Sławomir Sierakowski

    is a Polish intellectual and commentator. He is the founder and leader of Krytyka Polityczna (Political Critique), a group of Polish left-wing intellectuals, artists and activists with its own publishing house, an online platform for essays and commentaries and a network of discussion cafes, with branches in Ukraine and Germany. It is by far the largest group of its kind in Central Europe, indeed Europe as a whole. In addition, Sierakowski heads the Warsaw Institute for Advanced Study in Warsaw where he lives. He has been visiting scholar at a number of universities in Europe and the US, including Princeton, Yale and Harvard. Many of Sierakowski’s essays on Polish and European politics and culture have been widely translated and he is regarded as one of the most influential contemporary Polish intellectuals. He is a regular contributor to the Guardian and the New York Times. “In countries with a weak tradition of liberalism, one that had been interrupted for a long time, democracy-building usually concludes with an explosion of nationalism. The succession of the Left by the Right doesn’t cause an earthquake of the same intensity as a closed society supplanting an open one, because people of an illiberal bent usually try to stay in power and attempt to change democratic mechanisms so that they can keep the liberals out of power for a long time to come. Orbán has succeeded in doing this and Kaczyński is now trying to achieve the same thing. If it was possible for Tusk to be succeeded by Kaczyński, who unleashed this kind of blitz war, the same thing could happen in any country in this region. And it is quite conceivable that Kaczyński might undergo a transformation similar to that of Orbán, who began his career in 1989 by making the famous ‘Russians go home!’ speech yet recently laid wreaths on the graves of the 1956 Soviet butchers of Budapest. The countries of Central and Eastern Europe are too diverse to form a unified bloc, and Poland has never played the role of regional leader. It did, however, play the opposite role: it used to block Russia’s influence in the region by dint of its large population and large economy (Poland is a more important trading partner for Germany than Russia) and, at the same time, it has the highest proportion of societal support for Europe (surveys rarely show it dipping below 70 per cent). However, all of this has been made possible only through an alliance with the West. And this alliance will fall apart if instead of post-communism our part of Europe succumbs to illiberalism. Should the EU take further steps towards integration, Poland will be left out of the loop and the entire region might fall apart in economic and political terms. Will the EU be able to prevent this or will it allow Europe to be again divided, and will it let the curtain fall behind us? The EU is now testing Poland’s government and the Polish government is testing the EU.”