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.

The irony of Nazi anti-semitism

For this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day I want to reflect upon a great irony of Nazi anti-semitism: Its nature makes it more difficult to deal with anti-semitism.  I believe there to be a lot of confusion about anti-semitism, so here’s my contribution.

Of course, on the one hand, a bloody big hand at that, it makes anti-semitism very visible and has by and large tabooised anti-semitism.  On the other hand, Nazi anti-semitism gets in the way of looking at anti-semitism.

First you have many forms of anti-semitism that exist because, not despite of Auschwitz.  The first one that may think of is Holocaust denials.  The excellent Deborah Lipstadt  has spent years addressing that.  There are further forms of post-1945 anti-semtiism:

Believing “the Jews” are out to make money through compensation.  This has obvious chimes with the older links between Jewish people and “their desire for money”.  I’ve heard this in Germany and also here in Poland (“Gross’ books on Poland are part of the Jewish desire to get money from Poles”)

Expressing solidarity with the perpetrators, due to the a belief that a member of ones own family may have done something harmful to Jewish people.  This form manifests itself by being defensive regarding anti-semitism in the country one lives in.

Perpetrator/victim role reversal, which means making Jewish people to be those who did the bad things, or at least focussing on difficult areas like the Judenrat or on various conspiracy theories that “Zionists did a deal with Hitler, enabling Israel to come into existence and sending their fellow Jews to the gas chambers”, or here in Poland focussing on Jewish communists, who did exist, but not to the extent that “communism was a Jewish thing“, or at least not considering Jewish communists within the context of anti-semitism in Poland.  Another form here is self-censorship, whereby people believe that the “Jewish lobby/Zentralrat der Juden” will be aggressive in claiming anti-semitism.

Refusing to remember.  Here people will often say “the Holocaust was bad, but we don’t need to have days of remembrance or have so much attention given to it”.  This form may not be so obviously anti-semitic, but here Jewish people are denied the right (explicitly or implicitly) to remember the Shoah, or may be liked to the “solidarity with the perpetrators” form of anti-semitism, whereby things like Holocaust Memorial Day may raise unpleasant questions.

Defense mechanisms.  This form is not so much an ideology, rather in this form Jewish people form an unconscious enemy figure.  The mention of Jewish people will here provoke negative emotions, which may not always be expressed.

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An example of anti-semitic criticism of Israel. From http://israel-thrives.blogspot.com/

We also have anti-semitic forms of criticism of Israel.  Here Jewish people are denied the right to self-determination (i.e. to their own state, unlike with regards to Christian and Muslim states), or Israel being made out to be the scapegoat of all that is bad in the world/Middle East, or double standards being applied to Israel, or expressing overt solidarity with the likes of Hamas and Hizbollah (openly anti-semitic organisations), or identifying the Israeli state with the Nazis, thus abusing the deaths of Jewish people.  Furthermore, the oft-expressed view that “as soon as I express criticism of Israel will be labelled as anti-semitic” is paradoxically anti-semitic, in that it assumes an enemy figure of those avenging Jewish people.  This form finds a parallel in the “Protocals of the Elders of Zion” where a “Jewish hegemony controlling the media” becomes a Zionist one.  I have heard this tiring view very often.  I find that despite assertions that “criticism of Israel is of course valid, and not all criticism of Israel is anti-semitic” some people really want to hold onto this paranoid view.  (I intend to return to the subject of Israel and the standard narrative about history in the Middle East in the future.)

These are the different forms of anti-semitism which are different to Nazi anti-semitism, while having some things in common.  Gone are (by and large) the racist theories (though many hold onto the thought of people being “half-Jewish” or “quarter-Jewish”, though this reflects a general fallacy about blood theories) and to a great extent (talk of Zionists aside) talk of “Jewish capital” is less of a feature of post-1945 anti-semitism.

No, there’s another effect of Nazi anti-semitism.  Anti-semitism gets associated with Hitler and therefore for many all talk of anti-semitism becomes associated with him and the gas chambers.  Someone once told me “Zionists in Israel are typical Jews in only being interested in money” and when I said this was an anti-semitic view, I was told that “I bear no responsibility for Hitler”*.  Hitler has effectively become a blanket which covers all anti-semitism, stopping many from being critical about it.  To tell someone that their view of “Zionist conspiracies” or “Jews being hungry for compensation from Poles” becomes, for many the same as saying “you are a Nazi”.

Which isn’t true.  I believe that we need to do a lot of work on anti-semitism, making it clear that a lot of contemporary anti-semtism has little or nothing to do with Nazi anti-semitism.  Only then can people be more critical.

One more point.  With regards to the culture of memory anti-semitism can play a role behind views like “Jews stop Polish/Russian etc. victims of the Nazis from being remembered” (here talk of a “Polish Holocaust” comes into play).  It can also come to play with other victims like gays.  “They (Jewish victims) get all the attention.  Here instead of analysing social, political or national reasons why some victims have been given more time than others and being self-critical Jewish people become a vague enemy figure and the classic competition of remembrance comes into play.

You know what?  I would love not to have to write articles about anti-semitism in 2013, having to explain what it is.  I would love more u being given to other victim groups, such as non-Jewish Belarussians, Ukrainians and Poles; Roma/Sinti, disabled people, people in old peoples’ homes, gays (here i mean men.  It was only, with one known exception in Neuengamme men who were put into concentration camps for being gay; here a competition of memory sometimes takes place between lesbians, who were certainly discriminated against under Nazi doctrine and gays), alcoholics, homeless people, unemployed people, prostitutes, communists, social democrats, anarchists and Jehovah’s witnesses.  Here a lot of work is needed.  (I wish to return to this in future articles.)  The thing is, as long as there are people like Lib Dem MP David Ward or Labour councillor Kassem Al-Khatib who use Holocaust Memorial Day in order to lay into “the Jews” or “Zionists” Holocaust Memorial Day needs a lot more work on anti-semitism.

* In this and in other exchanges I  have learned to not use the word “anti-semitism” as it triggers defensiveness in people.  It takes a good contact with someone in order for them to be self-critical.

The social construction of sexuality

The Wrocław museum for contemporary art has very interesting events, and yesterday I attended one entitled “The social construction of sexuality” which was to mark the publication of the Polish translation of the book with the same name as the title of the evening  by Steven Seidman (Polish “Społeczne tworzenie seksualności“) with forward by Jacek Kochanowski, who gave the lecture last evening.

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During the talk Jacek Kochanowski spoke of how sexuality as is considered to be in Poland does not reflect the reality of the different sexualities in Poland.  As he said, it is a fact that there is a great diversity, which can involve not only sex only involving men or women but also fetishisation and heterosexual darkrooms (a migrant cultural element from gay culture).

I was attracted to this event as I am interested in the issue of normality (my last article was on the sexist nature of normality in Poland).  Kochanowski spoke of how the clear model in Poland which is expected of sex is that not only does it only involve a male and a female, but also it must involve an orgasm (largely involving the male) in order for it to be called sex.  Furthermore, this sex is not for pleasure but for procreation.  Such a sex requires a dominant person and a passive person.  Anything outside of this is outside of the “norm” and is therefore viewed with suspicion, this then being one of the reasons behind homophobia in Poland.  Of course, this view is largely influenced by the official policy of the Roman Catholic church (even if not always followed by its members).  This has of course obvious consequences for women, reduced to orgasm- free sex and being child-bearers.

Of course, this isn’t restricted to Poland.  I’ve heard such stuff before in GB and in my church some conservative evangelicals will focus on the “man and woman having sex” norm, though less so with regards to procreation but more with regards to “being one” in a marital relationship.  But anyway, I found it a useful contribution to the nature of normality in that morals get attached to the norm.  What is normal is moral, what is “abnormal” (even if involving consenting adults) is immoral.

I believe it to be useful to focus not just on the issue of rights, saying that “this and that” should happen, but also on focussing on the social construction of normality.  To add to what Kochanowski said, it is simply not true that all people born in Poland are things like Roman Catholics (I know plenty Orthodox and some Protestants, as well as atheists) or meat-eaters (I hardly know any meat-eaters).  That one particular norm is considered to be representative of all people in Poland says a lot about power and domination (ironically enough, giving the subject).

Another aspect that interested me about the lecture and then talk is the nature of auto-aggression by the gay male in Poland.  In that the norm is to be heterosexual, dominant and macho, being gay is tied up with not being male.  This is somewhat new for me.  Part of gay culture as I know it does involve macho-men, not men seeming to reject their male nature.  Hence the use of things like leather, things that accentuate the male body.

Of course, I am speaking from the position of dominance.  I am heterosexual and married.  People like me are seen on advertising and films.  Bearing that in mind, I have the following contribution: I once attended a workshop on homosexuality led by a gay friend who informed us of the different parts of identity, being the biological sex (if it is clear which one one has), the gender role in society, the clothes one wears, the biological sex(es) that one is sexually attracted to, ones sexuality (meaning how I express ones biological sex or ones desire for sex, such as through the clothes one wears, body posture and the contact that one seeks for, such as men playing football together).  A man can wear women’s clothes and be heterosexual.  A woman can be a manager.  A man can be gay and be macho.  A heterosexual man can like the physical touch of other men (even if it takes a few drinks to get to that state)*.

Perhaps I have the wrong impression.  That being LGBT is even further from being the “norm” in Poland than in other countries I have lived in means that I have a very small relation to LGBT culture.

In any case, I recommend the Wrocław museum of contemporary art.  (Hence my last review of an event there.)

I plan to return to the theme of “normality” in the future.

* Later my wife told me of a documentary she saw of interviews wth female sex-workers, who said that often men wanted someone to happen in the way of anal stimulation (i.e. happening to them).  This was something they were ashamed about and therefore were asking sex-workers for this, rather than their wives.  A men having pleasure on or in his arse is seen as being gay, and therefore the men in question didn’t also want themselves to be thought of being gay.  Certainly, I’ve heard before about heterosexual men liking not only being stroked on their arse, but also being anally penetrated by women one way or another.  This offers of course another way in which women can rape men.

This offers an interesting light on the nature of men and women relations, in that part of male homophobia is born out of the fear of being raped.  Here I’ll admit something.  As a child I was brought up in a homophobic culture and “queer” was a term of insult.  I remember rumours of people being gay and feeling a fear, a fear that I now realised was out of a fear of being raped.  “Backs to the walls, lads” we said.  I remember years later seeing Julian Clary on a TV show where an older man said “I’ve got no problem with you being gay, just don’t try anything with me”, to which Julian Clary replied “You should be so lucky!”  Here there is an assumption that all gay men want sex with all men (said for example about gay footballers, “surely you can’t shower with them”.  Here of course nakedness is mixed up with sex.  Like Kochanowski, I’m a fan of naturist areas.  Eastern Germany’s good with that).

I wonder whether this fear that all gay men want sex with all men is a projection.  My wife told me anyway that in this sense men are confronted with how it is possible for women to feel, in that any man can be a rapist.  (Of course, as I just demonstrated, it goes for women as well).

Normality is a pain in the arse

I am increasingly coming to the view that as well as focussing on Nazi-saluting drunks, we need to combat normality itself.

An interesting article was published in the Toruń version of Gazeta Wyborcza.  In it the Toruń university Professor Mariola Chomczyńska-Rubacha said that children in Polish schools are being taught stereotypes about the gender roles of men and women, stereotypes that contribute to sexism, demonstrated through research into textbooks in schools .  One example  on entrepreneurship whereby a family budget sees the father having a fishing rod, the son gets a bike, the daughter books and the mother gets nothing.  In another example on maths saw a father wanting and taking a credit, while the concerns of the wife is restricted to potatoes and bread for 20 zloty.  Female members of families in textbooks often have trivial operations with low prestige.

This is normality.(From flowersandchocos.com/)

It is normal for women to give men flowers.  No really.
(From flowersandchocos.com/)

“If you assign behaviours, activities and personality traits of people to a particular sex, their individual opportunities to be who they would like to be will be limited”, said Chomczyńska-Rubacha.  She goes onto to say that when one looks at the organisation of schools (where 80% of teachers are women while most directors are male), the treatment of children (boys being told to move benches, girls told to clean) as well as the textbooks, one sees clear conservative gender roles being taught to children in schools.  A five-year old I know has said the following: “When the wife is good the husband will give her flowers” (the husband has power, however, he doesn’t get any flowers) and “boys can cry, but men are not allowed to”.  Somehow the child has picked up standards of what is normal, of what boys and girls, men and women can do.

Of course, there is no empirical facts to show what men and women should actually be doing.  Of course, there are a few obvious biological differences, human women can give birth and breastfeed, men can stand up to piss.  One could say that men are stronger, which is true when one looks at averages, although saying that a few hundred years of men doing largely physical work will have had an effect on genes.  In any case, there is nothing to suggest that men should be the person responsible for income in the family* or that boys should move chairs.   I’m not being PC here, it’s simply untrue to say that men don’t do things like cook, clean and take the children to school.  What is taught in schools does not reflect reality.  It’s like the view that all people born in Poland are Roman Catholic, or eat meat, or drink vodka.  That we know someone/some people like that doesn’t mean that it is true.

We receive so much information and need to simplify things, hence definitions of normality.  When many people do this societal rules come to being.  That different people, for example, hear animals making different noises (the five-year old I mentioned is convinced that dogs go “how” and not “bark”, “woof” or “yap” speaks of socialisation.)  That’s a fairly banal example.  The thing is, as professor Chomczyńskia-Rubacha says, these concepts of normality can be a pain in the arse (alright, that’s a liberal translation).  Girls will feel obliged to be the “good” mother, staying at home, while the husband earns more money.  They’ll do this as it is considered to be normal.  (In fact, men I know are more likely to be paid more and put into positions of power.  There are reasons other than sexism, of course, such as that testosterone increases risk-taking, but still.)  As I said here, this can create all manner of pressure for women in Poland.

And the thing is this, men don’t 100% benefit from this.  Look at the lower lifespan of men partly due to them being told to “be a man” and not worry about their health, or look at higher suicide rates for men, who are told not to cry or show emotions.  That 80% of teachers are female means that boys are largely taught in schools by women can result in, as said in the article boys being conditioned that girls are better learners and hardworking.  My experience in school is that the girls tended to sit forward at class and get more attention from the teachers.  I felt under pressure to not be a “swot” and therefore paid less attention to learning.

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Now, I am not saying that the people making school textbooks are cackling evil laughs as they do so, thinking “we’ll really fuck their lives up ha ha ha”.  No, a key point about prejudices is that that are sometimes not conscious, not deliberate attempts to discriminate.  No, they reflect what we consider to be normal.  Or at least, we accept things are being normal as people in our families, schools or churches told us them, i.e. people in authority.  I recall indeed a children’s fairy tales book published in Poland a few years ago that contained anti-semitic caricatures (can’t remember the name of it).  Talk of doing anything considered not to be “normal”, say, being vegetarian, gay, not wanting to celebrate Christmas (not that I’m linking the three example) can be opposed not due to any rational reason, simply to an attachment to a flimsy definition of what is considered to be normal.  Opposition out of grounds of normality for normality’s sake shows a lack of faith in the reasons why decisions are made.

One more point: Of course, being critical of societal conventions of normality can involve all manner of awkward questions, such as to the nature of the family.  Families are social constructions as well.  A family can exist without a man, or a woman for that matter.  We assume the family model of two parents to be normal, purely because we have seen that happen a lot.  Bob Avarkian is right (I don’t say that very often) in that people would grow up differently if they didn’t eat food at home with their parents, rather ate them in canteens.  Their sense of the “in-group” would change.  What the human being and how it understands social relations is changeable.

Another example: People say that we have to have capitalism, along with all its abuses because “people are selfish”.  I’d agree that people tend to be selfish in the present societal relations that we have.  The question arises whether it is the selfish person who makes the selfish system, or the other way around.  Capitalism was and continues to be a form radical social engineering (bringing many good things).  Challenging whether, however people are naturally selfish may lead us in radical directions.

Perhaps it’s due to attachments to power that opposition to being critical of normality is made.

Wroclaw police and racism

1m złoty is to be spent on combatting hate-crimes and xenophobia in Wrocław (source in English, in Polish)

A few points:

I said on my old blog after 11/11/11 that the average “patriot” not aligned to fascist activities are likely to become radicalised as a result of the NOP/ONR/football fan alliance.  This story shows that those doing the violence were those same football fans.

It is good that more surveillance will be made of fascist groups.  However, this isn’t totally good news.

From wolnywroclaw.pl

From wolnywroclaw.pl

During 11/11/12 I saw two plain clothes policeman take away one anti-fascist protester (who was drunk and acted alone).  Meanwhile the police did nothing when the fash attacked passers-by with fireworks and flares and shouted racist slogans, all of which are illegal acts.  I gather that the police did not act (as they also didn’t act when the fash attacked anti-fascists in 2011) as they didn’t want to “provoke” the fash.  Certainly, police tactics against the fash are not working (witness also the fact that it took them 45 minutes to get to Wagenburg, despite the fact that they knew of a possible attack earlier).

Bear in mind that the police use their powers against anti-fasicists as well.  In this article I mentioned how anti-fascists were beaten by police in Katowice, where also someone with asthma suffering breathing problems was not helped by police.  11/11/11 in Warsaw saw German anti-fascists (those who were attacked by historical reenactment society members) forced to strip in cold cells; denied water, food and interpreters.

It is very telling that this money is being given to state apparatus, but nothing to the civic society.  The fight against hate-crimes requires more than a more powerful state.  It requires people prepared to inform the police of hate crimes.  It requires people to intervene when they see them happen.  It requires them to actively stand up against fascist organisations on the streets, making it clear that we oppose their views.

One thing not mentioned is whether more attention will be given to the labelling of hate crimes (as Sukurs reminds me).  Perhaps it will happen, or perhaps this will simply lead to an extension of state powers, powers that can also be used against anti-fascists.

One very obvious question is: How many police members have racist/homophobic/anti-semitic views?  All over the world one can find evidence of such people (such as here, here, here, here and in Warsaw)

It is very worthy to ask how many policemen and woman are members of NOP, ONR and Młodzież Wielkapolska?  How many have connections to Blood and Honour?  What kind of monitoring of police exists?

From "konkret" magazine

From “konkret” magazine

In the context that police all over the world have members with fascist and anti-demoratic views, the question arises as to the impact of pre-1989 police on the present police.  I know that, in Germany police who were Nazis by and large kept their posts afterwards and were responsible for the training of current members of the police. (Here i recommend “Critical policemen/women“)  Given the post-WWII situation of building a new democratic west Germany it makes sense that they employed people with experience.  My question is, what happened in Poland?  How many police now were members pre-1989?  What influence does the pre-1989 generation still have?  (I am not relativising the Nazis and Polish Stalinists here, by the way.  Racist police structures exist all over the world).

This is not (oh liberal reader) to say that all policemen and women are fascists.  I don’t want to contribute to paranoia.  They are however questions worth asking.

“Never again communism?” A review

I saw an advert for a book “Never again communism?  On left-wing criticism of Stalinism and Real Socialism” (“Nie wieder Kommunismus?  Zur linken Kritik an Stalinismus und Realsozialismus” ) and was intrigued by the chance to read a collection of left-wing criticism of Stalinim.  Following on this blog will be an irregular series of articles which looks are various issues raised in the excellent book that offers many insights for the critical left-winger.

Now, you can rest assured that the aim of these articles or of this blog is not to have you, by the end, defending Stalin, rounding up our enemies and putting them against walls.  Nah, this isn’t about white-washing what has happened in the name of communism; that’s the very point of the book.

The introduction by the Gruppe INEX to the book says as much: “Anyone who speaks today about communism is not allowed to keep quiet about Real Socialism or Stalinism”.  It goes on in rejecting a possible distancing of the theory from the praxis, “It is obvious that Stalinism and Real Socialism were thought to be an actualisation of the communist idea and up until their end was connected to impulses out of the communist idea”.  Christian Schmidt goes on: “The communist heritage, the communist task was an […] idea for the demand for a society free from exploitation and tyranny.  […] one can see (however) that all societal experiments to realise communism were not free from exploitation and certainly not free from tyranny”.

Why then, to be interested in this book, and in communism?  Well, for me, as I said, it isn’t about me being on a journey towards being a communist , rather, the question does come as to why something which aimed towards emancipation and an end to exploitation turned into, as it says on the back cover, “a praxis of repression and terror”.

As regular readers of this blog should know by now, I am not uncritical towards the left.  In one book I have Bob Avakian and Bill Martin speak of Stalin, actually employing the metaphor “you don’t make an omlette without breaking any eggs” and goes on to speak up for forcing Chinese academics to work in fields as that would be “good for them” (some communists I know do speak of “if I had power I would ban religion/football”). Otherwise, unconditional support (not just by communists)  is given to the likes of Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavrez despite their involvement in the jailing of people with different political views,.

As is said in the introduction, a lack of critical analysis from some members of the left regarding communism is due to defensiveness.  A hangover from the Cold War is that the ideological campaign of battling communism and indeed any alternative to capitalism.  Cuts to public services and opposition to free health care in the US are part of this.  Things like rights for workers, egalitarianism, human rights, pro-migrationary policies and the such are decried as “communist” or “unrealistic”.  The assumption held by many is that there “is no alternative” to that which we have.  In this context the lack of criticism to what has happened in the name of communism and socialism can be understood.


Why am I interested in this book?  Well, a bit of a personal biography: I was brought up in a council estate during the Thatcher years.  That wasn’t going to make me right-wing.  I joined the Labour party and was one of those who was active during the 1997 election which Labour won.  My politics became clearer and I started calling myself a socialist.  The atmosphere of the time was very influential and I accepted wholly social democracy.  18 years of Tory rule got me supporting the premise of the main challenge to that and its reoccurance, and therefore I unconditionally supported New Labour.  The recent years (including an anti-immigrant policy of the Labour government), largely the cuts and response to them, coupled with my growing awareness of the limits of social democracy in the face of capitalism (say, intense and successful lobbying by oil businesses in the face of climate change) have got me wondering about alternatives and here I am not thinking of communism (sorry to disappoint fascist activists quick to call all anti-fascists “communists”)  but whether there are alternatives to social democracy (said I, the member of a social democrat party).

Another thing, I know of some communists who are good people; they share many wishes as myself, and are very much anti-Stalinist.  In GB some stayed as communists despite everything because they still believe in the ideal, and see this as possible (possibly not via a state apparatus).  Even if I don’t want communism myself, I see how communism is not a black-and-white matter.

That I live in Poland makes this all more important.  Many western commentators, when Poland comes into the conversation will shake their heads and say solemnly “Things were bad before 1989, but now Poland is free”, making out that *everything* got better in after 1989, or that anything bad that came into being or remained after 1989 must be ignored.  Of course, I don’t know any people in Poland who want a return to communist state rule.  That does not however rule out criticism of capitalism (millions spent on unprofitable stadiums while people go hungry or rising rents which lead to more homelessness, the abuse of asylum seekers), with the consideration of yes, alternatives, and considerations of how was it that there were people in Poland who wanted communism, and were supportive of the regime and that things worked out as they did, with food shortages,  the murder of opponents and so on.

I also wish to avoid the Autobahn argument.  Yes, Stalinist and Maoist rule in the Soviet Union and China did bring things like greater literacy.  While these things need to be taken into account, they cannot justify Stalinist and Maoist rule.  Let’s be real about this, without the need to try to find easy “knock-out” arguments to close discussions.

Therefore, future articles will look at different focuses of the “Never again communism?” book, such as:

What kind of repression and terror took place (the “skull-cities of socialism”), nationalism in the Soviet Union (and what Lenin had to do with this), communism and gender emancipation (including for transexuals) in Russia during the 1920’s, Stalin’s state capitalism, pre- and post-revolution criticism of Leninism and Stalinism, GDR-antifascism and what that had to do with taking the focus away from the Shoah.

Additionally is something I find useful, namely, “Left-wing members who are really interested in alternatives to the market and the state must discuss possibilities for democratic decision-making in production and distribution.  […] (Such considerations) cannot be delayed as to the time of revolutionary changes.  It is necessary to develop, when possible, concrete ideas in the Here and Now and when possible, to try them out in order to see what chance they have as to their application”.

Developing alternatives to capitalism requires us to be realistic, to not assume that we have all the answers, to not shy from looking at the history of what happened when people tried to set up alternatives.

The next article in this series will look at the chapter “In the dead-end; the real existing nationalism in the Soviet Union” written by Che Buraškas.

Nationalist communism in Poland

Tomorrow is the anniversary of martial law in Poland, and again the day will say the fash marching in Warsaw and Wroclaw, calling for the murder of communists and basically trying to take the centre ground of history.

Theirs is the view shared by many in Poland and beyond Poland, largely by conservatives, that pre-1989 saw the situation of communism as experienced in Poland as the antithesis of patriotism.  This infers that being communist was per se anti-Poland.

History shows us that the issue in Poland is not communism against patriotism, rather nationalism against the people of Poland.

Actually I don't agree with the relativisation of communism with Nazism, but I'll deal with that in a later article.

Actually I don’t agree with the relativisation of communism with Nazism, but I’ll deal with that in a later article.

Let’s start with 1945.  Zygmunt Wojciechowski, a member of the anti-Semitic All Poland Youth was an associate of the fascist Roman Dmowski.  He admired Hitler’s anti-Jewish policy as a good role model for Poland (at first at least, he was later to be part of a family that sheltered a Jewish woman).  He was very active with the communist government in Poland, especially in their attempts to define the “recovered territories” as being “originally Polish”, via various publications.  Undoubably, he was influential within and without communist circles in Poland in pushing a nationalistic agenda.

Such a nationalism can also be seen in Wrocław not only in the programme for the “intensifaction of  the re-Polonisation campaign” which led to the elimination of the German language and forced “Polonisation” of first and last names, but also in the allocation of names for key streets, throughfairs and ur which were dominated by the likes of the Grundwald battle, the Silesian insurgents, Tadeusz Kościuszko, Piłsudski and, on the arse-end of Wroclaw, Dmowski (note how the street is still named after that fascist).  With the exception of a street named after Stalin (now ul. Świdnicka, though that was renamed after 1956) hardly any key parts of the town were named after communists and Soviets.  Certainly, there were streets named after Klara Zetkin and Luksemburg, but these are minor streets on the outskirts of the town.

Of course, naming a street after people from Polish history is not nationalistic per se.  It’s just that the locations of the streets shows something about what was important to the communist government in Lower Silesia.  National symbols were more important than communist symbols.  Let’s put this another way: There was never a street named after Lenin in Wrocław while there is (still) a square named after Józef Bem.  The communist government was plainly more interested in national(ist) than communist symbols.

The post-war PM of Poland Bołesław Bierut repeatedly quoted the fascist Roman Dmowski (here’s one quote: “The nation becomes the master of its fate not only when it has many good sons, but also when it possesses enough strength to restrain its bad ones.”)

Moving forward to the martial law.  Let me introduce you to Maciej Giertrych, fan of Franco and Antonia Salazar and a member of the League of Polish familes.  He was a member of the Advisory Council, an organisation which refused contact with Solidarność.  Giertrych supported martial law, it seems, as he was suspicous of Solidarność as he said that “they serve the interests of non-Polish people”.

Another nationalist collaborator  was Bołesław Piasecki, the founder of the fascist and (of course) anti-Semitic party the ONR who, in 1947 founded PAX, a Roman Catholic organisation that worked with the state.  His anti-Semitism is claimed to have been influential in the drastic events of 1968 .  While he died in 1979 his organisation supported Jaruzelski during martial law.

See here for more information.

433px-Grunwald_nr_4_1986_okladka

There’s also the matter of the “Grundwald Patriotic Association“, founded in 1981.  It contained  All-Poland Youth member Napoleon Siemaszko, the anti-semitic book writing and later key fan of Radio Maryja Edward Prus, nationalist-party founder Stanisław Tymiński and anti-semite Tadeusz Bednarczyk.  The aim of the association was to bring together pre-war right-wing veterans in order to discredit Solidarity, saying that some activists had a “Jewish background”, doing parades in the Gdańsk shipyards where people were warned about “Zionist” elements within Solidarity.  More here from the excellent 161 infocafe.

This is not to say that all of communism in Poland was nationalistic, and that all nationalists supported Jaruzelski.  This is however to say that, contrary to what nationalists in Poland and conservatives in Poland and abroad say, nationalism played a key part in collaboration in Poland.  (In fact I would argue that nationalism was key to Lenin’s theories, and that nationalism was always part of the Soviet Union, as well as Poland; this line of thought shall be continued in a later article).

Or to put it another way: ONR members and their friends in the NOP and All-Poland Youth have founders and key members who collaborated with communist authorities.  Taking their own views to a logical conclusion, nationalists in Poland may want to hang themselves.