Viewed from the energy production perspective, the transition from “socialist” PRL (People’s Republic of Poland) to capitalist/neoliberal Poland hasn’t been significant. Both political formations underline/d their devotion to coal as primary source of energy and guarantor of country’s energy sovereignty. Today more than 80% of electricity is produced by coal burning. Despite major brakes regarding organization of production, management styles and ownership it is still coal that constitutes the base of new capitalist economy and any attempts to reduce its importance are received with considerable skepticism.
Building on historical importance of coal for PRL’s industrializing economy and the “cult” of miners as “crème de la crème” of the PRL’s working class I will explore current obstacles for the introduction of European climate policies and – more generally – of post-extractivistic approaches to power generation. I will especially focus on the environmental discourse of polish trade unions and the growing contradiction between labour and environmental values. This contradiction is reinforced on the symbolic level where coal mining – an unhealthy, risky and polluting industry – is seen as an element of national identity and also the last bastion of the workers pride and the last step before total neoliberalisation of Polish society. In result this specific postcommunist nostalgia mixed with current nationalistic governance gives rise to paradoxical alliances of trade unions, employers and state against climate change policies and blocks other – more progressive alliances focused on the creation of a common front for clean environment and more socially just politics.
This media entry was a contribution to the special session „Climate, labour and nationalism – Polish uneasy transition towards a carbon-free and just society “ at the 5th International Degrowth Conference in Budapest in 2016.