Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

A Brown MP in Poland

by MarekNYC Wed Jan 25th, 2006 at 03:12:12 PM EST

Of all Polish political parties the most difficult one to explain to foreigners is Andrzej Lepper's peasant party `Samoobrona' (Selfdefense). It is a left wing populist party but not one of a sort that has any analogue in the West. Its left wing policy proposals are utterly incoherent, its hardline nationalism combined with an affection for Putin and Lukashenko, its leaders ranging from small time crooks, pure opportunists, to peasants angry at the ruin brought on by capitalism,  from left wing demagogues to extreme right wingers. This diary is about one of the latter.

From the diaries ~ whataboutbob

In recent months a new MP has emerged as one of Andrzej Lepper's chief advisors.  Mateusz Piskorski has spent most of the past fifteen years as student and Ph.D candidate in political science in Szczecin. He has also been a leader in tiny extreme right wing movements that would be amusingly nuts if they weren't so ugly.  He first caused a major stir when he was nominated to Samoobrona's European Parliament slate in 2004. Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland's most important newspaper (left-liberal) published an article noting his recent past as a skinhead leader and his name was withdrawn, only to come back for last fall's parliamentary elections. Now they've published a lengthy expose. Here are some of Piskorski's greatest hits.

In a 1999 article about the conviction of a skinhead for beating up an African American working as a basketball player in Poland. The article is entitled `Judeo-justice'
"Many of you [...] must have heard of the punishing of one of the most accomplished members of our movement, Pawel from Stargard. When it occurred, the attack on the nigger Eggelston was widely reported even in the national media [...] The court which handed down this verdict was clearly not guided by the interests of Poland, nor that of the white race. Pawel is in jail, and the provocateur Eggelston still besmirches Polish earth rather than hopping around someplace in Mozambique from one palm tree to another in search of coconuts, is constantly wandering the streets of Stargard[...]'

In his main publication `Odala' he sang the praises of the `Aryan Race' and of Hitler, and supported the struggle against ideologies `foreign to our race, like Christianity, Liberalism, and Marxism' describing Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany as the most successful nations of all time, and publishing interviews with Holocaust deniers.

As mentioned above, his group was a big fan of Putin and pan-Slavism `Considering the decay and multiracialness of the West, only a united Slavdom - the northern empire of the rising sun - is the hope for the White Race and anyone in the West who does not support the Slavs betrays the White Race and himself'  and "Please don't confuse Russia with the Soviets, for there is a fundamental difference. I remind you that the judeo-soviets (yes, it was not Russian, but dominated by that little people [ludek] from the Dead Sea'

Piskorski and his friends first tried to enter the political mainstream in 2000, allying themselves with the local PSL (Peasant Party) The leader of the Szczecin branch defended himself, saying `The signing of the agreement is no big deal, just a symbol of the return to the national [narodowy, i.e. protofascist/fascist] tradition in which the peasant movement has  its roots. The inclusion of Slavic elements into the electoral campaign is intended to strengthen national identity'  (My great grandfather, a senior leader of the party in the thirties and forties must have been rolling in his grave) After a press scandal caused that to fall through he allied himself with Samoobrona for the 2002 local elections and declared `We are Aryans, and we carry the Aryan mission on our banners'.  Now as an MP Piskorski seems to be also partial to the loony fringe left, offering his support to and working with the French conspiracy nuts in the Reseau Voltaire, while at the same time declaring his love for Lukashenko and the leaders of the mafia mini-state of Transdniestria.

Samoobrona is not a right wing extremist party in any normal sense of the word. There is simply not enough of a coherent ideology to easily categorize. However, the fact that this disgusting nutcase can be an MP and senior figure in a party which is in a de facto parliamentary coalition with the government is just depressing.

The diary is based on the article Posel ze swastyka w podpisie (The MP with a swastika in his signature)

This is depressing indeed. I'm almost lost for words.
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Wed Jan 25th, 2006 at 04:05:22 AM EST
This really does sound scary to me. Speaking of my own country, I can find analogue things happening, not that extremist though. During the past year, there has been an immense rise in the popularity of nationalist and extremist political parties in Bulgaria. The fourth most popular party in our Parliament, called "Ataka" (Attack) is openly trying to provoke negative attitudes towards certain minorities and groups in the country. And as I also see from Marek's post, the situation in other European countries such as Poland is not much different, or I guess it is even more serious. I was wondering if we are witnessing a common trend of the rise of different nationalistic and extremist entities, and what might be the reason for this?

I can resist anything but temptation.- Oscar Wilde
by Little L (ljolito (at) gmail (dot) com) on Wed Jan 25th, 2006 at 05:38:08 AM EST
Only a short reply (later I post a longer one);

I think if looked at more closely, there is no all-European far-right trend, there are fluctuations within each country (here in Hungary, an openly far-right party came in in 1998 and fell out of parliament in 2002), tough there are regional trends (say in the ex-communist countries where the lid was off and moderate parties often managed to eliminate their own credibility).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Jan 25th, 2006 at 07:14:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In my view, there are two distinct trends that affect not just one country.

One is here in the ex-communist countries. On one hand, the dictature kept a lot of ugly ideological viruses under the rug. Also, we didn't have the ideological rethinking and social transformation Western Europe had due to the 1968 rebellions - the mildly racist and xenophobic, and strongly nationalist consensus of earlier ages still affects the worldview of majorities here. This was the humus on which to grow, but the hardships and sidelining of millions after the adoption of market capitalism and shock therapies, and the self-discreditation of non-extremist parties helped it further.

A particular note about Gypsies, who are a significant, usually the most significant, and even more often the most significant poor minority in Central-Eastern Europe and the Balkans. Who were usually the first to be fired after the end of full employment? Due ot the latent racism, the Gypsies. Who were often the last to be taken when people competed for jobs? Again, the Gypsies. Does it logically follow that many people treated this way will either (a) fall into deep poverty, (b) will stop looking for a job and live off welfare, (c) will do something illegal? I think it does. And how will the racists react? By seeing their prejudices reinforced, becoming even more racist, and simultaneously blather about not wanting any Gypsy near them and about why they won't work 'like normal people'.

The second trend more concerns Western Europe: their far-right parties are more strongly xenophobic, anti-immigrant. It's always worth to emphasize to those who haven't been one themselves (like me in then West Germany) even if they are on th Left: there is no 'immigrant problem', there is a (are) host country problem(s). The far-right exploits the prejudices of those with a pre-1968 mindset, and also the ill-informed fears of the ignorant-of-foreigners among the younger. But what allows them to fester is the hypocrisy of main parties, who won't talk clearly about the issues, and don't care enough to organise integration - and will talk P.C. while implementing some tough-guy measures.

But above these wider trends, I think local developments are a stronger factor. They mostly seem to revolve around the issue of leader (that is, Führer...).

So for example in (West, later unified) Germany, there are three far-right groups, each of which had alarming successes at some period, but neither lasted and they competed - and last time, when two of them managed to ally themselves, the new hard-left party took away their chances among the downtrodden.

In France, there is Le Pen, he was weakened once due to a party split, then got stronger than ever during the last Presidential elections, but is currently out again.

In Austria, Haider built up a large base over two decades, then when his party got into government, it fell apart (and down in the polls), until he deserted his own party to form a new one, but both together fell even deeper.

In Hungary, Csurka formed a far-right party, which just passed the 5% margin in 1998 - but fell under it next time. Unfortunately, part of the reason is that the main right-wing party drew away supporters and members with some far-right rhetoric and politicians/media people.

In Slovakia, Slota's far-right party, was in an influential position in Mečiar's time (7.9%-5.4%-9.1% in elections, Mečiar out in the last), and fell back after it ended (3.3% in 2002) - but, feeding on the social malaise behind the supposed flat-tax miralce (see my earlier diary), is now resurgent in the polls (c. 9% again).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Jan 26th, 2006 at 09:20:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Wow, I just wrote and wrote it, didn't realise it's so long... sorry.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Jan 26th, 2006 at 09:21:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks Dodo for this interesting review. I didn't mind the length as I was all set to read a whole diary about it. Thanks for taking the time.
by Alexandra in WMass (alexandra_wmass[a|t]yahoo[d|o|t]fr) on Thu Jan 26th, 2006 at 10:52:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This is an MP in a national parliament within the EU. I don't know if it's more sobering, chilling, depressing, or downright terrifying.

Two questions, Marek:

  1. Is Piskorski really working with the Réseau Voltaire? (not that it would totally surprise me, but still...)

  2. How free would he (and his ilk) have been to express such opinions (minus, of course, the anti-Marxist, anti-Soviet ones), during the Communist period? In other words, to what extent has the end of Communism enabled expression of this kind of madness?
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Jan 25th, 2006 at 06:06:30 AM EST
According to the article Piskorski was a co-organizer of some sort of peace conference sponsored by them in December. To be fair, it is quite possible that the Reseau Voltaire people didn't know what it is they were working with - just that he is an MP of what is generally described as a leftist party.

The second question is more complicated. Extreme right wing opinions in their pure form were not allowed during the communist period. On the other hand there was an ultranationalist wing within the Party, most closely associated with Gen. Mieczyslaw Moczar, minister of interior throughout the sixties (i.e. head of the secret police). Moczar initiated an antisemitic campaign starting in 1967 as part of his bid to seize power. Initially targetting communist officials of Jewish origin and their allies, it eventually led to the forced emigration of most Poles of Jewish origin (Hi, wanna emigrate? No? You're fired, you're blacklisted, your kids are expelled from school - sure you don't want to emigrate you dirty kike?) It was accompanied by stuff straight out of the thirties including reprinted Der Stuerrmer cartoons. It also sought to place the blame for Stalinist crimes on Jews, who constituted a significant minority of senior Party and secret police officials during that period - a tad ironic considering Moczar was one of the most bloodthirsty secret police officials back then.  The same sort of stuff was also encouraged in the early eighties against Solidarity (several of the most prominent dissidents were of Jewish origin).

Aside from the antisemitism there was also the deliberate and wholesale appropriation of the extreme right's vision of the history of Polish-German relations, redone for the communists by some of Poland's most sophisticated fascists, centered around a Poznan historian who approached the Party leadership with an offer of help in 1944. (I could expand at length on this aspect of Communist Poland since it is central to my diss topic)

The Party also sponsored a special loyal Catholic organization led by an extreme fascist leader from the thirties, an organization which was closely allied with Moczar in the sixties.

The presence of extreme right wing and extreme nationalist themes under communism is not specific to Poland. Romania was quite notorious in that regard and the best English language treatment of the issue is of the Romanian case, Katherine Verdery's National Ideology under Socialism: Identity and Cultural Politics in Ceaucescu's Romania

by MarekNYC on Wed Jan 25th, 2006 at 10:31:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks, Marek, that gives an excellent idea of Poland under the Party, from the point of view of matters raised in your diary. Would you say, knowing things were like this in the last twenty-odd years of the Communist regime, that it is entirely surprising that an unbridled racist/fascist be hooked up with a nationalistic left-wing party today?

Without asking you to expand at length, could you say a bit more about the Poznan historian who approached the Party in 1944? (Presumably late in the year?)

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Jan 25th, 2006 at 11:23:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Without asking you to expand at length, could you say a bit more about the Poznan historian who approached the Party in 1944? (Presumably late in the year?)
I believe it was December but I'd have to sift through my the notes for that (the chapter draft just says 'late 1944') The historian's name was Zygmunt Wojciechowski, a prof of medieval history at the Adam Mickiewicz Univ. in Poznan and in addition to his academic work he led one of the countless splinters of the National Democrat movement which had started out as a proto-fascist, but not actually fascist group in the 1890's. Like most Endeks Wojciechowski had embraced fascism by the thirties, calling for a 'total' state with one mass all encompassing party. Unlike most Endeks he retained the original belief that the chief enemy of Poland was Germany, not the Jews (not that he was particularly fond of them, just saw them as lower down on the list of threats and by thirties Polish fascist standards was relatively free of crude racism) He believed in the standard state directed capitalism but argued that the need for a totalitarian system trumped economics as liberalism and democracy were the ultimate evil. Unlike most Endeks of the period he was relatively sanguine about the Soviet Union, arguing that in the end its foreign policy would be guided by Russian national interests rather than Marxist ideals and that if it ever came to dominate Poland the leftist idealists that sympathized with it were due for a nasty surprise. Combine that with the belief that Germany would always seek to destroy Poland while Russia merely wanted to control it, his offer of help was quite understandable. Furthermore, he had retained the early Endek dislike of underground political activity and futile armed resistance. Working from within whatever margin of freedom existed was, they believed, far more effective. That attitude had led the Endek leadership to offer support to the Tsarist government in 1905 against the revolutionaries striking and fighting in the name of the nation and the working class.

The deal he proposed was simple;  he and his colleagues would support the new order, especially the unequal alliance with the Soviet Union and the loss of the Eastern half of Poland.  In return the Communists would provide him with funds to create an academic institute devoted to supporting Polish claims to the German territories which were to be incorporated into Poland and convincing Poles to settle and feel at home there.  From the communists' point of view the agreement seemed perfect - they would get the support of prominent anti-Communists and in return all they had to do was to help them generate propaganda for one of the Communists' main policies.  At the time the Polish Communists were a tiny minority desperate for political acceptance and therefore willing to accept support from any prominent intellectuals.  When Communist control was well established they would be able to crack down on any dissenting views. The problem as it turned out was that once these views had become part of the political orthodoxy they were very hard to dislodge since opposing opinions on such a politically sensitive matter were of course not allowed to be published.  Furthermore, on the issue of Germany and the `recovered territories'  the head of the Party, Wladyslaw Gomulka, had views that were quite similar to those of the intellectuals and activists who offered him there support.

This extract from a 1945 article by Wojciechowski gives a taste of his thinking at the time.
The [German] defeat of 1410 was the result of the cooperation of the polish and Lithuano-Rus levies, the [German] defeat of 1945 was the result of the harmonization of the actions of Poland and the Soviet Union.  Let us remember that Germany's entire fantastic career was the result of Slav conflict, of the Polish-Russian struggle.
Today the moment has come for a long term settlement of Polish-Russian relations, as a result of Slavdom's new Grunwald (Tannenberg), as the result of the need to protect the Slav states and nations against a new German attack.  We must exploit this new Grunwald as we should have in 1410.  We must take from the Germans the Polish lands, become the bastion of Slavdom against the Germans
[...] [Poland cannot have multiple aims, it must choose the paramount one] - the recovery of these Polish ancestral lands
We understand the magnitude of our task.  We understand the historical responsability that weighs upon us.  We will show ourselves to be worthy, so that in another five hundred years, some new Sienkiewicz will remember us, our times, as Henryk Sienkiewicz wrote at the end of `Krzyzacy' [Kreuzritter i.e. the Deutsche Orden]
`So to you, great and holy past, and to you, martyred blood, be glory and honor for all time'

Oops, a bit long - did I mention I can go on at length on this subject?

by MarekNYC on Thu Jan 26th, 2006 at 02:40:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually it's fascinating because it does in fact throw useful light on the development of the Polish CP:

"the Polish Communists were a tiny minority desperate for political acceptance " plus "once these views had become part of the political orthodoxy they were very hard to dislodge" tell a chunk of story.

It sounds as if the Polish Communists started out on one leg and remained that way (with a Soviet crutch, of course). And even that one leg was pretty nationalist, which helps in understanding the stuff around Moczar you explain in your comment above.

Thanks very much, it wasn't too long at all!

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Jan 26th, 2006 at 03:11:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The presence of extreme right wing and extreme nationalist themes under communism is not specific to Poland.

Indeed some say that the only post-WWII exception was Kádár in Hungary, who due to 1956 couldn't play that card.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Jan 25th, 2006 at 02:20:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As A Pole, at least by birth, I feel I should reply to your excellent diary. But all I can do is shake my head.

I suppose it is human nature to oppose change, and in times of great change there will always be strong reactionary backlash. Polish history has resulted in a stronger nationalistic tendency than in most countries. And politicians have always taken advantage of it.

Do not feel safe. The poet remembers.
Czeslaw Milosz

by Chris Kulczycki on Wed Jan 25th, 2006 at 09:11:35 AM EST
BTW, Marek, check again my latest Hungarian diary, now frontpaged. In the comments, I write about the short history of Hungarian Greens, and there is a parallel to your story in it.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Jan 25th, 2006 at 02:22:04 PM EST
Thanks for this diary and exposing this racist MP. I too wonder about the pan-European nature of this racist/fascist trend. I'll be interested to see Dodo's diary on topic.

Does there exist a European, or Polish in this case, watchdog organisation? One group that has been fairly successful in the US is the Southern Poverty Law Center.

They monitor racist and hate groups and have recently started an immigration watch section to monitor extremism and the anti-immigration movement. Here is a little more on their history and work:

Under the name Klanwatch, the Project began monitoring hate activity in 1981. In 1994, after uncovering links between white supremacist organizations and the emerging antigovernment "Patriot" movement, the Center expanded its monitoring operation to include militias and other extremist groups.

Today, the Project tracks more than 700 hate groups around the nation. The quarterly Intelligence Report provides comprehensive updates to law enforcement agencies, the media and the general public.

by Alexandra in WMass (alexandra_wmass[a|t]yahoo[d|o|t]fr) on Wed Jan 25th, 2006 at 08:51:13 PM EST
I'll be interested to see Dodo's diary on topic.

It will only be an extended comment in this thread :-)

Does there exist a European, or Polish in this case, watchdog organisation?

To my knowledge, such groups do exist in CEE too. But one problem is that the racists here are much more open, don't even need 'exposure'. Another is that these groups are small and ignored. A third problem is that these groups do/have received funding from Soros, and the racists will attack them as agents of foreigners/evil plutocrats/Jews. These problems don't meant that they don't have successes, but those are not comparable to, say, initiatives in England to eliminate support for BNP in certain quarters.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Jan 26th, 2006 at 04:11:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Go to: [ European Tribune Homepage : Top of page : Top of comments ]