Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Reflections on 11 November

For the second year running the anti-fascist movement was successful in blocking the 'march organised by the Polish far-right in Warsaw on Poland’s Independence Day. Grouped around the '11 November Agreement' Association, the counter-demonstrators organised a concert and blockade along one of Warsaw's main streets, preventing the far-right from walking along their planned route.

A stand-off occurred with the two demonstrations separated by lines of police. In response the far-right began to fight with the police and throw stones, street paving and flares. They also separated into smaller groups and attempted to attack some of those on the edges of the counter-demonstration as well as intimidating passers-by and attacking some bars and cafes.I personally saw someone getting seriously beaten up by a group of 'patriots' who were looking for anti-fascist demonstrators. Over 40 police were hurt during the actions and 29 people taken to hospital.

Once the demonstration had proceeded along a revised route and approached its destination (the statue of the leader of the pre-war far-right in Poland - Roman Dmowski) they also attacked and burnt the vehicles of media covering the march.

The far-right demonstration this year was attended by a large number of football hooligans who had been mobilised from around the country. This is a worrying development and is a tactic that has been used by far-right groups in other countries (such as the English Defence League).

Some of the violent attacks by the far-right can be viewed here:

However, rather than the perpetrators being outrightly condemned for the violence that occurred in Poland's capital, some politicians and part of the media have sought to proportion equal blame on the counter-demonstrators.

This has primarily happened through claiming that the violence was partly caused by a group of German anarchists who were supposed to have come to Poland looking to cause trouble. The leader of the main opposition party, Jarosław Kaczyński, condemned the sight of Germans ‘attacking Poles’ on Independence Day.

As well as the demonstration being attended by representatives of far-right groups from other European countries, the counter-demonstration was joined by a number of anti-fascist activists from abroad. Out of the 210 people who were arrested on the demonstration, 95 were from abroad, including around 70 German anti-fascist activists. However, these people had already been arrested hours before the violence took place after being tracked by police since crossing the border.

The counter-demonstration was peaceful and sought only to stop the march of the far-right through the streets of Warsaw. The fact that some people are attempting to paint those involved in this counter-demonstration as being equally to blame for the violence is a cynical political manoeuvre. However, it has been partly successful and is being used by sections of the right to conceal the true perpetrators of the violence on 11 November in Warsaw.

This propaganda offensive also includes denying the neo-fascist and racist nature of the demonstration in Warsaw. While the demonstrators now try to avoid using openly racist or fascist slogans or salutes, the political character of the march is clear. It is partly organised by far-right organisations such as the National Radical Camp (ONR) and the All-Polish Youth organisation, both which follow the tradition of Dmowski and the pre-war Polish far-right.

However, the demonstration was also successful in reaching out beyond the confines of these groups. The danger is that the counter-demonstrators will be portrayed as the ones who prevent patriots from demonstrating on the country’s Independence Day and the cause of the terrible scenes of violence on the streets of Warsaw. Undoubtedly, this will involve calls for the police to prevent a counter-demonstration that blocks the march from taking place next year.

It is essential that the anti-fascist movement win this argument and engages with as wider a section of society and political opinion as possible to recognise the politically repulsive and violent nature of the Independence Day march organised by the far-right.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Go for it - but if its abusive then it gets blocked