European Integration as Self-Colonization? The Appropriation of Postcolonial Theory by Polish Eurosceptic

The contemporary phenomenon of euroscepticism prevalent among members of the Polish right can be read as a self-colonization narrative according to which European integration is nothing short of yet another attempt to colonize Poland. According to this view, the integration promoted by a pro-Europe elite suffering from symptoms of postcolonial syndrome has had negative repercussions for the economic and social spheres. This is not the first time that postcolonial theory has been co-opted by right-wing journalists, politicians and scholars (namely, by acolytes of the Law and Justice party) to critique the transformation period, the elite, and the people of the “Third Polish Republic.” Much of this rhetoric can be traced back to Ewa Thompson, professor of comparative literature and Slavic studies at Rice University in Houston. In her research, Thompson uses postcolonial theory to think about Poland’s historical legacy. A number of actions inconsistent with the nationalist and conservative vision (in particular, the rejection of the conspiracy theory that the Smoleńsk catastrophe was an assassination attempt) have been seized as solid evidence that their political adversaries are motivated by a postcolonial mentality. To speak more generally, the pro-European political elite are portrayed as turncoats who have betrayed the essence of Polishness at the service of Western nations. Meanwhile, run-of-the-mill proponents of European integration are portrayed as “sheeples”, who must be rescued from their own ignorance and emancipated. What is more, this interpretation of European integration has also permeated social groups that would ordinarily be prone to pro-European attitudes – namely, urban university students. Theorists of euroscepticism have drawn a distinction between “hard” euroscepticism (represented by an actual desire for Poland to secede from the European Union or reject the EU’s core policies) and “soft” euroscepticism (the belief that national interest is in natural conflict with the EU’s current trajectory of development, a resistance to integration in specific spheres, and hostility toward extensive integration and the idea of a “federal” Europe.) The Polish right, and in particular, the elected officials of the Law and Justice party, clarifies that as a movement, it does not propose secession from the European Union. These officials would, however, certainly qualify as “soft” eurosceptics.