Prof. Jan Żaryn: The achievements of Polish economic thought also respond to today’s challenges

“In Polish economic achievements, we have extremely valuable economists who, after getting acquainted with their achievements, could become outstanding authorities, also for today’s challenges” – said Prof. Jan Żaryn, head of the Institute of National Thought Heritage during the panel of Animators of Poland’s Image in Europe at the Congress590. According to the historian, Polish economic thought can become not only a tool for dialogue with other countries, but also for promoting the image of our country, not only in Europe.

Referring to the need to combat historical distortions, prof. Jan Żaryn noted that “this fight for the truth about the history of Poland, about Poles in the European and world space must be long, because this is how it is with human memory in large national and international communities that various myths are perpetuated”. “Myths play a positive role anyway, they build a certain communication. The only problem is that we did not participate in this myth-building for many years – from 1939 to the 1990s – and the world sorted out these myths about World War II world, or, for example, the recognition that there is a very serious difference between the Bolshevik experience of terrorism and the Nazi experience. From our perspective, these experiences are very close from the point of view of paganism and moving away from European civilization. We were unable to enter with our achievements into this world, which ultimately introduced a kind of communication myths, and they are very important” – he explained the reasons why there are many distortions about the history of the Polish state in the world’s public space.

The head of the Institute of National Thought Heritage drew attention to Polish economic thought, which, being also applicable today, can become a lever for the promotion of Poland’s image in Europe. “The economic world is characterized by the fact that it builds a dialogue, communicates at the level of interests and profits, but in order to communicate with each other, you need to come with this cultural background, because it is an indispensable condition for establishing relationships” – Prof. Żaryn said. “We are not only doomed to the mission of unblocking the existing false myths about Poles. The world of economists has a great chance to use various kinds of achievements of the Polish nation as part of building economic relations” – he pointed out, adding that “in Polish economic achievements we have extremely valuable economists who could, after getting acquainted with their achievements, become outstanding authorities, also for today’s challenges.

He gave the Grabski brothers as an example. “Władysław Grabski as the founder of Bank Polski in 1924 – let me remind you that next year will be the 100th anniversary, which is worth using in this missionary nature of talking to the world about Polish economic achievements – a man who has done an extraordinary work when it comes to building Bank Polski. Despite very far-reaching promptings of dependence on external banking structures, because that is how these loans would bear fruit, he decided that within the Polish society, within the Polish nation, which was burdened with a very deep economic crisis at that time, but there are such resources of patriotism that result in the material possibility of extracting from the crisis and the establishment of the bank by its own efforts” – he reminded.

Prof. Żaryn pointed out that “this project resulted in the Polish zloty standing at the level of the Swiss franc, and basically from that time until World War II, the zloty was a very serious coin on the international market, and after all, we were not on the international market for 123 years, so it really is it’s a huge achievement”.

“Another sensational economist, Roman Rybarski, a nationalist, an outstanding member of the National League and then the main author of the program of the National Party in the interwar period. His science is very useful today. For example, we have a migration problem in Europe. Well, this is not just a problem of the day. Polish economists of the interwar period, especially those who belonged to the national camp, had their own problems, brave questions they asked – today they are accused of anti-Semitism – and at the same time, thanks to the courage to ask questions, they sought answers” – said prof. Żaryn referring to economic problems related to the lack of assimilation of the Jewish population in Poland.

“Of course, it would be best for the development of Polish society if the phenomenon of assimilation took place – especially in the Jewish community, because it had economic potential. Unfortunately, this phenomenon did not take place. The Jewish minority itself was not interested in entering family and Christian structures, in establishing, therefore, through the family and the mixing of these families with Polish culture. The very strong hermetic nature of Orthodox Jews meant that externally ‘unclean’ Christians were not allowed to come into contact with this minority” – he noted. He pointed out that assimilation is a deep family phenomenon.

“Roman Rybarski was looking for an answer to the question of how the Polish economy of the interwar period – this can be extended to the whole of Europe – deal with its economic condition regarding unemployment, development or disappearance of development of certain spheres of the economy, for example blocking various types of markets that, due to lack of assimilation cannot progress. These questions are very relevant today” – he continued his thought.

In his opinion, this can be translated into today’s European reality, “where Muslims function in Europe and undoubtedly give us not only discomfort”. “Either go towards assimilation, i.e. a certain phenomenon that has failed, or look for answers on how to change the European economy with understanding the reality that there will be no assimilation” – he noted. “These are not only today’s lessons. There are answers to them in the programmes, thinking, mental achievements of pre-war Polish economists and it is worth reaching for them” – he concluded.

At the same time, he drew attention to Rybarski’s idea that “real macroeconomics cannot be done in an environment that has nothing in common, or has too little in common to create a community”. “If the economy is to function well, the only community that gives such a chance is the nation. Europe as a continent already has too many discrepancies between itself to create such economic phenomena that would satisfy the entire continent in the name of all-state and all-Polishness. The discrepancy is so far-reaching that it will be a theoretical bubble, not a practice of economic life. This is a very important experience of those Polish economists who suggest that a nation is not an invented phenomenon, but a natural one from the point of view of the culture of a given society, and without this culture it is impossible to communicate, so it must be the basis. And in the case of Poland, the achievements of Polish economists said that profit is not the most important, it is not the goal, the goal is man, and therefore there is no economy without morality” – the historian said.

“If we wrest morality from economics, humanity will become the slavery of profit. And both communism will be a phenomenon that will usurp the right to claim to solve the problem, as will any other totalitarianism. It will be an encouragement to totalitarian thinking. Let there be no incentives, let’s give ourselves the right to include economics in the moral system, which guarantees the functioning of healthy rules in the name of all-stateness and all-Polishness” – he concluded.

Anna Wiejak

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