The editor-in-chief of Poland’s daily “Gazeta Wyborcza” and former anti-communist dissident intellectual Adam Michnik has condemned Brexit, which he thinks should be understood like fascism and bolshevism came to be understood as being the wrong answers to the post-WWI crisis in Europe.
Mr Michnik argues that “European democracy has lost this time round” because “populist politicians” with views “alien to democratic values” found false answers to real problems such as globalisation, inequality, and the financial and migration crisis.
“Brexit is an answer which should be understood just as it was necessary to understand fascism and bolshevism as answers to the post-WWI crisis in Europe. But these were false answers, tragic in their consequences,” writes Adam Michnik.
He goes on to argue that the Polish opposition to the current Law and Justice (PiS) government should heed the lessons of the British general election. He argues that anti-Brexit parties gained more votes than the pro-Brexit parties but because of disunity and the electoral system they lost.
He fears that unless the opposition can unite and win the Presidential election, Poland may end up leaving the EU. In this he is reflecting the views of Donald Tusk who has said that Poland could effectively be thrown out of the EU.
It is impossible to write about Brexit without acknowledging that it was a democratic decision taken on a record turnout with a record number of votes ever recorded in a British election or referendum. All of Britain’s political parties declared that they would abide by the result. The major parties, Conservative and Labour, reaffirmed that pledge in the 2017 general election.
The 2019 general election in Britain was not just about Brexit. No election is ever about just one issue. So its simplistic to try and treat the vote tallies of the individual parties as being definitive votes for or against Brexit.
This is why calling Brexit a defeat for democracy is questionable. It is also hard to see which European values Brexit questions. Democracy? Rule of law? Human rights? Since it is Mr Michnik who is making the argument he needs to explain.
And he will also have some explaining to do with regard to comparing Brexit as an event as consequential as the rise of fascism and bolshevism in Europe. In doing so, he is effectively arguing that all politicians who seek national sovereignty are totalitarians.
In addition, comparing a democratic vote and establishing a new type relations between Britian and the European Union to the genocide and tyranny of Bolshevik communism and Nazi fascism will for many be a bridge far too far.
Brexit is an unknown. No one has ever left the EU in its history. Just as no one had ever abandoned communism before the Central Europeans did. We cannot be sure what the consequences will be. But to compare the British to the Bloshevik and fascist totalitarians for deciding to pursue their own way, in accordance with the EU Lisbon Treaty which actually envisages such a route, is outrageous.
If that was to be the view taken by the Polish state or opposition it would make future relations with Britain difficult. Fortunately, it is the view of one influential newspaper editor and not of Poles as a people or a state.
As for “Polexit” it is a red herring. There is no mechanism for expelling a member state. A member state can be sanctioned, but not expelled. Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty is the only basis on which a country can leave the EU and it can only be activated by that country and no one else.