As the Millennials the world over seem to be going ga-ga for socialism, there is one country that’s bucking the trend:
In Poland, the young generation’s shift to the right is neither a temporary trend nor an expression of protest. It represents a new self-image that has grown with the politics of recent years. Young Poles long for post-material values such as the church, tradition and security.
This shift made its mark for the first time in the 2015 parliamentary elections. Two-thirds of voters between 18 and 29 supported parties to the right of center. The national-conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party, which today governs Poland, received 27 percent of their votes. A further 21 percent went to the new right-wing populist movement Kukiz’15. The regional elections in October confirmed this pattern. Again, PiS won the most votes in this age group and Kukiz’15 was also able to count on their continuing support.
“In the past three years, young Poles have turned even more towards conservative values,” said social psychologist Marta Majchrzak, who co-authored a study published in November by the commercial research institute IQS in which scientists interviewed childless Poles between the ages of 16 and 29. “They trust authorities, are dreaming of marriage, and are proud to be Polish citizens,” she explained.
The study classified only 9 percent of respondents as “cosmopolitan” and “open to being different.”
Terms like “cosmopolitan”, “globalist”, “nationalist”, “populist”, or for that matter “far-right” and “fascist” get bandied around so much these days, mostly as insults, that they are losing any objective meaning. They are also used to create false and unhelpful dichotomies, only useful in rhetorical battles and not as an accurate way to see the reality. I’m interested in the world out there, like travel and learning about other places and cultures, eat and cook exotic food and have friends from all backgrounds and walks of life – which all would technically make me “cosmopolitan”, except that I’m also a big fan of nation state and the Western Civ, and not that keen on transnational utopias, open borders and cultural relativism. I suspect that young Poles are not dissimilar in that regard, and if they look to the Western Europe, which most of them do, they don’t see why they should accept the whole crazy pushed by Brussels, Berlin and Paris. The EUrocrats don’t own the exclusive rights to being European.
The young generation wants a regulated economic system precisely because the economic situation has improved in recent years. “Young Poles compare Poland’s secure situation with the disorder in the world,” said Majchrzak. According to the IQS study, Poland’s youth view their country as a safe exclave that protects them from the world’s uncertainties. Three out of four respondents said they were against accepting refugees. Almost one-third said they would give up personal freedoms for more law and order.
However, this does not mean that young Poles are moving away from democratic values. “This generation is by no means right-wing radical. Young Poles are apolitical, which is why votes for the more radical parties carry more weight,” said sociologist Henryk Domanski, who serves as director of the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology at the Polish Academy of Sciences. This also became apparent during the regional elections last autumn: A heated battle for votes took place between PO and PiS. The election campaign saw the largest voter turnout since 1990 at around 51 percent. But amongst 18 to 29-year-olds, only 37 percent voted.
So the Polish youth is just as apathetic as the British youth, if the Brexit referendum is anything to go by, but they’re actually the opposite to the British youth in their voting preferences. A word of caution and clarification, though: the Polish politics at the moment is so peculiar that the main opposition party, PO (Platforma Obywatelska or Civic Platform), which is contrasted to the “right” in this story, would in most other countries (certainly the English-speaking ones) be considered to be a centre-right party too; it’s just liberal rather than conservative or nationalistic. So the fact that “Two-thirds of voters between 18 and 29 supported parties to the right of center” doesn’t mean that the other one third all support socialists or the Greens; most of them support a different vision of the right, perhaps more David Cameron and John McCain than Boris Johnson and Donald Trump. Most of the young Polish people I know fall into this category; if they lived and voted overseas they would be American Republicans and Australian Liberals.
Perhaps we need a Polish youth invasion of the West.