This EU election, Poland would be better off without any of its paleolibertarian parties

by Ian Golan

This European Election in Poland, voters can choose from three paleolibertarian parties. And yet it would be better if none of them existed.

The libertarian-leaning scene in Poland is a toxic hellscape. While in recent years the Polish parliament gained a few MPs who self-identify as libertarians, their actions put the entire future of the movement in peril. With their “pragmatic” alliance with the alt-right, they sold their souls, and once those are sold there are no returns.

 The liberty-adjacent niche is composed of two major strains of freedom advocates that find themselves at odds with each other on almost every single issue. The one less radical, but rather small, both in the amount of popular support and its influence on public debate, is the faction stemming from the privatisation reforms of former vice-prime minister and Polish central bank president Prof. Leszek Balcerowicz.  The group of this tradition has been traditionally more left-leaning, supporting gay rights, immigration, separation of church and state, and European integration, some of the individuals support for instance adoption of the euro.  It had its brief moment of fame in 2017, when the Modern Party, which tried to model itself after the German FDP, reached the status of second largest party in polls. The success was extremely short-lived and within a few years, the project was devoured by The Civic Platform party. 

And then there is everyone coming from the tradition of one Janusz Korwin-Mikke. 

Even if you are unfamiliar with Polish politics, you might have heard about this one politician. He gained international notoriety with his single term in the European Parliament during which he basked in the media attention for making a nazi salute during one of his speeches, as well as going off on a sexist tirade that got him on the biggest British morning tv show with Piers Morgan.

For a long time, Korwin has been the lonely voice for quasi-libertarian viewpoints. During the communist era he was a vocal critic of socialism in the clandestine press and for this writing he became a political prisoner in 1968. He was elected to the first democratic parliament of Poland after the fall of communism, as the leader of a free market, classically liberal and socially conservative party UPR. At that time, he got to meet Milton Friedman and Margaret Thatcher. That was the end of his admirable political activity. In the face of subsequent electoral defeats, Korwin-Mikke spiralled into a toxic paleo niche that has ever since tarnished the notion of liberty and free markets in public discourse for years. 

Korwin-Mikke is an extract of all the worst qualities of Hans Herman Hoppe. His tirades for abolishment of democracy and in favour of bringing back hereditary monarchy or dictatorship seem to all be taken from Democracy the god that failed. The two ignoramuses share the same vitriol for anyone who exists outside the traditional societal norms. On paper Hoppe is an anarchist, so at least in theory, he would be unable to victimise minorities with state power. Still, his vision of anarchy comes down to being a HOA Karen, who goes around inspecting individuals’ sexual lives through the bureaucratic power vested upon him by a voluntary community. Korwin does not have that one benefit; he is a proud statist who would be happy to enforce his morality on sexual minorities in Poland with state violence. Both alt-right figures are also united in the exquisite ability to tie themselves into pretzels, so that they can support denying peaceful people the right to cross borders.

After more than a decade of obscurity and less than single-digit electoral results, Korwin suddenly started to gain traction with the youngest demographic through the internet. For quite a few years he was the most dominant (only) politician on that medium, with his blog being the most popular in Poland. He gained a cult following mostly among young men, which resulted in him gaining a seat in the European Parliament. 

In 2019 he founded the Confederation party which was a strategic alliance with the Nationalist Movement party and the internationally known antisemite Grzegorz Braun (he gained global press for destroying Hanukkah candles in the Polish parliament with a fire extinguisher and harming a woman in the process). Confederation is an unbelievable crossover of all the most toxic, despicable and deranged ideologies. Among its last year candidates, one could find even some flat-earthers. It would be just another terrible alt-right party if not for one detail, commitment to some free market elements at least in rhetoric.  

The situation is disastrous for libertarians. The Confederation party will talk about tax cuts and champion free markets, at the same time voicing support for conscription, ending free trade with Ukraine and state-ownership of the largest petrol company in Poland, Orlen. Its politicians will be vocal about legalising weed and fight for supposed freedom of speech whenever the left wants to ban hate speech but will pair it up with advocacy for ending pride marches, corporal punishment for homosexuality, and banning speech that criticises the Catholic Church. Current MP from Confederation and wife of the main Confederation leader Karina Bosak used to work for the Ordo Iuris Institute. The ultra-catholic organisation’s main purpose is fighting legal battles to try to instil theocracy in Poland. They have been endlessly harassing people through the legal system in hopes of discouraging free expression. It was them who drafted the legislative acts of the so-called “LGBT-free zones”, which were adopted by almost thirty percent of all provinces in Poland. Ordo Iuris also famously persecuted many metal bands, most famously they launched lawsuits against the vocalist of Behemoth in the midst of his battle against cancer. Ordo Iuris is easily the single biggest threat to freedom of speech in Poland and Confederation’s every second of existence systematically turns reasonable people away from ideas of capitalism, deregulation and freedom. 

European Elections

In this election, Korwin aficionados can choose between three parties that have been once founded by Janusz Korwin-Mikke. The first one is the aforementioned Confederation Party. Korwin himself will not be appearing on their ballot. Just half a year ago, he got kicked out of the Confederation party and started a new political project, named after himself to ensure his supporters can easily identify the party of their guru. Lastly, there is the Polexit party, formed by the remnants of another party Korwin left behind after internal quarrels almost ten years ago. All of them have an anti-EU stance, differing only in the timeframe they propose for a Polexit. Still, an overwhelming favourite of this election is Confederation. In recent months, they have climbed over the 10% mark in the polls. Korwin party will likely not get any seats this election season. Just like the Polexit party, they both trail below 3% in the polls.Libertarians in Poland need to find a way of distinguishing themselves from this toxic mess, which is not easy considering how much air has been sucked out by the Confederation party in the classical-liberal niche. A clear wall needs to be erected between alt-right sympathisers and actual libertarians. It is probably the healthiest for Polish libertarians to abstain from voting this election season, but well I might be biassed since I do not quite believe in voting during any elections.

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