“Patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels.” The quote is from the British poet and essayist Samuel Johnson, and although there has been a lot of rain since 1775, it is still politically valid and can be applied to any populist politician in any corner of the planet. It is the one used by the Polish opposition when referring to the governmental Law and Justice party (PiS) and its leader, the ultranationalist Jaroslaw Kaczynski.
At first glance, Kaczynski, short and stocky, inspires tenderness. At 74 years old, he retains the face of the boy he starred in in the 1962 movie with his twin brother. two on the moon, although the death in 2010 of Lech, then president of Poland, in the Smolensk plane crash, tarnished his gesture. Jaroslaw spent a long mourning at his mother’s house and with his cats, because unlike Lech, he never abandoned his bachelorhood. His love was politics, and to possibly catalyze his pain he forged with catlike stealth the way to turn personal loss into political bonanza.
In 2020, he decided to run for president, convinced that voters’ compassion for his dead brother would give him a certain advantage over his opponent. But he lost, and reluctantly. He blamed his defeat on post-communists, Jews, former members of the “communist” secret police, and the “evil force” of traitors to the fatherland. That’s the Kaczynski model. Attacks anyone who does not dance to his ultranationalist impulses or criticize a State model in which the cross is not only a religious symbol for Catholic believers but also a national one.
Poland’s strongman has always been less visible than Hungary’s Viktor Orban or Italy’s Matteo Salvini, but he is a key player in weakening the very foundations of the judiciary or, more generally, of the separation of powers. Kaczynski feels most comfortable in the shadows, pulling the strings of power. Kaczynski acts from within, He is the plumber who watches over and nourishes the pipes of PiS and its nationalism. In these elections, Poland’s strongman has refused to participate in television debates.
Jaroslaw’s entry into politics began in the 1970s. Always walking alongside his twin, he joined the pro-Western liberal opposition to the communist regime, and later, in the 1980s, the Solidarity organization. The brothers combined his activism with higher law studies.