Poland is about to get a brand new authorities. However what it really stands for stays largely a thriller.

Ultimately month’s elections, the incumbent populist occasion, Prawo i Sprawiedliwość (PiS), misplaced its parliamentary majority. Though broadly described as right-wing, the PiS’s politics are extra difficult than that label implies. And it nonetheless stays, by far, the most important occasion within the Polish parliament, having secured 36 per cent of the vote. But it surely doesn’t have sufficient seats to control alone.

PiS’s solely potential ally – the genuinely right-wing Konfederacja (Confederation) occasion – carried out far under expectations. This may make forming a coalition authorities very troublesome for the PiS. Though, in fact, PiS’s leaders by no means had a lot of an urge for food for Confederation’s libertarian plans to shrink the state and minimize taxes to the bone. Certainly, PiS occasion chief Jarosław Kaczyński as soon as branded Condederation’s concepts ‘infantile’ and ‘mad’.

Because it stands, the almost certainly consequence is that Poland will find yourself with a governing coalition comprising a three-party alliance, united solely by their sturdy want to comb PiS out of energy.

Donald Tusk, the previous Polish prime minister and European Council president, is the best-known politician on this alliance. He’ll almost certainly be the subsequent prime minister of Poland. But regardless of his a few years within the public eye, his political colors usually are not simple to discern – primarily as a result of he barely has any. He and his occasion, Koalicja Obywatelska (Civic Coalition), would outline themselves as part of the liberal European mainstream. All that actually appears to imply is that they’re eager to do the bidding of Brussels and Berlin. Whereas the PiS authorities typically discovered itself butting heads with the EU, a Tusk comeback would imply Poland might revert to its earlier standing as an Jap European poster-child and dependable yes-man. Internet Zero? Sure, Frau von der Leyen! Enterprise as traditional with Russia and Ukraine? After all, Herr Scholz!

However Tusk can’t rule alone. His occasion, which gained 31 per cent of the vote, is 74 seats in need of a majority. So he has turned to Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz and Szymon Hołownia, the leaders of an ad-hoc coalition known as Trzecia Droga (Third Approach) fashioned simply earlier than the elections, and Włodzimierz Czarzasty and Robert Biedroń, the leaders of the Nowa Lewica (New Left).

The Third Approach’s politics are predictably nebulous. Kosiniak-Kamysz has some authorities expertise, having labored alongside Tusk when he was prime minister a decade in the past. He’s the pinnacle of Polskie Stronnictwo Ludowe, which is nominally an agrarian occasion though it has little or no to do with farmers anymore.

The opposite Third Approach chief, Szymon Hołownia, is a former TV presenter turned politician. He’s backed by a few of Poland’s richest plutocrats, angered by PiS’s extra leftish financial insurance policies. Like Tusk, Hołownia belongs to the liberal European mainstream. So missing in substance is he that he as soon as proudly launched an AI chatbot to create insurance policies for him. The one agency political dedication the Third Approach has made is to chop the social-welfare programmes rolled out by PiS over the previous eight years. The Third Approach calls this ‘the top of simple welfare’.

Then there’s the third a part of Tusk’s potential coalition, the self-styled New Left. Rhetorically, this occasion is left-wing, however it lacks any working-class help, with the PiS representing nearly all of working folks. This has pushed the New Left away from financial leftism and sophistication issues, and in the direction of wokeism. Will probably be a grim irony if the New Left participates in a coalition authorities that rolls again the extra social-democratic insurance policies of the PiS.

What is going on in Polish politics proper now, as an unique anti-populist coalition tries to take energy, is hardly distinctive. Certainly, this political-class mobilisation towards egalitarian populists is more and more turning into the norm in Europe.

I might describe these arrayed towards the populists as ‘virtue-hoarders’. This was the title of a 2021 guide by American cultural theorist Catherine Liu, who was drawing on John and Barbara Ehrenreich’s 1979 critique of the ‘skilled managerial class’. Liu went additional than the Ehrenreichs although. To her, the virtue-hoarders are the actual rulers of our time. They’re prosperous, properly related and influential. And, above all, they love energy.

However energy isn’t sufficient for this supercharged overclass. Its members wish to use energy to cement and categorical their ethical superiority. They wish to use energy to stamp their minority opinions, from local weather apocalypticism to gender ideology, with the authority of advantage. That is why they are often mentioned to ‘hoard’ advantage for themselves.

The virtue-hoarding elites might converse of ‘democracy’, ‘participation’ or ‘empowerment’. However they don’t have any actual curiosity in permitting the folks to rule. Therefore their opposition to populism. No, they solely need the ‘proper’ folks to rule – particularly, themselves and their licensed political organisations. These events might have totally different names and leaders, they usually could also be rooted in any variety of political traditions, be they liberal, Christian-democratic, socialist or republican. However none of that issues anymore, as a result of they solely have one purpose now – to protect the political system from any sort of populist problem.

Within the battle towards populism, the skilled managerial class’s virtue-hoarding proves helpful. It permits them to morally condemn their opponents as something from ‘fascist’ to ‘racist’ to ‘transphobic’. They usually can fire up any ethical panic they so want, by claiming that their populist opponents threaten democracy or menace the rule of regulation. It’s cynical stuff.

That is what is going on in Poland proper now. The virtue-hoarders are placing again.

Rafał Woś is a Polish journalist and commentator.

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