Poland: how dangerous is the far-right march?

Roughly 60,000 people took part in a demonstration in Warsaw on Saturday marking Poland's National Independence Day and organised by far-right nationalists. Many participants carried banners with racist slogans. Interior Minister Mariusz Blaszczak ignored the manifest xenophobia and instead praised the atmosphere at the event. Many commentators, however, voice concern.

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Polityka (PL) /

Families as the biggest threat

The far right points to the presence of families as proof that the march was harmless. But it's precisely these families that pose the greatest threat, journalist Joanna Gierak-Onoszko points out in her blog for Polityka.pl, describing how she watched the events on television:

“My little boy looked over my shoulder at the images of the Independence Day march: fire crackers, Celtic crosses, people wearing evil-looking masks. 'Those people frighten me Mummy,' he said. 'They frighten me too, my boy. But I'm more afraid of all these families with children. ... I'm afraid of these normal, good people who kneel down in Church every Sunday and then join this shameful march through Warsaw. ... Because it's not the goon squads that are the biggest danger, but the families with children.”

Público (PT) /

A case of political schizophrenia

The Polish Independence Day march leaves Pùblico nonplussed:

“Poland is a strange case of political schizophrenia. The populist strategy of [leader of the Polish ruling party PiS] Jarosław Kaczyński exists only thanks to a kind of occult doctrine according to which the Catholic nation is permanently exposed to a conspiracy threat in the world. If it lays down its weapons - so the theory goes - the country would be taken over by Arab refugees, the economy by Jews and the Polish state by communists still lying in wait among the ruins of the Warsaw Pact. This is all the more surprising given that Poland is experiencing an economic revival and Eastern Europe is leading the statistics with impressive figures.”

Sydsvenskan (SE) /

Poisonous cocktail of religion, race and nation

Sydsvenskan is alarmed by the developments in Poland:

“Bearing in mind that the Poles regained their freedom only relatively recently [in 1989] their vulnerability to the temptations of nationalism is easier to explain and even understand. But that is no excuse for these nationalist excesses. ... Europe's experiences of the 20th century prove how dangerous it is to set free the demons of the past: nationalism and hatred of the others, the foreigners. But the political leadership in Poland has forgotten or suppressed this lesson. ... It seems not to understand that in a democracy the majority must also consider the opinions and interests of the minorities. It is shocking to see government representatives praising this poisonous cocktail of race, religion and nation.”

Gość Niedzielny (PL) /

Right-wing extremists exploiting God

Writing in the conservative Catholic magazine Gość Niedzielny, author Jacek Dziedzina distances himself from the nationalists and racists:

“When a crowd bearing a banner that reads 'We want God' chants 'All Poland sings with us, refugees piss off!' there's simply nothing to discuss with such people. I prefer to spend my time talking with the left, even if they never stop preaching the absurd solution of a naive - and even aggressive - political correctness. At least they don't pretend it's got anything to do with God. ... Although they may not always come across that way they're actually more open to the experience of God. They're not hampered by the need to rope God in for their ideology.”

Baricada (RO) /

Belated indignation

Commenting on web portal Baricada journalist Boian Stanislawski finds it strange that it took international observers so long to discover the far-right nationalists in Poland:

“This year the so-called 'March for Independence' in Warsaw attracted the attention of analysts and experts all over the world. They discovered 'the right-wing extremist trend', the 'massive fascist marches' the 'dangerous slogans' and a large number of anti-Semitic and racist slogans. ... Why didn't the far more brutal behaviour of demonstrators [in previous years] provoke such fierce rejection? It's strange that the experts have noticed such tendencies this year of all years because the local fascists actually behaved quite peacefully for their standards this time round.”

De Telegraaf (NL) /

A mood like in the 1930s

Hatred rules the streets in Poland, De Telegraaf writes in horror:

“For some years now the ruling PiS party, which ironically enough still bears the name 'law and justice', has been stirring up a mood of hate. ... Politicians are responsible for the state of their country. When a crowd of ten thousand people marches along shouting 'God! Honour! Fatherland! and threatens foreigners and dissenters with death, and when White Power posters are hanging everywhere, it means that the grim atmosphere of the 1930s has returned. Just like back then, the marching nationalists are making perfectly clear who they consider to be Poland's enemies: those in charge in Berlin, Moscow, and now also in Brussels.”

Gazeta Wyborcza (PL) /

Those who remain silent are complicit

For Jarosław Kurski, deputy editor-in-chief of Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland's silent majority bears partial responsibility for the developments:

“It's possible to observe the march in Warsaw on November 11 and not see the anti-Semitism, the xenophobia and the Islamophobia. ... It's possible to ignore the fact that representatives of fascist organisations from Italy, Slovakia and Hungary took part. Like the indifferent majority, you can sit back comfortably in the centre and not take a stand. ... All of you who see what is happening but refuse to acknowledge it; who hear it but act as if you hadn't; or those who don't really care one way or another: you must know that you won't be any less to blame than those who see, hear, understand and take pleasure in the developments - because they are glad to see public life in Poland become fascisised.”

Dennik N (SK) /

Governments facilitating rise of far right

If the extremists in Poland and Hungary are so strong it's because the governments there have themselves become extremist, Dennik N comments:

“The Speaker of the Hungarian National Assembly, László Kövér, on Sunday called liberal democracy a totalitarian political system. In Warsaw, meanwhile, right-wing extremists held their biggest march ever. The far right is thriving in both countries, and the fault lies with their governments. Jobbik has stagnated somewhat in Hungary, but the Orbán government views it as a competitor and criticises it - not, however, for its fascist views. ... In Poland the trend is even more obvious. There the government has welcomed a march where anti-Semitic and racist slogans abounded. And Interior Minister Mariusz Błaszczak said he was delighted with the image projected by the participants.”

Wpolityce.pl (PL) /

Positive messages for a Catholic Poland

Adam Stankiewicz, a young writer for wPolityce.pl, took part in the demonstrations himself and sees nothing wrong with the march:

“Of course if someone is bent on doing so they can depict the independence march as a gathering of fascists. Crowds chanting patriotic slogans, national flags, the odd firework - this is a dreadful spectacle for the left-liberals who advocate multiculti values. That's enough for them to brand the participants as fascists. ... A positive message was discernible at the independence march. The participants at the demonstration want a Catholic Poland that respects its own traditions and culture.”