The ultra right-wing manifestations on display during the Polish Independence Day march in the capital of Warsaw on November 11, Monday, received widespread criticisms from progressives in the country. The annual march has come to become a platform for the far-right extremists in the country, including ultra-nationalists, neo-fascists and homophobic groups, who constituted a major portion of the 50,000 strong crowd gathered at the rally on Monday.
According to reports, some of the marchers were waving Celtic crosses and other symbols associated with fascist groups. They also burnt the EU flag and unfurled banners displaying xenophobic messages. Anti-Semitic slogans were also reportedly chanted.
Anti-fascist groups and LGBT activists in the country also hit the streets in Warsaw against these extreme right-wing manifestations. Civic rights groups, including Citizens of Poland, Warsaw Women’s Strike and the Democracy Defense Committee (CODE) stood along the route of the nationalist rally with a banner that read ‘constitution’.
Lewica Razem, a left-wing coalition in Poland, released a statement condemning the right-wing march. “Today we celebrate the 101th anniversary of our country regaining independence. On November 11, we do not celebrate the success of the party, but freedom. November 11 was the end, but also the beginning – a huge change! Supported by people of different views and beliefs, but combined with the goal of Poland regaining independence.”
“In national independence, let’s not give the extremists the right to impose the definition of the word patriot. The left has already fought for a Poland where all citizens will be equal,” its statement further added.
The Citizens of Poland (Obywatele RP) told Peoples Dispatch that “the right-wing march is an ongoing problem in Warsaw since ten years. At first, it was a small demonstration of extreme right-wing groups. Then, it received support and money from several sources and has become numerous and difficult to handle. Right-wing extremists from all over Europe are coming to it and are given a platform. Every year there are numerous instances of breaking the law, but the police have been told not to interfere.”
Obywatele RP also spoke of how anti-fascist movements are currently suppressed by the right-wing forces and the government. “The people who oppose this right-wing jingoism are often kicked and mishandled, fireworks are thrown at the policemen, and obviously racist banners are displayed. This year, an anti-fascist march in Wrocław has been suppressed by the city authorities and the police this year,” they said.
Andrzej Słodyczka from the Equality Parade in Warsaw, told Peoples Dispatch, “I do not consider the “Independence March” as a peaceful manifestation. For the second time, extremely Nazi participants burned down the flag of the European Union and they also did it with a rainbow flag. I do not think parents should bring their children to participate in the march, but unfortunately, they do it.”
In the same vein, Razem also stated that they want “… Poland wise and open. A Poland in which no one is thrown over the side because of their beliefs, religion, orientation, or appearance.”
The Polish National Independence Day falls on November 11 to commemorate the anniversary of the restoration of Poland’s sovereignty in 1918 from the German, Austro-Hungarian and Russian Empires. Presently the country is ruled by the conservative and the right-wing eurosceptic Law and Justice Party (PiS) which has propagated a hyper-nationalist and homophobic campaign in the country.