Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Krystian Zimerman: A Polish patriot


Let's hope the world famous pianist will be the first of many in 'liberated' eastern europe to speak out against what's going on in the region.

A Hungarian Zimerman is urgently required- there the new 'emergency' government says that pensions, health and education spending must be slashed due to the poor state of the public finances, yet, surprise, surprise, they've still found $1.3m to buy new military vehicles from their imperial masters.

1 comment:

Eastern Europe Watch said...

Zimerman's timely response to the fact that Obama is still pushing the Missile Shield, albeit with privisos that it won't be built in Russia co-operates in isolating and containing Iran, contrasts shamefully with the silence from other cultural figures in Polish public life.

The reason for this is that former dissidents like Adam Michnik see the inexorable spread of US power across the globe as a universal force for Good. No matter what the USA does, Michnik will support it.

Or as he puts it somewhat cravely,

"Poland is an ally of the United States of America. It was our duty to show that we are a reliable, loyal, and predictable ally. America needed our help, and we had to give it"..

The irony of this is that such a posture is very similar to those Western fellow travellers who gave unconditional support to the Soviet Union, despite knowledge of the Gulag, the mass extermination of 'kulaks', and a systematic policy of state terrorism.

The problem with Michnik is that his anti-totalitarian ideology can lead him to conflate Communism and Nazism with the idea that there is some monolithic Islamic totalitarian threat, a position very similar to Christopher Hitchens.

Both Hitchens and Michnik are close associates who often lunch together, as Hitchens reveals in his essay 'The Old Man' where he venerates Trotsky for his anti-totalitarian and anti-Stalinist stance, the very same politics that dates back to their involvement in the 1968 upheaval on opposite sides of the Iron Curtain.

As with Hitchens, who 'took a stand' after 9/11, so too did Michnik come to see the USA as waging a global battle for civilisation under George Bush.

"I consider that 9/11 was the day when war was started against my own work and against myself. Even though we are not sure of the links, Iraq was one of the countries that did not lower its flags in mourning on 9/11".

The utter idiocy of yoking together Al Qaida and Iraq, a fanatical Islamist network of terror cells with a decrepit secular state of Baathist Iraq can only occur where all opponents of the USA who use terror are regarded as part of one existential enemy.

The conflation of all enemies of the USA as part of one demonological continuum perhaps reflects the dangers of Michnik's belief that Poland in concert with the USA can act as a redeemer nation, liberating the world's benighted people from tyranny everywhere.

This Polish messianic myth goes back deep into Polish history and comes from Michnik's reading of the poet Adam Mickiewicz who in Dziady saw the liberation of Poland as essential for the downfall of all Evil Empires everywhere ( by which he thought of as the European powers that had partitioned Poland in the late eighteenth century ).

Likewise the neoconservative ideologues who advocated the Iraq War back in 2003 simarly thought that by destroying Saddam's Babylonian tyranny, this would trigger of simultaneous liberation struggles in neighbouring Syria and Iran as people there saw that freedom was possible.

The fantastic idea that the collapse of Soviet domination over Eastern Europe was remotely comparable to the complex situation in the Middle East, or that the USA was acting as a force to destroy imperialism instead of reflecting an imperial war for geopolitical advantage and a secure oil supply,shows how much dissidents like Michnik have entirely lost the plot.

All credit to Tony Judt who wrote correctly in the London Review of Books,

“Today, America's liberal armchair warriors are the 'useful idiots; of the War on Terror. In fairness, America's bellicose intellectuals are not alone. In Europe, Adam Michnik, the hero of the Polish intellectual resistance to Communism, has become an outspoken admirer of the embarrassingly Islamophobic Oriana Fallaci…”

Zimerman needed to break this slavish subservience to the Us Empire and more Polish intellectuals need to come out and oppose the Missile Shield as well as sending Polish troops to die futile deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq just as they did in the service of Napoleon.

The difference this time is that Poland is a free and independent nation. Aligning with the USA during the Cold War made tactical sense but since the 1990s it has made no sense to cling on to an unconditional alliance with it as part of some messianic myth and nationalistic grudge match against Russia.

With regards Iraq, Michnik should have just shut up if he did not understand Middle Eastern politics, which he clearly does not, relying on the crudest Orientalist view of totalitarian Islam and using words like 'crusade' to liberate the Middle East.

All credit to Zimerman for standing up to US Imperialism. The shame of those like Michnik is that they were key movers in Solidairity which made non-violence a founding principle.

Once Soviet domination was cast off, then that no longer mattered as it was only a means to avoid bloodshed in Poland. Clearly, the inevitable slaughterhouse that Iraq would become on a US invasion was not so important because Iraqis are not Poles.