“Why so serious?” one is tempted to ask, in response to the drastic observations on the part of some Western journalists who have finally noticed the rampant Polish neo-Nazism and anti-Semitism. Good for them – better late than never. But where have they been for the last decade?
The topics of Poland and the “far right” have been appearing more frequently on the global news market during the last two years. There are plenty of reasons to analyze either topic (though how seriously this is being done is another matter) – however, the explosion of shock and panic that the biggest so-called media of record displayed over the past weekend reeks of dishonesty and hypocrisy.
This hype occurred as the result of selective observations by Western journalists of the mass celebrations of the so-called Independence Day in Poland. These ceremonies take place annually on 11 November. On this date in 1918, or more precisely during the night of November 10-11, Marshall Józef Piłsudski, recently released from Magdeburg Prison, arrived in Warsaw. The Regency Council handed over to him the command of the military and three days later transferred all its powers to him. Thus the 123-year-old partition of Poland between Russia, Prussia and Austria-Hungary came to an end.
Alas, the historical events of almost 100 years ago are nothing but a pretext for the mass mobilization of right-wing political hooliganism in Poland and its systematic infusion into the mainstream of public life in this country. So – at least on the surface – it is a good thing that international journalists and various liberal “professional citizens” finally felt shocked by these pathologies, but still it makes sense to ask: How come you didn’t take note of it or feel so disturbed and appalled until now? I’m asking a straight question and I demand a straight answer – why now? Dear colleagues, you are exactly 10 years late! It took you quite a while.
Even if we set aside the fact that the phenomenon started picking up steam as early as the 1980s, the last decade has been very illustrative in this regard. What is known as the Independence March was first organized in Warsaw in 2007. For a whole decade since then the growth of militant Polish neo-fascism has somehow evaded the attention of journalists worldwide. But this year this very event has suddenly fallen into the focus of numerous analysts and experts. The specialists in question uncovered “far-right tendencies” and “mass fascist rallies” under “dangerous slogans” such as “White Europe of brotherly nations” and a number of racist and anti-Semitic incidents. It is even stranger that they became aware of this right-extremist rampage only this year considering that in contrast to past celebrations of Polish independence, the local fascists behaved – by their standards – rather moderately. Not that this alters the disgusting nature and quality of their performance in any way, but why wasn’t the alarm bell ringing when these guys behaved so much more brutally?
Where were the journalists from NBC News, the Guardian or the Wall Street Journal when, during its regular November demonstrations, the “patriotic youth” transformed the Polish capital into a warzone for a day and a half in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014?
It was then, and not last Saturday, that the most committed patriotic activists participated in massive brutal attacks on small numbers of anti-fascist demonstrators and the police. The Warsaw landscape resembled the Wild West. The battles were fierce – the police were attacked with stones, bats, ripped up fences, street signs and tram tracks, pieces of benches and bus stop roofing, torches and Molotov cocktails. Dozens police cars were burned along with those of reporters who were disliked by the patriots. It took weeks to restore the public transport infrastructure, and the pavement of the squares in the city centre had to be renovated completely; dozens of trees were destroyed – either they were burned or their branches served as barricades and weapons against the police.
This, however, is only the beginning of the total horror story about the Polish patriots. Journalists were beaten up, and in 2013 an attempt was made to set a squat on fire. The building had been left completely unprotected by the police, even though it was clear to anyone that, as an anarchist centre, it would be one of the top targets for the demonstrators. The inhabitants of the squat, warned in advance, barely managed to protect themselves with the help of the German Antifa, who they asked for assistance. Had this battle been lost, around a hundred people in the building would have been burned alive as happened in Odessa almost a year later.
After this “defeat” the patriots didn’t lose courage or confidence. Instead of the squat they went ahead and set fire to a rainbow, erected as decoration in one of the central squares in Warsaw and then, with the edifice burning in the background, they told journalists about how proud they were of having “destroyed the symbol of the modern plague”. Afterwards they moved on to the Russian embassy where the guard’s booth at its entrance was set on fire and attempts were made to tear down the fence and attack the building. Police managed to turn away the attackers after a three-hour-long operation with water cannon, teargas and rubber bullets. At this spot alone, 275 people were arrested and 55 were taken from the battlefield to various hospitals with heavy injuries. I could go on and tell a lot more stories, but it hardly makes any sense to list all the barbaric acts of Polish patriotic activists.
Again, the question is what exactly prompted “public opinion” to pay special attention last weekend when the Independence March did not end in a series of war-like incidents. This time around the demonstrators “only” managed to beat up a few women. Also, this year the mobilization was relatively weak – the patriots gathered “only” 70,000 people, which is less than half the number of the record in 2015, when Warsaw was literally blocked by a 150,000 strong rally. By the way it would be useful for some Western journalists to remember these figures next time they get around worshiping the so-called Committee for the Defence of Democracy in Poland (Komitet Obrony Demokracji – KOD) which, at its peak, managed to mobilize a maximum of 50,000 people. These protests keep being called “the most popular social movement since 1989” – not even remotely true.
This year the slogans – as repulsive as they were – were relatively modest too, given the typical imagination of Polish patriots. Screams and yells about “white Europe” and “the Jewish occupation” are moderate by their standards. Years ago they shouted in the streets: “Russian whores out”, “Fuck the Jewish occupiers”, “All of Poland sings with us – fuck the Arabs”, “Fuck the Jews, fuck the Arabs – Poland only for the Poles”, “Let’s fuck the Arabs because it’s not OK to fuck goats” (sic!), “Polish Vilnius, Polish Lvov”, “Don’t eat kebabs – don’t feed the Arab whores”. And this is only their repertoire from 2015. Back then they also sang “Auschwitz-Birkenau tra-la-la-la” and carried banners with pictures of garnished breaded pork cutlets subtitled “We prefer our own pork-steaks – we don’t want Mohammed” (sic!) or less avant-garde slogans such as “Death to the enemies of the homeland.”
Where things were headed was clear from the beginning – even in 2007 the slogans were: “The media has circumcised the brains of the Polish people”, “Poland won’t be a second Palestine”, ‘The Zion Elders have been exposed”, while the organizers wore brown shirts and black ties as they spoke to slightly taken aback journalists.
Is it not a bit embarrassing to get shocked only now?
Short reportage by Polish National TV on the violent events in Warsaw in 2014
Assault on one of the squats in Warsaw, 2013
Setting the rainbow on fire at the March in 2013
Clashes between Polish nationalists and police during the Independence March, 2014
Night clashes of Polish patriots with police, 11-12 November, 2014
Massive clashes in the centre of the Polish capital in 2011
11 November, 2014 – nationalist demonstrators vandalize the centre of Warsaw
Clashes with police in Warsaw, 2012
In the eighth minute, during a conversation with a journalist from national television a protester calls the police officers “Jewish whores.”
Bulgarian and Polish activist, journalist, editor, publisher and translator. In the late `90 active in the Polish left and later in the labor movement, particularly the biggest Polish labor confederation — The All-Poland Trade Union Alliance. Until 2012 editor-in-chief of its weekly magazine. Contributor at Baricada.org and Strajk.eu, Polish correspondent for the Bulgarian National Radio.
Currently working as an editor and journalist for the Polish labor portal Strike and as a correspondent to the Bulgarian National Radio in Poland.