In the last issue of “Wpis” an article was published explaining the genesis of some Western countries’ patronizing in relation to Poland and Eastern Europe. This brilliant analysis was written by Prof. Andrzej Nowak. Extensive excerpts from the article below.
Today it cannot be said that somebody’s culture, e.g., of African or Asian countries, is worse or inferior. It is out of the question. But not for everyone. Colonial political culture can be realized … in Europe. It is allowed to say about Poles, Czechs, Lithuanians, Hungarians, or Ukrainians that this is “the inferior Europe,” these are primitive countries, which must be controlled by natural representatives of a truly European “master race,” because they themselves are not capable of it. I do not mean only the Germans. This is about the “master race” of Belgians – the Congo-genocide lords, the Dutch lord race – the lords of Indonesia, the master race of the French – the lords of ten million square kilometers of colonial empire, moreover today, in some form, a race of Italian masters – ruling over Libya and trying to conquer Ethiopia, or of course Spanish masters. Etc., etc. Their old political mentality very strongly shapes today’s imperial attitude, the imperial relations between Western Europe and Eastern Europe. The latter turns out to be the remaining area where authoritarian fantasies about ruling, teaching and enlightening the backward inhabitants of the European provinces can be realized with impunity.
The legitimacy of some over the others’ rule is one of the most important questions about the political community. When do we voluntarily consent to someone ruling us? When do we only accept it as a result of being forced by the aggressor’s power? When do we agree to this submission to the sovereign after being manipulated into it by what the English philosopher, lawyer, and economist Jeremy Bentham (1748–1832) described as being convinced we are doing it for our own good? After all, today, Brussels is to rule over us “for our good”; for this reason, we are to receive enlightened councils of the master race from Berlin, The Hague, Brussels or Paris. After all, it was for no other reason than for “our own good that Catherine II’s Russia annexed the territories of the Commonwealth, beginning with the First Partition. After all, these were the basic words of the manifestos that were issued after the First, Second, and Third Partitions: “to calm down,” “to secure property,” “for the good of Europe” as well. But, above all, it was for the benefit of the people of that backward country who were incapable of handling their own problems (…).
In my book, “Between Disorder and Bondage” [Pol.: Między nieładem a niewolą], I often return to the 18th century and defend the former Republic of Poland because already then, in Gombrowicz’s language, “we were bad-mouthed” [Pol.: “dorobiono nam gębę”]. This is not some new invention of our time; at that time, there were efforts in Western Europe (financed with tsarist rubles and Prussian thalers) to slander the Republic of Poland and humiliate its inhabitants. This should not be forgotten. It must be remembered that Eastern Europe has always simply meant primitivism and backwardness in relation to Western Europe. We are a dark province that will never be able to govern itself, and that always requires controllers, overseers, enlightened teachers, or Western doctors or therapists. Such a view arose in the 18th century due to the intellectual formation of the time in the West. (…) Poland of the 18th century emerged from a crisis which was partly caused by itself, but not only the Republic of Poland’s citizens were to blame. After all, e.g., the Swedish Deluge, which significantly weakened the country, was an external factor. Poles gradually emerged from this crisis on their own. (…) Our ancestors in the 18th century were able to make a wise self-correction of the system, resulting in a constitution, the first in Europe and the second in the world only four years after the constitution in the United States. And that was the real reason why Polish statehood was then destroyed. The Republic of Poland did not fall! It ceased to exist not because it deserved it, but because it had been militarily raped by neighboring empires: because it had risen from its fall! It was dangerous for the neighbors who wanted a Poland completely subordinated to them, unable to develop independently, a colonized Poland. When it turned out that the Republic of Poland was able to return to the path of independent development, to implement systemic self-correction, and at the same time to respond to the imperial attempts of the then political culture of our neighbors, the conclusion was that such a Poland was too dangerous and had to be liquidated first as an independent state entity, and then as an independent national entity. Of course, in the end, it was much more about the simple plunder of the Commonwealth than about the ideals of the Enlightenment.
The latter became a “cover,” as we would say today, for this plunder, its deceptive justification. This is an age-old topic and dilemma in the history of political thought, which is also reflected in almost every chapter of the book “Between Disorder and Bondage.” After all, in the discussion presented by Plato in the “Republic,” the question arises: what does justice amount to in politics? (…) Then the theme of justifying injustice, a cynical game of interests and exaltation of the politics of power develops. It is presented most perfectly in the deliberations in Machiavelli’s main work, “The Prince.” Machiavelli leaves this “recipe” to the next generations: you need to pursue your interests by force, but at the same time you need to frame this ruthless power and brutality of interests in such beautiful words that an impression of acting in the name of the common good is projected. The combination of force and pretending, force and manipulation, force and propaganda, this is the essence of politics, as seen by Machiavelli, who completely abandons moral references to the world of politics. This, of course, is also reflected in the Partitions of Poland. Tsarina Catherine, King Frederick William, Emperor Joseph II applied Machiavelli’s recommendations while making beautiful ideological justifications for the plunder they mildly called the Partitions. (…)
The existence of this little piece of a state, this hulled Poland that remained after the Second Partition, actually should not have bothered Russia, Prussia, and Austria, which did not participate in the Second Partition. The Little Republic, where everything that was needed by the neighbors to satisfy their geopolitical appetites had already been plundered, could have been useful as a buffer state between the partitioning powers because they too could have butted heads and – as we know – finally got down to it. But a buffer is useful as long as it wants to remain just a buffer. The invaders felt the fear that Poland, this beast unworthy of existence, would be reborn! The passive buffer was good, subordinated to the therapists who came from Berlin, St. Petersburg or Vienna to cure us, to cleans us of estates, independence, culture – such a Poland could exist. But the view was justified that Poles would want to return to tradition and importance, to claim not only their place in Europe, but also the right to vote in the matters concerning Europe as a whole, the sovereign right to vote as Germany, Austria, Russia, or any other European country had. However, such a Poland would be dangerous in the eyes of empires, even if it were small, so it was deemed better to eliminate it in its entirety, and here we can draw analogies to the present time. After all, the Third Polish Republic is stronger than the truncated Poland after the Second Partition – also militarily. Although we are not a power, declaring our independence and self- determination, we arouse anxiety and anger in imperial capitals. We cause fury in the eyes of today’s progressive colonizers, who eagerly call themselves: emancipators. Therefore, there are attempts at pacifying us by using the ideological camouflage known already in antiquity and recommended by Machiavelli. So, what are we to do? How are we to defend ourselves?
The solution may be the Three Seas Initiative based initially on the already existing core, i.e., the Visegrad Group. Let me remind you that this is not a new concept in Polish thought, but also in Anglo-Saxon thought. In 1919 it was introduced by the creator of geopolitics, Halford Mackinder (1861–1947), an outstanding geographer, economist, and political scientist, who defined the area between the Baltic Sea and the Adriatic and Black Seas as the most critical area in Eurasia. He believed that the Anglo-Saxon powers, Great Britain and the United States if they want to maintain the world order after World War I, must create and support the Three Seas bloc and bind it with alliances with England and the USA. The idea was to block the possibility of a direct agreement between Russia and Germany. It would destroy everything that the post-Great War order, the Versailles order, was supposed to protect – and create the combined tyranny of these two countries with strong traditions of despotism.
The concept of the Three Seas Initiative is more or less present in the minds of the Polish elite of the patriotic camp, but also in the consciousness of the political elites of the German or the Russian states. However, their point of view and their approach to the Three Seas in Europe is, of course, different from ours. If this axis around the Visegrad Group grows into a bloc of states, which will work on strengthening their importance, connected by an infrastructure of convenient highways and railways, and serving not only as a Moscow-Berlin-Brussels-Paris transit line, then the region will become a political player that no one will be able to undermine and which will be very difficult to dominate.
Up until now, European projects have carried out everything that was in Berlin’s interests – precisely based on the law basis of strength- but the prospect of breaking out of German domination has appeared. The Americans have invested, perhaps not so much but still a billion dollars, to transform the Three Seas Initiative from an idea into a reality. For this region to play a role in Europe, if not equal, or at least equivalent in its rights to Berlin and Paris, is unfortunately unacceptable for the imperial-colonial mentality discussed here. For the master race, we remain a natural colony.
(…) The break with the bad traditions of the master race has been limited in German historical policy to the time and experience of Adolf Hitler and Nazism. However, from the point of view of Poland and other eastern neighbors of Germany, it should be noted and emphasized that this tradition has much deeper roots; it is not only about genocide, the most terrible symbol of which is Auschwitz, but about the practice of systematic, brutal colonization, subordination to imperial rule over those who are considered lower, inferior, the sub-race of Slavs, Jews, Gypsies – the “eastern barbarians.” This is the aspect of the German tradition that they need to be reminded of – for Germany’s benefit and the good of Europe. For the good of the Germans in the sense that, since we are reminded of often fabricated bad aspects of our history. We have the same right to remind the Germans, French, Dutch, Belgians, Chancellor Merkel, Prime Minister Rutte, Prime Minister Verhofstadt of their tradition of genocide committed in or by their own country. “Where is your confrontation with your tradition of master race mentality? ” This is what I accuse these politicians of. I accuse them of their failure to acknowledge their own master race mentality and their re-occurring desire to colonize other, “inferior” ones. However, in the name of another tradition, namely the tradition of freedom and independence of nations, we should remind you that no one in the common Europe can be pushed to a corner as a student or a patient, a backward “easterner.” We have a duty to enforce the law of equality.
It is about equality between individual social groups and above all between nations – this is a paramount issue.
The original article, in Polish, appeared in wpolityce.pl