by Patrik Ehn
This summer the Swedish Centre Party held its annual national congress in the west Swedish city of Skövde. There I had the opportunity to listen to and talk with Mr. Jaroslaw Kalinowski, Chairman of the Polish Peasants’ Party, who attended as a guest of the Centre Party.
The Polish Peasants’ Party is a party with a hundred years of tradition, dating back to the beginnings of an organised peasant movement in Poland. PSL now has 200,000 members, organised into 1000 circles, covering the entire national territory though based mainly in villages and small towns. In addition to its predominantly peasant membership, the PSL also attracts people of various professional backgrounds, representing both the non-farming rural population and numerous country-born city dwellers. Upon implementation of State administrative reform with the introduction of new territorial structure, the PSL also established new municipality, county and Voivodship structures.
The supreme authority of the PSL is its Congress, which is convened bi-annually. Between the Congresses, authority is vested in the PSL Supreme Council, and the Party’s everyday activities are conducted under the supervision of the Chief Executive Committee. The President of PSL is Mr. Jaroslaw Kalinowski, and the Chairman of the Supreme Council is Mr. Alfred Domagalski.
In the course of recent local self-government elections, the Polish Peasants’ Party established the “Social Alliance” with the Union of Labour and the National Party of Pensioners and Retirees. The results of elections provided the PSL with the position of the third strongest political force in Poland, after AWS and the Socialist Left Alliance SLD, but ahead of the Union of Freedom UW. Representatives of the “Social Alliance” have been elected to sit in the local authorities which they share with other political groups, in accordance with the will of their voters and in the interest of local environments.
Within the Polish Parliament, the Sejm, the PSL has 26 Members of Parliaments and 2 Senators, who constitute the fourth largest parliamentary caucus. The Caucus remains in opposition to the ruling AWS-UW coalition and its Government. In the Polish political scene, dominated and polarised by the two extreme groups — the AWS and SLD — the PSL occupies a position in the centre. Its ambition and duty is to play a State-stabilising role. The ideology of Polish Peasants’ Party is inspired by Christian ethics and the social doctrine of the Catholic Church, and in particular by the social thought of Pope John Paul II.
In international forums, the Polish Peasants’ Party seeks to establish ideological and programme alliances with the Christian-Democratic movements, which find their organisational expression within the European Christian-Democratic Union and European People’s Party.
Consistent with the century-old ideological tradition of the peasant movement, the prime objective of all actions undertaken by the Polish Peasants’ party is the good of the Nation and the soundness of the Republic of Poland. Of paramount importance to the PSL are political and economic sovereignty, the sovereignty of the State and of its citizens, observance of the principles of democracy, continuous economic development, observance of the principles of social justice; in other words ensuring that all citizens enjoy equal rights and the possibilities of material and cultural development.
The Polish Peasants’ Party is building its systemic concepts by giving priority to social objectives and declaring labour as the main factor of economic development and the foundation for participation in the creation of domestic product. PSL rejects the liberal-conservative concept of State which imposes the unlimited influence of the free market upon all spheres of activity, seeks maximisation of profits at the cost of hired labour and the fulfilment of social objectives, and relieves the State of any responsibility for the implementation of these objectives.
Instead, PSL offers the “third path”, which is now gaining increased attention around the world. The Party supports a system of social market economy, assuming the creation of equal development chances to all citizens and for the entire State by correcting the disadvantageous consequences of the functioning of market mechanisms.
A summary of PSL outlook is that :
- PSL acknowledges the dominating role of private property which shall cover most of the national property. Simultaneously, it considers the functioning of State-, community- and co-operative property essential.
- In the opinion of the Polish Peasants’ Party, Poland’s agricultural system should be based on family-owned farms, supplying products to the market and providing their owners with income comparable with the income of city dwellers. Other small farms are also desirable, as they are oriented towards self-sufficiency and absorb some of the unemployed.
- PSL supports the decentralisation of administration and management — increasing the role of territorial self-governments, particularly at their basic level, the municipalities.
- PSL supports the principle of universally accessible and free education on all levels, from kindergartens to institutions of higher education. In the opinion of PSL, concern for national culture is an indispensable duty of the State. Cultural policy shall include the protection of material and spiritual heritage, protection of artistic creations, promotion of talent and development of cultural education, and the establishing of conditions conducive to participation in culture. The Polish Peasants’ Party also acknowledges that Poland is the fatherland of all Polish people living around the world; for this reason it will always support the efforts of Polish people living beyond its borders in their efforts to preserve their national identity, traditions and language.
The Polish Peasants’ Party supports the concept of unrestrained development of international relations. In the Party’s view, Poland should be open to co-operation with other States, provided that such co-operation is based on respecting the sovereignty of all States, and recognises their rights to safe existence and comprehensive development. The Party supports bilaterally advantageous co-operation, devoid of any intent of subordination or domination of one country by another. It supports the concept of granting ethnic and national minorities the rights and conditions to maintain their own cultures and language.
These are the principles which, say the Polish Peasants’ Party, must underlie the process of Poland’s integration with the European Union. The entire nation shall express its opinion on the accession to the Union by way of a national referendum. The position taken by the Polish Peasants’ Party on concrete and current social and economic issues results from these superior political and systemic assumptions.
The POLISH PEASANTS’ PARTY (PSL) website is at http://www.psl.org.pl/
Patrik Ehn is a member of the Swedish Centre Party