The images coming from Poland last week give cause for hope. Yes, that is true. I was there myself and saw thousands of my compatriots out on the streets protesting for judicial independence and against political radicalization. That is indeed a reason for some optimism.
On the other hand: The fact that it is necessary to take to the streets to demand free courts in the middle of Europe is terrible, and grounds for fear. Another thing that causes fear is the radicalism with which the governing PiS is forcing through its political reforms, as well as the lack of respect with which it dismisses every form of resistance to them.
The government describes its restructuring of the country as a "good transformation." That is just as cynical as a party that forces the conformity of every aspect of government to suit its own desires calling itself "Law and Justice."
Fight over political culture
This is not about "law and justice": It is about power and money. But not just that - it is also about ideology and a monopolization of historical interpretation. No, the government is not acting prudently and benevolently - quite the opposite. It is "sorting" the country's citizens into good and bad. What is currently taking place in Poland is much more than a battle for political power; it has long become a battle over political culture.
On the one side are the blockheads that blindly follow their emperor and are immune to any and all criticism and serious dialogue. On the other side are those who want to enjoy the same freedoms and rights as other Europeans, and see their country with a certain self-confident national pride, but also see it as a country based on liberal values. Not least of all, the thing that makes them sick is the ruthless confrontation course that the government insists upon - in terms of foreign and domestic policy and also as regards society as a whole. The government is not interested in dialogue, but in division. One easily recognizes that in its controversial decisions, as well as in its choice of words.
In the eyes of the ruling PiS, the opposition is not simply "another political force" - no, it is a "total opposition," deserving "total defeat." That sounds like total insanity to me. Citizens' peaceful protests are not seen as an opportunity for dialogue by the government in Warsaw. PiS politicians defame demonstrators as "political rabies." How will this all end? The government will certainly not give in. It repeatedly calls on members not to succumb to "pressure from the streets" or "from abroad."
Kaczynski & Co. will hold fast to their plan to radically transform Poland. As a consequence, more mass demonstrations are to be expected. The fronts are growing ever more entrenched and divisions in society ever deeper. That does not bode well for political stability in a large country in the heart of Europe. And it does not bode well for Europe itself.