Wroclaw for everyone without hate parade 2013

Look, I’m not claiming the credit for the “Wrocław for everyone without hate” parade and should be carried shoulder-high through the streets of Wrocław.  That should go to the many hard-working people I’ve met over the past week.  I’m just saying that, last November I wrote that we need a Wrocław coalition against fascism, and somewhere, I can’t remember where but I think it was on this blog’s Facebook page that I said that the first action could be a protest against hate crimes.

 

This is, of course, a coincidence.  Literally no-one reads this blog.  In fact, this blog has minus reader figures.  I’m just saying that, behind this bluster and oh-so-western opinions, sometimes, just sometimes I am right.

Sometimes in a bad way.  (See this article from November 2011 and this one from a few weeks ago.)  Sometimes, as shown yesterday, in a good way.  Therefore perhaps, just perhaps you should mark my next words:

The parade was excellent.  There were tons of people, maybe as much as 2000 people.  There was an excellent mood.  It was well colourful, well creative and contained some excellent music.  Passers-by saw us having fun.  We needed a positive kick to our system following the fascist activities of the few years.  The PR beforehand was very good.  It was excellent to see NGOs and small businesses get behind us.

Uczestnicy parady 'Wrocław dla wszystkich bez nienawiści'

Photo: Tomasz Szambelan / Agencja Gazeta

I hope that this is just the start.  It’s all very well having fun but we have to learn from mistakes which were made.  Passers-by should have received flyers or other forms of information to find out what we were about.  We had too many pauses, though the cold made that worse.  Some left the parade due to the cold, having to stand around, and due to the length.  I believe that the parade should have been shorter.  Of course, and this is important, better weather would have helped.  Still, we could have dealt with this better.
Photo: Kamil Downarowicz

Photo: Kamil Downarowicz

Some have complained about the presence of a few people with covered faces among us.  To tell the truth, I was somewhat wary of the reaction to them, but when one remembers the brutal violence of fascists towards initiatives like ours, I felt somewhat comforted to see them.  Some people however don’t know much about anti-fascist action (which was a part of the parade, despite its emphasis on a positive message) or are less comfortable with confrontation than myself, and were put off.  It didn’t help that they were at the front of the parade.  Saying that, I repeat that I myself was glad to see them.  It was unfortunate that some of them reacted to the clearly drunk and confused four nationalists who followed us, giving them the attention they wanted.

The future of Wrocław anti-fascism is dependent on dealing with a few issues: Will the coalition continue?  Will it enlarge its target audience to meet those who are not even aware of problems with discrimination in Wrocław?  With active Christians?  People over 35 (who were there, but were a minority)?  Such issues, as well as that of racism in Polish society, lack of civic intervention when hate crimes are witnessed or the high profile role of violence in Polish culture are big issues.

Photo: Kamil Downarowicz

Photo: Kamil Downarowicz

Still, this was just a start.  Mistakes are to be made, and learned from.  I repeat, the parade was excellent.  I reckon the parade will be like a demonstration I attended in Birmingham in 1998.

You see, about 70,000 people (including myself) went to Birmingham in May 1998 to protest against the economic policies of the G7, specifically for the cancellation of debt owed by Global South countries.  These people were largely apolitical people, or least, not the kind of people who were normally politically active.  This contained many Christians.  They came, saw many people with the same concerns, felt more powerful, went home, and got politically active on an international as well as local levels.  Birmingham 1998 was a big kick-start for us.

Yesterday was on a smaller scale than Birmingham, but contained many who hadn’t been to such events before.  I believe that Wrocław 2013 will play a  kick-start role for them, as well as for us more seasoned activists.  We can’t rely on politicians.  It’s up to us to push on.

Thanks to all those who attended!  See you again (and again, and again, and again…..)

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NOP threat on BWA gallery


As the man faced with 100 slices of bread and a few tubs of butter said, we need to get spreading.

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Such as this.

A screening of a film by Tomáš Rafa about nationalism in Europe was to be shown tomorrow evening at the BWA art gallery in Wrocław.  This was cancelled due to online threats by members of the NOP.

Now, the head of BWA in Wrocław Marek Puchała said that the showing of the film was postponed due to the unhappy coincidence that it was to take place on the same day as the day of commemoration of the Żołnierze wyklęci, partisan anti-communist forces (it would be better to concentrate on Dydd Gwyl Dewi on March the 1st, for Saint David, the patron saint of Wales, who spoke of the importance of love and peace)  (What do you mean, that isn’t relevant?)  Puchała said that, as there will be a demonstration by NOP members to commemorate that day it could be dangerous, as I understand it, as a number of fascists would be together and pumped up and ready for doing something against “leftists”, represented in this case by BWA.  It seems that the film will be shown in BWA at another date.

Now, here I could tell you that I was right about what happens when people didn’t stand up to fascists on November 11th 2011.  But I’ve done that before.  I could also mention that there is a key gap in effective ways of dealing with history in Poland, but I’ve said that before as well.  I could also link the threats to other hate-crimes in Wrocław since the 11th of November 2011, leaving people concerned with hate crimes with a general feeling of hopelessness, but again, I’d be repeating myself.  I doubt you’d like that.

No, I’ll concentrate on one thing.  I wasn’t aware of the showing of the film, and neither were friends of mine.  This isn’t a big story in itself (my own minor traumas not being particularly relevant in this case), but does show a problem in Wrocław about publicity.  I know various anti-fascists, various friends and friends of friends are active in the social sector, and I’m a “liker” of various relevant groups on Facebook like WolnyWroclaw and  Żywa Biblioteka, but still, we didn’t find out about the film.  Had I been regularly attending events at BWA or “liked” them on Facebook, I would have found out about it.  But I hadn’t even though that someone like BWA would show such a film, a film that I could have watched.

It’s like when a client of mine expressed disappointment to me that she didn’t know that Cafe Pestka was showing the film Żydokomuna together with a discussion with its creator Anna Zawadzka.  She is not on Facebook, where I had found out about the film.  It’s also like when I attended an anti-discrimination forum last year where a complaint was made that organisations do their own events and don’t tell other people.

I don’t think that, by and large people are keeping their events secret, rather that their target audience is narrow.  Sometimes you have to know the right person in order to find out about events.  That may reflect good networks on the one hand, on the other hand in the year 2013 information needs to be out there.  Events like the upcoming “Wrocław for everyone without hate parade” on the 23rd of March and certainly with the Hardcore Help Foundation Day on the 9th of March will happen, and not everyone  who would be interested will found out about them.

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As I’ve said before, we need a Wrocław coalition against fascism, at the very least, in order to spread information about events.

I ask of you, dear reader the following: If you work in an organisation, perhaps you could speak with your colleagues about the possibility of working in an open coalition.  Otherwise, let me know on Facebook or Twitter of events that others should know about.  My blog here is a small attempt to help those people who are working hard against fascism and for diversity, so therefore I would ask of you to make my blog known to friends and colleagues.

Finally, I wrote this article “Potzebujemy koalicję wrocławską przeciwko faszyzmowi”  in Polish.  Would someone be so kind as to proof-read it?  I wish to pass it onto to various groups.

Potrzebemy koalicja Wrocławska przeciwko faszyzmowi

This is my first article in Polish.  I usually write in English, but for an exception thought I’d do one translation of a recent article.

Są na pewno osoby we Wrocławiu który robiją bardzo dobra praca antyfaszystowska.

No wiem, nie piszę doskonale po polsku.  Mam nadzieję, że możesz jednak rozumieć.  Teksty będzie na weekend korektowane.

Jestem rozczarowana.  Rok tem stałam przy rynku z koło 200 innych który chciali pokazywać, że wierzyli róznorodność i demockracja są ważne w polsce.  Myślałam, że potem rózne grup osób myślaliby, “Nie może być jeszcze raz, muśimy robić więcej manifestcja w następnym roku”.  Bo wiedzialiśmy słynne przykłady ataków rasistowych we Wrocławiu w tym roku i też niedawny atak na synagogę i CRK; na pewno myślałem, że osoby chcialiby pokazywać opór faszyzom.

Ale nie.  Faszysty maszali w niedziela z przyjaciołmi kibicami i innymi patriotami.  Bez opóru.  Otwarcie rasistowa organizacja NOP była obecna.  Tłum skandowali “Polska dla Polaków!”  Nawet atakali obserwatorom z raketami i fajerwerkami.  Jasne, że nie tylko chciali zastraszać antyfaszystowom, ale też osobom na średniu we Wrocławiu.

Rasizm, fetysz lidera faszystowskiego, no oczywyście.

Tolerancyjna, otwarta Wrocław?  Żartujesz.

No, nawet kiedy są dużo osób we Wrocławiu który są tolerancyjna, nie chiali przeciwstawiać się osobom który chcą Wrocław która jest bez Żydów, LGBT i osób z skórą kolorową.

Podczas rasizm jest problem we Wrocław codzenie dla osób który mają skórą z kolorem, nie myślę, że średnie osoby we Wrocławiu są wściekłe i aktywne rasisty.  Jestem przekoany, że osoby we Wrocławiu w ogóle nie lubiją NOP i są też dużo osób który są zadowolone kiedy mogą pić kawę fairtradeową i lubiją “tolerancja międzykulturowa”.  Oni brakują methody jak przeciwstawić faszyzom.

Bo faszysty.  Jest teraz nowa “narodowy ruch antydemokracyjny”.  Juz w ostatnim miesącu we Wrocławiu była eskalacja nienawistnej przemocy, i jw niedziela był atak na skłat Wagenburga, i jedna osoba była hospitalizowana.

Co robimy?  Czekamy na akcję Rafała Dutkiewiczego?  Czekamy na policję?

Na “Forum Wrocławskim antydiskryminacyjnim” w Falanterze różne aktywisty mowali o mieście Wrocławskim, które mowi, że jesteśmy “międzykulturowe” i robią różne wystawy, ale miasto jest jednak beznadziejne przeciwstawić osobom który nie chcą międzykulturowość, nie mogą bronić demokrację.  Policja nie regestrować przemocy nienawistni (więc jest ważne, że powiedz Sukurs kiedy doświadasz coś).  Innymi słowy, nie możemy czekać na państwo.

Potrzebujemy Koalacja Wrocławska przeciwko faszyzmowi, gdzie NGO (bo są dużo które robiją świetnie praca) i też indywidualny i organisacji religne.  Kiedy wiedze się sytuacji na świecie wiedze się, że społeczeństwo obywatelski jest bardzo mocniej, kiedy organisacji i osoby pracują razem.

Powiedziałem na Forum, że byłby dobry pomysł kiedy mialibyśmy koalicję antyfaszystowskim we Wrocławiu i ktoś powiedział mi, “Jest Koalicja w Warszawie i mają konflikty”.  No, na pewno.  Są zawsze konflikty w koalicajach.  Jednak wiem, że koalicji są efektywne przeciwko faszyzmowi, jak przykład w Dreżniu lub w Angli (przeciwko EDL).  Koalicji działają kiedy osoby pracują razem na dzielone cely.

Tu mowię coś kontrowersego.  Z dużo ostrózności mowię, że słuchałam od dużo osób który pracują z NGO w polsce, że NGO w polsce nie chcą pracować razem.  Napewno są przekłady kiedy pracują razem (Futbol przeciwko rasizmowi od Rita Baum, CRK, Wagenburgu i Domu Pokojego, też Nomada i Falanster robili ten Forum) ale dużo razy słucałem to samo, że sektor NGO w polsce jest mały i jest konkurencja na pienądze i NGO nawet nie powiedziają o projektach który robiją.  Każdy robi je pracę.  Też słuchałem, że osoby który pracują z NGO nie są otwarcie o pomysłach na projekty bo boją się, że inne orginacji będą używać  ich pomysły; to jest też moje doświadczenie (i nie, nie robię zemstrę przez ten artykuł).

Nie jestem tak arogancki (jestem arogancki, ale nie tak dużo) aby myśliał, że wszystko w polsce jest strasznie i osoby tu muszą robić co robi się w zachodniu.  Myśly się (też kiedy wiem, że wszystcy osoby w polsce nie są to samo), że osoby w polsce mogą być bardzo czepłe i otwarte.  Też myśle się, że kapitalizm uczy nas, że muśimy konkurować; nie możemy pomagować naszym konkurentom.

Też słuchałem od kilków osób z Wrocławia, że osoby który pracują na NGO we Wrocławiu są zaściankowe.  Słuchałem skargi o intelektualistach lewicowskiem też są zaściankowe.  Nie myślę, że aktywisty i intelektualisty są niemiłe lub nietowarzyski.  Znam osoby który są bardzo otwarcie.  Myśle się jednak, że osoby są otwarcie kiedy ma się konekcję do kogo który znają, ale nie do osób który nie znają.  I inny temat, na Forum Wrocławskim antydyskriminacjim rozmawliśmy o migrantach i Romach ale oni nie byli na Forum.  Też nie wszyscy migrantów mowiją po polski; znam osoby który byliby na Forum, ale nie mowiją dobrze po polsku, więc nie byli.  Oczywyście, taka sytuacja nie jest tylko na świecie NGO lub we Wrocławiu.

Nie złe zrozumiesz mi, że piszę artykuł aby powiedziała, że “NGO we Wrocławiu są strasznie”.  Chciałbym po prostu rozumieć, dlatego nie ma połuczonej kampani przeciwko faszyzm we Wrocławiu.  Wiem, że krytyka nie jest zawsze otwarcie mowiła w Polsce 🙂

Jest koalicja antyfaszystowska w Warszawie

Wiem, że są możliwośći na konflikty kiedy byłaby koalicja.  Jak przykład, nabieram coraj bardziej podejrzeń o patriotyzmu (myślę, patriotyzm może być drzwi do nacjionalizmu).  Też wiem, że niestety dużo osób mają uprzedenie o anarchistach.  Wiem, że mogą być konflikty w koalicji i wiem, że musielibyśmy robić (nie lubię słowo) kompromisy.

Kompromisy to trudny temat w Polsce, nie?  W życziu politycznym nie robi się kompromisy.  Jest jedno prawo.  Wiem, że PiS (ich dział we Wrocławiu maszerali z faszyztami w Warszawie) radykalowali życie polityczne w Polsce.  Może być, że Polska ma nowoczesną demokrację i więc decydowanie konsensualne może jeszcze rozwijać.

Jednak, może być lepiej, i potencjałne polepszenia są ogromne.  Jestem przekonana, że są dużo osób we Wrocławiu który boją się o NOP ale nie wiedzą co mogą robić.  Czytałam lub słuchałem, że osoby czekają na Rafał Dutkiewicz, lub obwiniają Falanster, że nie organisowali manifestacja.  Wszystcy mogą robić coś, ale nie zawsze wiedzą co, i jak.  Więc możliwość byliby, że koncentracujemy na

Meldowanie zbronia nienawiści
Polepszenie między policją i państwa
Rozwijać odwaga cywilna
Demonstrował, że większość jest tolerancyjna
Kampania przeciwko nietolerancjej

Najpierz możemy robić marsz na rynku dla wszytkich, który chcą pokażywać Wrocław musze być tolerancjyna i nie ma miejśca na zbrodna nienawiści.

Powinniśmy robić koalacja Wrocławska przeciwko faszyzmowi/zbroniu nienawiśiemu, organizacji, indywidualne osoby, kościely i różne mniejszości.  Powinniśmy robić co chcemy od polytików: otwartość i zaufanie, konsenualne decydowanie.

Nie mam wielkiego planu.  Nie wiem bardzo dużo o pracy która robisz.  Wiem tylko, że bylibyśmy bardzo lepiej, kiedy “normalne” osoby wiedzialiby, co i mogą robić, i gdzie, i z kim możieliby rozmawiać.

Mam nadzieję, że następnego 11. listopada będzie coś innego.

We need a Wrocław coalition against facism


Planowałem pisać ten artykuł też po polsku, ale piszałem więcej niż planowałem.  Kiedy chciał(a)byś czytać tekst po polsku proszę “lubić” mnie na Facebooku i proszę czekać na polską wersję.

Disappointed, I am.  Last year, there I stood by the rynek with about 200 others who were standing up for a Poland where diversity is appreciated against organised fascists who want a Poland with no people of coloured skin, Jewish people, LGBT or Roma.  They attacked us with lit flares, and afterwards the local media said that “left and right-wing extremists were fighting each other”, something that was simply untrue.

I thought that this would be a scandal in Wrocław that so few people stood up for diversity, for democracy.  I thought that various groups of people would say, “That cannot happen again, we have to do a bigger counterdemo next year”.  Seeing as there have been famous examples of racist attacks in Wrocław during that day as well as the recent attack on the CRK and the synagogue, I really did think that people would want to make their opposition to fascism clear.  I also thought that, considering as well the riots by the fash in Warsaw last year those average people who were quite happy to march with the fash last year would not march with them this year, that they would go “I don’t want to support that kind of Poland”.

But no.  The fash marched last evening with their football fan friends as well as other patriots.  They faced no opposition.  The openly racist organisation NOP were very present.  The crowd chanted “Poland for the Poles!”  They even attacked people who were watching with lit flares and fireworks.  They didn’t just want to intimidate anti-fascists, but also average people in Wrocław.

So, racist symbolism, fascist leader (Dmowski) fetish, NOP sign, yup, standard fare for fascism in Wrocław

Wrocław, the cool, open, tolerant, multicultural city?  You are joking.

Well, even if many are like that, they are not prepared to confront others who want a white-only, Jew- and LGBT-free city.

While racism is something faced by people with coloured skin here on a daily basis I don’t believe that the average person here is a rabid and active racist.  I am convinced that most people don’t like the NOP and there is also a sizable group of people happy to support things like Fair Trade and “intercultural tolerance”.  What they lack are the means to stand up to fascism.

I say fascism, for that it what it is.  Note how yesterday a campaign was launched for a “new nationalism” which involves the overthrow of democracy.  In the last year Wrocław has seen the aforementioned racist and anti-semitic attacks, an attack on a vegetarian restaurant that was to host an anti-racist concert just a few weeks ago and last night, an attack on a squat with one person being hospitalised.  The NOP are getting increasingly active and more connected with football fans.

So, where does this leave us?  What do we do, hope for Rafał Dutkiewicz to solve the problem?  To wait for the police to do something?

In the “Wrocław anti-discrimination forum” in Falanster last Friday various activists spoke of how the Wrocław state are saying that we are “multicultural” and sponsoring various events; they are however hopeless in combatting those who stand against that.  The police meanwhile don’t actually list hate crimes, and work reactively but not proactively to the problem.  For example, the attack on the vegetarian restaurant in October that was to have an anti-racist concert was listed simply as the work of “criminals”.  In other words, we cannot wait for the state to deal with the problem.  I really doubt that racism and anti-semitism will be thematised in the next elections here in Wrocław.

No, we need a Wrocław coalition against fascism, drawing together the NGOs who do excellent work as well as religious bodies and individuals.  My monitoring of the best way to combat fascism across the world is when people (not just leaders) and organisations come together and work together.

They have an anti-fascist coalition in Warsaw, you know.

I raised this during the forum and was told that “there is such a coalition in Warsaw and they have conflicts”.  Well yes, coalitions have conflicts.  I was involved in a “Stop-the-war” coalition once and left it due to the domination of it by various people.  I know though that coalitions against fascism work in places like Dresden against the threat of Nazis and in England against the threat of the EDL.  People there are prepared to put differences aside in order to work for the common aim.

The thing is, and here I am writing with great caution and with great respect, is that I have heard from many Polish NGO activists that NGOs in Poland don’t like to work with each other.  Yes, you can probably give me examples to the contrary, but I have heard this from many people.  That the NGO sector is so small in Poland means that there is more competition for money and therefore people keep their work to themselves, not even informing other NGOs of projects they are doing.  I have even heard that NGOs are very cautious about ideas for projects in case someone else uses the idea.

That is in fact my experience.  Twice I have gone to a NGO and suggested a project; one totally cut themselves off from contact with me and later used a version of my idea, another refused to work with me as “OUR people can do that”.  (Don’t think I’m writing this as some kind of revenge; I’m well over that now.)

Now, I am not arrogant enough (I am arrogant, but not that much) to believe that things in Poland are totally bad and that people should copy what is done in the west.  I believe that here people can be very reserved and indifferent to people they don’t know, but as soon as there is a reason for contact (say, a friend of a friend) they can be exceedingly warm.  That is my experience and that of many migrants I know.  My point is, I can appreciate why people can want to work with people they know, being less trusting especially in a climate where trust is an expensive capital.  Capitalism of course tells us that we should compete, not helping with our “competitors”.

I have also heard from many people (and I think this myself) that there is an insularity, a lack of openness towards people they don’t know among various NGOs and left-wing intellectuals in Wrocław.  Note also how we talk of Roma or migrants but they are not part of our debates and decision-making.  The “Wrocław anti-discrimination forum” was wholly attended by white-skinned, educated people.  This is of course not exclusive to Wrocław, left-wing intellectuals or NGOs in Poland, of course.

Please don’t get me wrong, the point of this article isn’t to say that “NGOs in Poland are terrible and selfish”.  I am simply trying to understand why a Wrocław coalition against fascism doesn’t exist.  Yet.  I know that criticism is not always said directly in Poland 🙂  I mean this all in a nice way and appreciative of many things here.

To tell the truth, I can see potential conflicts.  I for example am becoming increasingly suspicious of patriotism, believing that patriotism can be a gateway to nationalism and focuses so much attention on just one part of our identities, something that in nation states leads to legalised discrimination.  I also believe that capitalism is one of the problems behind racism.  I am also aware that many are suspicious of anarchists (the Food Not Bombs thing they do whereby food is given to poor people faced opposition from a local RC priest).  I am aware of potential conflicts within an anti-fascist coalition in Wrocław.  I know that, and I myself don’t like this word, compromises must be made.

That’s another issue, though.  I am told that in Poland compromises are not made in the political sphere.  I know that PiS (whose Wrocław branch, by the way, marched with fascists in Warsaw) radicalised the political landscape to this extend.  I also know that Poland is a modern democracy and the value of consensual decision-making needs to be developed.

However, this can improve, and the potential gains for a Wrocław coalition against fascism are big: Raising the need to report hate crimes, having better liaisons with the police and government, having more people attending anti-fascist demos and events, making the tolerant majority more visible and empowering people to use civic courage.

I found that the “Wrocław anti-discrimination forum”, as interesting as it was didn’t really focus on what we can do.  I also note reactions to yesterday’s events, saying that “something must be done”, or “leaders must do something”, but nothing concrete.  I have therefore concrete ideas:

Let’s set up a Wrocław coalition against fascism.  This should include those NGOs who work against discrimination; LGBT, Jewish, Roma and migrant communities; those who work for cultural diversity, churches, political parties (Die Linke are pretty involved in Germany, though I don’t really like them), business people and individuals who are concerned, people like you.

Let’s also work towards an atmosphere of openness, being friendly to people who are not our friends.  Let’s work on trust.  Ultimately, we can wait all day for governments to do things, and even NGOs to do things, but all of us need to behave towards others as we wish to see Wroclaw to be.

Seriously, let’s discuss this.  The next 11th of November should be very different.  By the way, I don’t have a master plan of what to do, and there are many many people in Wrocław who know more about all this.  I just to start a debate.
Edit:

Just to add, I could very much understand why the Jewish and other communities would not be part of this.

Mutual distrust

Combatting fascism and racism, working for a Wrocław where diversity is seen as positive requires different activities carried out by people who may mistrust each other, but who must work together if their really want their aims to succeed.

A bit of a personal biography: I am someone who got into ethical consumption in the 1990s, promoting Fair Trade products, boycotts of banks who finance arms production, that kind of thing.  For me therefore Wroclaw is a good place as a number of ethic-trading places have mushroomed over the past few years: Cafe Pestka, Najadacze, Falanster, Machine Organika, Złe mięso, Hostel Bemma, Eko Organica, plus Nalanda was already here.  These are places where people can get good food in a nice atmosphere, are children (and sometimes animal) friendly.

Organic fair in Falanster

So we have the people who go there, let’s stereotype and generalise a bit and call them the “Ethical consumer“.  They believe that the world can become better through their shopping choices.  They like to have a nice, comfortable time.

I am also a trainer, and have been so since 2005.  I do workshops and lead seminars and youth exchanges and I have high ideals about this, but realise that the main benefit that my work seems to bring is simply human contact.  People get to know other people who are different, be that their personality, religion, nationality and the main thing they learn is quite banal: I like someone who is from another country/religion/and so on.  In Wrocław I know many people who are involved in these kind (or slightly different) of initiatives, such as Żywa Bibliotheka, UNESCO initiatives centre, the Foundation for European Studies and the House of Peace.

“Football against racism”

Let’s call them the “Trainers“.  They believe that human contact and reflective thinking is the way to achieve the world they want.  They like to meet people, get other people to meet other people, having a nice time while doing so and producing some media-friendly photos and videos to try to make things like diversity appear normal and cool.

So far, I belong to both groups.

Now, I used to be someone suspicious of what are often called left-wing radicals/anarchists.  I believed that their work was actually self-serving and hindering peace through their violent tactics.  Through being friends with people in Germany who are active against Nazis (modern-day ones, I mean) and having attended anti-fascist demos in Dresden I have seen that my previous views were false, that they are hard-working people who care deeply about things like prejudice, and people who the mainstream are prejudiced against, like I used to be.

The “Colourful Independent” in Warsaw last November 11th

Let’s call them the “Militant” (I shall unpack that term a bit later).  The Ethical consumer and the Trainer (often the same people) are often suspicious of the Militant.  They believe that non-confrontational methods are needed, that confrontation causes a reaction, that it involves danger, and feel much more at home doing nice events.  Last year, only a small minority of Ethical Consumers and Trainers attended the anti-fascist demon on 11/11.  I have read this evening “I am proud that in Wrocław that there are people and organisations who organise such events” the event being the march of tolerance from the synagogue to the site of the destroyed synagogue.  I share that, while at the same time, it’s pathetic that in Wrocław, the so-called multicultural city where tolerance reigns, that so so so few people stood up for tolerance against intolerance.

An apologia for militant anti-fascism

By militant I mean those who are prepared to be assertive in situations that need it.  It may involve showing fascists that their version of Poland is not the one we want (this happened last year where the chant was “One Poland, much diversity”), which involves active confrontation.  It’s about taking relationships between people in society seriously, taking democracy seriously as not just something that government does, but what we do.  We vote with our feet and with mouths, showing people clearly what we think.

This may also involve intervening when we see discriminatory events, such as when someone says something racist on a tram to someone, or when we see a colleague being sexually harassed; or at a more dangerous level, taking responsibility when you see someone attacked, ringing the police, making it obvious that you are there, showing solidarity and addressing the aggressor.  Simply put, militant anti-fascism is the showing of civic courage.

One thing I have not mentioned so far is violence.  Violent is essential to fascism.  Violence by fascists came to the synagogue, a LGBT march, the CRK centre and a vegetarian restaurant in Wrocław this year.  It’s what they do.  Therefore, even if you are not someone who attends demos it is prudent to consider risks of violent attacks; not letting fear lead us into inaction, but letting us prepare.  Preparation means numbers of people and having people who are prepared to react if a violent attack occurs.  Self-defense skills and techniques for individuals and groups is needed for anyone working for the promotion of diversity in Poland.

I am not saying that violence should be an aim in itself, rather a means of self-defense.

Now, I believe that the Trainers’ strength is in strengthening the issue of diversity, thus making it less likely that people will move to fascism.  However, and remember, I say this as a trainer, it is naive to expect that fascism will be dealt with purely through cool workshops (I don’t know if anyone believes that, but it’s an important point).  Governmental inaction shows that we have to deal with fascism.  Of course, the police have a role where violence is happening, but the fact is that the Ethical Consumer and the Trainer needs the MIlitant (and vice versa) in order to combat fascism.

Unlike, say, sitting drinking coffee in Cafe Rozrusznik or playing a game with young people, militant anti-fascism is not always nice.  It means being shouted at, and maybe things will be thrown in our direction.  There is a danger involved.  An allegory I have is that of giving birth to a child.  It involves pain, but the pain turns into something beautiful.  Writing applications may be a pain in the arse, but doing things like destroying posters for fascist marches and, yes, confronting fascists with our views is not easy, and may involve pain, but is needed if we are serious about strengthening diversity.

Militant anti-fascism aims at demoralising fascists.  The experience is such that we want to make it hard for fascists to do their work, to meet, to spread their hatred.  It may even involve tactics that the Trainer or Ethical consumer may not like, such as blockades.  The thing with blockades (bear in mind that the “Colourful Independent” blockade in Warsaw last year was, legally speaking, legal) is that it aims at demoralising fascists.  It’s symbolic, letting them know that we stand in their way on all accounts.  Regarding legality, well, I would say that not everything that is legal is good, and not everything that is good is legal.  Poland has a history of illegal actions against human-unfriendly people.  One may say that “we are in a democracy now”, but bearing in mind that fascists want to destroy that democracy, and that the state cannot be trusted, blockades are a needed tactic.  This isn’t about “denying free speech” for lo, they are already on the streets and shouting.

Anti-fasicst miners in Madrid

Militants want to make it clear that being racist is not cool.  I do not believe that we in the situation of ending racism, but one can at least make it a socially unacceptable thing.  You say something racist, I’ll react.  You march in the name of racism, we will react.

A lot more can be said about that or about Militant suspicions of NGOs or Ethical Consumers.  I just wish to deal with the question of why many of the Trainers or Ethical Consumers don’t attend anti-fascist demos:

(1) Fear
(2) Prejudice against MIlitants
(3) No-one is doing it
(4) See no sense in doing it

Briefly, it is understandable that people are afraid.  To add to that, when many people are afraid many people will be afraid.  If one thousand people were to put their fear aside and attend an anti-fascist demo, they would have less fear, and this would mean that those who didn’t attend would have less fear to attend future demos (see point 3).  Regarding prejudice, well, quantitively and qualitatively there is no comparison between fascists and anti-fascists and bear in mind that the media often portrays false views of anti-fascist demos (see last year in Warsaw).  The sense of a demo is of a body of people collectively making their views clear to other people.

Just one more point: If we are to be serious about strengthening democratic values, we have to take democracy seriously.  This means non-hierarchial decision-making in our daily lives, at our work places, in churches, in NGOs, in our families.  To put this positively this means respecting all people, not just older people, or people in positions of power.  This means our own psychological set-up, how we see our relations to others.  It also means being open with ourselves about our prejudices, against, say, Militant anti-fasicsts, against those who are different from us.  No-one is perfect, including myself.

Anyway, I hope to see you at the event in Falanster tomorrow and Sunday about discrimination.  Stay safe!

When you walk through the snow…

Well it’s been a bit of a wet-snow-in-the-face day today, hasn’t it?  Not that that stopped these people from playing in a “Football against racism” tournament.  Having a lot of fun they were (sorry, I don’t know why I used used Yoda-esque grammar).  The tournament lasted for about 13 hours or something like that today.  Luckily I was provided with some hot tea to keep my cockles warm (one says this in English.  I don’t know where the cockles are to be found on the human body).  I briefly watched a game played in slippery conditions, where many teenagers were laughing, enjoying the game.

Changing the subject, yesterday saw something somewhat dramatic happen.  People in masks entered a vegetarian restaurant and threatened the people there, including the guests.  They they threw some bottles of acid inside the building, causing the place to stink.  The restaurant had to be closed for that reason yesterday, and reopened today.  The attackers, so it seems, were nationalists.

Now, it just so happens that there was going to be a concert taking place in that restaurant today.  That the concert was billed as anti-racist is no accident.  The attack was an attempt to scare people, and it worked, the concert was cancelled.  I was upset at this, as I wanted to go to the concert.  I as well as many were upset as this was effectively a victory for the attackers, for nationalism.

One of the bands who were to play got very angry about this and wrote a message on their Facebook site, saying that “internet anti-fascists” were nowhere to be seen, and that anti-fascists are afraid of confronting nationalists.  Many comments supported this view, saying that not all anti-fascists could have gone to Warsaw last 11/11, and that they chose not to stand against fascists in Wrocław on that 11/11.

There’s a lot to be said about this, and I as someone who has lived in Poland for four years don’t know the whole picture.  What I do know is this:  Fascists/racists try to make people afraid of them.  They threat violent things.  They do violent things.  They lay claim to open spaces.  They want that people do not confront them.  They want that people are passive.  They use tactics to intimidate others.

I have written before on the difference between them and those who live in Wrocław who engage in initiatives that promote diversity and social justice.  In that article I also mentioned that a vegan restaurant, an art festival, a synagogue, a cultural centre as well as anti-racist demos have seen physical attacks by, to give them their name, fascists.

Fear.  That is how they work.  I went to that restaurant today.  I was half-thinking that perhaps a similar attack would happen today.  I was determined however to show solidarity, so I went.  However, as I have written, I have not always reacted when I have seen violent or discriminatory incidents on the streets.  I totally understand why the decision was taken to cancel the concert.  I also understand why few people attended what I would term a “Poland is diversity” demonstration on the last 11/11 in Wrocław.  Those who don’t like our way of life, who are against women being treated equally, that we have immigrants here (especially with coloured skin), that LGBT is considered normal and the old multicultural model of Poland are actively doing violent actions against us.

The way to counter fear is solidarity.  Perhaps the concert was cancelled as they were not sure that many people would attend, that they would feel scared.  Solidarity is of course a loaded word in Poland.  A few weeks ago I watched the film “80 milionów” where among other things we saw protests against the government on Most Grundwaldzki.


The state were there with their shields, batons, water cannons and other weapons.  I daresay that a smaller group of protesters would have been afraid and less likely not to back down.  That there were more people meant that they felt stronger in the fact of a powerful opponent.  The government tried to make people feel afraid, but were unsuccessful in the end as so many people stood against them.  On another level, I once attended an anti-fascist demo where there were 20,000 of us, and about 1,200 fascists (and 10,000 police).  I didn’t feel afraid.  We were a massive group.

Combating racism is much more than one certain day in the year, it’s more than one concert.  It’s an everyday need, tackling discrimination when we see it, intervening, confronting.  Demonstrations however are ways for people to see themselves as part of a big group.  One feels stronger afterwards.

I don’t want readers to go out and do things without thinking about possible dangers.  There are things we need to look out for, such as security (keeping together in groups, not walking alone before and afterwards).  Action needs to be mixed with caution.

One thing I can say though, is that the more people who put fear aside and attend anti-racist events, the bigger the snowball effect will take place, to come back to the first story.  Those kids braved the weather today.  I hope that such bravery develops for those who are trying to strengthen diversity and tolerance in Poland.  History, and indeed, recent history in Wrocław shows us that confrontation can produces very good results.

J’accuse. Or maybe not.

Sorry abut the recent dearth of posts from me.  I’ve been very busy with work lately.  I’ve got a few articles planned, though, and one is already waiting to be published.

However, that can wait, as I wish to talk the issue of accusations.

For some reason I kind of identify with people who are accused of doing things.  I don’t really know why.  I did get in almighty bother as a four-year old as it was alleged that I had told some people to “fuck off”.  I protested my innocence to no avail.  (Knowing me as an adult, it is possible that those words escaped my mouth).  Or perhaps it’s because I watched the A-team a lot as a child; a programme which contains, to remind you, four men who were imprisoned “for a crime they didn’t commit”.  Anyway, irregardless of my motivations I believe it to be important to respect the issue of proof.

We know what happens when people are accused of things.  Things can get ugly.  For centuries various scapegoats were accused of causing bad things.  In recent memory we have the example of pediatricians being attacked as some people though they were paedophiles.  Peoples lives can be ruined by accusations.  That’s why proof is very important.

When I did tours in the Dachau and Sachsenhausen concentration camp memorial sites I was confronted with the issue of proof.  Once or twice I had people in my groups who were doubting what I was saying.  They thought that the information as shown by the memorial sites and their guides was a lie, that a lot less people died there, that the gas chambers didn’t exist, or were built by American and Soviet soldiers after the liberation of the camp.  In both places I stressed how we know what we know about the gas chambers.  In Dachau I spoke of prisoners who had helped to build the gas chambers, how other prisoners knew of the gas chambers.

Now, many prisoners believed that the gas chamber in Dachau was being used regularly to kill off prisoners (bear in mind that the gas chamber/crematorium facility was outside the main camp).  This is a camp myth that is written in some survivor testimonies.  We have three concrete testimonies from survivors of times when the gas chamber was used on people.  We don’t know however which of them are true.  However, we know that the head SS-doctor Sigmund Rascher wrote to Heinrich Himmler that the gas chamber was functioning (i.e. it had been used on people).  The combination of the testimonies and this letter are the proof that the gas chamber was used.

It takes the wind out of the sails of Nazis when one can offer proof that one is speaking the truth.  Otherwise they can get wound up in conspiracy theories.  The fight therefore against fascism, against racism requires people to be active in knowing just who has said or done something fascist or racist, and offer proof for that act.  We need to be credible, not people shouting out accusations without foundation.

Which brings me to John Terry.  He was found “not guilty” of saying a racist comment to Anton Ferdinand.  That he admitted to saying the words “fucking black cunt” was countered by his claim that he was repeating back to Ferdinand what he thought he was being accused of during the game.  (That Ferdinand said that such a conversation didn’t take place and that he thought Terry to have said something racist only after the match.  Someone here is not telling the truth).  I don’t know whether Terry meant his comment in a racist way.  A private conversation which isn’t recorded or heard by other people leaves us with difficulty in offering proof.  Maybe Terry got away with it, I don’t know.  Now, some fellow Liverpool fans and fans of other clubs think that Terry did get away with it.  Many anti-racist campaigners also think so.  Perhaps they are more distrusting of Terry than myself.  Perhaps they are right.

It’s like with the allegations that Patrice Evra made about Luis Suarez.  I’ve written about this before so I won’t repeat myself.  I’ll just say that the FA hearing chose to believe Evra (thus following their usual procedure of finding a player “guilty”), something contested by Suarez, Liverpool FC and former player (and victim of racial abuse) John Barnes.  Unlike with former Liverpool player Tommy Smith there was no proof about Evra’s allegations.  There is no recording, no eye-witness account, no video proof.*

In a court of law Suarez, like Terry would not have been charged due to a lack of evidence.  As I say, perhaps Terry had meant his comment in a racist way.  Perhaps Suarez did as well.  Until I see proof, however, I shall have to exercise caution in believing that one is presumed innocent until proven guilty.  Even if I don’t like the player.  Even if I am against racism.

Of course, not everything a court finds to be guilty or not guilty is right.  I remember the Birmingham Six.  I remember the many Nazis who were given lesser sentences (later pardoned).  I don’t hold any judicial procedure to be flawless.  With the Birmingham Six and the various Nazis, however, I know what the proof is, and can make my mind up accordingly.

I find that, as an anti-fascist campaigner I receive accusations from right-wingers and liberals that I am exaggerating things (say, when I speak of homophobia and anti-semitism in our societies).  To be credible one needs facts.  To demand proof is not to be “soft on racism”, or “soft on Holocaust education”.  It’s a desire to offer a credible fight against racism and fascism.  It’s a desire to protect innocent people from scurrilous allegations, accusations that the various groups of people constantly face.

* That the FA found him to be “guilty” does not constitute proof.  They are not a court of law.  They simply believed Evra’s word.  The non-handshaking incident (whoever started it) also doesn’t constitute racist intent.