Polish pre-WWII borders and elections results.

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Sid Guttridge
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Re: Polish pre-WWII borders and elections results.

Post by Sid Guttridge » 13 Aug 2020 00:03

Hi wm,

Indeed, US Evangelicals can be extremely dogmatic themselves. However, unlike the monolithic Roman Catholic Church, they are a disparate grouping. Many are just "one man bands".

And how big was Poland's "democratic" electorate and of whom did it consist? I am not sure 10000+ hereditary aristocrats qualifies Poland as a democracy. In the two hundred years following 1563, there were apparently only 10 elections, most of which were just to confirm a hereditary succession.

Certainly the Protestants conducted multiple witch trials. However, witch trials predated Protestantism and were an inheritance from Catholicism, the Inquisition having been given charge of them. Witchcraft trials were a widespread European phenomenon and not confined to Protestant areas, even if more common there.

Besides, how does this affect what I am suggesting about Roman Catholicism and the 20th Century?

Poland, Hungary and Slovakia joined a liberal democratic European Union in the 1990s. Since then the two former seem to be drifting away from liberal democracy.

Who is looking for morally superior places to interbellum Poland? Not me!

Nor have I ever contended that the Catholic Church pulled the strings of particular Polish governments, so I don't have to defend that either.

Cheers,

Sid.

gebhk
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Re: Polish pre-WWII borders and elections results.

Post by gebhk » 13 Aug 2020 14:37

Hi Sid

I only brought up Adolf because you did, seemingly in support of your thesis. In the light of your answer, I think we agree that he was not particularly influenced by any church but was an extraordinary individual and therefore not a particularly useful case-history for examining the phenomenon (the phenomenon being the effect of the ethos of the Roman Catholic Church on acceptance of authoritarian secular government). Indeed, examining individual case histories is probably of little value in this context.

You say that “The correlation between the development of liberal democracy and Protestantism is widely recognised”. Please excuse my professional scepticism, but whenever I see the words ‘widely recognised’ and ‘consensus’, I immediately start suspecting that what we are talking about is widely held opinion based on assumption and, at most, conveniently selected evidence rather than something that can be supported by reliable evidence. Germany could be considered an interesting case study in this context. After all, the birthplace of Protestantism and a country which was predominantly Protestant and which nevertheless produced some of the most authoritarian regimes of modern times, culminating in the NAZI state – arguably the very antithesis of liberal democracy. There is considerable evidence that German Catholics were initially less supportive of AH than German Protestants and that the strongest bastions of democracy in Weimar Germany were the Catholic-dominated ones.

Nevertheless, I am open to the possibility that such a correlation exists, albeit I suspect that this correlation is weak and I await reliable evidence of correlation, (which, by definition is going to be very difficult). And if so, I have to agree that there is “no inherent reason why there may not be a similar correlation between Catholicism and authoritarianism”.

However, where we seem to disagree (and perhaps will have to agree to disagree) is that there is necessarily a causative link and if so, which way it goes. You miss my point about "In other words, do devout Catholics become accepting of authority or do those accepting of authority become devout Catholics?", probably because you’ve missed the significance of the word ‘devout’ in that sentence. I am not suggesting people choose and/or change their religious denomination in line with their feelings about authoritarianism (or anything else for that matter). Rather, I suggest that the relevance of church (ie religiosity) dwindles in people’s lives if the church’s position diverges too far from the believer’s own position. The church, therefore, has limited ability to influence people’s behaviour. This is because, according to Spelkuch & Tillmann’s statistical analyses of German voting patterns in the early 30’s (Elite Influence? Religion and the electoral success of the Nazis, 2017), people will follow the prescriptions of the church up to a point and only if the church has a palatable alternative option.

The church’s opposition to the Nazis only succeeded among its parishioners while the centre-right-wing but democratic Zentrum party existed as an acceptable ‘church approved’ alternative. There being no such alternative for the ‘lefties’, voting for the communist KPD showed no difference between German Protestants and Catholics despite the Church’s strident opposition to it. The Catholic church resisted the Nazis initially, for political reasons. However, once it withdrew its opposition to the Nazis, Catholic electoral resistance crumbled.

From the perspective of this discussion, the most important take-home I think, is that the appetite for authoritarian government existed in post-WW1 Germany in equal measure among Protestants and Catholics. The case history provides no evidence of a correlation between the development of liberal democracy and Protestantism or of a correlation between Catholicism and authoritarianism.

I agree wholly that “it is probably going to be the religious environment that forms most of us, rather than us forming our religious environment”. However, this means little out of the greater context. Firstly we, and more importantly our societies, are formed by our entire environment not just the religious one. We take from the religious one what we want and/or have to take. Clearly, unless there is very little sex indeed going on in some Catholic countries (and that includes Poland and most other Slavonic Catholic states), then the ethos of the Catholic Church is having very little impact on reproductive attitudes and behaviour of the faithful. I would contend that, in much the same way, the authoritarian ethos of the Church would have little impact unless the faithful had an appetite for it in the first place.

Secondly, the environment changes in response to internal (local changes to the physical environment and the creativity of society members) and external (importation of new ideas, immigration) pressures and the religious environment is no different in this. Otherwise no new religions could arise; the churches would be uniform in their ethos and beliefs over space and time and religious observance would also remain uniform. Clearly new religions and sects arise, the ethos of religions and churches changes over time and geographical location while religiosity fluctuates. The fact that these processes clearly take place, does demonstrate that we, both individually and as groups, influence the religious environment as well as vice versa. A debate about the relative importance of the chicken and the egg, needless to say hoves into view.

It may well be the case that if one looks at the roots of industrialisation, one will find a Protestant correlation in the Netherlands and England. However, even if that is the case, a correlation does not necessarily imply a causative relationship. And how extrapolatable is that to the history of the rest of the world? I would suggest that it is at least as likely that the loosening of Catholicism’s religious stays allowed the Reformation and not the Reformation that loosened Catholicism's religious stays. The Church certainly thought the former and I would rather disagree with your evaluation that the Church was obliged to ‘lighten up’ to respond to the challenge posed by the Reformation. On the contrary, it responded with the counter-reformation: an unprecedented 'tightening up of the stays' . Ironically, the Warsaw Confederation discussed earlier, came into being not because of the reforming impulse, but to preserve rights extant for hundreds of years pre-Reformation and now threatened by the Reformation-inspired Counter-reformation. The more recent lightening up of the Catholic Church has, in my opinion, had little to do with the Reformation and everything to do with all Church’s (including the ‘reformed’ ones) struggling to maintain relevance and influence in a developing world.

Ultimately, I am of the view that just like political parties and their leaders, religions and their high priests are very fond of running behind boulders rolling downhill, shouting ‘look, I am pushing this rock!’.

Now if only I had written that instead of the pages of ramble, but it’s too late now!
Last edited by gebhk on 13 Aug 2020 19:24, edited 5 times in total.

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wm
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Re: Polish pre-WWII borders and elections results.

Post by wm » 13 Aug 2020 15:58

Sid Guttridge wrote:
13 Aug 2020 00:03
And how big was Poland's "democratic" electorate and of whom did it consist? I am not sure 10000+ hereditary aristocrats qualifies Poland as a democracy. In the two hundred years following 1563, there were apparently only 10 elections, most of which were just to confirm a hereditary succession.
It was better than nothing because others had nothing.
It wasn't 10000+ but 8 percent of the population. The elections were held for over 200 years till Poland was partitioned by her neighbors.

Sid Guttridge wrote:
13 Aug 2020 00:03
Certainly the Protestants conducted multiple witch trials. However, witch trials predated Protestantism and were an inheritance from Catholicism, the Inquisition having been given charge of them. Witchcraft trials were a widespread European phenomenon and not confined to Protestant areas, even if more common there.
Pre-reformation trails were rare, and it wasn't a Catholic idea but a Jewish one.
"Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live" is from Torah.



[/quote]
Last edited by wm on 13 Aug 2020 19:17, edited 1 time in total.

Sid Guttridge
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Re: Polish pre-WWII borders and elections results.

Post by Sid Guttridge » 13 Aug 2020 17:36

Hi gebhk,

Blimey! That is a small book's worth. Forgive me if I take a little time to digest it.

You are right about Hitler, so I'll drop him from the conversation

Sid.

gebhk
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Re: Polish pre-WWII borders and elections results.

Post by gebhk » 14 Aug 2020 09:50

Hi Sid
I am not sure 10000+ hereditary aristocrats qualifies Poland as a democracy.
You can call it a democratic oligarchy. However, would you be questioning whether Britain in 1917 was a democracy, when just over 20% of the population was eligible to vote? I guess the question I am asking is whether the % population eligible to vote is a definition or part of a definition of democracy. And if so, what is the benchmark %? After all not everyone living in the UK is eligible to vote even today and I know of no country where that is the case.
hereditary aristocrats

Calling the whole of the szlachta (ie nobility) 'aristocrats' somewhat confuses the issue. While, perhaps, technically all the nobility were aristocrats, the term in that context was meaningless in Poland due to the high numbers of nobility, the vast majority of whom were either small farmers or even peasants in all but name and certain privileges. The term 'aristocracy' was reserved for the magnates and the only qualification was the possession of wealth and social status. If you had it you were in, if you lost it you were out. The A list, which, like the current A list had no legal framework - everyone knew who was in and who was out. With the exception of a relatively small number of hereditary 'prince' titles inherited from Lithuania and which conveyed no legal privileges, there was no hierarchy of aristocratic titles (so if you meet a 'Polish count' - he isn't). The poorest village szlachcic was technically the equal of the greatest magnate in the land and by amassing enough wealth could become a magnate.

The point, however, is that in the Sejm the vote of the greatest magnate in the land had no more weight than that of the poorest village szlachcic. Technically, therefore, the interests of the entire agricultural wealth range were represented - and, to boot, the lower the status the greater the representation. This, to a some extent, served as a counterbalance to the ability of the magnaterie to fix votes by bribery and intimidation. Of far greater concern was the lack of representation of women, trade and industry.

Sid Guttridge
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Re: Polish pre-WWII borders and elections results.

Post by Sid Guttridge » 14 Aug 2020 10:39

Hi gebhk,

There is no hard line beyond which a society becomes a democracy. It is an evolutionary continuum. The concept has evolved and extended through time, and the meaning has changed through time as well. I doubt the Athenians would have regarded our representative democracy as true democracy in their terms.

The original democracy, Athens, only included adult free men in its electorate. On the other hand it could meet daily and any elector could become speaker of the demos, which could decide on anything.

By virtue of being restricted to a relatively small number of hereditary male aristocrats, who met only 10 times in 200 years, and then usually only to rubber stamp a hereditary succession, I would suggest that Poland fell rather a long way short of any reasonable minimum threshold of democracy, be it participatory or representative.

And Athenian democracy itself, although highly participatory for its members, falls quite long way short of the expectations of modern representative democracy in terms of the extent of its electorate - particularly as regards the exclusion of women and slaves.

Britain in 1917 was a recognisable, though limited, democracy but was still a work in progress. Given that there is still some support for extending the franchise to 16 year olds, it probably still is.

Cheers,

Sid.
Last edited by Sid Guttridge on 14 Aug 2020 10:56, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Polish pre-WWII borders and elections results.

Post by wm » 14 Aug 2020 10:52

You are confusing things, the aristocrats didn't vote, the nobles did. Kings were elected by nobility.

Your Poland was ruled by aristocrats is literally Soviet propaganda circa 1943. When in fact in pre-war Poland Polish aristocracy didn't exist as a political force, and was despised by all political parties of any significance.

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Re: Polish pre-WWII borders and elections results.

Post by gebhk » 14 Aug 2020 12:43

Britain in 1917 was a recognisable, though limited, democracy but was still a work in progress
And isn't that pretty much WMs argument about the state of the thing in Poland between 1493 and 1793? He is however, I think also making the argument that 'the work' had progressed more in Poland than it had in most other countries in Europe at that time. There is some validity to this argument: for example Elizabeth 1 could pass laws without parliament's consent, her Polish counterpart could not AFAIK (but I may be wrong). Also, unlike his British counterpart, the Polish elected monarch was bound by fixed articles (the Henrician Articles - which can be viewed as a precursor constitution) and a set of specific articles tailored to each candidate. In short his rule was subject to a contract with his sejm. In Britain of this period, the monarch called parliament when he or she felt the need; every Polish king from 1573 signed up to the Henrician articles which required him to call the sejm for 6 weeks at least every two years. There were also some significant differences in how the upper house was composed (it was not hereditary unlike the majority of the UK House of Lords) and worked - including supervising the King and his henchmen on a daily basis.
who met only 10 times in 200 years
According to the official Sejm website estimate a sejm was held 240 times between 1493 and 1793, most commonly every 2 years, with a total of 44 years of debate time. Approximately 173 sejms met between 1569 and 1793. Perhaps you are confusing the special sejms convened for royal elections (convocational, election and coronation sejms) with general sejms? In comparison, in the 44 years of Elizabeth 1's reign (1558-1603) there were 13 parliaments (ie once every 3.4 years).
usually only to rubber stamp a hereditary succession
As I understand it, from the 1550s, the Sejm reserved the final decisions in legislation, taxation, budget, and treasury matters (including military funding), foreign policy, and the conferment of nobility. Again, perhaps confusion with special sejms convened to elect and crown Kings?

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Re: Polish pre-WWII borders and elections results.

Post by wm » 14 Aug 2020 16:43

The Polish throne wasn't hereditary.
If you died your family could kiss the throne goodbye.
This is why it was real democracy.

Interestingly the Polish system completely solved the "democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what they are going to have for lunch" problem.
Polish lambs were quite safe.

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Re: Polish pre-WWII borders and elections results.

Post by Steve » 14 Aug 2020 18:41

If you were heading out on a journey by sea, asks Socrates, who would you ideally want deciding who was in charge of the vessel? Just anyone or people educated in the rules and demands of seafaring? The latter of course, says Adeimantus, so why then, responds Socrates, do we keep thinking that any old person should be fit to judge who should be a ruler of a country?

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Re: Polish pre-WWII borders and elections results.

Post by gebhk » 14 Aug 2020 20:13

Hi WM

Having a non-hereditary king, or even no king at all, does not make your state a democracy! The bicameral Sejm in Poland predates the elected kings in any event.

You raise an interesting issue regarding witchcraft. While clearly Germany is the world leader with regard to recorded witch trials and executions and Switzerland, a close second in total figures (but way ahead in per capita offences), both countries outstripping the rest of Europe put together, it is difficult to correlate Protestantism with witch hunting. For one thing both Germany and Switzerland were patchwork quilts of small states with different religions. It would be interesting, to know how Catholic and Protestant lands compared. Statistical analysis is very much bedevilled with the dilemma of whether to compare documented events (undoubtedly a very incomplete record even with regard to judicial murder let alone extrajudicial ones and recorded differently in different places and at different times) versus guestimates.

Sticking with the former, I fail to find any coherent correlation between religion and witch hunting in Europe. The picture gets even more complicated when you consider the relative murderousness of witch trials. Despite nearly 2000 witch trials in that hotbed of murderous Catholic intolerance of Anglo-Saxon myth, Spain, only one person seems to have been recorded to have been convicted and executed. Despite far fewer trials in England, the butchers bill was way higher - over 350.

I find the theory attractive that the reformation was the indirect cause of the explosion of witch-hunting in the German-speaking lands (Germany, Switzerland and parts of Northern France) commencing in the late 1500s. However it was the upheaval that accompanied the process that was the direct cause rather than Protestant theology per se. One argument is that with the arrival of Protestantism, competition for religious control of the states ensued where previously there had been none. To appeal to certain parts of the 'electorate', a vigorous and public prosecution of evil-doers was seen as beneficial to their chances (much as in certain countries, officials are more keen than usual to send convicted felons to their execution at election time to demonstrate how tough they are on crime). Others argue that it was simply the paranoia associated with many small counties in religious conflict with their neighbours, looking for traitors and saboteurs at every corner. Perhaps both are true.

However your point that the advent of Protestantism did not necessarily bring the sweet balm of reason to intolerant religious and/or social bigotry is well taken.

Sadly, this lunacy continues to this day and at least two countries I can think of execute people for witchcraft under the law, while unofficial and semi-official witch hunts and murders of 'witches' are rampant in many parts of the world. One of the leaders of this particularly unsavoury pack is South Africa a country of many religions but predominantly....Protestant.

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Re: Polish pre-WWII borders and elections results.

Post by gebhk » 17 Aug 2020 12:20

Hi Steve

I love this parable even though it entirely misses the point. If the captain, as well as being in charge of the ship, had the power to have you flogged or tossed into the sea; decide arbitrarily how much you were to be charged for the journey (with no option of an alternative and the means to extort the amount if you refuse); decide what privileges you were to have, who you could have a relationship while aboard if at all and decide if you can ever leave the ship (....actually not that far from the case in Soctaes' time), I think you would quickly review your view that the choice of captain can be safely left to people educated in the rules and demands of seafaring. I suspect that, to the contrary, you would want to have an active role in the choice to ensure the captain was a good leader, a decent human being and someone you can 'get along with'. You may even be tempted to decide that you would prefer a captain who had little idea of seamanship but had the desirable qualities of leadership because you can always provide such a captain with support from sea-qualified advisers/underlings.

The reason I love the parable, is that by extension, in Socrates' view, the government should be decided by the civil service. Some would argue that in the UK that is exactly what happens :wink:

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Re: Polish pre-WWII borders and elections results.

Post by Steve » 17 Aug 2020 14:18

As you say gebhk if a captain had the power to do whatever he wanted then he may act in the way you describe. This imaginary captain would then be a tyrant and Socrates never advocated for government by tyrants. Would you rather sail with someone who was a tyrant but could navigate or a decent human being who could not navigate?

“Crucially, Socrates was not elitist in the normal sense. He didn’t believe that a narrow few should only ever vote. He did, however, insist that only those who had thought about issues rationally and deeply should be let near a vote.

We have forgotten this distinction between an intellectual democracy and a democracy by birthright. We have given the vote to all without connecting it to that of wisdom. And Socrates knew exactly where that would lead: to a system the Greeks feared above all, demagoguery.”

Perhaps the best example today of how democracy can morph into demagoguery is the two party system in the USA.

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Re: Polish pre-WWII borders and elections results.

Post by gebhk » 17 Aug 2020 22:13

But isn't that the problem? A person selected by professionals purely for his technical expertise may well be a tyrant - because we are excluding any assessment of his leadership skills and morality out of the equation. Would I rather sail with someone who is a tyrant but can navigate or a decent human being who can't? The second every time. With a scoundrel in command I may well end up tossed to the sharks and it will do me no good whatsoever that the man is a splendid seaman. Or he may decide to take the ship somewhere completely different to where we, the passengers, want to go because that is better for the ship. I have spent enough time in the NHS to have deep doubts about the wisdom of appointing people to senior management positions on the basis of their eminence in their own fields. This can be particularly painfully obvious in the case of hospital estates managers who are excellent engineers but have very little idea about what the users of the buildings do or what they are for. This can easily transform into a simmering resentment that all those blooming patients, nurses and doctors just get in the way of the estates department running a very nice hospital building!

The deficiencies of the second example of captain can be easily overcome by supplying him with a first mate who does have the requisite orienteering skills.

However I digress - the main point I was making is that skippering a ship or driving a bus is not the same as running a country. Very different skill sets and therefore the analogy is fundamentally flawed. Perhaps comparing to a first lord of the admiralty might be more appropriate. I doubt that Winston Churchill had the first idea how to even get a battleships engines running, but few would deny that he was an excellent First Lord prior to WW1 - though I doubt very much he would have got the job if only naval officers were allowed to have a say in his appointment.

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Re: Polish pre-WWII borders and elections results.

Post by Steve » 18 Aug 2020 16:28

Hello, if the deficiencies of the second example of captain can be overcome by adding an assistant then in the interests of fairness surely the first captain must also be allowed an assistant to help him overcome his deficiencies. Perhaps a kind loving wife who would intercede for the passengers?

I do not think that Socrates was suggesting that the captain of a ship or a bus driver were suitable to run a country. I think that what he was suggesting is that you look at the set of skills that would be required to be a bus driver or run a country and then you pick a person with those skills. How the people who would decide were picked is an interesting question.

In a democracy you could well end up with a bus driver or perhaps a TV personality running the country. In fact Nicolas Maduro the leader of Venezuela was once a bus driver who won an election to become president. The leader of the USA was once a TV personality who won an election and is now the most powerful man in the world.

Churchill is perhaps quite a good example of the dangers associated with appointing someone with no experience of what he has been appointed to lead. Leaving aside the well known example of Gallipoli his views on submarine warfare are interesting. In December 1913 Admiral Fisher sent him a paper forecasting the development of submarine warfare. Churchill rejected this idea declaring

“If there were to be a nation vile enough to adopt systematically such methods, it would be justifiable and indeed necessary, to employ the extreme resources of science against them: to spread pestilence, poison the water supply of great cities, and if convenient, proceed by the assassination of individuals.”

Britain entered the war unprepared for submarine warfare.

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