I have been a regular reader of “Polityka” for almost a decade. Week by week, for all those years, I have never missed a single issue; even when I would go holidaying abroad, the recent issues would wait for me on my bedside table so that I could catch up. The case with newspapers is that the choice of what you read is affected by your views and in turn what you read reinforces your views.
The line of “Polityka”, if words such as “moderate”, “common-sense-oriented” are to averted, could be best described as leftist-liberal. In economic issues most of the weekly’s journalists advocate free market economy, however important social issues are not neglected and more leftist point of view is represented by Mr Zakowski. In social terms, the newspaper’s line is fairly leftist. It favours tolerance, autonomy of an individual and concept of division between the state and the Church, yet it is far from embracing extreme anti-clericalism or promoting gay marriages.
Unlike some of the weeklies, it is not affiliated with any particular party, yet by dint of its line, it locates somewhere between PO and SLD, yet with a tilt at the former and far from lunatic Twój Ruch whose agenda would seemingly best square with the line of the weekly.
The history of the weekly traces back to 1957. Soon after the first thaw in the PRL petered out, one of the government’s actions aimed at clamping down on sprawling liberal ideas. The weekly, meant to be hard-line soon became the most liberal of the party-supervised newspapers and with manifold tribulations enjoyed that status even in the darkest days of the next decades. Unlike other weeklies it has never drastically changed its line, despite changing times and changing governments it has held on to the same beliefs.
In the recent months when tone of the public discourse drifted right, I particularly appreciated to voice of reason flowing from the pages of “Polityka”. In many controversial issues the weekly’s journalists had the temerity to stand up for common sense and many times became dissenters since their attitude much differed from the new ‘mainstream’. When “Jack Strong” went to silver screen, the weekly published a series of articles dealing with morality of spies and loyalty to one’s own country which dwelled on ambiguity of moral assessment of colonel Kuklinski. After general Jaruzelski’s death it published a comprehensive article on the tragic life of the general in which it balanced out all his sins and merits of the late general. It was far from calling the general a hero or a traitor, but showed that neither condemnation nor glorification was what he deserved. The attitude towards People’s Poland is also far from right-wing vision of rewritten history – the weekly recognises Poland between 1945 and 1989 was a satellite country of the Soviet Union, yet still it was Poland, home to millions of Poles, built by millions of Poles who lived and worked in that system not to support communism, but for Poland, tragically disfigured by big politics. The weekly never openly attacks the Church, but has courage to politely criticise it and defends the value of secular state. When it came to abortion, in weeks following the outbreak of the recent scandal, it dedicated several articles to ethical issues indispensably linked to abortion. While defending the current law and the pro-choice stance, it published an interview with professor Chazan, thus giving its readers the chance to get to know the arguments of the other side of the dispute. The most recent issue, unlike almost all the other media, refrains from venerating the cult of Warsaw’s insurgents, but it delicately calls into question the sense of aftermaths Warsaw Uprising. It does not try to persuade the reader neither the uprising was a total disaster, nor that it was the most admired patriotic mutiny; it simply leaves the reader with arguments of both sides. Oddly enough, opponents of the sense of uprising hardly ever get the change to break through to mainstream media.
On occasion of the seventieth anniversary, my take has not changed – commemorate, but not celebrate. Death toll of two hundred thousand and one of the biggest capital’s of pre-war Europe obliterated with survivors driven out of the city give no reason to be cheerful.
I do hold dear the balanced look at many issues “Polityka” offers me, but I keep in mind the Biblical message of lukewarm Christians who would be turned away. By balancing out different opinions and not taking firmly anyone’s side, the weekly is lukewarm. I wish it had more courage to speak out against the mainstream.