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Omar and Osama's Kampf

History possesses many stories like this: a political party emerges, and most people think it a bad or sick joke. Everyone tries to ignore it; that is, when they are not laughing at it. Suddenly, the economy becomes bad or an external threat looms and that party marches toward power. When it seizes the government - think of Hitler, Lenin, Mussolini, even of Mullah Omar in Afghanistan - all laughter stops.

In Poland, a ``joke'' party of malignant intentions is emerging. Called ``Self-defense,'' it voices (it says) the discontents of poor farmers and those displaced and radically dissatisfied with politics here. The leader of ``Self-defense'' is a shrill primitive named Andrzej Lepper. A thuggish guttersnipe more akin to Aleksander Lukashenka, the dictator of Belarus, than to the great dictators, Lepper nonetheless represents a hideous post-modern form of irrational politics.

For this reason, I cannot laugh at him. Hitler, Lenin, and Mussolini sought power in order to use the state to impose their will and their programs. Today's anti-democrats, however, view the state as an obstacle. They want to gut state power so that jackals like themselves can feed on the corpse.

``Self-defense'' has participated in several parliamentary elections but never received more than 2% of the vote before this year. Three weeks before last September's elections, opinion polls gave it 7-8 % of the vote. Everyone thought this an exaggeration, but when the balloting ended, ``Self-defense'' had secured nearly 11% of the vote and was parliament's third largest party.