A plane carrying much of Poland's political leadership, including its president, has crashed in Russia. It's a tragedy, of course, but while reading about it in the NY Times I couldn't help but be annoyed by this sentence:
"The two countries had been making strides in recent months to improve their ties, which had been strained since the days of communism, when Poland was a Soviet satellite."
It's amazing that somebody at the Times, somebody whose job is apparently to report on Poland, thinks or can get away with pretending to think, that the Russian-Polish rivalry dates to "the days of communism." Or that it ever had anything to do with communism.
Russia and Poland had been at war with each other in pretty much every century since the 11th. The two countries tried to swallow one another whole several times. For example, Russia's main state holiday, its rough equivalent of other nations' Independence Days, is the anniversary of the Russian popular uprising that chased Polish occupiers out of Moscow in 1612. Oh, you didn't know that the Polish army once occupied Moscow? Then you shouldn't be reporting on Poland for the New York freaking Times!
The article points out the irony of this tragedy occurring near the place in the Smolensk region where thousands of Polish officers were executed by the Soviets in 1940. But anyone who knows anything about the history of that region is more likely to remember that Russia and Poland fought several incredibly bloody wars for Smolensk in the 16th and 17th centuries. The human toll of every one of those wars surpassed that of the Katyn massacre many times over. Ethnically the Smolensk region was always Russian, so its repeated occupations by Poland could never be described as anything but foreign aggression.
What, you're saying that such imperialistic attitudes died centuries ago? Then obviously you are unfamiliar with the concept of Intermarum. Jozef Pilsudski, Poland's leader between 1926 and 1935, wanted Poland to once again run the entire area between the Baltic and the Black seas, calling it Międzymorze in Polish and Intermarum in Latin (both words translate as between-the-seas).
"Józef Piłsudski's strategic goal was to resurrect an updated form of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, while working for the disintegration of the Russian Empire, and later the Soviet Union, into its ethnic constituents. (The latter was his Prometheist project.)"
You've got to give the guy credit for ballsiness. An attempt to put that project into practice would have rivaled WWII in scale. This map of it is nothing but insane. It shows Poland running an area with a population at least 5 times greater than its own. And the reason why guys like Pilsudki didn't just go for it was weakness, not humanitarianism or lack of desire.
Back to Communism:
In the 1920s and 1930s, while Soviet Communism still conformed to Marx's and Lenin's original direction, The New York Times was one of its biggest fans. But when after the war Stalin remade Soviet Communism into its polar opposite (Russian nationalism), the Times and similar organizations suddenly became anti-communist. Which is to say that they kept true to Marx's and Lenin's original conception of Communism, while Stalin severely deviated from it. But since he continued to call his government Communist, the New York Times, together with the US government, started calling themselves anti-communist in order to better express their disapproval of him. It's confusing, I know.
Polish nationalists, who understandably hated the Russian occupation of their country after WWII, started exploiting this change in terminology as soon as they caught on to it. Guys like Lech Walesa, to get sympathy from half a world away, portrayed the latest round in their millennial conflict with Russia as a struggle against communism, not as a struggle against Russians as an occupying people. Did he realize that actual Communism died in Eastern Europe in 1946 and that the guys whose help he was seeking against the Russians were actually Marx's primary political heirs? I'm sure he did.
The more you think about politics, the more you realize that all of the intelligent, pragmatic actors in it are moved by ethnocentrism, i.e. by Darwinian forces. Ideologies like communism, libertarianism, PC, anti-racism, feminism, Islamism, what have you, are for the most part ruses. The people who believe in them sincerely are chumps, losers, detritus lining history's road.
Not that mere observers like me, whose political involvement is limited to laughing at these ruses in private or on blogs that nobody reads, aren't losers ourselves. Of course we are. I'm not trying to get onto any high horses here. It's just an observation.