prime Ministership from 2006 to 2015, but he pursued “ultra-moderate” policies even when holding a parliamentary majority in 2011-2015. The Liberals came roaring back in the 2015 federal election. Maxime Bernier has raised the banner of revolt against the current-day Conservative Party, with his recent founding of the People’s Party of Canada.

As a result of Liberal Party dominance, issues of Canadian and English-Canadian identity are rarely discussed today. Yet to live without some kind of authentic, meaningful national identification is to live a disfigured existence. In the rush to hyper-political-correctness, the nation itself has virtually been lost.

Some Canadian traditionalists, confronted by the intractability of Canada’s federal Liberal regime, are looking for a “provincialization” of Canada, or even arguing for amalgamation with the United States. However, the federal Liberal Party and the taxpayer-funded CBC continue to stifle the debate about Canadian national identity, proclaiming themselves as solely able to define what constitutes “Canadian nationalism” (even as that term, so popular among the Canadian Left in the 1970s, is increasingly abandoned).

To reinvigorate English Canada’s identity, the best elements of Canada’s British heritage should be combined with elements of Aboriginal culture plus any valuable aspects of the new Canada. This would create an entity that might withstand disintegration in the long term.

Mark Wegierski is a Toronto-based writer and historical researcher. An earlier version of this article appeared on the Hudson Institute website

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Victorian Values

Oscar Wilde

Victorian Values

by Bill Hartley

In May of this year the Guardian featured a story about feminist author Naomi Wolf who had recently published a book called Outrages. The book has been described as ‘the dramatic, buried history of how nineteenth century laws gave the state new powers to criminalise love between men….’ The story quoted Ms Wolf telling the Observer ‘People widely believed that the last executions for sodomy were in 1830 but I read every Old Bailey record throughout the nineteenth century, so I know not only did they continue but they got worse’. One can only imagine Ms Wolf’s discomfiture when on the Radio 3 Arts and Ideas programme writer and broadcaster Matthew Sweet drew her attention to the meaning of the very precise historical legal term ‘death recorded’. It wasn’t evidence of an execution; in fact, it indicated the opposite. Mr Sweet added that there was no evidence of the Victorians executing anyone for sodomy.

It seems that in our present Age of Offence some people are prepared to believe anything about those awful Victorians especially when it buttresses contemporary beliefs and prejudices; consequently it wouldn’t be difficult to imagine a modern reader uncritically accepting accounts of judicial slaughter in the Victorian era. Fortunately, Ms Wolf says she has alerted her publishers and so the Victorians have had that charge against them dropped. Continue reading

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Driven to Blackface?

Rachel Dolezal, Credit 93.1 WZAK

Driven to Blackface?

by Ilana Mercer

Nkechi Diallo was recently charged with welfare fraud in Spokane, Washington State. Back in 2015, Diallo was better known as Rachel Dolezal. She has since rechristened herself. Rachel Dolezal, if you’re from Deep Space, is the lily-white woman who, in 2015, dared to “identify” as a black woman.

The “Racism Industrial Complex” is populated with frauds, shysters, imposters, phonies and morons; black, white and 50 shades of gray. Ms. Dolezal had been posing as all of these, teaching Africana Studies at the Bush college of Eastern Washington University. Our American Idiocracy confers the respect and the authority of a pedagogue on many like her, allowing them to spread the disease to college kids and beyond. So, why not Rachel?

Why, the Age of the Idiot sees killers exculpated, just because they kill. As the faulty reasoning goes, if an individual has murdered, raped, robbed or defrauded—then he or she must have been abused, neglected, racially oppressed (if black or brown); not wealthy enough, mentally ill, lacking in self-esteem. Anything but plain bad, slothful, sociopathic or parasitical. The more aberrant the crime; the more thrill-seeking, vulgar, immoral or wicked the conduct—the more elaborate, fanciful and scientifically baseless the excuse-making. Continue reading

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ENDNOTES, July 2019

 

Amsterdam Concertgebouw

ENDNOTES, July 2019

A great conductor at 90, by Stuart Millson

A packed auditorium, whether in London, Amsterdam, Boston, Berlin or Chicago and sustained applause which continues for much longer than is usual – the chances are that the conductor is Bernard Haitink, the Dutch maestro who – this year, at the age of 90 – announced his retirement. A commanding, yet curiously self-effacing presence on the podium, Haitink began his career in 1954 in his native Holland, with the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic, studying and performing the essential core repertoire. Noted for his inspired and detailed performances, he soon approached the pinnacle position in his country’s musical life – the Concertgebouw, later, Royal Concertgebouw, whose role as principal conductor he held for nearly 30 years.

During these decades, thanks partly to an extensive and prominent recording schedule for the Philips label, the Concertgebouw became the natural rival to the Berlin and Vienna Philharmonic orchestras; with Haitink setting down masterly interpretations of the Beethoven, Bruckner and Mahler symphonies – the two latter late-romantic composers becoming the figures with which the conductor would be so associated. In fact, Haitink contended that the musical world should place a limit on the number of Bruckner and Mahler performances – as the fashion for this repertoire, especially during the 1980s and 1990s, threatened to diminish its standing. Continue reading

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Topsy-Turvy

Sabine Devieilhe as Maria. Photo by Tristram Kenton

Topsy-Turvy 

Review of La Fille du RégimentOpéra Comique in two acts, music by Gaetano Donizetti, libretto by Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges & Jean-François-Alfred Bayard, conducted by Evelino Pidò, directed by Laurent Pelly, fourth revival of the 2007 production, Royal Opera House, Monday 8th July 2019, reviewed by Leslie Jones

Exuberant conductor Evelino Pidò elicited a spirited performance of the compelling prelude to La Fille du Régiment from the orchestra of the Royal Opera House. It was a portent of the riches to come.

In comic opera or farce, we are a long way from verismo. As Zoë Anderson points out“…we know how things are likely to go” and, “We recognise the characters as types…” (‘Don’t be a Duchess’, Official Programme). Marie, played with gusto by the feisty French soprano Sabine Devieilhe, is one such stock type, to wit, the mislaid baby, brought up in this case by soldiers. This lends itself to a classic opera device, the attempt to transform her into a lady via a music lesson. And to a trading riches for happiness trope. Marie’s mother, La Marquise de Berkenfeld (mezzo-soprano Enkelejda Shkoza), is also a stock type, “a grand dame with a past”. Essentially frivolous and egotistical, she turns out to be Marie’s mother, the product of an affair with Marie’s late father. Sulpice Pingot (baritone Pietro Spagnoli, heavily made up), the sergeant with a heart of gold who found Marie on a battlefield as a baby, is another recognisable archetype. Continue reading

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Ivanka the Terrible, Part 2

Georg Baselitz

Ivanka the Terrible, Part 2

by Ilana Mercer

It’s obvious who the odd one out is in this embarrassing clip of Ivanka at the G20 Summit. Allow me to set the scene:

Two mature women are in the thick of a policy discussion. The two heavy hitters are British Prime Minister Theresa May and International Monetary Fund Director Christine Lagarde.

Their buttoned-up, officious attire fits the occasion. It’s how Theresa May and Christine Lagarde, both born in 1956, have always dressed. The pearls, the tweed and gingham suits: these are as old-school and as dear as Margaret Thatcher’s made-in-Britain, “ten-a-penny” “humble handbag.”

Whether you like their politics or you don’t—and I don’t—Theresa May and Christine Lagarde are sharpshooting, politically hefty women.

May graduated from Oxford, which has a “jealously-guarded admissions process.” In other words, May was not admitted to that elite school for being a woman, and she did not make her way in the word of politics because she was the daughter of a celebrity. Continue reading

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Twitter Block

George Baselitz, Drinkers and Orange Eaters

Twitter Block

By Ilana Mercer

Twice have the censors at Twitter kicked me off their anything-but-neutral platform. When these arbiters of right and wrong periodically block my Twitter account, visitors to the site will be greeted with a stark warning:

“Caution. This account is temporary restricted.” The snowflakes will be forewarned of “some unusual activity on the account. Do you still want to view it?” Naturally, the worded choice offered—to view or not to view—ultimately doesn’t exist. I am told that when you click to avail yourself of the “choice,” my account is nowhere to be seen. Once blocked, you’re invisible.

When sent to the Twitter doghouse, one is typically barred from accessing Twitter at all, except for fleetingly seeing the notice, “Your account has been blocked.” Continue reading

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Separation Anxiety

Maria Callas in Bizet’s Carmen, 1945

Separation Anxiety

Carmen, Opéra Comique in three acts, music composed by Georges Bizet, libretto by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy after Prosper Mérimée’s 1845 novella Carmen, revival of the 2018 Royal Opera Production, directed by Barrie Kosky, conducted by Julia Jones, Royal Opera, Friday 5th July 2019, reviewed by Leslie Jones

“Don’t leave me Carmen”, implores Don José, as he begs her to follow him and to start a new life together. In director Barrie Kosky’s production of Carmen, the rope (subsequently the dress train) is like an umbilical cord that fatally connects the doomed lovers. They seemingly cannot survive without each other. And Don José embodies the dominant ideology of sexual guilt and subservience to the mother. As Sarah Lenton observes, his character “…is more straightjacketed than naive, and his obsessive tendencies are… hinted at in his fixation with his mother” (‘Out of Character’, Official Programme). Christopher Wintle, in What Opera Means, goes even further, claiming that Carmen chooses Don José because of a death wish.

What constitutes femininity and masculinity? Kosky, throughout, accentuates gender differences. We see men, stage right, ogling factory girls, who are narcissistically cooling themselves and smoking, stage left. Carmen is ultimately doomed because she will not abide by the rules of this bifurcated, patriarchal society. She represents untrammelled female sexuality. “Love’s a gypsy”, she proclaims and so is she. “Free was she born and free she will die”. In Mérimée’s novella, Don José recalls that Carmen “walked, swaying her hips like a filly from a Cordoba stud farm”. And the matador Escamillo (Luca Pisaroni), likewise, represents another sexual stereotype drawn from what Richard Langham Smith calls the “growing hispanomania” of the 1870’s (‘Carmen’s Rocky Road to Success’, Official Programme). Continue reading

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The Fukuyama Thesis, Thirty Years On

Georg Baselitz

The Fukuyama Thesis, Thirty Years On

by Mark Wegierski

Initial drafts of this response to Fukuyama’s article go back to November 1989.
Francis Fukuyama, ‘The End of History?’, The National Interest no 16 (Summer 1989), pp. 3-1; and Alan Bloom, et al. ‘Responses to Fukuyama’, The National Interest no 16 (Summer 1989), pp. 19-35

Fukuyama’s article caught the attention of those who study political philosophy, and who are interested in the future of the West. His article has been seen as a daring éclat on “the end of history”, but certain aspects of these matters, it could be argued, have been poorly represented in the debate. There is the lack of a perspective rooted in the writings of thinkers such as Martin Heidegger, George Parkin Grant, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Jacques Ellul. Fukuyama has not entered into a dialogue with these thinkers.

Generally speaking, the thesis of “the end of history” has been received in two main ways: some persons, while embracing the foreseen triumph of liberal democracy and capitalism, have expressed greater or lesser reservations about its completeness and permanence; while others argued that socialism, for example, was still a worthwhile, viable alternative.

Professor Bloom received the thesis very warmly and celebrated the future triumph of liberal democracy, albeit tempered with a curious reference to the “fascist” threat. Considering how opposed Professor Bloom was to many aspects of contemporary American life, as in his coruscating Closing of the American Mind, his embracing of full‑blown liberal democracy seems odd. Continue reading

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