Democracy tarnishes its heroes as surely as revolutions devour their children. For 25 years, the leaders of Solidarity personified the qualities needed to win Poland’s struggle for democracy: unbending courage in the face of the communist Leviathan and magnanimity and clear-sighted determination during the transfer of power. All of these were great and noble qualities, and all of them now seem utterly superfluous to most Poles.
That is the sad lesson of Poland’s parliamentary election two weeks ago, and of Sunday’s indecisive presidential election (which will be decided by a run off between Donald Tusk and Lech Kaczynski on October 23rd.) To be sure, the communists-cum-postcommunists who have dominated Polish politics since 1989 were utterly repudiated – the left got scarcely 11% of the vote in the parliamentary poll. But Solidarity’s old guard has also been cast aside. Poland yearns for something new.