Polish Shades of Green: Green Ideas and Political Powers in Poland
In Western Europe, Green parties are a regular element of the political scene, in their countries as well as in the European Union. Originating as parties of protest and extra-parliamentary opposition, they have joined mainstream structures, often assuming responsibility for co-government. Their beginnings are connected with the events of 1968 and the wave of new social movements born in the wake of the revolt. In the countries of the then Socialist block 1968 did not possess this dimension. Green parties began to form much later, and in a different political reality – in the climate of democratic transformation initiated in 1989.
The “new” EU member countries are attributed with certain shared experiences, described as the “post-Communist syndrome”, which is often used to explain the weakness of Green political powers in the states of the “New Union”. At the same time, it is increasingly difficult to find a common denominator, as far as the results of the Greens’ activity in the “new” EU countries are concerned: in a few post-Communist countries the Greens managed to enter national parliaments, and even structures of government (the Czech Republic, Estonia), while in others – such as Poland – they have not yet found their place. After 20 years of democratic transformation, the situation of Green political powers in Poland remains ambiguous. Over the recent years, there has been an apparent trend of absorbing environmental, freedom and equality views into collective consciousness and of a growing presence of certain green demands in the media and the political discourse. It seems that the demand for Green politics has been on the increase, which, nevertheless, does not translate into increasing popularity of Green movements and initiatives, or increasing support for the existing Green political powers. The only Green party currently active in Poland, Zieloni 2004, is practically absent from public debate, from public awareness and electoral preferences. Analysis of the Polish political scene after 1989 does not provide generally available data about the development of Green movements and initiatives, neither at present, nor in the last 20 years.
Our publication, devoted to the history and the present of the Green movements and initiatives created in Poland after 1989, fills this gap and attempts to find answers for the question about the future of Green politics. The publication stems from the research ordered in 2008 by the Heinrich Böll Foundation and coordinated by Przemysław Sadura. The research concerned the prevailing reception of Green ideas and
perception of Green political powers by the Polish society. On its bases, the Author analysed the Greens’ chances of finding a permanent place on the Polish political scene.
The research results presented in the publication are embedded in a broader historical and geographical context. The publication is therefore a look – from a Green perspective - at the past 20 years of democratic transformation, and at the same time it “captures the moment”, constitutes a “shorthand report” of the ongoing public discussion about Green initiatives and political powers in the Polish and the European context. The invited authors include sociologists, political scientists and journalists associated with Zieloni 2004, as well as observers of the Polish political scene unconnected with the Greens. Consequently, the publication manages to present several “shades” of Green, various perceptions of Green ideas and demands as well as different interpretations of their significance for modernising Polish and
Next to Ewa Charkiewicz’s reflections about the development of Green political powers and social movements close to them, the publication presents a text by Adam Ostolski analysing sources of differences and similarities between Green parties in the East and the West of Europe, as well as articles presenting Green policies regarding current issues and events in the Polish political and economic reality, such as Maciej Gdula’s text focusing on the local and the global dimension of the Greens, or reflections about Green modernisation by Edwin Bendyk. The self-image of Zieloni 2004, its current situation and perspectives of development are outlined by their co-chairpersons, Agnieszka Grzybek and Dariusz Szwed; Agnieszka Graff and Jacek Żakowski, in interviews conducted especially for the publication, concentrate on reasons for the currently limited popularity of the Polish Greens, and on their chances for emerging on the Polish political scene in the future.
The question whether there is a demand for Green politics, and whether Green political powers do stand a chance of entering mainstream politics, is an element shared by all the authors. The responses, though cautiously optimistic, discuss the barriers facing Green policies, originating from the development of the social and political situation in Poland, and from the development of the Polish Greens themselves. At the same time, they indicate possibilities of overcoming those barriers. In this context, the texts presented in the publication contribute to continuation and deepening of the discussion about the significance of Green politics for future modernisation of Poland – the discussion we hope to initiate with this publication.
Claude Weinber, Secretary General, In Western Europe, Green parties are a regular element of the political scene, in their countries as well as in the European Union. Originating as parties of protest and extra-parliamentary opposition, they have joined mainstream structures, often assuming responsibility for co-government. Their beginnings are connected with the events of 1968 and the wave of new social movements born in the wake of the revolt. In the countries of the then Socialist block 1968 did not possess this dimension. Green parties began to form much later, and in a different political reality – in the climate of democratic transformation initiated in 1989.
Claude Weinber, Secretary General, Green European Foundation
Agnieszka Rochon, Director of the Central Europe Regional Office of the Heinrich Böll Foundation