THE CONFLICT between the EU Commission and the misnamed Law and Justice government in Poland is a case — to adapt Oscar Wilde — of the unedifying in pursuit of the unspeakable.
The irony of an unelected elite of bureaucrats in Brussels, together with the unelected President of the European Council, lecturing an elected national government on the virtues of democracy would normally occasion at least a wry smile.
However, in this case the EU Commission is objecting to yet another reactionary move against Poland’s judiciary by a very reactionary regime in Warsaw.
The sweeping powers to dismiss and appoint the country’s judges backed by the ruling Law and Justice Party do not bode well for civil and political liberties in Poland.
The EU Commission professes concern about the “rule of law” and threatens to invoke Article 7.
That would involve all EU member states unanimously agreeing to warn the Polish government about its conduct.
This in turn could lead to Poland losing its voting rights in various EU institutions.
Of course, it could be that all the fearsome pronouncements by Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans and EU Council President Donald Tusk — a bitter political rival of Law and Justice leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski — are merely a melange of hot air and blether.
The EU Commission has never lifted a finger to block anti-democratic measures taken against immigrants, trade unionists, socialists and communists in numerous EU member states.
And as Kaczynski points out when calling the EU’s bluff: “Too many interests, including economic ones, want the possibility to further exploit Poland.”
It’s certainly true that German big business led the way in buying up large parts of the former socialist economies of eastern Europe at bargain basement prices, followed by the capitalists of France, Britain and Italy.
Western Europe’s capitalists also value that region’s position as a source of cheap migrant labour too much to expel Poland from the grip of EU free market fundamentalism.
It would be a triumph of naivety over experience to imagine that EU bureaucrats and politicians would willingly destabilise these lucrative arrangements in the cause of civil and political liberties.
At the same time, many thousands of Poles are protesting against their power-hungry, authoritarian regime in Warsaw.
They deserve sympathy, but should drop any delusions that they have a staunch pro-democracy ally in Brussels or Strasbourg.
If the EU Commission fights and wins this struggle over the Supreme Court Bill now before the Polish parliament, it will confirm the bureaucracy’s view that it should and can exercise sovereignty over democratically elected governments, whether the latter are progressive or reactionary.
Should victory go Kaczynski and his right-wing MPs, they will feel encouraged to dismantle more of the fragile democratic and social rights of the Polish people.
Ideally, therefore, victory needs to be won by the people of Poland, supported by democrats and progressives everywhere.