Around Europe the 11th of November marks the end of the First World War and is a time to remember the millions of people who were killed in that senseless war. In Poland it also marks the date - in 1918 - when the country regained independence after centuries of division. Both of these events should be remembered and respected.
(Photo: Gazeta Wyborcza)However it has also become a tradition on this day for extreme nationalists and fascists to stage a march through the streets of Warsaw. Although they claim not to be sympathisers of fascism or Nazism these events have consistently been accompanied by racist and fascist chanting and 'Hitler salutes'. The marches attract far-right fascist organisations that hold extreme racist and homophobic opinions. One of the main organisers of the march is the Radical Nationalist Group (Obóz Narodowo-Radykalny - ONR) - which takes its name from the pre-war fascist party in Poland.
In recent years the fascists have met little resistence when marching through the main streets of Warsaw. This has led to the revolting sight of fascists openly demonstrating in a city which had been occupied and destroyed in the Second World War by the German Nazis. Warsaw was the scene of some of the worst autrocities of the Second World War, with the Nazis creating a Ghetto where the Jewish population was situated before being transported to concentration camps.
This year the organisers claimed that there would be no fascist symbols on their demonstrations and that this was just a manifestation celebrating Poland's independence. A number of prominent right-wing politicians and publicists gave their support to the march in an attempt to give it some legitimacy.
However, in opposition a broad coalition to the fascists was created, with the aim of forming a blockade which would prevent the fascist march. This resulted in around 5,000 counter-demonstraters congregating in Warsaw. Present were a range of groups and organisations and a number of prominent politicians and journalists. The counterdemonstrators were successful in preventing the fascists from marching through the main streets of Warsaw. They were instead diverted through the backstreets and under police protection the fascists completed their march.
This demonstration showed that the only way to counterpose such marches is by mobilising large numbers of people who are repulsed by the presence of fascists on the streets of Poland's capital. Hopefully a momentum will have been gained from this that will help make future events larger and put pressure on the authorities to prevent fascist marches. In the words of Martin Luther King - 'In Order For Evil To Triumph, Good People Do Nothing'.