Reporter Uses Poland's Tragedy to Deride 'Crass' Post-Communist Capitalism

The Times' Eastern Europe correspondent Dan Bilefsky can't deal with the "crass commercialism" taking over Europe after the fall of Communism: "Learning the lessons of capitalism; profit nudges grief aside."

Eastern Europe correspondent Dan Bilefsky seems obliged to make anti-capitalist cracks whenever he can fit them in, and did not falter on Thursday. Writing from Warsaw, Bilefsky used the plane crash death of Poland's President Lech Kaczynski to mourn "crass commercialism" in Poland: "Vendors Turns Poland's Calamity Into an Opportunity."

The text box: "Learning the lessons of capitalism; profit nudges grief aside."

Candle sellers reaped handsome profits as mourners bought thousands of brightly colored candles - about $2 each - creating an instant memorial throughout the capital.

Poland's calamity has unified the country and spurred a genuine outpouring of grief and solidarity seldom seen since the death of Pope John Paul II, five years ago. For the past two days, a line of grieving mourners over half a mile long has assembled near the Presidential Palace.

Yet some Poles said the crass commercialism that also greeted the tragedy showed the extent to which Poland, 20 years after the revolution that overthrew Communism, had become a healthy capitalist economy, even as the free market was challenging the Roman Catholic Church as the new religion.

Others who knew Mr. Kaczynski, an advocate of social justice who railed against the excesses of the market economy, said he would have recoiled at the sight of T-shirts bearing his image.

Ryszard Bugaj, Mr. Kaczynski's senior economic adviser before the president's death, said he was not surprised that some were trying to profit from the misery of others. "It's a natural thing that such traumatic events are followed by extreme behaviors, both very good ones and, like in this case, the worst ones," he said in an interview. "I find it sad that people are exploiting other people's grief. This kind of behavior is typical of capitalist morality, when people don't care about what's appropriate anymore and are blinded by the sheer prospect of financial gain."

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