Strange bedfellows: Poland’s post-Communists are proving a bulwark against Western progressivism in Tusk’s incoming coalition

Civic Platform leader Donald Tusk (C), Poland 2050 chairman Szymon Holownia (L), Polish People's Party chairman Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamysz (2-L), and New Left co-chairmen Wlodzimierz Czarzasty (2-R) and Robert Biedron (R) pose together during a ceremony to sign the coalition agreement at the Senate in Warsaw, Poland, 10 November 2023. EPA-EFE/MARCIN OBARA POLAND OUT


It may only be a temporary giggle of history, but in Central Europe, the post-Communists, are thwarting the radical progressives’ rise to power. Former Communist party politicians in Poland or Slovakia have appropriated many of the slogans of the European socialists. Still, they find it hard to come to terms with the new radical Left pushing for the dismantling of capitalism, the replacement of the traditional family with sexless cohabitation, or imposing extra taxes on the rich, to which many of them belong.

After the stream of relatively definite election promises, the Left-liberal alliance has finally signed a joint programme. There are 24 extended articles in this mostly vague document. It gives no specific dates for introducing new social benefits and carefully avoids mention of controversial issues like “abortion,” “The LGBTQ community,” and “gay marriage.” 

On the other hand, there is no shortage of nods to different groups within the society – trade unions, government employees, women, sexual minorities, and entrepreneurs, and there was even a vague reference to “nationalism” and Polish sovereignty. Attentive readers will find hidden seeds of future tensions within the alliance and some skeletons to come out of the closet for the post-Communist elites. The coalition’s programme includes a promise to restore special pension privileges to former members of the Communist secret services.

Without the post-Communist Left (Nowa Lewica), the opposition would not have enough votes to form a government and take power from the Right. Hence, they also had to agree on the most contentious points in the post-Communist programme. In the article “Social Obligations,” there is an enigmatic provision: “We will introduce solutions to restore the vested rights to pensions – officers.”

This concerns nearly 50,000 people, including 8,000 widows and even children of former employees of the Communist oppression apparatus. In 2017, the Right-wing coalition, which had just lost its majority in parliament, revoked the privileges of former Communist functionaries, claiming that it is immoral to reward people who fought against democracy while those who risked their lives and sat in prisons have to support themselves with a staggeringly lower pension. Communist functionaries received higher-than-average salaries, access to better-stocked stores, the right to better housing, and incomparably higher allowances for all their years of service. For active agents, it was as much as ten times the average pension; for office workers, it was two or three times the average pension.

Interestingly, the decision was upheld not only by Poland’s highest court but also by the CJEU — nevertheless, the incoming government pledges to restore lavish pension privileges to former Communist officers. 

Thirty-five years after the fall of communism, the influence of former elites still prevails, and keeping their “bloody pensions” becomes a priority of the new government. A more interesting twist may be that another Leftist party, Razem (Together ), refused to join the coalition. The main reason is that they do not want to identify with former Communists about whom they speak with disgust and do not consider as genuine members of the Left.

With no progressive party in the coalition, the liberal program of the future government does not reflect provisions taken for granted by the liberal governments of Western Europe. Among others, there were no definite references to abortion or same-sex marriage, no strong pro-migration statements,  or anti-religious or anti-capitalist declarations. On the contrary, the coalition agreed to:

  • Restoring the spirit of private enterprise.
  • Commercial development of housing.

Demographics will cause the old Left, which incidentally now calls itself the new left (Nowa Lewica), to be absorbed into the liberal structures of the other coalition partners. The place of the old post-Communist Left will be taken by young radical progressive movements headed by the Razem party. But today, extreme Leftist demands are still being suppressed by the interests of the remnants of the Communist elite. 

From a historical perspective, it is unfortunate that Poland still succumbs to the influence of the former pro-Soviet apparatus. On the other hand, it gives Polish conservatives more time to develop their response to the radical Leftist movement and to avoid the fate of some Western societies.