Poland in the modern worldjan peczkis|Tuesday, August 4, 2015
1Very Shallow Analyses. Reeks With Postmodernist Relativism. Belittles Poland's Achievements. Ignores Basic Facts The content of this book is pedestrian. The book begins with the Partition period, proceeds through WWII, and then sort of peters out as it approaches the present. There are, however, a few good points in this book. For instance, the author repudiates the oft-repeated 1939 WWII myths of Polish cavalry making suicidal charges against German tanks, and the Polish Air Force being largely destroyed in the first days of the war by the Luftwaffe. (p. 152)
As with his earlier books, Porter-Szücs demonizes those, such as RADIO MARYJA, that merely questioned Poland's entry into the European Union. (p. 356). What he does not tell his readers is the fact that the arguments used to support the European Union are almost exactly the same as the arguments used to support the non-military aspects of European rule by the Third Reich. Please click on, and read my detailed review of, The Tainted Source: Undemocratic Origins of the European Idea.
THE "HEROIC NARRATIVE" ATTACKED--YET AGAIN
The title of this book itself is condescending and insulting. Evidently trying to avoid feeling left out, Porter-Szücs takes his turn casting the standard aspersions on Poland. He writes, (quote) The second corrective that comes from normalizing Poland is to burst the balloons of Polish nationalism. All too many historians of Poland have represented the country as unique because of its tragic suffering. We often get a story that marches form battlefield to battlefield, from oppression to oppression, form massacre to massacre, with Poland standing as an inevitable collective victim. This produces a national martyrology--an elevation of the entire collectivity to the status of sanctified victim. Within this lachrymose worldview, to impugn any Pole is to impugn Poland as such, because only the virtuous victims are allowed to represent the whole. When faced with stories about Poles who have done bad things, proponents of this view either insist that the evildoer was not a true Pole, or that the historian is lying. (unquote). (p. 4).
Author Brian Porter-Szücs is repeating idiocy on top of idiocy on top of idiocy. He is also demolishing straw men. The Polish romanticism that he caricatures had been repudiated, by the very Endeks that he despises, a century ago. Poles don't glory in suffering and martyrdom, and never have. They celebrate heroism IN SPITE of suffering, failure, and even defeat. [That is why, for example, they celebrate the herculean Polish effort in the defeated and Soviet-betrayed Warsaw Uprising.] No Polish historian, to my knowledge (and I have read many), ever suggested that Polish suffering is qualitatively exceptional [unlike many Jews, who believe in the uniqueness of the Holocaust], much less that Poland's historical experiences were nothing more than one tragedy after another.
Polish "nationalist" works are full of admission of ignoble Polish conduct (and, yes, as conducted by "true" Poles), and Polish thinkers not rarely engage in Polish self-criticism and self-blame. What Poles don't like is being denied a fair airing of all the facts (e. g., about Jedwabne), and to be repeatedly slandered and lied about. Poles also dislike the blatant double standards, as occur, for example, when Jedwabne is made into such a big deal, while the Jewish mass murders of Poles, at places such as Naliboki and Koniuchy, are ignored or exculpated. (In fact, Jews are excused, almost 100% of the time, in whatever they do.) All Poles want is basic fairness--nothing more, nothing less. (That is also my position.)
CONTINUED POSTMODERNIST RELATIVISM IN ACTION: THE WARSAW UPRISING, ETC.
The author's thinking degenerates into abject and primal postmodernist relativism. He adopts an "It's all the same" spirit of false equivalencies--conflating minor issues (and non-issues) with major issues, molehills with mountains, warts with malignant tumors, the light from the firefly with the light from the Sun, the paper airplane with the Boeing 747, the crime of rolling through a stop sign with the crime of murder, and so on. This is quintessential postmodernist relativism.
The author goes out of his way to impugn the patriotic memory of the 1944 Warsaw Uprising. He cites a former participant, who published in (where else?) the left-wing GAZETA WYBORCZA, an article in which he felt that the Uprising had been a mistake, and apologized to the Varsovians. (p. 175, 182). To Brian Porter-Szücs, this man is an instant celebrity. However, such doubts are nothing new and they, alone, demolish the author's insinuation that Poles merely cling to historic myths. In fact, doubts about the wisdom of launching the Uprising had been voiced from the beginning, notably by the very Porter-Szücs bogeymen, the "Polish nationalists" (the NSZ). In any case, doubts about the Uprising, valid or invalid, are irrelevant to the fact and magnitude of Polish heroism in the Uprising.
Another example of the author's vulgar postmodernist relativism can be found in his treatment of Bereza Kartuska. (pp. 99-100). He admits that this internment camp was dwarfed by Hitler's and Stalin's camps, and that virtually all governments at the time incarcerated political prisoners. Still, to him, it is not "any less troubling." The author's deliberate avoidance of perspective is glaring.
CONTINUED POSTMODERNIST RELATIVISM IN ACTION: JEWS GET IT TOO
Brian Porter-Szücs then lets Jews be on the receiving end of his heroism-bashing tirades, (quote) For Poles and Jews alike, the suffering of World War II remains visceral even today. Moreover, in both cases stories of martyrdom and sacrifice are still used to define "national character" and to stir up patriotic emotions. For such tales people want clear-cut heroes and villains, not muddy accounts in which perpetrators are victimized, in which heroes are driven by base motives, or in which good people make terrible decisions. People want to be able to say that "we" suffered because of "their" actions, and few want to consider all the intertwined layers of suffering that characterized Eastern Europe during the war. (unquote). (p. 176).
Nobody is suggesting that history is black and white. However, to Porter-Szücs and his egregious postmodernist relativism, there is one and ONLY one color in existence--a vague, pallid grey.
POLAND'S "HEROIC NARRATIVE" ATTACKED OVER AND OVER--WHY?
This reviling of the Polish so-called "heroic narrative" has become so monotonically predictable, in recently-published works on Poland, that the well-read reader may be forgiven for suspecting an agenda. In fact, it is so certain to appear that it is startling. One is almost tempted to conclude that there is some kind of secret agreement, among recent authors, to relentlessly attack Poland in this fashion.
Why is it SO important that Poles forget or tarnish the heroism and achievements of their past? Is it just postmodernism run amok, wherein postmodernists exercise their love of trashing everything that is sacred to people? Or is it part of a long-term goal of making Polish history repulsive to Poles, notably as proposed by Bismarck, so that Poles lose their self-identity and self-respect, and thus become easier to control by the powers that be?
In a thinly-veiled exercise in the de-legimitization of Poland, author Brian Porter-Szücs dusts off old shibboleths and stereotypes of Poland's past. These feature Poland's Partition-era class structure, the (alleged) lack of consciousness of Polishness among Poland's peasantry (p. 9, pp. 13-16), the "exclusion" of minority groups, etc. His vocabulary itself speaks volumes. To him, Poland is "a vaguely defined space". (p. 1). Wow!
The discerning reader can see where Porter-Szücs is coming from. According to standard Communist ideology, nations and patriotism are a recent invention, and that of the upper classes, intent on the maintenance of class privileges. The lower classes knew nothing of nations and patriotism, until they were indoctrinated by the upper classes--all done so that they would support upper-class privileges, and would go to war with each other on behalf of the privileged, instead of developing their own, authentic consciousness, which of course is class consciousness.
Porter-Szücs is also engaging in chronological snobbery: Until modern forms of societies emerged, there was really nothing of value in existence, least of all Poland. This is merely a mutation of old Communist propaganda: Until Communism, all had been bad, and there had hardly been a Poland, worthy of the name, at all.
The facts are otherwise. Nations are no recent inventions: They go back to antiquity, and their existence transcends changes in society and social structure. See, and read my review, of The Ethnic Origins of Nations. Poland's quasi-feudal structure had actually been relatively progressive for its time, as recognized, for example, by the Prussian Moltke, an avowed enemy of Poland (who had accepted Poland's partitions as a "historical necessity".) See, and read my review, of Poland; an historical sketch.
Poland's peasants had a rudimentary national consciousness, moreover one that was not solely dependent upon what the landlords told them. In addition, this rudimentary Polish peasant national consciousness had long preceded the abolition of serfdom, the emergence of literacy and education, and formal instruction in Polish patriotism. See, and read my review, of The Nation in the Village: The Genesis of Peasant National Identity in Austrian Poland, 1848-1914.
POLES=CATHOLICS. HOW TERRIBLE!
Porter-Szücs realizes that Poland had historically been open towards non-Catholics. Not to be denied however, he complains that Poland's post-1918 policies "only" tolerated Catholics, but did not make them, in the author's opinion, full-fledged members of the Polish body politic. (p. 15, pp. 91-92). Excuse me. Do Poles get to define their nation as they see fit? Or does someone else do it? If so, who? Left-wing ideologues?
THE STANDARD LAMENT ABOUT POLAND'S MINORITY GROUPS
The author trots out the standard leftist narrative on Roman Dmowski and the Endeks, exaggerating their belief in Social Darwinism, attacking them for their "exclusive" view of what it means to be truly Polish, and grotesquely mischaracterizing them as believing in a world Jewish conspiracy. (pp. 53-54). He butchers the facts surrounding the 1912 Duma elections and the Dmowski-led retaliatory boycott of Jews. (pp. 69-70).
All along, Porter-Szücs is deafeningly silent about the way that Poland's minorities had first excluded themselves from Polish-ness while in the process of their own national development. With the exception of one cursory phrase (p. 172), Porter-Szücs completely ignores the centuries-old "We are not Poles" Jewish separatism. In fact, Jewish religious-based ghetto-style separatism was being increasingly replaced by the even more aggressive, and this time actively politicized, Yiddishist-based "Jews are a separate nationality, and not Poles" separatism and self-imposed apartheid. This preceded the Endeks.
The author's treatment of the events surrounding the Narutowicz assassination (p. 93) would have the reader believe the standard notion that Poles were paranoid about imagined Jewish influence. They were not. Poland's minorities had formed an electoral bloc for the deliberate political purpose of swaying Poland's elections.
For more on all this, please see the first Comment under this review.
JEWS AND COMMUNISM
In common with many authors, Porter-Szücs is in deep denial about the fact and the scale of Jewish-Soviet collaboration, which he dismisses as "the myth of Zydokomuna (Judeo-Bolshevism)". He repeats all the standard glosses and vacuous, canned exculpations. (pp. 135-135, 156, 200).
Let us examine the author's Jewish-wrongdoing denialism. Brian Porter-Szücs cites a study (which I have read), by Kopstein and Wittenberg, on Jewish voting patterns in some 1920's Polish elections. (p. 141). These indicate that "only" 7% of Jews voted for the Communists (p. 135). From this, Porter-Szücs draws the completely non sequitur conclusion that Jewish support for Communism was minimal.
To begin with, Jewish support for Communism was hardly limited to electoral support for, or open identification with, overtly Communist movements--far from it! Various mainstream Jewish political parties and movements were ALSO infected with Communism to varying degrees, usually in muted or disguised ways. These included the Hashomer Hatzair, the Poalei Zion, the Bund, and various Jewish socialist parties.
In addition, Jews commonly switched loyalties to whoever coincided with their immediate interests, or whoever was the stronger. After Poland was Partitioned, Poland's Jews generally supported the empires that ruled over Poland, and few Jews backed Polish national aspirations. By the 1920's, with the resurrected Polish state a fait accompli, and Poland having recently (1920) defeated the Soviet Union, the Polish nation had unambiguously emerged as the stronger. For this reason, it is hardly surprising that relatively few Jews openly supported Communism in the 1920's. In 1939, with Poland on the ropes and the USSR the stronger, it was a different story. [See the first item in the first Comment under this review.]
Finally, why waste one's vote on a party that had no chance of winning? Surely the Jews knew that Communists hardly ever come to power through free elections, least of all likely in Poland. They come to power by force. To help make Poland Communist, it is best to wait for renewed Soviet aggression, and then become actively pro-Communist. That is exactly what happened.
The Jewish crimes committed by the Zydokomuna, and the harm that they did to Poland, were very real. For example, see the first item in the first Comment under this review.
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