Should Polish left be afraid?

A few days after scandalous police intervention during academic conference on Karl Marx and his legacy, Polish Minister of Interior offered an apology to the university. Polish left-wing activists met this with joy, but they soon got more reasons to be worried instead.

Joachim Brudziński, Minister of Interior and one of the most influential figures in the Law and Justice party that is now ruling Poland, must have been really unhappy when calling the rector of the University of Szczecin and issuing a formal apology for the prosecutors’ and policemen’s behaviour. His attitude towards any left ideas and movements is well-known: he has been continuously claiming that the rise of far-right organizations, demanding „Poland for Poles” and in some cases openly demonstrating their fascination with Nazism, is not a real problem. On the other hand, he stated, the attention must be pointed to the radical left, advocating ‘communism’.

One can guess that in more favourable political circumstances the Polish national conservatives would have already banned anything that has to do with Marx, including academic research and publications. However, they did not, and the Minister of Interior had no other choice than to admit that the (still) democratic state of Poland has violated its own legal guarantees on the autonomy of universities. He had no choice, because the affair had already become notorious: it has been commented on by range of international media and it was clearly understood as another proof that Poland is marching the way towards authoritarian rule.

A very quiet apology from Brudziński – who even didn’t mention it on his extremely rich Twitter profile – did not satisfy Conference of Rectors of Polish Universities, which, on 16 May, called the Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki to determine and explain exact intentions of those who ordered the police to come to Pobierowo conference.

Meanwhile the prosecutors who issued the necessary orders still claim that they had done what should have been done. They refuse to admit that something wrong has happened, insisting instead that they received a ‘credible report’ about possible promotion of ‘totalitarian practices’ that was to take place during the conference. Who reported on the assembly of sociologists, political scientists and philosophers? This seems to be top secret.

As if to show the shattered Polish left that Pobierowo intervention is not an isolated incident, but another signal of a possible crackdown against any progressive thinking, two more worrying situations took place in the following days. On 16 May, a Polish antifascist student activist was attacked by a member of a Neonazi group called Szturmowcy (referring in their name to the Nazi Sturm Abteilung units and the paper ‘Der Sturmer’). He was beaten up just outside the university area, in the very centre of the city. The antifascist activists from Warsaw University had been receiving threats from Szturmowcy for two previous weeks, as they had blocked a Neonazi march in Warsaw on 1 May and the organizers seeked revenge. This time neither the police bothered to apologise for not having undertaken any extra measures of security in the area of the university, nor the university itself seemed particularly worried about what happened. There was no official representative of the academic community, mainly left-wing activists, on a small solidarity demonstration that was organized outside the university gate the next day.

And on 18 May the police arrived on a meeting held by socialist activists from Wrocław, who were about to discuss the situation in Palestine. As Piotr Lewandowski, one of the organizers of the meeting, told the left-wing portal Strajk.eu, the policemen claimed to have found information on the meeting using operational means and suggested that some ‘opponents’ may want to disperse the meeting so that it was necessary to keep a police car outside. In addition, the police noted the names and phones of the organizers.

It should be noted that all kinds of debates, roundtables and other meetings are organized by right-wing groups in Poland and never get this kind of ‘care’ and ‘attention’. Uniformed policemen did not bother, for instance, to visit a debate on ‘myths surrounding the Ustasha movement’ that took place last year in Warsaw, not to mention very fashionable ‘patriotic’ meetings on the Polish anticommunist partisans of post-war period, where their crimes against peaceful citizens are portrayed as necessary or even noble actions. This has nothing to do with promoting or justyfing violence, right?

The message of the Polish government is clear: violence and destruction comes only from the left side, while all that the nationalists say and do should be praised as ‘patriotism’, ‘care for the Motherland’ or ‘noble and zealous activism’. This message has been transmitted long enough in words. Now it is not unlikely that the time for more aggressive steps has come. Should Polish left be afraid? First of all, it should be ready to organize and act. In some time, it may be too late.

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