The recent news in Poland has, quite rightly, been dominated by the legislation being passed by the ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS), that is moving the country in a more authoritarian direction. Simultaneously, the focus has been on the opposition movement that has risen against this conservative right government, and the large pro-democracy demonstrations around the country.
However, whilst this opposition movement is broad and encompasses a range of social groups and opinions, the formal opposition inside the parliament is being led mainly by the neo-liberal party: Nowoczesna (Modern). The leader of this party is the former advisor of Leszek Balcerowicz and financial expert Ryszard Petru. The party has recently set out three pieces of legislation that it intends to put to parliament. One of them is to remove law that forbids parties campaigning the day before and election is held. Quite why this is considered to be an important issue by Nowoczesna is unclear and there are good arguments in favour and against this proposal. However, the other two proposals would directly restrict democracy in Poland and reduce pluralism in public life. These are:
Restricting the 'privilleges' of trade unions. During the election campaign Petru said that he wished to see the state funding of trade unions removed. This amounts to a new attack on the trade unions in Poland that have been marginalised over the past two decades, with trade union membership density reaching just 12% nowadays. Petru has often presented himself as one of the leaders of the new opposition movement in Poland, which claims the tradition of the Solidarity movement of the 1980s. He should therefore recall that Solidarity was an independent trade union and that there would have been no mass pro-democracy movement in the country without this mass organisation of working people. Also, as the current pro-democracy movement is supposed defend the current constitution, then it is worth remembering the clause in this constitution that guarantees the rights of trade unions. A clause that in practice, particularly in the private sector, is regularly breached. Anybody that wishes to see a strong democratic Poland should support the growth and strengthening of trade unions in the country.
Restricting state funding of political parties: The second proposal of Nowoczesna is to restrict the state funding of political parties. In practice this would mean that those parties that have strong private funding and wealthy financial backers would futher dominate the political scene. The trade unions in Poland are too weak and divided to fund a party of their own, such as happens in Britain through the Labour Party. In practice therefore political pluralism would be restricted and the dominance of private financial interests in politics increased.