What kind of Poland do you want?

I like living in Poland.  There are many good things here.  My daily life tends to be of a good quality, and I know plenty people who are doing cool initiatives, initiatives that mean that I can eat good food (vegan or vegetarian), see interesting art (whether inside or outside), maybe see some new clothes‘ styles and the such.  Wrocław, where I live contains in addition people who are working to strengthen civic society, such as by working for women’s and LGBT rights or promoting Fairly Traded goods, including coffee.  The likes of “The Wrocław International”  and “Wrocław uncut” show many examples of cool things here.

SURVIVAL Art Review in Park Tołpy last year. Photo by Magdalena Szady

However, there are some in Wrocław and the rest of Poland who do initiatives that involve the strengthening of discrimination and violence towards other humans.  Examples include recent attacks on the Diversity March together with on the synagogue and CRK (an anarchist centre) by NOP members.

In this article I shall try to show how these attacks should be seen nationwide as part of a pattern of increasingly radicalised attacks by fascists/racists that were strengthened by the “march of patriots” (organised by ONR and NOP, two openly violent and racist organisations) on the 11th of November last year.  These attacks are essentially anti-people with different coloured skin, anti-women, anti-left wing, anti-immigrant, anti-different sexualities, anti-semitic, anti-Roma and anti-care for members of society and the world who have less power.

Following the 11th of November march in Wrocław last year, I said the following on my old blog:

“I imagine they felt more powerful after the march.  They were so big, and the counter-demo was so little.  Such a feeling of power can lead to an escalation of violence in their everyday life (attacks on people of different colours, graffiti on Jewish graveyards), as they feel that there is a small opposition to them.”

Escalation of fascist activities in Poland?

Was I right in saying that?  Has the “march of patriots” led to an increase in or at least connected to fascist/racist activities in Poland?

The day after the “march of patriots” in Warsaw customers in a vegan shop were attacked.  You can see a video of that attack here.  In that article a number of violent attacks on anti-fascists are listed and the writer wrote that “It was here both in the increase as in the intensity of these activities that are being more planed, better organised and more co-ordinated that we see their character: Beatings, arson, graffiti, […] attacking anti-racist demonstrations are just some of the manifestations of recorded activities.”

Wroclaw saw a commemoration by the NOP for the anniversary for martial law in December.  I wrote about this here.  Among other things, the participants chanted “hang the communists”, thus giving a good hint as to their respect to those of different political beliefs, seeing as they often imply that anti-fascists are communists.

February saw a march in solidarity with Serbian nationalism whereby a left-wing shop was attacked in Warsaw.

March saw attention being played to racism in Wrocław in the media due to attacks on Google coloured-skinned employees, something that led to, well, incompetence from the Wrocław state.  It was in that month that this blog published an article from an ex-resident of Wrocław who left Poland because of racist attacks on him.

Easter saw an anti-fascist murdered in Białystok, who was attacked with knives by members of Blood and Honour at a nightclub.  More information here.  Note also how the Blood and Honour group tried to set fire to a flat belonging to an immigrant from Pakistan.  Note also how Blood and Honour are one of the groups who takes part in the “March of patriots” both in Warsaw as well as in Wrocław.

The May of this year saw a violent attack on a Kurdish cafe on the market sqaure of Opole.  Here is the video of the attack:

If you click on the video you may notice some commentary which says things like “Fuck/attack the kebabs 11/11/12”, “I also prefer old Polish and Silesian food”, “Well fucked/attacked the twats!  Such faggots shouldn’t be here!”  While this may be internet talk, note how there are no comments challenging them.  Note in the article how one of those attacked said “I am afraid for my life”.

In May in Poznań an art festival took place.  There was displays of photography, a theatre performance, workshops for children, a craft market and a film screening.  30 local ONR members came and threw stones at the building and set fire to the signs outside and worse was only hindered by the participants themselves.

June saw the NOP hire a state-owned tram and go through Wrocław spreading their message!

September saw media attention being paid to racism in Wrocław once more, due to the attack on Tomasz Torres, the nephew of a famous Cuban musician.  The words “KKK”, “white power” together with a bastardised Celtic cross were found by him.

This excellent article looked further at the attack, saying also that “Vratislavian Roma face challenges every day, being hounded and beaten and recently “unknown perpetrators” tried to set fire to their settlement.  The Muslim minority faces racism and religious-motived dislike.  […] The old Rabbi who had lived in Wrocław for years had to cover his kipa hat due to aggresive harassment.  More tragic is the situation for people with coloured skin and students who face aggression on many levels: Denial of service in bars, verbal attacks and beatings.  The article shows how the state are incompetent in dealing with racism in Wrocław.

Conclusion

Now, perhaps these attacks would have happened anyway and they are not inspired by the “march of patriots”.  However, it is logical to assume that the march led to a stronger feeling of strength, especially as they were supported by mainstream conservatives (such as shown here).  They are also to be seen in the comments in various online media sources, such as Gazeta Wyborcza, whereby fascist violence is either denied, or where the enemy-figure of the left-wing is focussed on) and uncritical patriots.  In any case, that only 200 people in Wrocław stood against them, making their commitment to democracy and openness clear, showed the NOP and ONR that they have claim to the streets.  It is also to be noted that there has been an increase in fascist graffiti in Wrocław over this past year, including:

Note the swastika.

On Sopocka, by Ksawerego Liskego. Combat 18 are an openly Nazi organisation known for murdering immigrants the world over. In Poland they work through Blood and Honour, an organisation connected to the “march of patriots”.

Thankfully there is now a reaction against such graffiti:

Let the reader understand

Racists/fascists are certainly getting increasingly active and have stronger networks, including with football fans (the upcoming “march of patriots” in Wrocław will see Sparta and WKS Wrocław fans attending).

How are we to react?  In the ASF publication Zeichen, Heike Kleffner spoke of how attacks against minorities in Germany in the 90s were hindered by solidarity among members of German society.  This is the experience in other countries with strong civic societies.  Such a solidarity requires that the tolerant people of Poland be active not just in terms of their interests and lifestyle, but also through confrontation: Making their views clear to those who deny the humanity of others (“loving your  neighbour requires clarity” to use a phrase by the “Protestant church against right-wing extremism” in Germany).  This means in daily life as well as during official events such as the “march of patriots”, thus claiming the public space.  Such a confrontation is a hallmark of a healthy democratic society.  If you want a tolerant Poland, whatever it is that you are doing needs to be supplemented with a confrontative approach against racism.  We cannot rely on the state.

Solidarity requires people of different political beliefs to network in order to achieve their common goals.  That is already what fascists are doing with conservatives in Poland.  It’s up to those who want a healthy democracy to do likewise.  This requires networking.  That requires face-to-face contact.  Additionally, this blog aims to support and strengthen individuals and organisations who work for a more open Poland.  Feel free to let me know about your activities so that I can pass information on to others.  I ask all of you to also “like” me on Facebook and/or “follow” me on Twitter.

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7 comments on “What kind of Poland do you want?

  1. Tom Pride says:

    Fascism is definitely a problem in Poland but getting less IMO. Of course it’s also a problem in the UK too – the EDL and BNP is active – and right wing graffiti can be found just about everywhere.
    BTW, I was surprised to note that in a survey of countries around the world – substantially more Polish people would prefer Barack Obama to win the US Presidency than Romney. I would have guessed the opposite which says more about my own prejudices of Poland than anything else.

    • Thanks for your comment, Tom.

      Yeah, the EDL and BNP are problems in GB, even though both have been having big problems recently.

      Why do you think that fascism is getting less of a problem here? I myself think that they are getting more active and having stronger connections with football fans.

      • Tom Pride says:

        I remember about 10 years ago there was the League of Polish Families and elements of Samoobrona – some of whom had such far-right views they were getting pretty close to fascism – and they had enough support to be elected.
        Now the far-right groupings don’t have enough public support to make it into parliament – although I must admit some elements of PiS can be worrying.
        Also Młodzieży Wszechpolskiej used to be … well everywhere .. their spokespeople popping up on TV all the time, pretty regular well-attended demonstrations but now they’re virtually a spent force.
        Maybe I’m just an optimist and it’s wishful thinking…..

  2. […] have written before on the difference between them and those who live in Wrocław who engage in initiatives that […]

  3. Thomas Car says:

    I think there is no “alternative” for young people without education to really do something with their lives. They want to be a part of something and that’s why they join NOP or ONR. Joining them is easy and attainable. Of course, they will get brainwashed and attack other people who are often not physically ready to confront them.

    • By and large I agree. I think that, due to the pre-1989 era few go into the left-wing subculture, which they may otherwise elsewhere.

      You bring up a good point: Fighting fascism is much more than dealing with it per se, rather, also with social factors that can cause more people turning ever rightward. Unfortunately the left-wing in Poland is weak, with SLD (if one can call them left-wing, seeing as they have supported a few right-wing policies) having only about 12% of the vote, and there is no mainstream left-wing party apart from them (with Ruch Palikot being pro-market).

      • Thomas Car says:

        Sure, there is some social and political aspect of this issue.

        On the other hand, what do you to solve this problem on your own? I think it’s very important how you respond to them. I notice that many people (especially left activists) point problems, but they are afraid of stepping out of their own comfort zone to find a new approach.

        Promoting “healthy” patriotism and making hates crimes more visible for people who have no idea about it, could help. There is a space between two extremes (antifa and nop). Maybe it’s time to work it?

        I am also talking about being resourceful and pushing the boundaries, as far as you can. For instance, if you are Black, maybe it’s a smart move to hit the gym and exercise. Maybe buying and wearing a Slask Wroclaw t-shirt would change a little bit the way people interact with you.

        I am just bouncing ideas around, because I think it’s necessary to be creative all the time, as well as violent sometimes, in order to protect yourself.

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