Lech Walesa: Gays Have No Right to Govern

The anti-communist icon is once again in hot water for making idiotic comments.

Lech Walesa Solidarity 20

Anti-communist icon Lech Walesa is once again in hot water for making idiotic comments.

AP (“Lech Walesa shocks Poland with anti-gay words“):

Lech Walesa, the Polish democracy icon and Nobel peace prize winner, has sparked outrage in Poland by saying that gays have no right to a prominent role in politics and that as a minority they need to “adjust to smaller things.”

Some commentators are now suggesting that Walesa, the leading figure in Poland’s successful democracy struggle against communism, has irreparably harmed his legacy.
Walesa said in a television interview on Friday that he believes gays have no right to sit on the front benches in Parliament and, if represented at all, should sit in the back, “and even behind a wall.”

“They have to know that they are a minority and must adjust to smaller things. And not rise to the greatest heights, the greatest hours, the greatest provocations, spoiling things for the others and taking (what they want) from the majority,” he told the private broadcaster TVN during a discussion of gay rights. “I don’t agree to this and I will never agree to it.”

“A minority should not impose itself on the majority,” Walesa said.

The words have enraged many.

“From a human point of view his language was appalling. It was the statement of a troglodyte,” said Jerzy Wenderlich, a deputy speaker of Parliament with the Democratic Left Alliance.

Why any are surprised by this is a mystery. Walesa sounds like a troglodyte because he is one.  Walesa is a 69-year-old devout Roman Catholic with a trade school education. I’d wager that most working class men of his age—especially in Poland, a very traditional society—feel much the same way. And, goodness, these latest statements are by no means the most ignorant thing he’s ever said about gays. Back in 2000, he declared “those people need medical treatment,” adding,  ”Imagine if all people were like that. We wouldn’t have any descendants.” In 1990, he pledged to “eliminate” homosexuals and drug users from society if elected president.

Walesa is rightly revered for the leadership and courage he displayed as a labor leader fighting against a repressive Communist regime going back to his youth. He became internationally famous more than three decades ago, winning the Nobel Price Prize as a symbol of that fight in 1983. But being a brave and charismatic leader doesn’t necessarily translate into wisdom. That’s been demonstrated time and again in Walesa’s case since Walesa entered national politics. Elected as Poland’s first democratic president in 1990, he soon developed a reputation as a lout. The transition from electrician and labor leader to governing a state was a huge leap for which he was simply unprepared.

Walesa came to prominence as a revolutionary. He was a great one whose role in the fall of Communism has gone down in history. But few revolutionaries go on to be great statesmen. Nelson Mandela did so in South Africa. I’m hard pressed to think of another modern example, much less one who emerged from the working classes.

The fact that Walesa has retrograde views shouldn’t tarnish his historical legacy. It just means we ought quit taking him seriously on social policy.

FILED UNDER: Africa, Democracy, Gender Issues, World Politics, , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Mark Ivey says:

    All the Polish people i know here in Germany say pretty much the same thing:

    “He was a great protester back in the day, but………”

  2. al-Ameda says:

    Duly noted, Lech ….

    Just because he led the resistance in Poland does not necessarily mean that he has anything relevant to say about American politics or American culture.

  3. Argon says:

    Would he say the same about Catholics if they were in the minority?

  4. Gustopher says:

    Actually, this is progress for Mr. Walesa — he concedes that gays exist and can be in parliament.

    He’s an old man and a bigot. He’ll be dead soon enough, and he’ll be remembered for the great things he did, while the bigotry will just be a curious footnote that the younger generations shake their head at a little sadly.

    Much like how we view the founding fathers who owned slaves, except Lech Walesa hasn’t enslaved anyone.

  5. Latino_in_Boston says:

    How about Lula? Very similar background to Walesa, but a fantastic President in comparison.

  6. Murray says:

    @al-Ameda: @al-Ameda: He wasn’t talking about American politics or American culture.

  7. Franklin says:

    Perhaps this is just lost in translation, but did he just basically say that *no* minority has a right to anything?

  8. I agree with Walesa “that a minority should not impose itself on a majoirty.” I further maintain that a majority should not impose itself on a minority, which is why I think the federal government should get out of the marriage game altogether. If we are to have government mandated social security, it should be up to invididuals whether they want to buy into things like survivor rights. There is a legitimate role in government recognizing the primacy of family (as in an adult or adults with minor children) but otherwise government should should stay out of the game.

  9. An Interested Party says:

    …which is why I think the federal government should get out of the marriage game altogether.

    Notice how we never heard anything about the government getting out of marriage before SSM became an issue…conservatives continue to act like petulant children who want to take their toys and go home because a group they don’t approve of now wants to enter the playground…

  10. winfield says:

    Perfectly stated, Mr. Joyner!

  11. J-Dub says:

    Sounds like Lech’s lightbulb has come unscrewed. Luckily there are probably five Polock’s nearby to help him…

  12. @An Interested Party:

    “never heard about government getting out of marriage”

    I’ve had the same view for decades. If a state wants to OK polygamy that’s Ok too. Find strawmen to burn elsewhere.

  13. An Interested Party says:

    I’ve had the same view for decades.

    Good for you, but no strawmen were used, as this argument has only become wide-spread among conservatives since SSM has become an issue…

  14. In to the cupboard again!! – because YOU ARE THE TROGLODYTE, not him, me and millions upon millions of us thinking and meaning the exactly the same as he did say…
    IN WITH YOU – TO THE CUPBOARD…back jerkers!!

  15. @Argon:
    Catholics are 1.2 billions in the world, and the largest nowadays influx to Norway, where we urge them to go to, in order to quench the satanic present primer Jens Stoltenberg’s back-jerkers regime, where homosexuals are his most important issue, and families are being political massacred!!! Where the children of this family massacre are so disturbed that only the last five years there has been an explosion in the drug Ritalin imposed on them after being mass diagnosed for ADHD….
    I suppose you think that is good for the world….homosexual should dominate, right?? Surpass the NORMAL family life…..
    In Norway now, you can buy yourself a child, and the present government pays it!!!
    The best friend of present primer Stoltenberg, a back-jerker as well – has already bought himself 2 children!!!
    And you think it is right too??
    Catholics!!! FLOOD IN TO NORWAY AND HELP US SUPPRESS THE PRESENT SATANIC STOLTENBER-REGIME; – and be WARNED – when ever he comes to your countries, he will preach disintegration of the NORMAL family lives…….