The democratic opposition in Poland has had the worst luck when it comes to the weather. The now famous “Black Monday” march from last October was successful despite the elements, but similar weather today (41 degrees Fahrenheit – 5 Celsius – and a steady rain) undoubtedly kept the size of the crowd down. Under the circumstances, though, it was impressive. The march was organized by KOD (the Committee for the Defense of Democracy), and focused primarily on the independence of the judiciary and the preservation of local self-government. After last week’s absurd attempt by the PiS government to block Donald Tusk’s second term as EU Council President (and their defeat by a vote of 27-1), the protests today also had a strong pro-EU theme.
This highlights a challenge facing the opposition here, and in the US as well. When confronted by an ongoing cascade of attacks on constitutional democracy and simple decency, it’s hard to focus attention and organizational effort on a single outrage. Even coming up with a list of demands becomes difficult, because the terrain shifts so often. Without a clear and focused goal, however, the opposition becomes dispersed and unclear. The October protests had one clear objective: stop the government’s plan to completely outlaw abortion. And that goal was accomplished–the only successful challenge to PiS so far. Today’s march was aimed at the preservation of constitutional rule-of-law, democracy, and European integration. I’m not even sure what it would take for such a march to be called a success. The point, I suspect, is mainly to sustain the morale of the opposition, without any real hope that they can actually block the PiS regime’s relentless assault on the constitution. If we accept that this fight is almost certain to continue for years, then protesting for the sake of maintaining camaraderie and commitment is a good strategy. Maybe the only strategy.