The eleventh of the eleventh does not only mark the end of the First World War – and thus associated holidays like Remembrance Day in Australia and Veterans’ Day in the United States – but also the rebirth of independent Poland. The day the guns fell silent around Europe after four years of previously unimaginable carnage was also the day when Poland took advantage of the defeat and disintegration of Germany and Austria-Hungary as well as the civil war in Russia to reverse the three partitions conducted by these the neighbouring powers towards the end of the 18th century. After 123 years of being wiped off the map of Europe, Poland was one again, and independent. Not for long though; the inter-war years, after all, did prove to be only a “twenty-year truce” and the existence of free Poland, that “bastard child of the Versailles [peace treaty]”, was inconvenient both for the Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. The rest, as they say, is a very sad history. But the Poles nevertheless still celebrate the 11th as Swieto Niepodleglosci, or Independence (Holy) Day, even if that independence proved short-lived and not fully resumed until 1989.
Seems like a pretty nice celebration, doesn’t it?
It’s pretty clear it would not have made the news in the West, if not for all the wrong reasons.
Including Hillary Clinton’s former foreign affairs spokesman:
60,000 Nazis marched on Warsaw today.
— Jesse Lehrich (@JesseLehrich) November 11, 2017
And all the way Down Under:
— The Australian (@australian) November 12, 2017
What are the facts?
1.The march was indeed organised by what could be loosely termed “nationalist” groups, and what many in the media describe variously as far-right, fascist or even Nazi.
2. An unknown number of such nationalists participated in the march, being the most vocal and most noticeable.
3. The majority of the 60,000 attendees were average people, not affiliated with the organisers, simply wanting to celebrate Poland’s independence.
Sadly, as a result, Poland generally and all the participants, will be tarred with the extremist brush.
And contra to what many on social media argue, groups like the National Radical Camp and All-Poland Youth are pretty “alt-right” – anti-immigration, anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic, anti-EU, anti-gay, anti-communist, and nationalist, Catholic (culturally rather than spiritually or devoutly) and conservative.
Here’s a selection of chanted slogans (TDC translation):
“Nie islamska, nie laicka, tylko Polska katolicka” – Not secular, not Islamic, Poland only Catholic
“Śmierć wrogom ojczyzny” – Death to the enemies of the fatherland
“Raz sierpem raz młotem, czerwona hołotę” – Once with a hammer, once with a sickle, [beat] the red mob
“Chłopak dziewczyna, normalna rodzina” – A boy, a girl, a normal family
“Pedofile, lesby, geje, cała Polska z was się śmieje” – Pedophiles, lesbians, gays, the whole Poland is laughing at you
And the banners read “Pure blood, sober mind” and “Europe will be white or empty”, which doesn’t even make sense, since the anti-mass immigration argument is that the alternative to “white” Europe is not an empty Europe, but a very much multi-coloured Europe. SXE, by the way, means these are “straight edge” nationalists, i.e. the ones who don’t smoke, drink or do drugs. At least there is something.
It is a tragedy that despite a populist government in power, the mainstream politics seems to have vacated the space, allowing the “pure blood” types to monopolise the public displays of patriotism. It’s a shame that the majority of the attendees at the march did not have any alternative events to peacefully wave the flags and celebrate Poland’s independence instead of mixing up with skinheads, giving them succor, inflating their numbers and prominence, and bringing decent love and appreciation for one’s country and culture into international disrepute.