*Poland and its Arab Spring
Combining Protest With Action
Finally, while the public mobilization of street protests has been impressive, Poland’s activists have also made sure to pair those protests with concrete actions. For example, when the government proposed a new abortion law that would subject women who terminate their pregnancies to a five-year prison sentence, women took to the streets to protest, but they also initiated a one-day work strike.
Clearly some progress has been made, but crucial elements are still missing. The first is unity. While the individual activist groups have been effective in their own way, there has been little effort to join forces in collective action.
Second, while the opposition forces in Poland have been somewhat successful in defending democratic institutions, they have mostly been on defense, reacting to government actions they see as unjust. To create sustainable change, they must go on offense.
Last and most important is to develop an affirmative vision for the future. In Poland, a devout Catholic country, PiS’s message of traditional values has resonance. What is the opposition’s vision of tomorrow? They have made clear what they are against, but what positive reforms can they propose?
In the past, membership in the European Union and NATO proved to be a powerful raison d’être for pro-democracy elements of Polish society. However, with the legitimacy of those institutions somewhat diminished by events in Hungary, Great Britain, and the United States, a new vision must be forged that captures the imagination of the Polish people.
This is not a uniquely Polish problem. In a number of Western countries today, democratic institutions are vulnerable to rising authoritarian sentiment amid political divisiveness and social disunity. Yet once again, Poland has the opportunity to pave the way.
Srdja Popovic was one of the founders of the Serbian nonviolent resistance group Otpor! whose campaign against Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic was successful in October 2000 when thousands of protesters took over the Serbian Parliament.
He is executive director of the Centre for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies and author of Blueprint for Revolution. Greg Satell is an author, speaker and advisor. His first book, Mapping Innovation: A Playbook for Navigating a Disruptive Age, was selected as one of the best business books of 2017. Follow his blog at Digital Tonto or on twitter @DigitalTonto. The views expressed are the authors’ own.
* The publication is not an editorial. It reflects solely the point of view and argumentation of the author. The publication is presented in the presentation. Start in the previous issue. The original is available at :http://realclearworld.com
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