The conservative philosopher and writer, Sir Roger Scruton, has been awarded the Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland by the Polish President, Andrzej Duda, in a ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Warsaw on Tuesday 4th June – the 30th anniversary of the first semi-free elections in 1989 that marked the end of communism in Poland.
The Order of Merit is the highest state honour than can be awarded to non-Poles who have rendered great service to Poland. Previous recipients of the prestigious Order include Ronald Reagan, Richard von Weizsacker, President George H.W. Bush, Henry Kissinger and Madeleine Albright.
Making the award, President Duda spoke of his “great respect” for Sir Roger as a philosopher and thinker, and of the influence of Sir Roger’s book “The Meaning of Conservatism”. The President underlined that his own vision of politics – of being guided by the idea of the nation, history and the state, rather than ideology – was influenced by Scruton. Sir Roger’s support for the anticommunist movements of the 1980s in Poland, said President Duda, “contributed to the growth of social courage” and the final victory of ordinary people, and not elites, in overthrowing the communist system.
Scruton is also due to make an address in the Polish Senate on Wednesday. In a speech on the occasion of the 4th Summit of Speakers of Central and Eastern European Parliaments, he will lay out his own vision of the future of the EU in the context of the experience of Central Europe.
The award comes two months after the British philosopher was sacked from his role as unpaid chair of the Government’s Building Better, Building Beautiful commission by Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, James Brokenshire MP. Scruton was dismissed after the deputy editor of the New Statesman magazine, George Eaton, publicised quotes from an interview he had conducted for the magazine that were subsequently shown to have been falsified. Eaton has since been removed from his position in the New Statesman.
Commenting on the award, the Speaker of the Polish Parliament, Marek Kuchcinski, said:
“The recognition conferred on Sir Roger by the Polish State stands in stark contrast to his treatment at the hands of the British establishment. Sir Roger is held in the highest esteem in Central Europe for his bravery in helping political dissidents in Poland, the then Czechoslovakia and Hungary during the communist occupations of those countries. He actually did something while everyone else in Western Europe stood by, and at some personal risk. His work in smuggling books and distributing samizdat gave hope and inspiration to many of Poland’s current political and intellectual leaders.”