Monday, April 09, 2007

The Roots of Russophobia

Opinion article by Ignacio Ramonet, editor-in-chief of Le Monde diplomatique for the International Herald Tribune, titled "Witch Hunt in Poland"

The Poles call it the law of lustration, a term meaning ritual purification; the word has strong connotations of repentance and penitence in Poland, where history and Catholicism are so closely intertwined.

Under the law, which was passed last October and entered into force on March 15 this year, 700,000 Poles are required to confess any collaboration with the Communists between 1945 and 1989.

All senior civil servants, university professors, lawyers, headmasters and journalists born before 1972 must now confess their past sins by May 15.

They must all fill in a form and answer the question: "Did you secretly and knowingly collaborate with the former Communist security services?" <...>

Journalists employed in any public service will be dismissed automatically if they collaborated. Anyone who refuses to answer the question or who is proved to have lied may be banned from their profession for 10 years. <...>

It is the main feature of a witch hunt launched by the authorities after the conservative president, Lech Kaczynski, and his twin brother, Prime Minister Jaroskaw Kaczynski, came to power in Poland in the October 2005 election. <...>

These anti-Communist purges and attempts to re-impose an authoritarian moral order in Poland - and also to some extent in Ukraine, Lithuania and other countries formerly in the eastern bloc - conceal a worrying nostalgia for the period before World War II, when racism was blatant. Some of those caught up in the current wave of revisionism go as far as extolling collaboration with the Third Reich against the Soviet Union.

The idea, so popular with the media, that Vladimir Putin's Russia is merely a covert extension of the old USSR inspires the spirit that prompted Warsaw to agree to install on Polish territory the anti-missile shield designed by the Pentagon to protect the United States.

It did that without deigning to consult its partners in the European Union and NATO. Which goes to show that paranoia in politics can lead not only to spiritual atrophy but also to a special form of treachery.

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